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AusGamers Far Cry 4 Video Interview with Ubisoft Montreal's Dan Hay
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:15pm 20/06/14 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Ubisoft Montreal's Dan Hay to talk about all things Far Cry 4. read on or watch for what he had to say...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, coming to you -- also once again -- from the E3 show floor. One of the big buzz games of the show, and prior to the show, was Far Cry 4.

Everybody has wanted it, I wanted it -- I played the absolute shit out of Far Cry 3 -- and I’ve got Dan, who you probably don’t even need to be introduced to; I’m pretty sure everybody knows who you are.

So let’s talk about the setting: why the Himalayas? What did you learn from jungles, and what was the design process moving forward, post Far Cry 3?

Dan Hay: We finished Far Cry 3 about two years ago, and I think everybody was really pumped about how people were responding to it. So we were like ‘ok, you know what we should do, is we should just’… there was a conversation about ‘why don’t we just keep it on the island; why don’t we continue with Jason, and we’ll build on the friends, and we’ll put out something that’s sort of a graduation of that experience?’ and everybody in the room was like ‘yeah, no, we’re not going to do that; we’re devs, we’re game players, we want to be able to take it to brand new locations’;’yeah it’s going to be difficult, yeah it’s going to be hard, but that’s what we want’.

So the first thing we thought about was ‘ok, giving you a scenario: what do you want to be able to do in Far Cry?’ and our game director said ‘well, I know what I want, I want to be able to ride an elephant; I want to be able to have be a living tank’, and everybody was like ‘alright, cool, walk us through it’. ‘I want to be able to take that elephant and smash through a fortress, I want to be able to walk through that and basically turn it into a tank, smash the front door of a fortress and take it over. ‘I want to be up high, I want to use the wingsuit. I want to be able to do all of this stuff’.

So we started to put it all together, and then he mentioned co-op, and it was like ‘ok, calm down’. We put it all together and we realised we were describing a place that’s got intense verticality, it’s got a tonne of different biomes on it, it’s got different weather systems, it’s go snow and ice, and it’s lush, but there’s elephants… ok, we’re in the Himalayas; that’s what we’re doing.

So two years ago/a year and a half ago, we talked about building part of the game where you’re riding on this elephant and you’re smashing this outpost -- but it’s not an outpost, it’s a huge fortress and the fortress can fight back -- and what I’m most proud of, is that you can literally play that today, right now, that exact experience; we didn’t deviate from it, and we brought in co-op as well, so now it’s not just one elephant, it’s two.

Or you decide you want to jump off this 12,000 foot ledge and you want to double wingsuit down to the fortress; do what you gotta do!

AusGamers: One of my gripes with Far Cry 3, was I felt like the game was kind of telling me what to do a little bit too often. It’s an open-world game, and I want to be able to just go and explore, or if I’m on mission and I’ve decided I don’t want to do that mission, I don’t want to be told ‘what are you doing? come back, come back’. Have you guys approached that in any new way?

Dan: I had some gripes of my own on the game, and you try as a dev to get certain things into the game, and you know at the last minute that you can’t fix certain problems. I think that when you look at some of the things that we can do better, we gave you the wingsuit halfway through the game, and we didn’t give you the opportunity to play it as much as you could. So this time, we’re going to give it to you early; we’re going to give you an opportunity to do all that.

On the standpoint of the story, and making sure that the story aligns with the open-world, and making sure that it’s more of a compliment: we want to do a better job of that as well. In terms of missions, and being locked into missions, and things like that, we do that for technical reasons, which I’m sure that you know, but the truth is that we want it to be effortless.

Even when it came down to the discussion about co-op, we know that people are manic about making sure their single-player experience is safe. So when we started talking about co-op, it was like ‘well, wait a second. Is that going to get in the way of the single-player experience? How are we going to do that?’. So we specifically set out to say: ok, you have your single-player experience, your buddy says ‘hey, let’s go out into the open-world and let’s just mess around’, you’re able to save your progression, you’re able to save your profile, you’re able to save your game and it’s safe, then you can go out in the living world and you can do whatever you want to do.

Just you and your buddy, if you want to ride elephants, if you want to smash outposts, if you want to wingsuit, you want to get into the gyrocopter; whatever you’re going to do, go do it. Then you can come back, and the autonomy of that single-player experience is safe.

AusGamers: Is there much dynamism in the world now in terms of your impact being a lasting impact. Or are we still talking about resets and stuff like that?

Dan: It’s really interesting. A big thing for us is player-choice, so I think what we learnt from Far Cry 3 -- especially with the characters, in terms of your impact on them -- we can do a better job, of even the characters knowing each other. So what we wanted is the idea that if you go to an outpost, and if you take over that outpost, it’s probably owned by somebody, and that somebody is going to have a problem with what you’ve done, and you’re probably going to get a phone call about that.

Then somebody else is going to call you up and go ‘hey, nice job, it’s good working with you’, and I’m, like, ‘I’m not working with you’, well, yes you are. I think that when you think about the dynamic relationships that you have, we want to build characters that live in the world, it’s a credible world and they know each other, and that you impact that. You’re swimming in somebody else’s pool, so be careful.

AusGamers: One of the themes of Far Cry 3 was the psychos. It wasn’t just Vaas, everybody had some kind of wacky personality, like the island had gotten to all of them. Are we going to see that again? Talking about the characters, it seems like you might have gone for less of a delineation between psycho and not psycho, and more of that grey area of uncertainty.

Dan: Yeah, I think that when you look at Far Cry 3, you know that when you meet Vaas, you know what he was. When he walks up to you, ’this guy is probably going to kill me with a hammer’, and you just have this sense that this guy is absolutely psychotic; this guy is brutal and this guy is physical. But you can’t always have the exact same brand of insanity, you want to make sure that you can try different things.

When we talked about Pagan Min, we started to say ‘ok, how do we make this different? How do we make it so that he’s charming, and that he’s interesting. So we kind of take it back to the playground. I talked about the playground a bit on Far Cry 3, is that Vaas was that kid from your past, who shows up on the playground when you’re nine or 10 years old, and says ‘look, give me your money’. He’s a bully, and you have three choices at that point: you can basically hand it over, or you can punch him in the face, or you can run. That’s kind of what the experience was with Vaas.

We wanted to do something different this time, where Pagan Min is more like that friend that everybody has, that’s bad for you, but you can’t help but like him because he’s charming. So he shows up, and he goes ‘hey, why don’t we go steal a car?’. When you see that moment, where he steps out of the helicopter, and he walks out, he looks completely different -- not like Vaas at all; completely different -- and he basically walks out, completely destroys the guard that shot up the bus, and then sees you. He sees you for the first time, and goes ‘it’s you, this is great! My buddy, we’re going to go out and have the best time ever’.

I think that people are going to realise that he’s charming. It’s hard not to like him. He’s intelligent, he’s bold, he’s dangerous, he’s charming. He’s a bit of a peacock; ‘you like my suit? You don’t like my suit? Why don’t you like my suit? What’s wrong with my suit? Walk me through the process of you not liking my suit’. That type of character is why we’re doing it.

AusGamers: How have you leveraged the power of next-gen, given that Far Cry 3 was still a monstrous game, and you pulled so much tech out of that on 360 and PS3. What’s been the technical process for you guys?

Dan: That’s a big question: what’s the technical process? Honestly, I think that what next-gen allows us to do is, that you think about the spirit of Far Cry -- the first time you saw Far Cry 1, and you go off the Zodiac, and you saw the blue water -- I remember seeing that game, and going ‘oh my god, this looks incredible’. I think the spirit… that’s the kind of thing that we want; we wanted it for Far Cry 3 and we definitely want it moving forward for Far Cry 4.

This idea that the graphic fidelity, and the feeling that everything is alive -- that everything is connected; the idea that the world looks so good, it almost feels like you could smell it. Far Cry is famous for having something that when you look at it, you can’t take your eyes off it, and now we want to be able to take that to the next level.

AusGamers: Is there going to be any differentiation between platforms? Are you going for parity? Another big one that I think has been missing for games like this as well, is user-generated content on the PC. The mod community would do wonderful things with Far Cry.

Dan: I think those are great questions. First of all, to answer your first question, in terms of parity, we’re absolutely looking for parity. I don’t want to just give you the classic producer bullshit answer on that, the reality is that it’s tough, but we want to really try and make sure that we give you a game, and that the AI and the experience of playing the game is as good as it can be on every single platform. So that’s our focus, is that we push for quality, and we push for when you pay your money, and you take almost a digital year off your life and go and visit Far Cry, we want it to feel as good and as rich, and we want to be generous with that. So we’re working incredibly hard to do it.

From the standpoint of your second question on user-generated content, there is stuff that we’re talking about in a little bit, that you need to ask me about soon, but I would absolutely love to talk about user-generated content in about two to three months.

AusGamers: That’s good. You haven’t cut me off, at the very least, so we’ve got a thread.

Dan: You know that Far Cry had a really good in-game editor in Far Cry 3, and you can imagine that we’re the type of brand that wants to make sure that we’re giving you the tools to be able to contribute to Far Cry. We talked about you being able to build your own island -- the spirit of that is not going anywhere, we’re absolutely… that’s what we want.

AusGamers: Are you guys talking about [competitive] multiplayer at all?

Dan: Not yet.

AusGamers: Tonally, what’s the major differentiator between Far Cry 3 and this game? What separates our new hero from Jason Brody?

Dan: If you think about who the character was at the beginning of Far Cry 3. It’s a guy who was probably really entitled. At the very beginning of the game, you’ve got a credit card and we’re doing shots on the beach, and life pretty much owes us everything. Then very quickly, Jason learns the hard way that life is not fair, and he’s got to work his way through this.

But Ajay is different this time. We’re giving you someone that is actually from Kyrat, and has a history, and has a last name that has meaning. So that when you enter that world -- even if you’re smuggling yourself into the country -- people are going to look at you and go ‘I know who you are; let me tell you a story about yourself; let me tell you this is where you come from’, and when your name has power, and people can use it, and they’re people that you don’t know, it’s super-important to understand why they’re using it.

I think that’s something that we want to play with: the idea that he’s learning the culture of his past, at the same time as he’s meeting people that may want to benefit from that for their own reasons.

AusGamers: Right, so it’s like unravelling a mystery, as opposed to Jason sort of finding a darker part of himself.

Dan: Right. I think the reality is, is that you have an opportunity for discovery, and I think that in terms of what we’re discovering, we’re talking about what is sacred being under attack, and we want to make sure that rather than just dropping you into a meat grinder, there are little moments that you can discover through the story and through the open-world, so they’re a little more connected.

AusGamers: Ok. We’ll wrap it up there Dan, but I just want to thank you for finally allowing me to ride an elephant and bust through someone’s front door.

Dan: I’m glad you love it.

AusGamers: Alright, awesome. Thank you.
Read more about Far Cry 4 on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 01:06pm 20/6/14
Sweet video guys. See Ubisoft aren't that bad towards the PC community after all.
Posted 09:48pm 20/6/14
Generic "oh yeah we are looking at user generated content/ modding" comment that accompanies every future release AAA title that ends up being either completely bulls*** or so far from the mark it may as well be just that.

I can't be the only one that's sick of over excited devs vomiting from the mouth at every game expo. I'll believe such claims when I see them.
Posted 03:08am 21/6/14
If they make FC4 as good as the previous one I really don't give a s*** about user generated content :P ...just enable steam workshop with FC4 and you're set
Posted 09:31pm 15/7/14
Hey Steve, really good interview man !

I'll tell you something I really missed in FC3. The self propagating fire that was such a great feature in FC2. What ever happened to that stuff?
FC2 multiplayer was so awesome because of the way the fire worked.
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