Back in 2012, Far Cry 3 was released by Ubisoft and it was arguably one of the best games we saw throughout that entire year. The only problem with the game was that its Dec. 4 release date was too late for nearly every gaming outlet to consider it for Game of the Year honors.
This November, there’s no reason for anyone to miss Far Cry 4 as a Game of the Year candidate, that is of course, assuming the game turns out to be worthy of such a nomination. Its Nov. 18 launch date is toward the end of a monster release season, but Far Cry 4 is hitting some strong, similar notes as Far Cry 3 did.
Far Cry 3 was all about a tropical, warm location for players to experience insanity in, but the setting had no real contrast. Let us say right now that Far Cry 4 has all the contrast in the world and then some. From the lush, green landscapes of the lowlands, to the towering peaks of Kyrat, Ubisoft is delivering world diversity on new different level.
This is an open-world game and it’s Ubisoft so that means there will be plenty of activities. From the preview we received a few weeks back, we know there will be more than enough side content for people to be captivated by for days on end. It’s a staple we’ve come to expect from any open-world game.
Finally, Far Cry 3 featured the greatest villain we saw in all of 2012, Vaas. He struck a very direct, specific note with players and his actions did not reside in ambiguity. In Far Cry 4, we have a villain that is quite the opposite of Vaas in Pagan Min. He is a man who knows more about AJ Ghale than AJ does himself.
Contrast, variety and ambiguity, these are just some of the themes that await players when the game launches this coming November. To learn more about what players will be getting themselves into, yeahstub.com sat down with Executive Producer Dan Hay to speak exclusively about Far Cry 4.
Designing intelligent AI
AI is everywhere in games, and often times, we don’t typically think about them as intimately as developers do. The amount of thought, time and resources that are invested into the creation of a game’s AI is staggering, but when developers create intelligent, reactive AI, the results are amazing.
In the case of Far Cry 4, Hay told us that the game’s AI was the “backbone” of the world they’ve built. When the team would think about how enemy AI would behave when encountering a player, it was important to make sure players didn’t have the same experience with the same enemy reactions. He provided us with an example of what they wanted from enemy AI in Far Cry 4.
“We really wanted was the idea that they would protect [an area], so we built this system where you go up to a fortress and you’re not exactly sure what the AI is going to do. They may take hold of a mortar and shoot you out of the sky if you’re coming in on a gyrocopter.
“The AI may try and snipe you, they may try and send a bunch of heavies out, the door may open and a truck may come bombing out trying to run you over. The AI is super-smart and what we built was this idea that it’s a playground and players don’t always know what the AI is going to do. We just try and build situations where we give [the AI] tools, the same tools the players would have and see what happens,” Hay said.
So how does all of this actually translate into the physical results of Far Cry 4? Hay provided us with another example of what happened during a person’s playthrough when they had a mission to go after a character in the game. It was supposed to be fairly scripted and a straightforward A to B situation.
“During this instance, the character jumped in a truck and the guy playing jumped into the chopper, took off and started raining down Molotov’s on the truck, the truck caught fire and we thought okay, we got him. The character in the car bombed out of [the car], ran over to an outpost and pulled the lever to set the alarm off, and brought in reinforcements. He then jumped on a mortar, which we didn’t even think would happen in the context of that engagement, and he started shooting mortars up to hit the chopper.
“A mortar hits the chopper, the players jumps out of the chopper, hits the parachute and comes down to the ground. The character leaves and uses the cover of all of the enemies that came in, jumps inside of another car, tries to run the player over, then takes off and we end up in a knife fight about a kilometer away. We were like, ‘We didn’t design that. We just designed the systems to allow that to happen.’ It’s truly organic and I think what we try to do is build AI that’s going to be able to look at the options and surprise us,” Hay said.
The power of choice
Nowadays, choice is often a tactic we see used as a means to impact, affect or change a story. When it is done well, it can produce some of the most profound, enlightening moments we can find in a game. The effect can make someone regret a decision, look at a person differently or even cause one to lose grasp of a game’s reality.
Far Cry 4 will introduce players to the world, its systems and environments all within the first hour of the game. After that point, they will be released into the open-world free to explore. The story from there will confront players with one of the game’s first, crucial choices.
“What we do is we say, ‘Okay, right at the moment you just met Amita and Sabal, open-up the entirety of the open-world and give you an opportunity to choose.’ Here’s what’s different though, you know you have Amita on one side saying, ‘This is what I want you to do in this mission. I want you to go save or destroy this.’ Then you go to Sabal who is basically diametrically opposed to saying the opposite, and what’s interesting is seeing how that affects the game as you move forward, the calls you get, the timber in the voice,” Hay said.
When you watch a cinematic, it’ll be important to listen to every word each character says to you because more times than not, it’ll be something you need to keep in mind during an ensuing mission. Completing a mission, however, does not mean you did it the right way. Completing a mission does not mean you listened.
“In [Far Cry 4], you can take over an outpost or destroy it, and then a character will call you up and say, ‘What the ****? What is your problem?’ Now they’re looking at you thinking, ‘are you on my team, what are you doing?’ That actually affects the epitaph of what you write as you move toward the end of the game.
“You’ll be finishing Far Cry 4 how you finish it, and you’ll say, ‘This is the experience that I had.’ Then you’ll be talking to your buddy and they’ll say, ‘That’s not what I did, that’s not the experience that I had.’ There are even moments in the game where characters will say, ‘Were you listening when I said this? Did you try this?’ Players will think ‘Oh, that’s how this works.’ It’ll make more sense when you play the full game, but when we think about choice and some of the characters we have, that’s something we wanted to build for sure,” Hay said.
A game within a game
Ubisoft has already shown off a good bit of Shangri-La, and its purpose will serve as the palate cleanser that Far Cry 3 never had. In the aforementioned game, the scenery was tropical without much contrast. Far Cry 4 has plenty of contrast when you look at Kyrat’s geography. There are lush, rolling hills with snow-covered peaks watching over it all.
If that contrast wasn’t good enough for you though, Ubisoft has gone to great lengths to ensure you do not become bored of the Far Cry 4 universe.
“You need some sugar to understand what salt is. We built it like it was almost three to four square kilometers worth of space, and we thought of it as a game within a game. People are playing all of it and they’re loving it. We introduce Shangri-La as a way to have it in main missions, but then it becomes optional. I think the average player will spend a few hours in there, wandering around and enjoying it, then the question is where do we go next with it?” Hay said.
The Shangri-La experience seems like one that can only be accessed through, shall we say, natural means. Like in most reality alternating “experiences,” there are always a few select individuals that hold the “keys” to the world itself and Far Cry 4’s Shangri-La is no different.
“We have a couple characters, Reggie and Yogi, who are the guys that are the gatekeepers of that experience, so whenever you run into them, you’re going to be able to enjoy it. The whole idea of giving you, effectively a pet, and then allowing players to weaponize it was important. In this case, it’s not just like throwing meat and out comes an animal, the tiger is something players can point at an enemy and it goes into stealth mode and eviscerates them. That helps take the spirit of Shangri-La and sends it in a different direction,” Hay said.
Pagan Min and your identity
Who are you? Do you know the type of person you are and do your actions mirror that? These are a few of the questions Pagan Min may be asking you as you go along your journey through Far Cry 4. Pagan Min knows exactly who he is as a person, but AJ, the game’s protagonist, does not.
Players will be filling in the gaps of this void with their choices and actions throughout the game. As Hay told us, Pagan Min is remarkably comfortable in his own skin, but he turns the question around to players and wants to see if they have the same level of comfort.
“What he does to the player is he turns to them and says, ‘Are you comfortable in your own skin?’ He asks that question over and over again. ‘You’re here, you don’t really know where here is, you have your assumptions of what you know from the West. You come here, I’m happy to see ya, great to see you, we have a lot in common, there’s a lot of things I can mentor you on and tell you about, but at the same time, the things and rules you know from the West do not apply here, so don’t judge me.’ I think what’s cool about that is Pagan Min is something different and the music changes a bit,” Hay said.
Admittedly, it’s going to be quite fun to have an antagonist that isn’t as black and white crazy as Vaas was in Far Cry 3. Sure, he was a magnificent villain, but it’ll be interesting to see that role played in a alternate, visceral manner. Sometimes true evil isn’t about being mean or hurting others and perhaps Pagan Min will show us that, or perhaps he won’t.
When players reach the end of their journey in Far Cry 4, their present will be clear because of their past. Choices will shape who they become and each experience will leave you with something different compared to what another person experienced.
“At the end of the game, I would expect players to realize that when their mom said, ‘Take my ashes back,’ it wasn’t just put the vessel here, it was learn a bit more about this experience, and realize that if you judge a book by its cover, why did you read it? There are going to be a lot of characters that challenge your assumptions of things, and in the end, when the time comes for you to place the ashes, the question will be who are you? What did you experience? Did you see those things coming?” Hay said.
Far Cry 4 is one of the most anticipate games of the year. Storytelling and choice are two ideals we often hear expressed by developers in the industry, but Ubisoft sounds like they are taking an interesting step forward with both at the same time. Nov. 18 is the launch date for Far Cry 4 and we can’t wait to see what Ubisoft has in store for what could be a Game of the Year candidate.