Click: What was the overall aim of what you were trying to accomplish with Far Cry 3?
DH: What we set out to do was create a personal experience. We could have made Jason a super soldier or we could have made him an accomplished soldier right at the start of the game, but we said right from the beginning that we wanted to create a regular guy and make it credible. If you or I went over there and we had an experience like this, we would not be good at this right off the bat.
The idea that the character and the player are experiencing the moments in lock step is very important. The very first time you’re in a cage, you’re scared. The first time you meet Vaas you understand what it is to be bullied. The first time that a character is standing too close and you can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. From the beginning of the game people are looking at it and think “okay I get what happens here, my brother is military and I’m going to learn from him and he’s going to be the guy that guides me through this” and then, like that, he’s gone.
You’ve got your hand on his neck trying to keep him alive, and the player needs to press a button to keep him hanging in there and then his life extinguishes there in front of you as you’re trying to stop the blood flow, and Vaas turns to you and says run. The idea of knocking the player back a few notches, just like your character, and then building them up is key to the game. The first time the player looks out to the jungle they’re afraid of it, and by the middle of the game they’re starting to see it as a weapon; that was our goal.Click: So what’s the connection with the previous Far Cry games?
DH: It’s not that the stories are linked, it’s the feelings, the idea of being in a lawless frontier, the idea that you’re in a place where there’s no sheriff or 911, the idea that you’re on your own and those are hallmarks of Far Cry – those moments in time where you meet somebody and they’re just in trouble. They’re on their own and they have to figure out on their own how to get out of it. The player and the character are in that together. Those are the hallmarks of Far Cry and that’s the recipe for us.Click: In terms of what we’ve seen so far, the narrative is hugely important to the game. When you’re building a game like this does the storyline evolve as you’re developing, or is it locked down from the start?
DH: I think that evolution is a good way to describe it. If I was to sit here and tell you that we knew exactly what we wanted it to be and we had everything in a row and it was just like building a car – that would be a lie. The reality is that you try to get a group of smart people who are passionate and creative and you put them in a series of rooms and a series of meetings and you allow them to be passionate and creative. I think that we had really good bumpers and lots of experience, we also had raw emotion there and that’s what we wanted, but we allowed people to play with it.
We went out and asked the team to give us feedback. Some had been to French Polynesia, Thailand and Borneo, for example, and we asked them to tell us about their experiences. We really did our homework and we wanted it to be credible. We had the guys from the Vice Guide come over who have been in those situations where they don’t know if they’re going to live or die, and they’re meeting insane characters that are real world characters. We invited them over to meet our characters and initially they were like “you guys make videogames, what exactly do you know about this?”
So we showed them Vaas and we showed them the Doctor, and at first they were a little standoffish, but as they watch the performances and start to understand what we’re trying to do, and they look at it and give us the best compliment we could possibly have gotten by saying “we know that guy! We absolutely know that guy!” So I think you just have to do your homework, you have to build a team that’s passionate and you have to allow it to steep. You can’t force it. I think that we went through that process really well and we think we’ve got something that’s special.Click: There was a slight delay; it was supposed to be out a couple of months ago. Was that just down to you deciding that it’s not ready until it’s ready or were there other factors at play?
DH: The reality was that I remember being in meetings and we were talking about cutting things, and it was basically just no – we don’t wanna cut that! We know that the people looking for a great Far Cry game are intelligent and passionate about the brand, and we knew that if we didn’t give it a little bit more time to bake that we would cut too deep – so we just didn’t rush it. We made sure that we were going to release something that people would love and respond to.Click: There’s obviously quite a deep multiplayer facet to the game, it’s bigger than most single player games, how different is the development process for a multiplayer narrative?
DH: It’s really tricky. When you think about why we essentially went for two games in one, we knew that people who play Far Cry want to have that unique single player experience where they’re alone in the jungle and we wanted to make sure that we kept that sacred. So for the multiplayer we wanted to flip the coin on that and make it different. In the single player game Jayson is a normal guy in an abnormal circumstance. For the multiplayer we wanted to take four people who were already a little twisted and bring them to the islands with their own brand of insanity and see the effect that they have on that environment.
We also wanted to make sure that while we give you the opportunity to experience loss or a deep story or the exploration of the open world, we also remembered that sometimes it’s just fun to blow stuff up! You have to be self-aware, so we offered both experiences and made sure that they had enough hallmarks between them where they can talk to each other. There are moments in the multiplayer where you realise that you’re part of a blood feud between Vaas and Citra, who are brother and sister. So you have an opportunity to be one of Citra’s warriors or one of Vaas’ pirates, and you can sort of decide based off of how you played single player what you want to do. Those experiences all have to be unique and they have to be games unto themselves, that’s the most important thing.Click: Is there a recommendation you could make in terms of how they approach the game? Should they play single player first and then tackle multiplayer, or vice versa?
DH: That’s a really good question! That’s the first time anybody’s asked me that. I don’t think there’s a wrong way to do it – that’s the key thing. The spirit of Far Cry is that there’s no wrong way. Play the game the way that you’re going to play. If you decide you want to go take out all the towers, or you want to travel through the islands or you want to do all the hunting missions you can do that. That’s your choice. For me, I really enjoy just steeping myself in the single player and then having the pallet cleanse of just going over to the co-op and having a blast. They really do complement each other. I’ll leave that up to the players to play how they want to play, and tell us all about their own personal adventure.Click: What’s your favourite Far Cry 3 gameplay experience so far?
DH: There was a moment in development where we knew we wanted to have a living, open world. We knew we wanted to have gameplay that just sort of came to life. I was looking down on one of Vaas’ compounds and I was thinking about how I was going to approach the situation. I knew that I could effectively weaponize one of the animals by hitting the cage and opening the gate and having the tiger kill all these guys, but what happened was I took over the compound and brought in a bunch of water buffalo. They killed a load of guys, and managed to uncage the tiger, which then set about killing the water buffalo, and then something happened that I’d never seen before.
Once I’d taken over the compound the Rakyat warriors showed up and started supporting me in my fight with the animals. And then, once it was all over, a villager came by in a truck and pulled a hit and run on one of the Rakyat warriors, so the Rakyat warriors jump on the truck to try to take out the villager, which starts this mini-war on that part of the island. I was like, “I’m not doing anything here!” That was amazing, and what we’re looking for is things like that happening. We want people discovering all this stuff through the gameplay.
If you saw me onstage at E3 this year and I was looking worried, that’s because I honestly wasn’t sure what was going to happen up there! We really tried to build environments where you have a 360 degree approach – when we say that the jungle can be used as a weapon, we really mean it. My favourite weapon in the game is the animals, by far! So that’s my answer!Far Cry 3 is released on November 30th in Europe and December 4th in North America. We'll have our review up for you ahead of launch!