How Far Cry 3 is staying sane amidst the mad Q4 rush

Call of Duty, Halo and Medal of Honor are now on shelves, but there is still one major shooter to watch out for.

MCV asks the minds behind Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 about standing out in the market’s most competitive genre…

Far Cry 3 arrives shortly after two of the biggest shoters in the world. It was originally due in September. Has the delay hurt the game’s chances?

Dan Hay, producer: The reality is that we made a very strategic choice to put it in a sweet spot for us, which is November.

When you look at where we are, what we’re offering and how unique it is – the open world, Jason’s [the protagonist] experience – we’ve found shooter fans are coming in. They love the shooter aspects of the game but then we offer the enticement of the open world. People who typically solve their problems with weapons are all of a sudden out in the open world exploring, discovering and having a blast. We feel very confident about the decision we made and the place that we’re at.

Henri Guay, brand manager: I think we’re in a lucky situation where Ubisoft, through all levels of the organisation, were ready to make a commitment to the brand as well. To have the support at an organisational level shows in these kinds of decisions. We don’t cut and release, we do what’s right for the product and the brand as well.

Are you worried about going up against Call of Duty?

Guay: No. Far Cry has always been a little bit off the map in terms of the offer that it gives. People are going to continue to play Call of Duty and also look for experiences that give them something different from what they get from those other brands. We feel we’re in a comfortable spot.

What would you say the Far Cry brand is?

Hay: We know we want to have you off the map with rough tools; we want somewhere that’s exotic, that’s different. Each one of the Far Cry adventures do that. For us, we’re looking to make something that’s unique so we’re taking a regular person and putting him in an abnormal circumstance and watching him grow.

The original Far Cry began life as a PC-exclusive. What prompted the series to launch on consoles and do you think it will ever return to its PC roots?

Guay: From a brand perspective, Far Cry definitely exists beyond any unique interface or platform.

It’s really important that the stories that we tell and the emotions that we relay in Far Cry are things that we can provide to people regardless of what machine they decide to have in their living room. As the nature of the brand evolves, it is great to see more people enjoy it and different audiences enjoy it.

With each different platform you attract different groups of people. We want to keep telling the story with whatever opportunity we have on whichever platform.

Has expanding to other consoles brought up any limitations?

Hay: Technically it’s a big game so it’s not about limitations, it’s about opportunities. It’s about making sure we’re able to offer enticements to both console and PC gamers.

From a production standpoint, there’s a lot of stuff to deal with. The game is big. There’s a lot of content and there’s a bunch of different emotions that we want to pull off. It’s about being able to develop that in an efficient way. We’re trying to build something that is going to entice a bunch of different people.

What’s amazing to see is when you take someone who is a hardcore shooter player and they’re like I just want story missions. Don’t talk to me about the open world.” Then a few hours later they’re in a cave somewhere or they’re fighting a bear with a hatchet. That’s cool.

What was the response like to the game at trade shows such as E3 and Gamescom?

Hay: We’d been planning the E3 demo for a long time. We were immensely pleased with the response that we got.

The gamers saw a new character called Sitra, hallucinations, a portion of the gameplay, unique weapons and AI, and some insane situations. We showed them a whole bunch of stuff but it was just the beginning. It was just a little taste.

At Gamescom, people were playing with the open world and having fun. They were sniping at a tiger in a cage and unleashing it next to a bear that’s mauling people inside an outpost, and then taking the survivors out by putting C4 in a truck, rolling it in and blowing everyone up. They were having a blast and that’s not in the mission.

We feel really good about how the game was revealed. Now people are playing it, they’re just having fun.

Guay: A lot of major games nowask for a longer window of communication before launch.With Far Cry, the prospect of talking about the game for 18 months and showing people all of the aspects was a challenge.

We’ve been lucky and used each opportunity to show off something different. E3 2011 was about what we can do with characters and what we are going to bring to a first-person narrative experience that you maybe haven’t seen before.

At E3 this year, we showed players players what kind of journey that narrative is going to take you on with the hallucinations, the relationship with Sitra and how that’s played against the relationship with Vaas, who’s now a known entity. Then at Gamescom, we showcased another different facet of the game.

Over an 18-month campaign, we’ve been able to take the many aspects of Far Cry 3 and show each one in a specific light.

Hay: And we’ve been offering hints through all of it. You met Jason at the beginning of our campaign and then you saw he’s begun a transition at the next E3 into something different. You can actually hear the timbre of his voice changing.

We get a lot of questions like ‘how does someone who is not a soldier survive the jungle?’. In the beginning it’s very, very difficult and then you begin to see that after a short time of being able to get out there and live and survive, now he’s got the tools. It’s rough, but he’s got the tools to be able to go out there and be successful.

Far Cry 3 has a lot of pre-order DLC. Is this essential to attracting day one buyers, and how do you balance this content with whatever’s left in the game?

Guay: Downloadable content that comes with retail-specific pre-orders, I have to be honest, is a mechanism used in the industry to achieve our goals. I don’t think that at any point we made a decision to remove a part of the game or anything like that.

We go into production knowing that when you ship a full game there are certain expectations and certain deliverables, so you go in with a structure and a plan to make sure you can execute on all your goals and launch a true triple-A product. I place it in that light. It’s part of the initial expectations of shipping a major game like this.

Is it frustrating for you being expected to create even more content for the launch?

Hay: I don’t think so. When you have a game that is this big and has this many little moments to discover, there are opportunities. I know there are requests coming in from a production standpoint and a critical standpoint and we’re going to field those requests.

We have to be efficient withhow we do but because the world is so big and because there are so many opportunities in it, it’s nottoo difficult to find a little spotto do something extra.

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