Far Cry 3: Interview with Dan Hay

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!


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.

[Minor spoilers]

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.

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  1. Certainly got me excited! :) I’m back at Uni for my last year and have made a decision not to sucked into any new games (that will indefinitely chew through my time…), however this may break me.

  2. Quality interview, pleased with all the info. The scenario he described with the stampede sounds awesome, definitely gonna have to try and recreate that.

    I can’t wait for this game, it was awesome when I played it at Eurogamer.

  3. Nice interview Teffers, looking forward to the game.

  4. Awesome interview. A perfect example of great storytelling through gameplay. The randomness especially makes me want this game even more.

  5. Out of the Hundreds of interviews over this game I have read, this has to be the best so far ;) Great interview and I have to say, more people are getting excited about this game as it draws closer to the release date :) cannot wait until 29th November!

  6. Great interview, can’t wait for this!

  7. Very interesting read. I am sooooo looking forward to this!!

  8. Question, Why didn’t you mention the Map Editor which many people are waiting for and the lack of sighting of the PS3 version?

    • They weren’t topics I’ve been aware of. No conspiracy or anything like that!

      • Here’s a Q/A session about FC3 Map editor.

        1.(Q) – Bot’s would be pretty nice, even if to guarantee a full lobby for games, especially on the bigger maps?

        (A) “- Definitely nice, but it’s not in our feature list.”

        2.(Q) – Will there be an Object Properties Menu of some sort?

        (A) “- No.”

        3.(Q) – Will we finally have emitters available in the editor for water, smoke, fire, etc?

        (A) “- There should be more of them available this time.”

        4.(Q) – Will water be restricted to one plane as in FC2, or will we be allowed to add water at different heights?

        (A) “- We are currently looking into this.”

        5.(Q) – Do we still get destructible objects and items with physics in the FC3 Editor?

        (A) “- It’s a very tricky issue, as they are typically very expensive on network bandwidth. We are doing our best to see how we can help it to make as much available as possible.”

        6.(Q) – When it comes to spawn points, can you assign them to different game modes (have specific spawn points for Domination and separate spawn points for Firestorm)?

        (A) “- Yes.”

        7.(Q) – Will there be a tool in the editor for making caves or waterfalls?

        (A) “- It is very likely there will be better tools to help with this.”

        8.(Q) – Will there be any form of object editor? (Where you can use shapes and stickers to make an object)?

        (A) “- We are currently looking into a feature for users to be able to make groups of objects, automatically selecting them together to ease editing, for example a house and its content. But I would not quite call that “object editing”.”

        9.(Q) – What will the limit be? (Far Cry 2 had a 40,000 limit or has this not been addressed yet)?

        (A) “- Most likely similar to FC2, but the average object cost and total object limit remains to be determined with our testing.”

        10.(Q) – Will you be able to “lock” specific weapons in your custom map?

        (A) “- No, PvP loadout always applies. Weapon pickups should be available for placement, but I am not sure if there is a respawn mechanism for them.”

        11.(Q) – Will we be seeing more paint textures? (For example, might be nice to see a bit of snow on an arctic themed map)?

        (A) “- There are more of them, though they are still based on what the game has.”

        12.(Q) – Will there be an official community map playlist/ playlists with none of the progression differences (if there are any) of unranked private matches? If this option were to exist, will there be a system in place to make sure the best user maps are discovered and featured in this playlist?

        (A) “- User Made Maps can be accessed through three different Tiers, depending on the ratings of the map. The Tiers are basically playlists that chooses maps with specific ratings. When you publish a map, it will be placed in the Bronze Tier. As it gets played and players rate it, it moves to Silver Tier and eventually to the Gold Tier.

        Maps from the Gold Tier are the highest rated maps and they have a chance to be included into the official Playlists!

        If you want to find a specific map you can use the Map Archive where you can browse through all uploaded maps and play them, either in a private or public match.”

        13.(Q) – I think the MP looks great but I’m a little bit concerned about the map editor (please not something like HALO forge) will it be as big as the one in Far Cry 2?

        (A) “- It will be as big, and then some more. We are basically building using the FC2 editor as foundation. There are also a good number of surprises in store.”

        14.(Q) – Are you going to ship with a complete (Or almost complete) map editor for the PCs this time? (Extends the game’s life time a LOT.)

        (A) “- It depends on your definition of complete. If by complete, you mean the exact same editor and tools we use in production, then no, unfortunately it is not going to happen. It is just way, way too complex and unintuitive (please believe us!) for use by a few persons, not to mention a lot of ties with our production work flow that are simply impossible to export or expose externally. This is not desirable for anyone.

        Please understand we are not in any way underestimating the capacity of the modding community, babysitting the users, or “dumbing it down” for consoles. We have participated in modding projects ourselves; we know the amazing strength of the community. But being mod-friendly is not a feature of the Dunia engine, unfortunately.

        What we can do is focusing on what is possible to do from an end-user perspective, and exposing features in a carefully designed interface to allow as much as possible without being unnecessarily complex. We are working very hard to give the community the most power we can manage. We want that just as much as you do! But our resources are limited and very difficult choices must be made.”

        15.(Q) – With Ubisoft Montreal creating the Single Player game and Ubisoft Massive – Sweden doing the Multiplayer and the Editor I would like to know who dictates what goes into the Editor where items and vegetation is concerned, Massive were you told that you can include anything from the single player game already made, or do you have the freedom to design and include your own stuff for the editor.

        (A) “- Our current approach is to expose as much content as possible. As such, this time around, an overwhelming majority of the assets you see in the game, in both single player and multiplayer maps, will be exposed and available in the editor.

        What this also means is to expect a lot of unfiltered content. There will be a LOT of assets. In fact, there is so many of them we will likely not be able to perfectly review and categorize each individual object and make sure it is easily usable. But this also means there will be plenty of hidden gems to be found, and creativity will once again be the key to success. We are confident the community will be able to manage this amount of content over time, and figure out the best usage patterns.

        As much as we wanted to, we have not had time to design objects from scratch for the editor. We’re shipping a huge game; we believe there will already be a lot of objects to have fun with!”

        16.(Q) – And in Far Cry 2 one of the worst things I witnessed was the collision detection with the terrain, In a lot of areas it was dreadful trying to get out of the water onto what looked like flat land (everything had to be super smooth) Did you have to address this for Far Cry 3?

        (A) “- We have not tested this scenario in the editor yet, but we are adding that on our list of stuff to investigate. Thanks!”

        17.(Q) – Can we still control map size, terrain, vegetation, and textures? Are there still options for those besides ‘Jungle’?

        (A) “- Map size is fixed at 512×512 meters, which is the exact same as FC2. Terrain, vegetation and textures can still be modified like in FC2, with more assets and a few extra features we’re sure you’ll appreciate.”

        18.(Q) – Will you make all the brushes from single player available in the editor?

        (A) “- Already answered above.”

        19.(Q) – Can we lock our maps from being edited by others?

        (A) “- Yes, this is now the default.”

        20.(Q) – Is there a limitation for maps published per author?

        (A) “- We will have limits for practical reasons, but rest assured we will set those high enough and monitor usage post-launch so that no one feels unreasonably constrained by them.”

        21.(Q) – You mentioned having a big selection of pre built buildings being available in the editor (Which I love hearing). You don’t have to get detailed as I’m sure it will be announced in detail later, but will there also be building block type items for building our own buildings? (stand alone Walls/floors/windows/etc.)

        (A) “- To the best of our knowledge, we have not seen anything explicitly designed as such in our object database. However, there are areas of our game built using some modular pieces, so it might be possible to use them together to create really cool stuff!”

        22.(Q) – and will we be able to place mode specific items in the map maker ala Halo’s Forge? (IE you place a building that is only visible in domination but not in firestorm)

        (A) “- Items that are specific to a game-mode, such as a Domination capture point for instance, are only visible in that game mode. As for other objects, our interface unfortunately does not support object layers, as there are quite a few issues involved with those. Good to see you’re interested in those! We will take that in note for the future.”

        23.(Q) – We seem to have news filtering around that the map editor grid will be a lot smaller (or maybe we are thinking this because some interviews and previews are saying maps are smaller in size).

        (A) “- Maps are the same size as FC2, 512×512 meters.”

        24.(Q) – Will we be forced into using your templates which we then make into our own maps (as an example what they do in Forge) or can we manipulate terrain and start with a blank canvas in the editor like FC2?

        (A) “- Same as FC2, we will have both options of starting from a blank canvas, and running a wilderness generator template.”

        25.(Q) – Do consoles have any form lighting in the editor to add into our maps?

        (A) ” – We cannot confirm this yet, but we are actively looking into it, and it’s looking promising that we will have lighting options on consoles. They may be expensive on your map budget however.”

        26.(Q) – So far I have not seen ladders, are they included and if so are they better than the ones in FC2 because on those you had to press the interact ****on and could not jump off to other platforms / ledges.

        (A) “- There should be ladders included, but we have not investigated enough yet to see if they behave better than in FC2.”

        27.(Q) – If I were to design a user made map in the form of a DOOM style corridoor map (all enclosed) there would be no way to drop the psych gas or the fire barrels into the play area – Would this be an issue if I wanted to create something like that, it would still play wouldn’t it?

        (A) “- It will still play, but the support weapons will most likely not work. This is not a game breaker however.”

        28.(Q) – The horrible see through and invisible pieces in the editor from FC2 (when you look underneath them) have you done anything with those or are items the same in FC3?

        (A) “- Unfortunately we still have some of those. Modeling is done primarily for the game needs, and for many reasons including performance, geometry is omitted when it is not expected to be seen through a certain angle. However, I think we don’t have as many as in FC2, but I’m not sure. But we do have a LOT more objects.”

        29.(Q) – OCC (Occlusion) Blocks are these still needed in the editor?

        (A) “- Nope, our new and improved Dunia engine is able to figure it out by itself. Enjoy!”

        30.(Q) – The draw distance with a lot of objects in FC2 was poor on consoles (I can’t speak for the PC version) yet things like colonial fences and the concrete blocks had a good draw distance, IMO it was awful moving and seeing creations appear and disappear because of the render rate / draw distance.

        (A) “- I am not sure how different from FC2 LOD issues are going to be, it may be a bit better, but there is still definitely going to be some. We also have a LOT of objects and they’re unfortunately not all setup perfectly. We prefer giving as much unfiltered content as possible so people can find the hidden gems of our asset library.”

        31.(Q) – I imagine that the PC Editor will have so much more than the one on consoles so speaking for PS3 and 360 would it be possible for you to get a top map from one platform working on the other or is it not currently possible.

        (A) “- Unfortunately there are still many issues surrounding cross-platform sharing. This will not be possible on FC3.”

        32.(Q) – No One seems to know what is going on with these Pre Order special bundles, So far they say Lost Expeditions – Predator and Warrior pack, they all have different stuff, can you say if there will be a version that will have everything or a way to get everything as DLC if someone was willing to pay for it?

        (A) “- We cannot comment on this at the moment.”

        33.(Q) – The map rating system that you speak of – Far CRy can be a jealous game at times unfortunately and some people can often rate a very good map with a poor score on purpose, how would you guys stop this from happening, I don’t think there is an answer.

        (A) “- We hope the majority of people will give reliable ratings to dampen the minority that will grief, but obviously we cannot change human nature.”

        34.(Q) – Are you aware of the Escape & Course maps that some players have been making throughout the Far Cry games, basically like a Get To The End or Escape the complex type map where the idea is not to kill but to go through a sequence of puzzles / jumps and navigate through a course until you reach the end – These have been popular for a long time, some love them and others hate them, What are your opinions?

        (A) “- I must admit I have not seen any of these, the FC map community always keeps surprising me. It does sound interesting. I think there are a lot of different purposes behind map making, whether it be for a game mode, artistic creation, alternative gameplays, messing around, etc. I hope we will be able to better categorize these different needs in the future so that people can find the type of content they’re looking for, while remaining flexible enough for all the creativity that springs up.”

        35.(Q) – Someone from Massive mentioned forums and again in an online preview it was mentioned that there might be some form of social networking with the editor, Is this similar to Halo Forge where maps can be queued online and then downloaded when you start the game, (what is the system you are going with for Map Uploads / Downloads)

        (A) “- We have big plans for the website and community and these include extending some features connected to the editor to the web. More details will come later!”

        36.(Q) – Does the time of day change and weather conditions while a match is playing in multiplayer or can it be locked to stay the same?

        (A) “- Same as in FC2, the time of day is decided by the map maker, and it stays locked when the map is being played.”

        37.(Q) – Is there any form of COOP in the map editor where more than 1 person can edit a map?

        (A) “- If you’re referring to when multiple players edits a map simultaneously, then the answer is no.”

        38.(Q) – Will we get to place ziplines in a user made map?

        (A) “- We are still looking into this!”

        39.(Q) – In Far Cry 2 only some objects had physics, is Far Cry 3 going to have a toggle on/off for objects or just per-defined objects with physics?

        (A) “- Objects are pre-defined. That being said, there is a huge amount of objects in the game and some react differently than others.”

        40.(Q) – Does the map editor have traps that you can place and also does it have like secret moving walls or stuff like that?

        (A) “- No traps. As far as the rest goes – we can’t really confirm or deny it. The editor will let you do a lot of cool stuff, but giving a rundown of every piece of functionality is not something we can do at this stage. You will have to wait and see.”

        41.(Q) – Will we be able to set the waters’ tone, fog density… And other parameters? It’d be really important, as some maps might just not be beach ones, like some dense jungle maps (Where the water, obviously, would be darker green coloured and more foggy.).

        (A) “- The graphics engine will handle this for you. We know you are gonna like it.”

        42.(Q) – Can we have different playable areas for different game modes or is it just one playable area for the whole map?
        (If I build a bigger map for Firestorm but just want to use half of it for domination game mode, will I be able to set a different size area for each)

        (A) “- This won’t matter in practice. If you make a good level, both with regards to placing objects and placing objectives, it will work itself out.”

  9. Thanks for this interview!

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