Setting: A large boardroom. Heather Steele (Director of Communications at Ubisoft), Matt Trocchi (Account Executive at North Strategic), Drew Holmes (Lead Writer for Far Cry 5), Jean-Sebastian Decant (Narrative Director for Far Cry 5), and Marie-Joelle Paquin (Product Director for Far Cry 5) sit at a table. Untouched plates, glasses, and a bottle of Small Batch Kentucky Straight litter the table – the latter upsampled by the room’s current occupants following its removal from the bar outside the boardroom. John and Riley sit opposite Holmes and Decant.
*the interview begins with the clinking of glasses and a reference to Hot Ones*
Riley: Well cheers, let’s open up the interview with a cheers. Yeah, that’s great.
John: That’s a good way to do it.
*the consumption of alcohol commences*
John: Yep, that still burns.
Drew Holmes: Oh, you took the whole thing. Jesus Christ. *Talking to Riley*
Riley: I thought we were supposed to take the whole thing.
Riley: I thought it was a shot!
Heather: Riiiiley! Oh Jesus, I love it.
John: Maybe the interview will be shorter, but only because we fall asleep.
Riley: I will, John will carry on.
John: I’ll carry you out.
Riley: So I guess, Far Cry 5. There’s such a legacy with this IP now. How do you guys plan on following up every previous entry? I’m sure you’ve been asked this a hundred times already.
Drew Holmes: I think we’re just trying to get this one out the door.
Jean-Sebastian Decant: What comes next? I mean like, what are we going to do next? I don’t understand.
Riley: No, no, no, sorry. What does Far Cry 5 do that the others don’t? How do you plan on building it up?
Jean-Sebastian Decant: I think in terms of narrative structure, before there was this schism in between the freedom and the craziness of the open world, and the more linear and constrictive and sometimes serious of the main narrative. This time, we tried to really fuse these two areas together to make it much more organic. We get rid of the radio tower, which was kind of the epicentre of the game matrix. We would deliver the radio tower and get all the information of the area, and then you would do this and it would become very mechanical after a while. So this time, we got rid of the radio tower but we also tried to show that even the smallest activity would be tied to a character. So we created 50 characters and they all effect all these missions and we should that there is a narrative platform on everything and is connected to the fact that the character and context of the people being oppressed in this situation.
We also ensured that there were many layers of, I would say, narrative about the cult that would be everywhere in the world. You are driving a car and will hear songs from the cult. Nice pop songs, but actually if you listen to the lyrics it is quite dark and troubling. Same, when you are approaching an outpost, if you listen to what they say in the speaker, it is speeches from the cult, from Joseph, Jacob, or John, and it reinforces their goals and naturally feeds you about the main narrative. So, I would say that really going for a more organic approach compared to the previous one was one of the most important point. Then there is the approach to the cult leader as well, I think.
Drew Holmes: Yeah, I think that like I said in the panel earlier, trying to follow up Vas and Pagan Min with another character that just felt like another version of that type of character wasn’t going to bring us anything. It needed to be a character that felt just as deep as any sort of hero character that you meet. He truly believes in something, but he is willing to go further than anyone else in terms of achieving his goals. He believes that God has told him ‘You have to save these people because the end of the world is coming’. Okay, absolutely, he is going to do that – whether they want to be saved or not, right? He has built this structure around himself with is cult and his family, that it is this feedback loop of megalomania. He fully believes that what he doing is right and that people will thank him in the end. The player character steps into this space with all of these other citizens of Hope County going like “Fuck”, and this is a life or death struggle, and “We need your help to force this guy out”.
In the course of that story unfolding, what’s interesting is that this level of empathy and understanding that we put in him at that deeper level beyond that surface-level craziness…over the course of time, you start to question that maybe he kind of has a point. What we wanted to do was have a player, as they were fighting back against the cult, like JS says while listening to these cult hymns, listening to these speeches from Joseph, they’re understanding his point of view, and if we can get you in the midst of all that to start to go…”I kind of understand a little bit about that”. That’s the way in, and that’s how all of these cult members…it all starts with not wanting to join this cult, and over time they go “Actually you know what, I kind of understand what you’re saying. I want to know more”. And then they come to you.
Riley: It’s that level of engagement, right?
Drew Holmes: Yep.
Riley: One thing I found very peculiar about the demo that was you guys had an air drop system which acts as a fast travel system. That’s something that has been very heavily utilized in stuff like PUBG or Fortnite, for example. Is that a genre that you guys are planning on pursuing with DLC?
Drew Holmes: No, I think that the air drop mechanic is key to all of the mechanics that have been in Far Cry previously – wing suit, parachute, all that fun travel empowering the player to get around. It’s a park that you’ll unlock probably later in the game as you progress your character. As you get to the later stages of the game, we’re trying to provide more avenues of fun for the player as they sort of really get all of their weapons and gear. Being able to say we have this huge lush landscape and we really want you to be able to explore in any direction, that’s where it comes from. It’s “Which way do you want to attack this world?”
Jean-Sebastian Decant: And also about references, it’s always a bit tricky because we play a lot of games and consume a lot of entertainment, but we try to avoid [one or two] references because it could diminish the scope of the game. You look at the game through one lens, whereas it’s so big and generous with so many difference things that we try to avoid giving one thing. I prefer to say that we started that we looked at the strength of Far Cry and how we can expand on that, and then just study the subject, and then take as many cool stuff as we can by studying that subject. Other than like “Aw, I like that idea from this thing and I’m gonna force it into the game.”
*a waitress enters, bringing in some pretty kickin’ smores. We don’t know if they’re gluten-free.*
Riley: One of the things I find most interesting about the Far Cry IP is that it actually started off as a tech demo with dinosaurs. Primal kind of gave us a look back at the past and stuff like that, is this something you guys would plan on re-visiting? I know you guys have done some of the out-there Far Cry games. You’ve done Mars and stuff like that, and I think that it would be a cool-
Jean-Sebastian Decant: With the DLCs, we went really crazy this time. Earlier, I was saying that Vietnam was a personal objective of mine, so I’m super happy that we had a chance to do a little bit on that. Then we have Mars, and there will be Arachnids on Mars, so special enemies. For the rest, we will see where the future takes us. When we are doing a full-fledged Far Cry, we still want that to be grounded. So, we start with grounded and then find a way to twist it into crazy places. For instance, we haven’t talked about Faith, which is the last region which is coming soon. This will be the most craziest region. But, dinosaurs? It is a bit far-fetched right now. Maybe in a DLC at some point.
Matt: Riley, we got one more.
Riley: One more? Sure. Thanks. What to you makes a great Far Cry villain? What are the building blocks for a great Far Cry villain?
Drew Holmes: I think it’s someone who’s charismatic. I think that it’s someone who is magnetic. I think that’s someone who is deeply disturbed on some level. It’s someone who you can, at some level, relate to – connect to. I think that’s the first layer to it. I think the second layer is reliant on the person that you cast. Bringing that special spark to the role, and I think you saw it Michael Mando in Vas and Troy in Pagan Min, and you’re really gonna see it with not just Joseph and Greg, because he does an absolutely fantastic job, but with the family as well. There’s 4 villains, and there’s 4 of them for a reason. Being able to find an actor that could truly embody each of those characters who are broken in their own ways and have their own interpretation of Joseph’s message and how they fit into the purpose of the project of Eden’s Gate, I think that it’s the writing and it’s the acting all sort of coming together to kind of serve the same goal.
Jean-Sebastian Decant: The recipe is always tricky.
Drew Holmes: It’s alchemy, it’s not a recipe!
Jean-Sebastian Decant: Ye-Yeah. First, it’s really studying the subject for that specific game. Then, it’s finding the right writers and trying to find the angles that we create this multi-layered characters, and then really it is meeting with the actors. That’s the 3 steps, but then really depending on the subject, it could go into so many different directions.
Riley: Very cool. Awesome.
*here Matt gives a look. Maybe a steely glaze, maybe an imploring ‘we done?’ expression*
Riley: Okay, we’re done!
Far Cry 5 arrives on March 27, 2018 for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.