Ubisoft’s last Far Cry entry didn’t quite hit all marks. The new team is learning.
A poor fast travel system. A world that didn’t seem to react to your own actions. The contrived malaria concept, which forced you to travel to places at the worst possible moments. A world that was vast yet very, very empty. Far Cry 2 wanted to be a great game, but fell short of those aspirations. Sitting down with the Far Cry 3 team to discuss and see their progress brought up the pitfalls of the game’s predecessor.
So we asked them how Far Cry 3 would learn from Far Cry 2 – and improve upon it. Here are their thoughts.
On Having an Impact on the World: “There are a number of places in the game where Jason stumbles across Vaas territory. And we wanted to make each character feel like a bomb that went off in a certain area. At the Medusa, you see Vaas. You see hints of his personality. There are places on the island where – and I can’t go too deep into this – once you go in and start to affect that place… Vaas’s personality starts to diminish. You’re not going to see guys walking around with AK-47s. You’ll start to have an appreciable effect on the environment. I can’t go too much further than that. There’s a name for it, but I can’t say it yet.” – Dan Hay, Producer
On Avoiding Boredom in a Vast World: “I think [Far Cry 2] pushed a lot of boundaries, but there were some bits where it wasn’t quite fully realized. The open world was cool, it was great, but it never quite comes to anything. It’s kind of left open and you just get a bit lost in it. We’re trying to make sure we don’t end up in that situation. It’s important that it has that sense of exploration, but it needs to be getting towards something. You never want to feel like you’re not getting anything back from the world or that you have to wait a while until you get to the next place.
“The diamonds [in Far Cry 2] are great example. You’re getting the diamonds and you know that you’re going to get more guns for them. That’s the sort of thing we do want. We want you to feel like wherever you’re going in the world, that’s it’s full of opportunity. It’s not inert. There’s stuff going on there. There’s stuff for you to find in the world. There are plants for you to pick up. There are animals you can hunt. There’s money to be find. There are activities and quests. You should never be wandering around this world saying to yourself, “Man, I wish I could get there more quickly.” You’re always on your way somewhere.” – Jaime Keen, Lead Game Designer
On Creating Meaningful Sidequests: “XP is one of the big threads [in Far Cry 3]. There are some other things too – plants, animals, activities, cash – all of these things together… if the narrative thread is about Jason, and seeing someone who is naive and a total babe in the woods, grow to someone who is very adept, who is a real survivor, that’s sort of mirrored in the gameplay experience as well. A player should feel those two things are happening simultaneously. So there’s an XP system that will give you more abilities and allow you to use the world around you, and that feeds back into the gameplay.
“There’s a lot more we want to show you. This game is going to be huge in terms of what you can do and experience. We’ve touched on it a bit – you get a lot of the [game experience] through the story, but you get a lot more about the character of the island and what the place is like not through the main narrative, but through the side missions or quests that are around. You’ll find out more about the people on the island and what happened there in the past – and what’s happening now. How is Jason interfacing with the island and interacting with the people there? You’ll get much more of a feeling for the island and the every day life. The idea is being how these poor unfortunate souls stuck on the island are trying to get by or trying to life their lives. And you can get a better feel for that.” – Jamie Keen
On Inconvenient Fast Travel: “I think that as gamers it’s something that’s frustrating and it’s something that was probably born of necessity [in Far Cry 2]. For us it’s important that you have that sense that you can do something because you want to. You’re always enabled by the game. You should feel like you don’t want to be traveling over here, that you don’t want to be waiting, that you don’t want to be doing ‘best guess’ fast travel. You want to go tothat place or something very close to it. That’s what we want to do. We don’t want you to feel like you’re being blocked by the world. If you want to travel quickly somewhere, you can do it. If you want to just drive around, you can do that too. If you want to jump off that cliff – you can do that too. We want it to be a situation where you say, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if… Oh! I can!’ It’s always about enabling. That’s really important for us.” – Jaime Keen
On the Malaria ‘Trap’: “The malaria idea I think is one of those things that kind of could have gone either way. I think most people found it frustrating, though some found it interesting because it was the world around them. We want to make sure the points that draw you into something aren’t based on a macguffin, that’s artificially put into the world so you feel like you’re being forced to do something. There are points where we make you do something to pull them along, but we want to make sure we’re not contriving situations too much. We want to say here’s the objective – go there if you want. And if you want to go off and explore, it will be waiting for you when you get back. We’re not dictating to players as much as we can.” – Jaime Keen
On Forcing Players to be Inexperienced with Jason: “You never want to be punitive. It’s a matter of realization. There are ways to make it seem clumsy even though the mechanic is the same. It’s important for us that we get you into the action, that it’s accessible, that it’s fun. We’re thinking about people that are pretty damn good at shooters and people that are just picking this up for the first time. Jason for his first couple of kills – it’s realized that it’s pretty clunky. But as you can see in the demo, he gets the hang of it. He comes up from behind one guy, guts him, aims at another and throws the knife. He gets the hang of it.” – Dan Hay