Chalk those hands, because they’re about to get sweaty. Crytek’s The Climb 2 belays onto the Oculus Quest Platform today at 10am PT, taking players to dizzying new heights. Check out the brand new launch trailer below:
Announced at Facebook Connect 2020, The Climb 2 will challenge bouldering beginners and buffs alike with the introduction of new dynamic objects—ropes, ladders, or even construction equipment hanging high above the streets below. The new City environment will have you hunting for protruding bricks and window ledges, a new parkour-like twist on Crytek’s rock climbing puzzles. The Climb’s more traditional locales also make a triumphant return, each with new Easy, Medium, and Hard routes to summit.
That’s 15 new maps total, for those counting! And don’t forget: The most obvious path to the top isn’t always the fastest. Something to keep in mind if you plan to vie for leaderboard dominance. You can pick up The Climb 2 for $29.99 USD—or for a limited time (March 4 at 10:00 am PT through March 12 at 10:00 am PT), grab both The Climb and The Climb 2 bundled for $39.99 USD.
With our shoulders sore after a hard day’s climb, we sat down with Crytek Senior Producer Fatih Özbayram to discuss the journey from The Climb to its sequel, playtesting with a fear of heights, exploring the new maps, and much more.
How did you get your start in the gaming industry? What was it that first attracted you to VR?
Fatih Özbayram: I started as a User Experience Designer at Crytek in 2009 after my studies, and I’ve experienced the development of video games from the front lines as a Producer since 2012.
Crytek is all about innovation, and when we were asked to explore what we could do in the VR space we first took a step back in order to understand what was needed to create an immersive experience. We created a dedicated team to prototype a variety of gameplay mechanics we felt could be a good match for VR, and six years later with The Climb 2 we are shipping the second installment of our IP leveraging one of the very first prototypes we created back then.
How does The Climb 2 build upon the lessons learned from the original’s development?
FO: VR is all about immersion, and the graphical fidelity of the game is crucial to making you feel like you’re present in the environment. Of course, CRYENGINE renders worlds beautifully, and that’s what gives people a sense of presence and even vertigo as they climb.
The gameplay mechanics are still similar to The Climb, as we felt they were already intuitive and immersive. VR requires a stable frames-per-second for the best experience possible though, and as such we have adjusted our content creation pipeline with all the learnings from our previous projects.
How (if at all) did the project change over time?
FO: The Climb feels very static compared to The Climb 2. We’ve introduced objects such as ropes, containers, ladders, and climbing equipment that players can climb on. They’ll react to the player’s weight when they jump or climb on them.
We’ve also added sliding grips. They’re 45° angled edges that, when you hold onto them, make you slide down them and fall off at the end. However, when timed correctly, you can jump off while sliding, giving you some extra reach and speed. They add a real risk-reward thrill as the player is forced to react in a certain amount of time as they reach the slide’s end. There’s the risk of falling—but you can get extra momentum. It feels really cool when you master it.
From the art side, the most significant change will be the new City setting. In the previous installment, we only climbed in natural environments, with occasional human-made structures. We spent a lot of time prototyping this new experience and created a fun playground with lots of interesting, varied surfaces to climb on.
How long was The Climb 2 in development? Any favorite anecdotes you’d like to share?
FO: It really depends on what you consider as “development” as we have been always thinking about our IP and what we could do next. (Some of them are still on our backlog, we might get to work on them when the time has come.) We officially started production on The Climb 2 in early 2020.
My favorite anecdote with The Climb 2 is when we asked the team to evaluate what would make for good additions to sustain the remarkable experience of the original The Climb. That “concept discovery” process and the subsequent review of the ideas that came from it has been quite fun, as there were all sorts of ideas of what the game’s next setting could be.
In the end we decided to go with the City setting, allowing players to climb on man-made objects. The City has many different surfaces and a lot of horizontal traversals. We typically climb not just one building but three different ones that are all very distinct in their gameplay characteristics. For example, on buildings mostly made of glass, we use suction cups and moving window cleaning platforms. You’ll zip line through vast cityscapes to reach the next building. You can jump onto moving elevators that haul you upwards and so on.
I don't want to spoil everything, but there's some really cool stuff in there. In general, there is a lot more variation in the City settings to make it fresh and exciting.
Which of the 15 new maps is your favorite and why?
FO: It might sound like a cliché, but each of them has unique elements that make them very enjoyable, in my modest opinion. However, as someone who is afraid of heights, the Hard levels of any setting are some of the most challenging but enjoyable—even if I sweat like crazy when I complete them!
Why is VR the right medium for a game like The Climb 2? Would this game have been possible outside of VR?
FO: The Climb allows one to get the feeling of a real climbing experience with stunning environments. So I think it is fair to say The Climb / The Climb 2 would not be available without VR, as traditional gaming devices do not provide a foundation to create such an immersive experience and allow for the sense of presence you can get in VR.
What will fans of the original enjoy most about The Climb 2? How about people who are new to the franchise?
FO: For those who played the previous installment, the natural settings might feel familiar—but all maps have been created from scratch with new dynamic elements on top, and as such they will feel exciting and offer new challenges.
And of course the aforementioned City setting is going to be a remarkable experience for those who played The Climb previously, or for those who will experience it for the first time all together.
Who did you work with on the soundtrack and sound design? What was that experience like?
FO: Once the settings and their characteristics were defined, our Audio team started designing different styles that would fit the settings and help to support the sense of presence in the environment. They created custom music and sound effects to underline the feeling and emotions of every environment and for each time of day. The music follows a modern theme in the new City setting, creating a unique mood.
For the menu we also created a new musical ambience which changes procedurally every time the game is launched. The sound effects are fine-tuned on Quest to convey a sense of height and draw the player into the climbing experience. With all sounds directly placed in the 3D world and the use of custom binaural processing, every sound feels present and real in the environment.
What’s the best reaction you’ve seen while demoing or playtesting The Climb 2?
FO: The funniest reaction is when people see me stressed and sweating because I’m afraid of heights—but when they climb, they have the exact same reaction!
I will never forget the very first reaction of my mom and dad when I had them put on the headset while they were standing at the top of one of the Canyon levels. My mom was very impressed and really enjoyed the moment. And my dad started to brainstorm VR experiences of his own!
The sensation VR creates is best experienced when you just put on the headset and let someone see it for themselves.
What advice would you give to a developer looking to start building for VR?
FO: Keep it simple and focus on the essentials in the first place. What I mean by that is when we started prototyping climbing mechanics in VR, the very first prototype was just two hands grabbing onto a grip and letting go of the grab. The prototype felt great overall, and everyone on the team started asking for it to be gamified (with leaderboards, stamina, chalk, etc.) further which was the confirmation that we were on the right track with the mechanics and overall experience.
Before you get started, try to tackle “what feels intuitive in VR” first as this is the key for an immersive experience in my opinion. The rest is more additive.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
FO: First of all, we are looking forward to seeing our players’ reactions to all the dynamic grips and the City setting in general. We have some updates in the making to sustain our community and provide them with exciting challenges over time. Stay tuned!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
FO: We would like to thank all our fans. You’ve honored us with your support! We are thrilled for the launch of The Climb 2, and we hope you will like it.
The Climb 2 launches on the Oculus Quest Platform for $29.99 USD today—or bundled with The Climb through March 12 at 10:00 am PT for $39.99 USD. Whichever you choose, don’t look down!