Total Insanity: Ubi Montreal’s Dan Hay on Far Cry 3

Monday, 13 June 2011 14:25 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Far Cry 3′s E3 demo got jaws dropping and gums flapping, but let’s be honest: it raised more questions than it answered. We sat down with producer Dan Hay to fill in a few blanks.

Far Cry 3

Announced last week during Ubisoft’s E3 2011 conference.

Out next year.

Set on a tropical island full of mad people.

“Meh.” No one has ever uttered that phrase in relation to Far Cry 2. “I fucking hate it,” on the other hand? Definitely. Innumerable times, I’m sure. For every one of those, however, there’s almost assuredly been an, “It’s my favorite game of all time,” to balance things out. Point is, Far Cry 2 doesn’t “do” neutrality. It’s hot or cold. Black or white. Love or hate. It’s a powerful quality, that – to inspire a range of opinions oftentimes more violent than the game’s hilariously trigger-happy citizens. That very quality, however, also makes crafting a sequel quite the puzzle. After all, one of Far Cry 2′s “flaws” may be an irritating, painful rough edge to some, but to others, it’s a sprinkle of genius. So what do you fix? What stays? What goes? At the very least, Ubisoft Montreal definitely isn’t treading water.

The developer’s not being shy about it, either. Far Cry 3′s E3 demonstration – themed around the repetitive nature of the “definition of insanity” and viewable here – took pages out of its predecessor’s book and then spat on them. A myriad of scripted scenes? A speaking main character? Visible points awarded for each kill? To many Far Cry 2 fans, it seemed like, well, insanity. Producer Dan Hay, however, assured us that there’s a method to the madness.

“I think we’re definitely building off Far Cry 2, and you know, we use the scripted moments to introduce you to certain characters. But it’s really about exploring the space and discovering the space. It’s Far Cry. It’s open-world. Absolutely, right? If you enjoy shooters, you pick up a gun, you’re going to be successful. And we use those little vignettes to basically intro you to the insanity of certain characters. Vaas is a really good example of that,” he told VG247 during a post-demo interview.

And while Hay wasn’t quite willing to confirm the return of another of Far Cry 2′s holy grails – its mercenary companion system – he certainly didn’t slam any doors.

“There are certain things that I can’t talk about yet,” he said. “But if you played Far Cry 2 and you enjoyed it, it’s a great building block for us.”

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Far Cry 2′s Africa wasn’t a gentle place. Its denizens acted more like hornets than people – immediately swarming on you without even the slightest provocation. For some, that blood-soaked red carpet drove home the game’s central themes and stirred up constant excitement. But for others, well, let’s just put it this way: how many times have you heard something compared to a hornet’s nest favorably? So say goodbye to never-ending legions of nameless eagle-eyed baddies who each bear personal life-long grudges against you and you alone; this time around, it’s all about player choice.

“There are certain things that I can’t talk about yet. But if you played Far Cry 2 and you enjoyed it, it’s a great building block for us.”

“That was the key thing for us – making sure that we focused on AI. When you choose to engage, that’s when they react. You can sneak up on these guys – you can get pretty close, actually – and if you’re smart about it, you can choose to skulk your way around. You can choose to get up above them and do a death-from-above kill. You can stab the guy in the neck and do a knife throw like you saw in the demo. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but we really, really made sure that you felt like you were in control. And if you decided to hang back, they weren’t just going to see you from any sight line. Our focus was making sure that you controlled the action,” Hay explained.

Granted, many of Far Cry 2′s best moments came when you weren’t in control – when you were surrounded, riddled with bullets, and oh god why is everything on fire? Make no mistake, however; Far Cry 3 hasn’t suddenly become Call of Duty. Combat’s still as free-form as ever – perhaps even moreso.

“If you look at your environment, we want the full sweep,” said Hay. “If you love shooters and you want to just pick up the game, it’s going to respond to a shooter. You can pull out your AK-47 and it’s satisfying. But we also want to make sure that you’re using your environment. So the environment’s a character. You’ve got water you can use. You’ve got waterfalls that you can hide behind and get kills on. You’ve got a vantage point. You can use the camera. You can do a death-from-above. It was pretty much about creating a ‘What would you do as the player, in that moment?’ [scenario]. What feels right? And that was our focus.”

Which is all well and good, but what about nature’s fiercest killer, the tree? Far Cry taught players that clotheslining baddies could be endlessly hilarious – and also useful, I guess – but will the green-friendly technique be making a return?

“What they probably can’t see is that – when you asked that question – I smiled, but I probably can’t talk about it.”


Again taking a few steps back from Far Cry 2′s focus on unscripted narratives and a lead whose defining personality trait is malaria, Far Cry 3′s Jason Brody actually talks. He’s not just some faceless one-liner machine either. While the demo only had him toss out a couple quick quips, Hay didn’t mince any words: this is Jason’s story.

Far Cry 3′s E3 demo. Watch it if you haven’t. If
you have, watch it again.

“Jason gets to the island and he’s a little bit cocky. He’s like, ‘OK, I’ve got this covered.’ But when he moves through it, he meets guys like Vaas who are crazy, as well as other characters who have their own unique brand of crazy and justice. The experience is that full sweep. So Jason begins to change a bit,” he said.

Granted, based on the demo, it seems like Far Cry 3′s cast of impossibly insane baddies will take up just as much of the spotlight. And if Vaas is any indication, players won’t mind one bit. So then, why have Jason speak at all?

“You know, to be honest, I think our focus was just on what felt right for Jason. We want to make sure that this guy feels young, and he’s accessible. So if he fell down a well and somebody dumped his body down there, and he came up and he swore, and it felt right? Then it felt right,” Hay explained.

But let’s be honest here: Shooting? Stabbing? Swearing? The three S’s of FPS hardly seem like distinctive character traits. Fortunately, the demo might have given us another big hint: that camera. Hay wasn’t entirely ready to let the cat out of the bag, but he did lop off a couple whiskers.

“I can’t tell you too much about that, but here’s the deal: We wanted to make sure that this guy was real and accessible, right? Jason Brody’s a real character. He’s a real guy. If there’s a camera available, he’s going to pick it up and use it as a scope. If there’s an opportunity for him to take pictures, he’s going to take them – because the stuff that’s going down, I mean, somebody’s got to document it, right? So he’s really kind of learning as he goes. So the camera does play a role, and I think the players are going to enjoy it. But I’ve got to keep that one to myself for now.”

Welcome to the jungle

Far Cry 3, then, isn’t necessarily trying to be a second helping of Far Cry 2 – despite what some fans may want. Instead, the game is its own animal, guided more by the instincts of its creators than anything else. And so, if you ask for a blow-by-blow comparison, Hay will just shrug his shoulders. Fact is, it’s simply not a priority.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t say that I’ve done a comparative ‘How big are we?’ I think what we did is we made the island, and the island feels really good. And then, you know, we made a couple spaces after that too that are kind of cool – that I can’t tell you about. You’re going to feel good. You’re going to play the game, and you’re going to meet the characters. You’re going to use your environment. This place is going to feel like you can explore it and you can discover,” he explained.

“It was funny; we specifically did not go out trying to make it bigger or focusing on the scope or the scale. What we said is ‘What feels right?’ Or ‘What feels right around every corner?’ So for us, it was making sure that – if you’re out and you’re walking around – it felt like you were exploring and there was discovery around every corner.”

After all, who wants to make the same game over and over and over? Why, that’d just be insane.


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  1. Erthazus

    Far Cry 3 looks good.

    but in reality, it’s going to be shit i know that. Why? Because Crytek is not doing it and Far Cry 2 was absolutely horrible and they still think that it was enjoyable + Far cry 3 won’t have mutants which is a shame.

    Far Cry 1 on PC is still one of the best FPS games to date. It’s the title which made Crytek as a company.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Bluebird

    “Far cry 3 won’t have mutants which is a shame”

    A good thing in my book. :)
    In any case, this sound like they are trying to make it quite different to FC2, so it’s a bit early to judge.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. KingCancer

    the trailer looked interesting but, I have no trust in ubisoft to recapture the spirit of the original or build anything half decent after the 2nd game especially in-regards to the multiplayer. cunts.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Christopher Jack

    Wow! Erthazus says a game looks good but remains cynical-all in the same post!? :O
    Far Cry 2 was a good game but not great, but it looks like Ubisoft are are fixing all the things that held Far Cry 2 back.
    I already believe that this could be GOTY material, as long as the gameplay remains consistent.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. guapo

    The mp map editor for fc2 was AWESOME !!!! Too bad the mp gameplay sucked. I hope they bring it back with a mp that is actually playable. The sp was o.k.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Erthazus

    @2, “A good thing in my book.”

    Well of course not, fighting terrorists again and again is so much better right?

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Christopher Jack

    @6, Mutants aren’t much better, they’re up their with soldiers & aliens.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Len

    Original was great with an appalling last level, why did they do that?

    2nd was all sorts of fun with some interesting mechanics, just remember to stay off the roads.

    Can’t wait for the 3rd to see what they bring to the table… :)

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Bluebird

    @6: I’d rather fight believable enemies in a believable world. It’s the one thing that bugs me about Uncharted.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Christopher Jack

    @9, If I want a believable game, I’d play a sim, that’s why CoD doesn’t interest me but still like Halo.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Bluebird

    Yeah, that’s not what I meant at all.
    I find it jarring when you suddenly encounter some supernatural beings/zombies and whatnot when every enemy you encountered before was either human or animals of some kind.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Christopher Jack

    @11, Fair enough, I do think that the supernatural encounters in both Uncharted One & Two were their lowest points.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. YoungZer0

    “but in reality, it’s going to be shit i know that. Why? Because Crytek is not doing it”

    Weren’t you calling Crysis 2 a horrible piece of shit? Can you decide for once?

    “Far cry 3 won’t have mutants which is a shame.”

    Thank god. That was the worst thing about Far Cry 1.

    “Far Cry 1 on PC is still one of the best FPS games to date.”


    @9: Agreed. The supernatural aspects of Uncharted are just stupid.

    “Why do these guys survive for so long?”

    “It’s magic.”

    “Oh, okay.”

    There are only two FPS were i accept monsters in ‘em: STALKER and Metro 2033.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. BigEdMan

    Far Cry was by far one of the best games ever made! Far Cry 2 was extremely disappointing compared to the original. But it was still playable just rather repetitive just rather repetitive just rather repetitive. I love open world games, I love being able to pursue my primary and secondary objectives in a manner that best suits my game play Style. So I sure as hell hope I won’t be stuck constantly driving from one side of the island to the other side of the island and back.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Maximum Payne

    Did you know that in Far Cry 1 when you are in dark area when you turn on flashlight NPC get blind! Now 7 years later we seen in Battlefield 3….

    #15 4 years ago
  16. YoungZer0

    @15: You mean like in Metal Gear Solid 2 which was released 3 years ealier?

    #16 4 years ago
  17. Maximum Payne

    @16 Hehe I don’t know I never played MGS series.
    But again you can’t do that in Metro,Stalker….

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Dralen

    Farcry 3 was definitely in my top 4 games at E3. But “WOW!” those screenshots look impressive.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Espers

    that CG guy looks like he fled Assassin Creed to Far Cry 3 :P

    #19 4 years ago
  20. YoungZer0

    Can’t remember any Natives running around in AC. :P

    #20 4 years ago
  21. Erthazus

    Guys, Far Cry 1 mutants were freakin amazing. I still remember hearing that voice in the Jungles. I guess you never played Far Cry 1 because most of the people here play only on consoles. Ok, i got that.

    The point is that Far Cry 1 premise was cliche as possible from the start. You are a typical everyday rambo trying to escape the island, but after few hours you understand that it’s not just jugnels and it worked for Far Cry very well.

    Far Cry 1 was praised very well for everything. That game basically made Crytek. Except that i regret that they started to make horrible consolized games like Crysis 2… or kinect SHIT like RYSE.

    Ubisoft made a lot of money from a game and even in the end purchased for few millions Far Cry brand and ….. turned it to horrible mess :D

    Now, Far Cry 3 returned to Jugnels (Far Cry 2 had interesting setting in Africa) and you fight… Stupid terrorists.
    It’s like almost every game out there with them.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. DSB

    Far Cry was an amazing game, and it essentially still is.

    The only thing Far Cry 2 had going for it was the visuals and the hype regarding things like the fire. It played like an MMO with a million pointless firefights, too much driving, braindead AI, and shooting mechanics that just didn’t make you feel anything.

    Open world games are great, but Far Cry 2 pretty much did everything to prevent you from enjoying it at every turn. Weapon maintenance served absolutely no purpose other than to bother you, and somehow force you to use the gun merchant, same thing with the malaria, and the incessant checkpoints just ruined any sense of flow that a mission might’ve had.

    Not that you were compelled to do anything in a depressing warzone full of scumbags, of whom you were very much a member.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Maximum Payne

    @21 Not to mention first time you encounter them in tunnel OMG it was so unexpected and scary and there were invisible one and then you need to use some kind of thermal vision to see them.
    I love Far Cry 2 realism but it have broken AI and to much driving…
    Did I ever tell you what is definition of insanity ?
    Its when you driving 5 hours in game and expect that it will stop later in game :D

    #23 4 years ago
  24. YoungZer0

    @21: “The point is that Far Cry 1 premise was cliche as possible from the start. You are a typical everyday rambo trying to escape the island, but after few hours you understand that it’s not just jugnels and it worked for Far Cry very well.”

    Lol, yeah i never seen that before … Preditor perhaps?

    @22: Agreed. The only thing FarCry 2 was missing is a decent Game Design. The location and whole art-direction was superb. But everything from shooting, to driving, to mission-design was absolutely horrific. Still i prefer the brown and deadly africa from FarCry 2 over the boring jungle from FarCry 1.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. IL DUCE

    @13 AMEN

    I liked FarCry2, just a little tedious and the enemies were not that bad if you played on a lower difficulty and rocked the stealth suit, I skulked around in brush most of the time in the game and used the dart gun pretty much all the time unless I ended up in a firefight…I’m more worried they will try to give this character too much of a back story and shit, and almost force it on the player…other than that, FarCry 3 is looking pretty sweet, characters look a little cartoonish to me, at least in the cut scene, but environments are looking beautiful and the gunplay looks satisfying…looking forward to this game, can’t go wrong with an open world shooter…

    #25 4 years ago
  26. DSB

    @24 Definitely, Africa is sadly absent from gaming these days. Unless it’s arab nation X.

    I think they were extremely careless in the way they incorporated very unpleasant things like south african mercenaries or war profiteers, though.

    Casting south african mercenaries as the heroes, while paying the protagnist in blood diamonds doesn’t exactly make you feel like one of the good guys. If anything it’s an example in how not to do Africa.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. Hunam

    It sounds like those provocative elements that are usually ignored because they are too complex or controversial for gaming turned you off. I didn’t like the game, but I’d rather they painted the place as a place you’d really not want to be with people you’d really not like to meet as some really screwed up parts of africa are.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. YoungZer0

    @26: Heroes? I never felt any of the people in the game were heroes. And i don’t think you were supposed to feel like a hero.

    #28 4 years ago
  29. DSB

    @28 The whole plot was about stopping the guy who armed both sides, and thus allowed the war to continue. Ending a war is pretty heroic.

    When the whole uprising happens, you’re saved by South African mercenaries who tell their sad tale of being hunted by the evil africans, who no longer want any foreigners in their country.

    Considering the crimes South African mercenaries are attributed in real life, that’s more than a little cheeky. I don’t want them in my country, either.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. Moonwalker1982

    Really loved the gameplay video of it, and i’m still wondering on what system it was demonstrated.

    #30 4 years ago
  31. YoungZer0

    @29: Yeah, i mean the game tells you alot of things, but as you and me demonstrate: It’s up for debate. I never thought of myself as being the hero in the game. Even if i managed to give some innocent people their travel papers.

    I was just the dude who was trying to kill the Jackal, but after a hours my goal was getting kind of blurry.

    Most of the games inspiration is based on the civil war in Sierra Leone in the early 90′s. There are absolutely no heroes in this game. You kill for profit, and they rebels are just as horrible as the Mercs themselves.

    Don’t know if you finished the game but the conclusion was very nice if you ask me.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. Kuwabara

    far cry 2 is one of the best shooters ive played. Loved the setting, atmosphere, graphics. AMAZING!

    #32 4 years ago

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