No doubt that there are only few positive findings in the sequel (and their magnitude is not really that inspiring) and most of the old pluses were left back in 2004. However developers from Ubisoft Montreal managed to take up the most valuable trends in open-world shooter genre. Lead designer Jamie Kean answers our (and hopefully yours) questions of interest regarding their current project in this interview.
Hello. Please, introduce yourself and talk about you role and position in your company.
Hi there, my name’s Jamie Keen and I’m the Lead Game Designer on Far Cry 3.
Why did Far Cry series returned to the tropical jungle? How do you personally estimate the results of setting changes in the sequel?
We wanted to introduce the player to a group of people that had been isolated too long, and had developed a different moral compass. Then we asked where do we think this unique cast would really live?
And in a weird way an island paradise just made sense, and honestly I love that we’re using the jungle, it lets us do so many things – and this beautiful island setting really juxtaposes with the horrendous things you find there. From a gameplay perspective, you get these gorgeous, lush environments which you can use to your advantage – stealth or action, you get some great fights happening.
We can use it to really enhance some of the narrative – nothing makes you feel quite so alone as wandering waist deep through dark mangroves, when you know there are crocs about and a bunch of guys with machine guns hunting you down. Personally, I love most the sense of discovery it brings – we can tuck things away so that when you find them, it really feels like you’re the first person that’s been there in years – that sense of exploration and wonder is really special.
Why your studio decided to refuse sci-fi elements that had place in the original game?
Our intention was to create a credible experience that you or I could potentially live through. In the game, there are enough intense and unusual things that happen to you that we didn’t need to go into any science fiction. There are enough crazy experiences within the boundaries of real possibility that we didn’t feel we needed to move those boundaries beyond that!
They say that a human, especially mad, is the cruelest monster. Vaas is a thorough bandit, obviously with mental deviations but not deprived of intellect. In your opinion, is it more interesting to gamers to oppose realistic charismatic villains rather than a fantastic enemy? Why?
I think the scariest characters are the ones you believe you could run into in your everyday life. It’s really unlikely that we’ll be overrun by aliens anytime soon, but it’s pretty common to hear something nasty that someone’s done most days, and what would it be like to meet a person like that? Worse still, what would it be like to run into them where you don’t have any of the trappings of society around to save you – no police or hospitals – you’re on your own, and somewhere really unfamiliar.
And even worse still, they’re not just doing it to you, but to your family and friends too – how would you react to that? But the characters you meet aren’t all cartoon villains, and I think that’s the thing that makes them most scary – Vaas is a monster, no doubt, but there are traits there that you’ll recognize – possibly in Jason’s character, possibly even in yourself – that’s the thing that we want to really make you think about…
By the way, why has the team decided to leave Far Cry 3 as a “sandbox”, not to make it a “linear” game?
Far Cry is and always has been at its heart an open world shooter experience. It’s something that’s really important to me that we keep that sense of freedom, that sense of discovery in the world that we build, that players want to find out what’s around the next corner. Coupled with that, this time out we wanted to really expand on the storyline, to give you both the wide open world and also a directed narrative with the highs and lows that can bring. It’s not the easy choice, but it’s something that the team felt is the next step on for the game – and it’s important that this is experience is something on a very human scale – despite the game’s size, we want you to feel like it’s a personal experience that you’re living in Jason’s shoes.
How important to not only provide a gamer with freedom of movement, but also to let him choose a style to play by himself, not to force him just to slash everyone (like, for example, in Serious Sam) or, vise versa, to operate like Hitman?
Freedom for the player to decide how to approach the game is paramount for us. This idea of the 360 degree approach really permeates everything. The playoff between stealth and action is a tricky nut to crack, but it’s important to have the fidelity in the experience that allows and promotes both. You will have a variety of tools at your disposal that will let you follow your own style: skills and equipment upgrades will enhance and expand your experience, a huge variety of weapons and environmental gameplay, like fire and water, will all give you more options on how to approach each scenario.
Most of all though, the AI needs to react to the player in the right way, and will behave differently depending on how you’re playing – and then react if you change your approach. And this flexibility in approach lets you as the player change the feel of the game on the fly, simply by changing the way you’re playing. Want to try to sneak through an outpost? Go ahead. Feel like letting off steam? Go in guns blazing. It’s really up to you.
Why did you introduce an experience system in Far Cry 3? Nowadays a huge number of developers do that, so how are you planning to exceed your competitors in the experience system aspect?
Again, I think this speaks to wanting to let the player make choices about the experience they want to have. We want to keep you feeling like you’re growing as a character as you grow as a player and learn the systems. If we dropped all the different skills and upgrades on you at one time, it’s overwhelming, but if you learn them step by step, you can decide which areas you’re interested in and put more emphasis on those.
And as you learn more abilities, you can see how you can use them to confront different situations, see how they impact gameplay. Takedowns for example – there are some pretty complex moves – by the time you’ve mastered them, you can jump from a roof taking down two pirates, chain to grab the next guy, then grab his pistol and kill anyone else around – it’s a complex set of interactions, but hugely powerful when you’ve mastered it.
Can we hope for something brand new in firing?
We have a strong suite of weapons, each of them customizable with different attachments. One of our key focuses is to make sure that each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages so that you play with your full arsenal. Also, we want the player to use different weapons for different situations. There are even some “exotic” weapons that will be a blast for the player as they allow you to do some nasty things to your opponents.
And it’s not just shooting the guns themselves, but how you move around the battlefield. By the time you’ve mastered all your skills, you’ll be sprinting and sliding, vaulting over covers, disappearing into jungle to reappear behind enemies – all of these moves and weapons in combination add a fluidity to the player’s experience that allow you to think about FPS combat in a new way.
What element of Far Cry 3 is the team proud the most of? And what about the publisher?
I can really only answer for myself, but I will say that it’s hard to single out one element alone. Overall, I think it’s the scale of the game that we’re bringing that’s really something we’re proud of. There’s so much here – a massive open world experience, set in this lush tropical paradise, with great directed missions and a story and character performances that bring something really new and human to the brand. Not to mention all the multiplayer and co-op modes, and the map editor. I love that we’re being so ambitious on pretty much every front, and it’s rare to be given the opportunity to have that kind of ambition these days.
And finally, please, name the most significant reason (in your opinion) why we should be looking forward to play Far Cry 3.
I’m slightly biased, but for me it’s all about the open world. I just love jumping in a jeep or quad and just heading off the path into the forest, taking outposts, exploring caves, diving off coastlines. One of the things I love most is when the systems do something unexpected – the first time I saw a tiger charge a Pirate roadblock? That was pretty cool….
Bio.Jamie Keen is the Lead Game Designer on Far Cry 3. He has worked for the last 10 years or so at EA and DICE, cutting his teeth working on Battlefield titles, and was the Producer on BF Bad Company. Moving from the dark side of production to the light side of design, he is now enjoying a significantly more planning-free version of game development as a result. Excel still manages to plague his daily life however. One of his greatest memories in game development was when he went to a live fire tank exercise in Germany with the British Army.