Following on from my play through of the early moments in Far Cry 3, I was able to sit down for an interview with Dan Hay, Producer on the title. We covered a lot of topics, from the decision to go back to an island, (not The Island) to the difficulties of working with Ubisoft’s huge global development pool and one of the craziest sounding moments of gameplay I’ve heard in a long time![drop2]
TSA: Far Cry 3 feels like you’re heading back to the series’ roots with the setting on a tropical island. Why did you decide to go back there?
Dan Hay: It wasn’t conscious. We didn’t set out to put it on an island at all, and we basically wanted to make it beautiful and exotic. It had to be a place that you would want to visit. Not a place that you would vacation to, but a place that you’d heard about, had mystique and if you saw a photograph of it you’d want to visit this place.
So we sat in the design sessions and talked about all the locations that we could do. It had to have coastal biomes, underwater, caves, mountains… Somebody at the back of the room goes, “Guys, that’s an island!”
We’re like, “OK. It’s an island.” So that’s where we are.
TSA: You say about people on holiday there, or visiting, and that’s where the plot starts…
DH: I think to make it credible today, people are looking for adventure. They go on a holiday, or they’re backpacking across Asia, and they want to have some adventure. So that’s what Jason and his buddies are doing. They don’t take life very seriously, they’re very carefree, and they’re basically backpacking around. So when they hear about this island they decide to check it out when they go skydiving.
It’s that leap of faith where they’re maybe a little entitled, they think the world is safe and that everybody shares the same values as they do. They learn very, very quickly that you might want to look before you leap.
TSA: I’m sure that would have saved them a lot of problems!
DH: Yes! Just open the door on the plane and look. Once.
TSA: So obviously it’s a completely new plot from Far Cry 2, but coming from the same open-world shooter background, what gameplay has been held over and what’s been changed?
DH: We got a lot of great response to Far Cry 2, and we saw that people were loving the open world, the weapons, procedural fire and things like that. I think that we brought a lot of that back, but there was also an emphasis on bringing more emotion to the game, and making it so that the game is about that.
When you look at the experience you had with Grant at the beginning of the game, and you imagine the relationships you have with Grant. He’s your older brother, maybe he’s your Dad’s favourite and you’re just the kid and you’re out there having an adventure. Then it becomes your adventure. You lose Grant and now you have to survive on your own.
So we took things from Far Cry 2, the procedural fire, the smart AI and the sense of being off the trail with nobody to call. Then we added that emotion to it, that insane cast of characters. We added something that people could relate to and would make the hair on the back of their neck stand up, because they had this experience.
TSA: The opening of the game helps to lay out new game mechanics. You’ve added in a deeper stealth mechanic, some RPG elements in the skill tree too?
DH: Somewhat, yeah.
We knew that we wanted you to use the jungle as a supermarket, and we knew that we wanted to put points of interest and enticements that you could get to. If you want to play it as a hardcore shooter then you can, that’s no problem, but there’s all these enticements throughout the world so you’d look and see a treasure somewhere that’s too deep to swim. So then maybe you think that you could go away and craft something that would help you hold your breath a little bit longer, and go and get it.
Or you’re caught out by fire, and maybe something you can craft is going to allow you to be a little bit better in that situation. So we just looked to give the player the opportunity to use the island’s resources, and play with the toy. So the tattoo, crafting, hunting, utilising everything. You have weapons that are rough, you have the bow, you have so much stuff.
One other thing that we really tried to focus on was the idea that, when you took over a space, you left an imprint on the island and it was very much your space. So we put those outposts into the open world, and they are really the key to you unlocking the fast travel. When you take them over you see the change from red to blue, you see that it’s yours and the Rakiya warriors’ space. Now you have the ability to go and get more weapons and a whole bunch of kit and then head out there and have an adventure.
TSA: It feels like you have some elements coming over from Assassin’s Creed, with the towers which reveal big parts of the map, and the outposts which you can capture. Is that something that’s filtered across from one side of Ubisoft Montreal to the other?
DH: The word is ‘filtered’, absolutely. That’s what happens.
Ubi’s got a deep bench, and when you’re building all these brands in the same place, it’s a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You’re going to get some mixing, and you’re going to find little elements of genius in one spot and use them yourself. So we have people on the Far Cry 3 team who worked on Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, and there’s a lot of great ideas that’s permeate through that.
It only makes the game experience stronger, and when you’re working on a game this big, adding some things that are working and proven and which we know are going to make the game better is a great thing for us to have.
TSA: You have Ubisoft Montreal at the top of the food chain on Far Cry 3, but you also have Ubisoft Shanghai and Ubisoft Massive from Sweden working alongside you. I’ve always found it quite interesting how this kind of distributed development works, is this a big challenge to coordinate development across the globe?
DH: Yeah, of course, but I would say there are two sides to that coin.
The producer side of me wants to use any resources you can. You go to Massive, because they have a pedigree for being able to do certain things and have an understanding of it. At the same time, you’re looking at the fact that obviously there’s production challenges in that you’re almost on the other side of the planet. You have a huge time delay.
What’s great about it is that you get a ton of ingredients from this, with tons of different peoples’ perspectives which work their way into the game. Ubi as I said before has a deep bench, so there are groups that are very, very good at specific things and we’re going to utilise that.
The fact that there are differences in this team actually make the game stronger. So you can utilise all of that when building a game which is all about the exotic and different, testing your understanding of what’s fair and real. We’re pulling on a whole bunch of different experiences to be able to tell this story, and it just makes it better for us.