TSA: The current generation is getting pretty long in the tooth now, and you have to deal with streaming lots of data into limited RAM. How hard has it been to get the vision that you want out of these consoles?
DH: It’s… there’s no question that we want to push it as hard as we can, and you can see that from the draw distances, the amount of stuff we’ve put on the screen and how reactive the AI is.
The vision for the game was that we want to be able to drop you in the jungle and have it be like the first time you’re camping as a kid. You’re in the tent and it’s all really cool during the day, but as soon as it gets dark and you hear all these sounds outside, your imagination starts to run wild… What do you see in your imagination? The idea of being able to stand on the top of a tower or be alone in the middle of a jungle and hear life around you and make it feel credible.
So I could look down from a tower and see a series of Komodo Dragons chasing some goats, but there’s also a panther coming from another direction. There’s a guard over there in an outpost who doesn’t even know he’s about to be attacked by all these wild animals. When you’re attacking an outpost, if you can just take the sniper rifle or the bow and hit the front of the cage, you can unleash the bear and let all hell break loose!
That’s what we’re looking for, the idea that the game is alive, and you can get this emergent gameplay. We’re immensely pleased with what we’ve got out of these systems.
TSA: With all these elements interacting together, that sounds like a huge undertaking…
TSA: …to get all of the animals…
TSA: …and the food chains right…
DH: Yes! My god, yes!
TSA: Just a one word answer: Yes!
DH: Oh, yes! It was a challenge!
It was tough, but I think what was really cool about it was one particular moment, where we kept asking ourselves if we were doing it right. You want to make sure that it’s the ingredients of a recipe, and not a mess that doesn’t make sense.
So we were playing some months back, and I go in to take an outpost, and basically what I did was I went and started a fire. This pushed some of the water buffalo towards the outpost and created a mini stampede, and they went in and cleaned the pirates out. Then I shot at the bear cage, and the bear comes out and started to attack the buffalo. Then the Rakiya showed up and I realised that all these animals were still alive, and they started to go after the Rakiya warriors who’d only come over to help me!
So there was just this huge fight there, and once everything was basically done, one of the civilians drove through in a car and did a hit and run on one of the Rakiya warriors, which effectively started a mini war between the civilians and the Rakiya on that part of the island.
We were just like, “Yes!” We had no idea that was coming, and that was the point when we knew we had something.
TSA: That just sound very, very cool. I’ll have to try and replicate that somehow!
DH: Well the thing is that if you watched us on stage at E3 or Gamescom, there’s a legitimate nervousness there. We don’t really know what’s going to happen.
When you see a caged animal and shoot the cage, you’ve no idea which AI this tiger’s going to go after. We have no idea where that bear is going to go or what it’s going to do. So every time you play it there’s a freshness to it and there’s an agency which comes from that, where if you try and go back to recreate the experience you just had, it’s going to be subtly different. So it’s that emergent gameplay, but not just saying it, actually seeing that it’s different.[drop]TSA: Away from the single player you have multiplayer and coop play, with co-op following a separate story? How does it tie in with the central plot?
DH: We made a very conscious effort to keep the single player on its own, so you have that man alone experience. That’s the unique Far Cry experience and we wanted to make sure we didn’t erode that. So we decided to just build a completely separate co-op campaign. OK, but it’s got to be more than that. So how do we make it subtly different?
When Jason comes to the island, he’s kind of like a babe in the woods, and he meets this insane cast of characters. What happens if the people who come here have been expelled from society? Have their own baggage, their own brand of insanity, and they’re bringing that to the island. We wanted to see where that goes.
So even the gameplay itself, there are moments in coop where you’re working absolutely cooperatively, and then there are moments which are challenges, so you’re kind of working against each other. We try to treat it a bit like a piece of music. You have intense moments like “Oh my god, I’m down! Come pick me up!” Then there’re are moments where everybody’s got a sniper rifle and time on the clock and it’s a question of who can win. We try and create some palette cleansing between these.
You have single player which is this immersive, man alone experience where a kid’s coming of age. You have co-op which is four pretty crazy people being put through a meat grinder trying to survive it. Then you have PvP, which is a blood feud between Citra and Vaas, who are brother and sister, and you can basically play as the pirates or the Rakiya as they fight each other. So it’s choose your poison.
Thanks to Dan Hay for taking the time to chat with us. Far Cry 3 hits the shelves in the final week of November.