A little more than four months following the launch of Robinson: The Journey, Executive Producer on the title, Elijah Freeman, has departed Crytek for Virtuos, a game and asset production studio. Meanwhile Crytek attempts to get company back on track.
As Executive Producer on the title, Elijah Freeman has worked closely on Crytek’s Robinson: The Journey since before the beginning, back when the company was showing off a VR prototype which would become the precursor to both Robinson and the company’s other VR title, The Climb (2016). Robinson launched back in November on PSVR, and came to the Rift in February.
Freeman was excited at the opportunity to build Robinson, telling Road to VR back in 2015, “…this is the one IP that in my career is likely to show the most promise. It just opens my imagination as a designer and game developer. It makes me feel childlike…” he said.
But now, a little more than four months after the launch of the title, Freeman has left Crytek for Virtuos, a studio that provides outsourced art, assets, and other development work for game and digital productions. Freeman joins the company as Group Development Director at Virtuos’ Shanghai HQ. There’s no indication at this time that his hiring stemmed from an immediate need for VR talent, though as VR grows, Virtuos may have found that part of his resume appealing. In addition to Crytek, Freeman has also worked at EA and CCP Games during his game development career.
Freeman’s departure doesn’t bode well for more near-term VR game development from Crytek—a true shame for the VR world, as Crytek has made some of VR’s best looking titles to date, including The Climb (2016).
Beyond Robinson’s lukewarm reception, Crytek’s business has recently faced major hurdles. In December the company outlined plans to close a number of studios, calling the action “essential steps we are taking to ensure Crytek is a healthy and sustainable business moving forward…”. In the few months following, four studios closed their doors and one was sold. In February Crytek further announced it would be laying off 15 employees at its Frankfurt HQ in an effort to scale down its publishing team.
Although the company plans to “refocus on its core strengths of multi-platform game development,” the emphasis is on “premium IPs,” likely leaving the presently niche and more risky development of large scale VR titles for better times.
Freeman’s departure is also a blow to our hopes that Robinson: The Journey might one day see an update adding motion controller support, the lack of which was a frequent criticism of the game. Same too for a version of the game officially supporting the Vive, though at least Vive owners look to be able to play the game unofficially through the Revive hack.
Regarding the company’s impressive CryEngine, it will “remain a core pillar of Crytek’s overall strategy, with enterprise licensees and indie developers alike continuing to be served by regular engine updates.” Hopefully those updates will continue to improve the engine’s VR support for developers using or considering using the engine for VR development.