There’s a ton that you can learn about a game from going hands-on with it. The same could also be said for talking to the people who spent years developing it, toiling away and burning the midnight oil to bring you the very product that you now hold in your hands. Secrets, Easter eggs and in-jokes that a team of hard-working developers are privy to and more than happy to share with fans.
That’s what I love about video games, because the only thing better than enjoying an interactive experience is sharing that joy with the people who crafted it and learning more in the process. This week saw me briefly jet off to London for some early access into the untamed frontiers of Montana, a vast and mountainous region that had recently become infested with a new breed of crazy in Far Cry 5.
A preacher’s flock is on the loose, the end times are upon the citizens of Fall’s End and someone has to take a stand against Joseph Seed and his church. Which makes for an intriguing setup in Ubisoft’s character-driven series of shooting and survival. I needed some answers to certain questions, and fortunately I managed to sit down with Far Cry 5 narrative director Jean-Sebastien Decant, as he preached the good gospel to me. Here’s what he had to say about the 50 Shades of Crazy that is Far Cry 5.
In Far Cry 5, I can’t help but feel like I’m playing a modern-day western. I feel like I’m the cowboy who came riding into a town under siege by a charismatic villain, who has plenty of guns for hire and no qualms about getting his way. Were spaghetti westerns and other cowboy movies an influence on the narrative design of Far Cry 5?
I think I would say none of them and all of them. I don’t want to get into specific references, because when you do a game that wide and that large, every mission is a little story.
In Far Cry 3, players assumed the role of Jason Brodie. In Far Cry 4, we were Ajay Ghale. This time, we’re whoever we want to be, a blank slate really as our custom protagonist doesn’t even have a voice of his own. Why did Far Cry 5 go in this direction for its protagonist?
Far Cry is a franchise that is first person, so you don’t see your protagonist. It’s not on screen, you don’t see your character, you just see his arms. So we wanted to try and remove the barrier of a character that is actually experiencing the story in a certain manner and making it you. So that’s why we went silent protagonist. It was a challenge, but there were a few cool innovations that helped us give life around that player.
You are the player
So you have the guns for hire who can accompany you, they are able to react to a lot of situations, they all have their personalities and I think they bring a lot of the voice that you would have from a main character. And then when you have cutscenes and cinematics, we always ensure that there are a lot of characters interacting with the character, creating enough dynamics so that you don’t feel that your character is really needed for the discussion.
Also the other thing that we did, was a lot of slapstick that interacts with the character physically. We try to find situations where the character, despite not having a voice, is really physically present and part of the world. But when it’s about making a decision? That’s for the player. You are the player.
Far Cry has always been a character-driven series, but Far Cry 5 feels like that concept has been expanded upon tremendously. How big is the new cast of characters that we’ll encounter?
We went quite bonkers with the cast of characters. Before we were up to ten, fifteen characters. Now it’s more than fifty. So it’s a lot of different vibes. Of course we take inspiration here and there, but what’s really inspiring us are the actors that we met, or even some that are just in casting. That’s where they really take shape. At first we have just an idea that’s relative to gameplay. For instance we have Nick Rye, as we knew that we’d have a plane.
We went quite bonkers with the cast of characters
We needed a personality that would match a pilot, we wanted something that justify that. The traits and the personalities are coming from gameplay, level design constraints. Then when we have a better idea, we write the scenes and we go and do the casting. Meeting with the actors also helps us define those personalities.
I look back at previous Far Cry games, and the villains have always stolen the spotlight. Far Cry 3 had Vaas and Hoyt Volker, while Far Cry 4 had Pagan Min. We’re now tangling with Joseph Seed, the leader of his own dangerous cult. How do you create a villain like that, who stands apart from previous Far Cry antagonists?
I think what differentiates us, is that we take the time for the player to be around them for a while. So you get to know and understand them a little bit more. So we’re taking this space to let these personalities…pop. We tend to revolve around the crazy personalities. Vaas was a psychotically creative thug, Pagan Min was much more like the despot who was trying to be nice but was totally obsessed with details and could just attack you.
Then there’s this one. It was really about having someone who was about purpose. It’s always about shades of crazy.
Far Cry at its best, has been the game where you can rope in a friend to join you and help you cause some co-op chaos. What’s the big upgrade this year, in terms of co-operative play?
The big new novelty, is that the game is playable, is that the whole game is playable with a friend. There is no split between open-world and mission. You can partake in anything with two players. So that’s pretty exciting, and then whatever you acquire during the game with your friend, is going to be kept for your own progression.
Far Cry 5 also feels really relevant in the current political climate, which in itself is amazing because a game like this takes years to develop and design. How does it feel, having a game which really resonates with the current state of the world today?
I think it’s more of a coincidence, because it’s been three years in development and even more time spent with the idea of bringing Far Cry to the US. We’re looking into a place that would match the themes of Far Cry. A place of wilderness, a place of where hunting would make sense which is why we started focusing on Montana.
When you create that game and something in the world happens, it’s a bit scary
What kind of danger could we create that would be believable in a place like Montana? That’s when we realised that there are groups who want to be left alone, and sometimes they can be unsettling. And that’s how we started to toy with the idea of having a cult, because a cult was a shade of crazy that we were looking for Far Cry.
That’s how we created the puzzle, and now with what’s going on in the world, the global consciousness of being scared? That’s really a coincidence. When you create that game and something in the world happens, it’s a bit scary. All the games that I did before, there was always a big split on what we were working on and the real world. It’s scary.
Far Cry 5 launches next year for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, on March 27.
Last Updated: December 15, 2017