WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Dan Hay, and I'm a producer on Far Cry 3.
WP: All of the Far Cry games have had separate stories and characters, but the one commonality has been the island setting. What is it about tropical islands that is so integral to the Far Cry brand, and why has that become the focus?
DH: To be honest, when we set out to make Far Cry 3, we didn't set out to put it on an island. We just said, "Look. Give us a place that is beautiful, that is exotic, that feels like it's off the map but it's sort of in the frontier, and we want to have certain biomes. We want to have coastal regions. We want to have a jungle. We want to have a place where it's a living world." And the more we started to describe it, somebody in the back of the room said, "Guys, it's an island." So we're like, "OK, it's an island. You're right." (laughs)
Then we focused on trying to make it a character, make it feel like it has a personality. What's really attractive about it is that it's isolated, it's unique and interesting, and you can imagine that an entire — almost a different history could happen in this place, and it doesn't have any rules. For us, it's the perfect opportunity. It's a really interesting canvas on which to put some of our characters and allow the player to discover what is a host of different locations with a host of different types of things to discover and animals and whatnot. It's very much their place. We really felt good about the idea. It just felt right.
WP: From a character perspective, when you start the game, you've got two brothers. One is a military veteran, and the other one has never fired a gun before. Usually, in action games, the character is playing the military man. Why make the decision to cast the player as the guy who's not the athletic type, not the physical type, and not the killer?
DH: For exactly that reason. You think about the opportunity. We didn't want to do what's been done before. We didn't want to do something that you could see coming. The idea of exploration and discovery around every corner happens in the story. There are surprising moments in the story where you expect the big guy, or the guy who is super strong and has a military background to be successful. The reality is that this is not the stock and trade of this place. That's not what is going to help you survive. It may in certain instances, but you have to use your brain. You have to be lucky in a couple of cases. You have to take the player and character down to almost nothing and then slowly build them back up, and they have to be a canvas that you can write on. For us, it was a great opportunity.
You think about movies or things that sort of inspired us — "The Road" or "Apocalypse Now" or "The Beach" — and then you think about movies like "Deliverance," where you're absolutely confident the characters in that movie that were going to be successful, and then you realize, not at all. The story has a switch to it, and the characters that you thought were going to be successful aren't, and it's just a matter of a little bit of luck, maybe a little bit of divine intervention that they get out of what they're in, and it's a story of survival. We wanted to make sure that people didn't see it coming.
WP: You mentioned some movies. The opening of the game is very cinematic and plays out like the opening of a movie. You've also got it set to MIA's "Paper Planes." Why that particular song? What drew you guys to that?
DH: You look at who Jason was in the life before he came to the island and the fun that the friends are having, and we even have a couple of points in the game that are almost flashbacks to that previous life — very carefree, almost entitled in some ways, and with a very Western sense of what's right and wrong. It was a good opportunity for us to show just have carefree they were and how they felt that the world kind of owed them something. They're just having fun, and they were living moment to moment. They weren't really thinking about the consequences of it. It had a very "Don't look before you leap" quality to it. Forget it, let's just go out and have fun. The reality is that's not always a good idea.
WP: Was there any thought given to the double meaning behind that, both in the lyrics to the song and MIA's background in coming from a smaller country with essentially a civil war going on?
DH: What we looked at, when we talked about the music in the game, there's a number of things in the game where we simply wanted to make it so that it was different. There are times when you think of the game as a piece of music. You think about moments where Jason is in real trouble in the game, and we have an opportunity to build urgency through music, and we have the opportunity to make the player feel like they have the classic sense of, "Oh, I'm in trouble," and here's a deep drum beat or here's something that's building, but in that moment, what we decided to do was make it almost like a ballad and make it very, very quiet and make it almost like a dream sequence. It's specifically designed to get the player to feel like, "There's something different coming," and they can't see what's around the next corner.
WP: Let's talk about technical challenges for a bit. Looking at Far Cry 3 running on the PC, it looks absolutely beautiful. On the consoles, it's obviously not quite up to the same graphic fidelity, but you're talking seven-year-old hardware there. What kind of challenge was it to get Far Cry 3 running comparably on the consoles, especially when a PC player may have an nVidia 660, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are essentially two or three generations behind the current crop of video cards?
DH: You look at our team, and we're bullish. We want to dare, we want to push, we want to try and push every little bit that we can out of the console and PC and offer as much parity across that as possible. Our focus was on giving a level of fidelity that people would be able to look at and go, "This game is beautiful, this game is stunning, and it's delivering in every category," regardless of what they're playing it on. I think we feel very good about what people are going to see when we ship, and our focus has been on — to be honest, it's nice to be at this point in the generation of consoles because it's mature, and it gives you an opportunity to polish and really do things that push hard and iterate and polish and get an opportunity to build a game that's got a lot of polish to it.
WP: In terms of gameplay and mission layout, there are a series of main missions that you can go through for the story, but you've also built a number of side missions: clearing the outpost, hunting, crafting, collecting loot. How do you guide players through that so that they don't feel overwhelmed by the mission dots on the map?
DH: It's really tricky. It's about enticements. You breadcrumb the player and give them an opportunity. If they want to go through the story and they want to go mission to mission, they can. If they want to go out and do all the towers and outposts they can, we put out breadcrumbs and enticements so that they're in their car and bombing down the road, and they're absolutely confident that they're headed to the next mission, and then they hear something or they see something or they see a glint off in the distance or they see a temple or they see a cenote, and it's almost impossible for them not to veer off and go and discover. For us, it was just, look, the players are intelligent, they're going to want to do their own thing, and they're going to want to be able to play with the toy. Give them the tools, and let's see what they do.
WP: The iconic Far Cry vehicle has been the hang glider. How does the hang glider play into the game? Is it just another vehicle? Are there going to be missions specifically around the hang glider?
DH: It wouldn't be Far Cry without the hang glider, so we really, really focused on putting it in a place — or multiple places — where again, it's an enticement. I don't want to give too much away about how you're going to use it or how you might use it. My personal favorite is to try and hang-glide from a really peak right on to the top of the tower. It's super tough to do; I've only done it twice. The reality is that people come to Far Cry with an expectation of, "Give me a toy and let me play with it, and let me be able to soar if I want, let me be able to get on a boat if I want, let me be able to get in a truck if I want, and give me weapons so I can be successful," and you add to that some of the trippy experiences that we're doing with hallucinations and giving you the opportunity to do something really different, and I think we've got a nice recipe.
WP: Foliage. Creating individual plants and individual leaves is really, really hard from a graphical standpoint. How much of a challenge was it to build up the different levels of detail so you could drive through the world on a jeep or fly over it on a hang glider and not have plants popping up everywhere?
DH: What is amazing is the amount of things we're drawing on-screen. The idea is that it's got to feel like a jungle. You can almost smell it. The idea is that there's life, it's a living world, you have plants there that there's an enticement around every corner. In order to be able to deliver on that promise, there have to be a lot of corners. You've got to be able to have a lush environment. You look at people playing, and you're seeing cliffs, and you're seeing mountains, and you're seeing little archipelagoes going off into the distance, and you're seeing all these different things, all these different biomes, all these different opportunities for them to play. It's about offering variety. So if you talk to our art director and saw how tired but satisfied he is (laughs), we think that we've got something that's special, that people will look at the game and they'll go, "I absolutely want to explore in it, I absolutely want to get lost in it for a time and then I can come back to the story," but the island is a character. When you put this much love into the visuals and this much fidelity into what we're making, we absolutely want to deliver on the promise of making the island a character.
WP: If you had to sum it up in 2-3 sentences, what is it about Far Cry 3 that makes it worth playing?
DH: Where else can you use an animal as a weapon?
WP: (laughs) Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
DH: I think the proof is in the pudding. We give people the controller, we allow them to play the game, and they're just loving spending three, four, five — you give people two hours in Far Cry 3, and they spend seven, and that's where we want to be.
More articles about Far Cry 3