Hey there! If you‘re interested in making high-end 3D games, you may have heard about CryEngine. As a fellow game dev enthusiast, I‘m sure you‘re wondering – is this powerful game engine really available for free?
Well, I‘ve done some deep research into CryEngine, and in this guide I‘ll share everything you need to know about getting access to this pro-level technology at zero cost.
I‘ll also provide some insights from my experience with game engines like Unity and Unreal on how beginners can get started with CryEngine. So read on to get the full scoop!
What Makes CryEngine Special?
Before we tackle the pricing, it‘s important to understand why CryEngine even matters in the first place.
CryEngine is a 3D game engine built by the developers at Crytek primarily for creating high-fidelity first person shooter games like Far Cry and Crysis. It has evolved over the years into an extremely powerful development platform.
Here are some standout capabilities that make CryEngine one of the most advanced game engines out there:
Cutting edge graphics – CryEngine has state-of-the-art graphical features like ray tracing, photogrammetry and more built in. This allows creating stunningly photorealistic environments and effects.
Powerful physics – The integrated physics engine provides accurate collision, destruction and movement. This brings next-gen realism to elements like cloth, vegetation and solid objects in your game worlds.
Enhanced immersion – Sophisticated lighting, post-processing and anti-aliasing tools available out of the box help generate incredibly immersive environments and gameplay.
High optimization – CryEngine games can be tuned to run smoothly on even mid-range PCs by leveraging the engine‘s excellent multi-core CPU and modern GPU support.
Future focus – New features like DX12 and Vulkan support ensure your projects harness the latest Windows and console gaming platforms.
Very few game engines provide this blend of cutting edge graphical power and optimized performance straight out of the box. That‘s what makes CryEngine really special.
Of course, mastering these pro-level tools requires some effort. But the benefits are incredible if you want to create a AAA quality game as an indie studio.
And the fact you can access this top-tier game development platform for free makes it even more enticing!
CryEngine Pricing and Licensing
So here‘s the vital info on whether CryEngine is free or paid.
The core CryEngine technology is available on GitHub under an open source license. This means you can download the latest engine version directly and use it without paying anything.
However, if you use CryEngine to develop and launch a commercial game, you will need to pay royalties to Crytek.
Here are the key details on the CryEngine royalty structure:
5% revenue royalty – You pay 5% of the gross revenue generated by any game built with CryEngine.
$5000 annual royalty exemption per game – The first $5000 in revenue per game is excluded from royalties every calendar year.
Applies to self-published and third party published titles – The royalty applies whether you self-publish your game or work with an external publisher.
Royalties kick in at $1000 revenue – You only start paying royalties once your game generates more than $1000 in revenue annually.
So in a nutshell, you can use CryEngine completely free of charge unless your game starts generating decent income. This makes CryEngine readily accessible for hobbyists, students and indie developers.
Commercial studios can also use it for free prototyping until actual release. The pricing is quite similar to Unreal Engine‘s model – pay only when you succeed.
I think this is a very fair model as it lets you evaluate and learn the technology at zero cost. And Crytek only shares your success once you start earning good money.
What Can You Do With the Free Version?
Now that you know CryEngine can be used for free, what are some of the things you can actually develop with it?
Well, since you get full unrestricted access, here are some cool projects you can work on:
Learn and prototype – If you‘re new to 3D game development, CryEngine is a great way to get hands-on experience with cutting edge tools and rendering techniques for free.
Showcase technical demos – You can use CryEngine to develop tech demos and small proof-of-concept projects to improve your skills or just for fun!
Mod existing games – The engine access allows creating mods and custom levels for existing titles like Far Cry, Kingdom Come: Deliverance etc.
Develop non-commercial games – You can use CryEngine to create game jam entries, hobby projects or games where you don‘t charge any money.
Concept prototypes – Even commercial studios use CryEngine for free during pre-production to develop game concepts and technical prototypes without royalty concerns.
Make small indie games – You can ship small commercial indie games with total annual revenue under $5000 completely royalty free!
The key takeaway is that beyond just learning, you can use the free CryEngine even for publishing as long as your projects are small in scale.
So don‘t worry about any catch. You get access to all pro-features to boost your skills and portfolio. Just remember to pay royalties once you start earning big!
Minimum System Requirements
Now before you get too excited and download CryEngine, make sure your PC has the minimum system requirements to run it properly.
Here are the specs you need at a minimum:
- Operating System – 64-bit Windows 10
- Processor – Intel i5-2500K or AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or better
- RAM – 8GB
- Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce 970 GTX or AMD Radeon R9 290 (4GB VRAM)
You‘ll also need at least 15GB free disk space. I would recommend having 16GB system RAM if possible for smooth development experience.
The good news is that these specs are quite reasonable. Even a decent mid-range modern laptop or desktop should be able to run CryEngine comfortably for development.
But don‘t try to use a very old or low-end PC. CryEngine projects involve rendering complex 3D environments in real-time. You need at least a gaming-grade PC for satisfactory performance.
My advice – use the best hardware you can afford if you‘re serious about game development. Building a small form factor PC these days is quite affordable and will level up your overall experience.
Which Platforms are Supported?
Another key factor is what platforms you can deploy your CryEngine games to.
The main supported platforms are PC (Windows) and major consoles like PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
Mobile platforms like iOS and Android are not officially supported as of now. The focus is on desktop and console platforms that can deliver CryEngine‘s graphically intensive experiences.
That said, if you want to support Mac or Linux, it is possible by using third party solutions to port your game. The community is also exploring new target platforms like Stadia.
Just remember native deployment from the CryEngine editor is focused on Windows, PS4, Xbox One and Switch. Support for next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X/S is already in progress.
So with those capabilities, you can cover a majority of the gamer market even as an indie developer. Adding additional platforms is feasible based on the game design and scope.
How Difficult is CryEngine to Learn?
While the free licensing makes CryEngine easily accessible, understanding the toolset itself has a steep learning curve. Here are some factors that contribute to this:
Complex interface – The CryEngine editor has a lot of menus and windows. It can be intimidating compared to simpler interfaces like Unity and Unreal 4.
Limited tutorials – Since it was a proprietary engine until recently, beginner tutorials and documentation are still a bit lacking.
C++ heavy – While you can use visual scripting, most tasks require C++ programming skills for any advanced development.
Graphics focused – You need an understanding of 3D rendering techniques and shaders to leverage CryEngine‘s capabilities.
Smaller community – There are fewer users compared to other engines, so less help available when you get stuck.
In my experience having used both Unity and Unreal, CryEngine will definitely take more effort to get comfortable with.
But it is rewarding to learn professional-grade production tools rather than oversimplified interfaces. You just have to be motivated and persistent as a learner.
To help get started, make use of the documentation and forums on the CryEngine site along with YouTube tutorials. And leverage your C++ and graphics programming experience if you have any.
The learning curve is worth it to master powerful technology that gives your games an edge. But be prepared to spend time getting the hang of CryEngine workflows compared to other tools.
CryEngine – Ideal for Ambitious Projects
Given it‘s capabilities and limitations, here is the profile of game projects that CryEngine is ideal for:
Realistic 3D graphics – The engine shines when used for games that demand high visual fidelity like FPS and action-adventure games.
PC and console focus – CryEngine is designed for platform‘s like PC, PlayStation and Xbox that have powerful hardware.
First person games – The tools are optimized for first person experiences like shooters, simulations and roleplaying games.
AAA ambition – The premium features lend themselves well to ambitious, high production value games.
Multiplayer capability – The engine has solid multi-user support to develop shared persistent worlds.
Experienced teams – The complexity requires seasoned developers well versed in C++ and graphics programming.
In summary, consider using CryEngine if you have the skills and motivation to develop premium games on PC or consoles with cutting edge graphics and smooth gameplay.
Of course as a hobbyist just starting out, you can and should still try CryEngine to expand your skills! Just focus on smaller learning prototypes first before tackling an ambitious project.
Alternatives Worth Considering
While I highly recommend game developers give CryEngine a shot, especially given the free access, it is not the right solution for every game.
Depending on your specific needs, here are some other great game engines worth looking at:
- Unity – Extremely popular and beginner friendly engine. Support tons of platforms.
- Unreal – Similarly advanced engine with a visual scripting focus.
- Godot – Completely free and open source engine with 2D and 3D support.
- GameMaker – Easy to use tool for fast 2D game prototyping.
- RPGMaker – Specialized for classic 2D sprite-based RPG games.
Evaluate all your options thoroughly before committing time into learning any engine. Think about the game experience you want to build, team skills and target platforms.
While CryEngine does have a steeper learning curve, it gives you an opportunity to work with truly professional-grade technology used in AAA games. And the free licensing makes that opportunity accessible to everyone!
Notable CryEngine Games
To give you a better sense of iconic games built with CryEngine, here are some notable titles over the years:
- Far Cry
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Crysis 2
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Hunt: Showdown
- Prey for the Gods
As you can see, CryEngine has powered many highly acclaimed games especially known for their stunning open worlds and realistic graphics.
Even as an indie developer you can leverage CryEngine‘s AAA pedigree in your own projects for free until you start earning revenue.
Imagine what you could build by mixing CryEngine‘s technological power with your creative vision!
Should You Use CryEngine?
So now that you have all the facts – should you choose CryEngine for your game development initiatives?
Here are a few key summary points that can help decide:
Consider CryEngine if –
- You want extremely high quality 3D graphics and physics
- Your game demands complex light, animation and VFX
- You are developing for PC, PlayStation or Xbox
- You have C++ skills and graphics programming experience
- Your team can invest time in learning advanced tools
Maybe look at alternatives if –
- You are new to game development as a hobbyist
- Your game is 2D or less graphics intensive
- You need multiplatform support like mobile
- You want to use visual scripting than code
- You have a small or inexperienced team
As you can see, CryEngine makes the most sense for intermediate to advanced developers working on high-end games. Complete beginners may want to start with something simpler first.
But the free access lets you start evaluating CryEngine to gain valuable production-grade experience. Just scope your initial projects accordingly and ramp up as you learn.
Give the engine a try to see if it clicks with your workstyle and project needs. You have nothing to lose!
Is CryEngine Right for You?
After going through all the details, I hope you have a good overall understanding of what CryEngine offers and whether it makes sense for your game.
The key takeaways are:
- CryEngine is a top-tier 3D game engine on par with Unreal
- You can download and use CryEngine completely free of charge
- Learning it has a steep curve compared to beginner engines
- Ideal for high fidelity games on PC, PlayStation and Xbox
- Royalties only apply once you start earning revenue
- Give it a try to see if it suits your project needs
If you‘re motivated to push your limits, I definitely think the free access makes it worth diving into CryEngine. You can always start small and simple while getting comfortable with the advanced toolset.
Just be realistic about the effort involved in mastering any pro-grade platform like CryEngine or Unreal compared to a Unity or Construct.
But the knowledge you gain will be invaluable towards developing world-class games that stand out from the crowd.
Hope this guide helps you make the right decision! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Happy game developing!