Far Cry 3 made a surprise debut at E3 this year and it looked rather stunning. We caught up with Dan Hay, the producer on the game, and bugged him for more details and the insanity fans can expect from the upcoming title.
GamingUnion.net: This was a surprise reveal, I think most people didn't really see it coming. How long has the game been in development?
Dan Hay: It's been in development for roughly 2 years and we were told to keep it pretty quiet.
GamingUnion.net: You did a good job!
Dan Hay: [Laughs] Oh yeah!
GamingUnion.net: So what is the broad vision for Far Cry 3?
Dan Hay: The broad vision was to really focus on the things that really worked in Far Cry 1 and Far Cry 2, but kind of go our own way.
So we sat down and started designing it and we said, 'Ok, where's Far Cry 1? Oh it's probably somewhere over here. Here's Far Cry 2 in Africa. Where's Far Cry 3?' It is way off the map, it's where trouble leaves, on the furthest corner of the map almost to the edge. It's deep in the Indian Ocean, we're on an island and the key thing that we focused on was character development. We wanted to make sure you have a great experience.
So you go the island and you meet people who have lived on that island, it's lawless and it's brutal. The island itself is beautiful, but it's the people on it that make it savage. That was our focus, and to make it gritty and real. I remember being in the design session and talking about it and saying, 'Ok, what do we want this to be like? What evokes that sort of feeling of being on your heels?' For us, we're not afraid of the monster under the bed or the monster in your closet. We're afraid of the guy that comes through your window at 3 o'clock in the morning and he's got a knife.
GamingUnion.net: Can you tell us more about the emphasis on character development this time around?
Dan Hay: You've seen the demo right? Then you've met Vaas. That's an example of just one of the characters that lives on the island. The key thing for us is that when you're walking around the island, you're in their world, you're in their space, this is where they live. You run across these folks and each one of them has their own personality and their own brand of insanity.
Vaas, in particular, he's got this group of guys and they're basically wiping out a village. What he does for kicks when he doesn't like you is he ties you to a rope, puts a cement cinderblock on that and throws you down a cenote to drown.
For us, it was making sure that the performances that we captured, the character that was coming from that actor, was focused on making it feel as gritty and as real as possible. We want you to be afraid of this guy. We want you to maybe even get into a situation where you meet somebody like Vaas and you realize that you need them and maybe you don't kill them. Then you realize, what does that say about you, right?
GamingUnion.net: So based on how you interact with them, will others react differently to you and how will that affect the bigger picture?
Dan Hay: It's more about experiencing a vignette. You're making your way through the world and maybe you're on a missions where you run across a character and this person's been on the island for way too long, right? Almost no morals and when they do bad things, there's no one there to keep them in check. So that's basically let their personalities permeate across their own little fiefdom of the island.
So it's more about stepping in and having the game so that you stumble across a character and you experience a slice of their personality and then you just get the hell out of there. And then you meet the next one, and the next, and having those individual experiences and then realizing that there's a larger story at work.
The key thing for us was making sure that the main character evolves. When Jason Brody, our main character, gets to the island, he's a little bit cocky, young guy, right? We want to make sure that players are basically learning from this experience or effectively feeling like they've had an experience that's real. If you were to get on a plane and travel 17 hours, get on a truck and go off where somebody just leaves you there on an island, what are some of the experiences will you have? Who are some of the people you'll really meet and just how twisted some of them can be and how will that affect you? So if you actually watch Jason throughout the game, he kinda grows up.
GamingUnion.net: From a mechanics perspective, one thing that many people found was that the random encounters in the previous Far Cry games got a bit tedious towards the end, how are you guys changing it up and what's the focus there?
Dan Hay: We've definitely looked at Far Cry and Far Cry 2 and looked at the fact that a lot of people loved those games, I played the hell out of those games, and you look for the things that you can tweak.
For us, there were three major things we wanted to tweak. First thing, we basically wanted to implement fast travel so we went through and said, 'Ok, let's see what people are saying online. Far Cry 2, amazing game. Love it, love it, love it. Hey, what about this? So we added fast travel.
Second thing was making sure that the encounters we go through, you're effectively able to have the action start when you want it to. So if you want to explore and discover, you can do that. You can go off on a mission, do your thing, explore and discover. Now the AI will be aware that you're there, but you have the ability to basically have them react when you choose to attack and jump the action.
The third and final thing, beyond characters which is a whole other discussion, was to make sure that, yes, if you can see it way off in the distance, you can go there, but along the way, and it's not just random, there are very specific encounters that'll happen. There are points of interest and little stories that are being told. Let's say I've got a gun in my hand, I'm on a mission and say I'm going after Vaas for some payback. What happens when I'm in my truck and I'm rolling around and I see something like a mountain or a cent way over there. I look down and there's something in the water. I'm on a mission and I'm going after Vaas, but there's something in there. What is it? And I jump down and I go get it. That's the kind of thing we want players to experience: exploration and discovery.
GamingUnion.net: So there are scripted encounters along the way, telling little stories, will there be random encounters as well?
Dan Hay: Well, it's open world and it's Far Cry, obviously there'll definitely be random encounters here and there. The real recipe for us was to focus on the characters. We wanted to make it meaningful. So when you meet Vaas you experience what he brings to the table. You get to experience his brand of crazy. He kind of permeates throughout his space on the island. There's a little flavour of him on everything within that space. And when you finally finish with Vaas, you meet the next person and it's an entirely unique flavour, it's a different feel. When you're finished with that portion of the island, you'll have the opportunity to explore even further and, who knows, maybe discover another island!
GamingUnion.net: Players have a lot of choice in engaging enemies and jumping the action, but if you go around and you happen to be carrying a gun, will the AI react to that as well?
Dan Hay: Yeah, it depends! It depends on whether or not they're carrying a gun as well. It depends on the type of person they are. The trick for us was the make it a living world. If you were to get on a plane, land on that island and walk into a space and maybe carrying a gun is a normal thing, or maybe you don't have the biggest gun. It depends on the situation and mostly on the personality of who you're up against or who you're running into.
GamingUnion.net: The story vignettes tell a small story but tie together to the bigger picture. Will we see a faction element come into play where players can work together and interact with different groups of people who are also interacting with other people.
Dan Hay: There's stuff about the story I can't tell you about. Well, I can say this. Use your imagination and I have a feeling that you will be satisfied. That's the best answer I can give. [Laugh]
GamingUnion.net: What about online, multiplayer or is there anything in that area that you can talk about?
Dan Hay: Right now, there are certain things we can talk about and that is the really cool and kick ass single player demo andâ€¦that's about it! But, stay tuned and look for us at gamescom. Definitely look for us.
GamingUnion.net: Is there anything else you'd like people to know about Far Cry 3?
Dan Hay: We've covered the characters and you've met Vaas. I think the key thing that I hope people see in the demo is how much Jason uses the environment. The environment itself is a character. We want players to feel that the environment has a personality and you can use it. If you're a shooter player, you're going to be able to pick up a weapon and have fun. If you want to be able to explore and discover a bit, you're going to enjoy that, but the trick is to use the environment. Watch the demo again and just see how Jason uses water!