A chat with Far Cry 3’s cinematics director

Upcoming jungle-crawling FPS Far Cry 3 is looking absolutely fantastic, and more than a little insane with its tropical island setting playing home to all manner of colourful inhabitants and enticing hallucinogens. In the midst of all the madness that rAge 2012 has already thrown our way this weekend, I was afforded the opportunity to have a quick sit-down with the game’s cinematics director, who divulged details on the game’s story, the importance of variety in combat, and what makes this new Far Cry a different breed of shooter.

NAG: Could you tell us what your role is in the development of Far Cry 3?

Anonymous Far Cry 3 man: I’m Robert Darryl Purdy, and I’m the cinematics director on Far Cry 3.

NAG: Following Far Cry 2, what sort of changes did you want to make for the sequel?

Robert Darryl Purdy: We didn’t necessarily exit the gate wanting to change anything. We knew we wanted to offer a unique experience, and when we started to develop the story, everything pointed back to a tropical setting, so that would be what changed most. We really listened to the fans, and we wanted to tweak certain aspects of the gameplay. Obviously, we got rid of misfiring weapons and stuff like that, and we tweaked the outposts, the respawning of them, that type of stuff. But it wasn’t a conscious thing saying we have to change this, this and this. It was the kind of thing that just evolved as we got into developing the story of Far Cry 3.

NAG: So the move from Africa to the tropical setting was prompted by development of the narrative?

RDP: Yeah, it did. Once we hit on the fact that we wanted our protagonist to be not necessarily a military person, not trained in the art of war, we picked up that we wanted him to be young. We wanted to tell a bit of a coming of age story, and so we though okay, it’s going to be a young group of kids who are on their gap year, backpacking. And they get caught up in something that’s, to them, alien. And so then we thought okay, a lot of people backpack in places like Thailand. And we thought this is good, because it’s a setting where – although the Rook Islands where we have our game set is not an actual place – it’s kind of in that geographic region, in Asia. Like imagine you found a remote set of islands: cut away from society, where anything goes. So the island setting worked, because it was cut off from everything else.

NAG: You’re obviously placing huge emphasis on having a very strong narrative impact with the game. With this in mind, how do you feel your game deviates from the general state of modern FPSes? Mechanically, how do you implement the idea that your character is not a trained soldier?

RDP: At the heart of it, what we wanted to do is focus our narrative around our core mechanic. Our core mechanic is shooting, and in a lot of other shooters (and I play a lot of other shooters), the gameplay is separated from the narrative. It’s just a given that I play a spec ops guy, or something like that, where I’m great with a gun. When I’m playing those shooters, I never really think about the killing. We wanted to say, “Well we’re a first-person shooter, let’s put that front and centre.” But your main character – and granted, he grows up like everybody else, he’s seen guns, he’s probably played shooters himself, so he’s familiar with a gun, it’s not an alien object to him, he knows which end shoots and where the trigger is – has never killed anybody, He’s never used a gun to harm somebody. So the idea is that main character Jason Brody is still that guy. His brother was in the military, so he’s got a connection to weapons. But what we wanted to do is not focus on him fumbling with weapons, not knowing how to use them – it was more, psychologically, what toll does it take on him when he has to kill people. And this is the coming of age part of the story. He goes in there, never having had to kill people, but put him in a situation where he has to kill in order to save himself and his friends, and see what effect that has on his mind. Will it destroy him? Does he like it?

NAG: Jason speaks throughout the story, providing his own personal take on the events unfolding. So it’s not necessarily our story, it’s his. But do we have any choice as to where his story’s going to go?

RDP: No. We took the position to tell it through his eyes, similar to a film in the way that you’re going to experience, through Jason, what toll this all takes on him and how he deals with it. We’re not really saying, “Is shooting good or bad?” It all revolves around how it affects him.

NAG: Aside from Jason, you’ve got a pretty eclectic mix of characters working in the background, all affected and evolved thanks to the nature of the island. You’ve spoken before about how each of these characters is a sort of “personality bomb,” and the areas of the island controlled by these characters reflect their individual personalities. How do you convey this to the player? What would Vaas’ areas be like, for example?

RDP: We all know there are places on the Earth that are pretty unfriendly. We looked at a lot of footage of places like Liberia, and wondered what would happen to people in a lawless society. Of course, you’re going to have dominant people that come in there, and basically exploit it. Vaas is one of those people. He’s basically a warlord with no bounds. So he’s into human trafficking, he’s into drugs, prostitution, everything. And there’s nobody there to stop him. Vaas would be an alpha male. But there’s other personalities on the island that deal differently, and what we’re trying to do is delve into psychology. Vaas is the aggressive side, and in some of the stuff you’ve seen, you’ll see that he’s somewhat… I don’t want to say manic-depressive, because he’s not, but he is uncontrolled. So sometimes he’s very “soft” or whatever, but then suddenly the rage takes over. So maybe Vaas is rage. But then you have some personalities, like Dr Earnhardt, and he has a different type of psychology. He’s a bit of a recluse, and he’s damaged. Although he seems friendly, he carries some very deep baggage. It’s a look at what side of a person’s personality would come out in that context, on that island, where you basically have free reign.

NAG: Huge emphasis is being placed on open-ended action and giving the player a variety of tactical choices in any given gameplay scenario. What can players expect from this, and how much variety will there be in the gunplay?

RDP: Basically we call it the “360 approach.” So you will get a “briefing” – although I don’t like to call it that, because we’re not really military – but you’ll get a mission along the storyline, but how you approach it, is completely up to you. Let’s say you have to take an outpost or something: you can approach it in any way. You can go in stealthy, you can go in guns blazing, you can fly a hang-glider there, you can strap C4 to a truck and drive it in there and explode it. The idea that we have open-ended gameplay, it’s kind of like, once you get into the gameplay, it’s your choice how to do it. If you’re a stealth player, go stealth. If you’re all about being an action hero, go in guns blazing. Certain areas are more prone to a certain style, but it’s really up to you. I mean, you could go in stealth, and you could trigger an alarm, and then it changes everything. You could then retreat and go back into the jungle, hide, and then approach it again, using stealth from a different angle once the enemies have settled down. But again, it’s all up to you.

NAG: How open is the world, and how linear is the experience? How much extra stuff is there to do in the world?

RDP: The world is completely open. There’s massive amounts of stuff to do on the side, even though the narrative is very linear. If I’m in a mission I’ve gotten from somebody, but until I trigger that mission by going to the mission area, I’m in an open world. You can do whatever you want. You can go hunt. You can go gather plants and craft medicines, or stuff like potions for better hunting, so you can see animals better, stuff like that. With the crafting system, there’s hunting so I can hunt and skin animals, and I can then take their skins and either sell them, or I could build better bags, like backpacks to carry more items. There’s also a skill tree, and I can go out and do stuff to earn new skills that’ll augment my stealth, my shooting ability and all that sort of stuff. The skills you unlock actually have a visual representation via the tattoo on Jason’s arm, tying it back into the story with the warrior tribe Jason fights alongside. Each warrior in this tribe has their journey tattooed onto them, so a very seasoned warrior is fully tattooed. So when I get a skill, that skill is tattooed onto Jason’s arm. There’s more stuff too – like if I take an outpost in the world (and these outposts on the island are initially occupied by enemies, so they make travelling through the world quite dangerous, in addition to the animals and predators), it becomes occupied by friendlies, and becomes a point of fast travel. Enemies won’t respawn there as they did in Far Cry 2. You can kind of systematically clear the island and retake it. Outposts also offer you new side quests and stuff to do when they’re taken. The open world is vast, and you can explore it to discover more of the lore of the island, and explore the history of the people that inhabit it.

NAG: Thanks so much for your time!

[Be sure to read our hands-on impressions of Far Cry 3 here if you haven’t already. Tomorrow is the last day of rAge 2012, which means it’s also your last chance to go hands-on with the early build of the game that’s playable at the show on Megarom’s stand. Otherwise, if you’re not going to be joining us at rAge tomorrow (shame on you), Far Cry 3 is due out at the end of November on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.]

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