Tag Archive: developer chat

Last week I had a chance to see the beginnings of Far Cry 5. Set in the fictional Hope County, Montana, players will be dropped into the middle of this rural slice of Americana that is under the hypnotic control of a cult leader named Joseph. This enigmatic figure believes he hears voices telling him that a reaping is coming, and that souls aren’t going to harvest themselves. If you’re not with him, you are most definitely against him—which Joseph is fine with, because he also believes that he and his people must prepare to be tested.

Of course, taking over a town isn’t the easiest of endeavors, and Joseph’s closest kin serve as the lieutenants that help keep everyone in line. Jacob, the eldest brother, is an ex-military specialist who has become disenchanted with the government and the world. John, the youngest brother, is a smooth-talking lawyer who knows how to keep the government from coming down too hard on his dear brother Joseph, and how to snatch up more property to bring under the cult’s control. Finally, half-sister Faith knows how to keep Joseph’s followers in line, a pacifying pacifist that keeps the cult’s rage from boiling over until Joseph is ready to let them loose on the world.

The odds are stacked against you, as they always are in Far Cry. However, you’ll have allies in your war to reclaim the hearts and minds of Hope. Barkeep and lifelong resident Mary May remembers what the town was like before Joseph, and she places sole blame on him for her family falling apart; her personal vendetta against the cult leader will make her a fiery addition to your team. God and guns preacher Jerome is infuriated that life has come to this, and that so much of his flock has been led astray; he hesitantly will resort to force in order to save the souls of his lost people. And finally, there’s Nick Rye, a crop duster who comes from a long line of airplane pilots. His father and grandfather both fought in wars, and Nick reckons it’s time to fight in one of his own.

Far Cry 5 will give you a bevy of tools to use as well. Everything from flamethrowers to pitchforks, guns and dogs for hire, and almost anything else you can think might be willing to risk getting hit with a few bullets for the sake of a few bucks. And, as always, how you go about tackling situations will be up to you. To get a lot more insight into the inspirations behind what seems on the surface like a radical departure for the series, I sat down and talked with Far Cry 5’s executive producer and creative director, Dan Hay.

EGM: I think the easiest and most obvious question is, why Montana? Although it might appear foreign to a city slicker like myself, I imagine it’s not very foreign to a large portion of the game playing public.

Dan Hay: There are two things that I’ll say about that. It would’ve been easy for us to pick a location somewhere around the world and given people something that would be classically referred to as “exotic”. But I think we had those conversations and we said to ourselves that sometimes it’s the thing in your own backyard that is the weirdest, that is the strangest, and when you scratch it there’s a lot of stuff underneath. That’s the first part.

The second thing is that the cult is something that’s really unique for us. I think people are going to realize that we picked the place because this is a place where it’s believable that some people want to be left alone and they don’t want to be bothered and that if you were going to build a cult, you could probably put it in there. So, we met with cult experts and they talked to us about it.

Whenever I watch a show or movie, part of me wants to watch because they’re offering me an experience that I will likely never have in my life and they allow me for two hours, or however long the show is, to dip my toe in the economy of the world that they’re building. And so when I think about some of the stuff that I watch on TV, I’m never going to be a gangster. Probably. But I get to visit that for a time.

And so I don’t think that a lot of people are going to be most likely in a cult and I think that it’s pretty cool for them to be able to go “Wait a minute, let’s look at this. Let’s meet the Father. Let’s understand what his family is doing. Let’s hear some of the things they are espousing, some of the things they’re saying. Let’s look at the people in Far Cry’s Montana”—and it is Far Cry’s Montana because we built Hope County and it doesn’t exist in the real world—”and see how they are going against the cult and pushing back.” And so it creates a unique experience that I don’t think anyone was expecting and it’s ours.

EGM: When you mention a cult, I think a lot of us jump to the idea of folks in white robes and ponchos drinking Kool-Aid. How are you going to get people past this idea in the game?

DH: I think you keep it simple. Absolutely, when you think of cult you think of a cliché sort of answer to that. I think when you see our characters they aren’t that. We kept it simple. There’s a guy who believes he’s heard this voice and he believes that a collapse is imminent. He believes it. And he’s managed to bring together followers who trust him in that. And when he talks about it, he doesn’t talk about it in ridiculously crazy terms. He says, “Look, there’s going to be a collapse. It’s going to happen. And we need to protect ourselves.” And then what he’s going to say is something to the effect of “You’re not going to believe me. There’s nothing that I can say that will bring you around to this idea. So, I’m just going to take you, and when it happens, you’re going to say thank you.” That’s an idea people can understand. And when an actor with gravitas gives it, when it’s given with great writing, you understand what these people stand for. You understand what’s happening. And you understand why the regular people in this world, the citizens, don’t want to have anything to do with this guy.

EGM: You mentioned an actor with gravitas. Can you give us any hints as to the cast that is playing your principal roles?

DH: I can’t say whom we cast. Casting on Far Cry is really tricky because it’s alchemy. I’ve implied it’s a process before, but the more I do it the less process it is. You get a great writer. Great writers, right? And the other thing that we’re doing is changing some things a little bit, trying to make like a writers’ room where people are pitching ideas and kicking stuff around and riffing off of each other. Then, we go out and cast the net wide and look for people who are going to be able to hold your gaze, people who can make your skin crawl, people who can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. And then, also, letting those people run a little with the material. Because it’s not perfect, we’re not going to nail it 100% perfect the first time. And then making sure it feels believable and that what comes out of their mouths, especially when you’re working with a first-person camera, they have some room to play.

I think that’s how we found some of our characters in Far Cry 3, 4, and Primal. And we know people want that from us. We know that people are looking at this and knowing if the characters are important and whom you’re going up against and who you are. I think that on this one, it’s super-interesting to see that we’re now dealing with a family and you get to meet each one of those people. They’re a chorus and they each have their own jobs. They each have their own micro-agenda. And I think people are going to dig it.

EGM: What can you tell us about the gameplay this time around? Are we going to be putting Bessie the cow out to pasture in order to craft supplies? What can we expect different in terms of gameplay?

DH: Well, you’re trapped behind enemy lines being in the cult territory and you got to use the resources that are available to you. If you’re played the Far Cry games, then you’re going to like what you’re getting and we’re going to give you more opportunity. We found a unique recipe when we built outposts where you got up to an outpost and you could attack it from 360-degrees. And you can see the anecdote factory opportunities and the question was why couldn’t we just do that with the whole game. Why couldn’t we drop you in the middle of the game, give you a little information, and then let you go in any direction and author the experience your way? That’s what we’re building here.

EGM: So are there no more outposts at all?

DH: I won’t go into specifics like that. What I can tell you is that—assuming you enjoyed the gameplay in Far Cry 3, 4, and Primal—when you see that we’re putting in guns for hire that can come with you, and the new inputs we’re putting into the anecdote factory for when you go up to a location that’s owned by the cult and you attack it, you’ll still have that 360-degree approach and that opportunity. But now you have new tools. Maybe you want to fly in and strafe it. Maybe you want to do a bombing run. Maybe you want to call Nick and have him come in and blow it up. Maybe you want to take your dog and send it in and have it tag everything. Those are the things we’re bringing to the game.

EGM: From what I’ve seen, this feels like it channels the temperature of the US as a whole right now. Like we’re all in a pressure cooker. How much of the game came about before a lot of recent events started to take place and how much did the game maybe be influenced by real world drama?

DH: It’s a chicken or the egg kind of question, right? I get asked, “do we have a specific agenda in this story?” No. We don’t. We’re not saying this is good and this is bad. What we’re saying is that the temperature right now is kind of in the red. The temperature is that people are running hot. They’re nervous and there’s a global consciousness of tension. It’s a pang I had as a kid [during the Cold War] and it’s familiar and I don’t know the answer to your question of what came first. It’s wholly believable that some of the things that had been going on in the world three years ago when we started to kick this idea around somehow influenced us. We can’t say that didn’t happen. But the world has changed so much in three years. Just the fact that we talk about things in the game and the characters in our world are affected by a lot of the things that are happening in the real world in terms of when they talk about stuff, they’re going to be aware and they’re going to be alive. And so yeah, I don’t know if its serendipity or what it is, but we landed on a sweet spot.

EGM: We talked a little bit before about the exotic, and Far Cry tends to always walk right up to the line in terms of believability. Far Cry 5 feels like it is walking more parallel to a familiar, current state of our world. How do you think fans of the franchise will react?

DH: Everybody that we show the game to is like, “Wow. I want to play that.” There’s no question that when you build a world, what you try and do is you try and make it so that that player can go in any direction and you allow them to go and do their thing. Far Cry is known as an experience where you go out and you can just blow stuff up and go crazy and have a great time. Or you can go in and have an earnest moment in the story and have something. All we wanted to do here is make it so this story felt grounded and felt real and be something you would understand and know right away and I think we did it. I think we have the framework for that. I think the older you get, you start to see cycles of things and so there’s going to be people experiencing this for the first time. And it’s going to be new and fresh and they can go out into the world and they can blow stuff up or they can have an experience with the story and it feels very present. And I think it’s going to be great.

Far Cry 5 will release on February 27, 2018, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

With the final piece of Just Cause 3‘s three-part DLC expansion, Bavarium Sea Heist, on its way, we took the opportunity to chat with Marcus Andrews, the lead designer on the entire Air, Land, & Sea Pack. We discussed with Marcus what challenges the water theme brought to the dev team, what that meant for Rico Rodriguez, and what new weapons and vehicles he’ll get to use and how they will affect the world of Medici.

EGM: Just Cause 3‘s previous DLCs seem to have been building to this final add-on. What can you tell us about the story of the Bavarium Sea Heist?

Marcus Andrews: While the packs can be enjoyed stand alone, it’s true that the overarching narrative reaches its conclusion in the Sea pack. We even felt we had more to say about eDEN and The Black Hand than would fit in the mission narrative so we included audio logs in this pack. I really recommend finding and listening to them. They conclude the narrative and will hopefully give rise to some theory crafting.

The story revolves around the last of the eDEN stations, “The Stingray” and how the character Annika has a plan to cheat The Black Hand on some valuable tech in a daring heist. Rico is not hard to persuade when he realizes he will get the prototype weapon “eDEN Spark” as a reward for his contribution.

EGM: Will most of the DLC take place in the water? If so, could this be a hindrance to Rico’s grappling hook/wingsuit/movement abilities? 

MA: Water in videogames is notoriously unforgiving. It often sounds great at first when you throw around ideas for water gameplay, but bread and butter stuff like what Rico can do, how enemies move, what you can interact with, and all the explosions and stuff become problematic if you don’t have solid ground. All that led us to take an approach with a combination of sea combat and normal combat in a sea setting. I think the new outposts are a great example of water gameplay in Just Cause. You have a powerful and agile boat to do lots of the heavy lifting, but you get out of it and do some complimentary work on foot/wingsuit/parachute/hanging upside down from your companion drone or what have you. We didn’t want to disqualify that type of gameplay just because this was the “Sea” theme.


EGM: What went into crafting a DLC primarily around the water region of Medici? How difficult was it?

MA: There were a lot of novel challenges to overcome, that’s for sure. One particular headache is that water is flat. If you think about Medici, it has very varied topography with mountains and valleys. Even small hills and buildings will obscure the horizon and hide objects behind them. On the sea there’s none of that; you see everything from everywhere. Part of the reason why the new boat is so insanely fast is because the drive from point A to B on a flat sea becomes quite boring. This is also part of the reason we increased the size of the waves during the driving sections of the mission, to basically create something resembling a landscape.

EGM: What new gameplay will the Sea Heist introduce? New vehicles? Weapons? Gear challenges? 

MA: The pack includes two new missions, 18 audio logs, the Stingray base, five new outposts, and the eDEN Spark, an insane new weapon that brings down a lightning beam from the sky that follows your crosshair around. There’s also the Loochador, the fastest, by far, boat in the game capable of going over a hundred knots for extended periods of time. It’s also equipped with machineguns and homing missiles that target all vehicles and chaos objects. And finally, there’s the new Boat Invaders challenge, which allows you to hone your skills with the eDEN Spark and mod it with gears.

I think this adds primarily two new experiences to the game. The fact that you can be really competent with the boat and defeat air, land, and sea enemies without leaving it is fresh. The eDEN Spark is the obvious new thing though. A giant death beam from the sky!


EGM: Did the team ever consider going underwater with Sea Heist? Like with submarines or other submersibles?

MA: During the concept phase everything was on the table in one way or another, but we decided against underwater for the reasons I brought up earlier. If we ever go underwater, this wasn’t the time or place for it.

EGM: Was there anything that you wanted to include in the DLC but couldn’t fit in?

MA: It’s the nature of making games that you want all the cool things, and each thing will be mind-blowingly awesome. What separates a good team from a bad is the ability to adapt the scope to the realities and pick the right focus.

EGM: The other DLC packs allowed you to bring vehicles and weapons over to the main game. Does Sea Heist do the same? Were there any balancing issues that came up trying to make sure everything could fit properly into Medici? 

MA: Yes, all the things you get in Sea Heist will be useable all over Medici. We decided that the DLC vehicles and equipment would be allowed to be very powerful but HEAT is a very good mechanic in this regard because even if a vehicle is very powerful, you rack up 5-star HEAT and you will eventually be outmanned regardless.

We thought a lot about how the new toys would integrate with Medici, but balancing power was only a part of it. Making sure that main missions didn’t break and that the main game content reacted properly to them was also part of that.


With the release of Gears of War 4 right around the corner, I had a chance to talk with Chuck Osieja, creative director at The Coalition, to get a little more insight into this newest chapter in the franchise.

EGM: Did you ever entertain the thought of having Gears of War 4 pick up more closely after the end of Gears of War 3?

Chuck Osieja: Sure. We explored a wide range of ideas of where in the timeline we wanted to set the game. The Gears of War universe has such a rich history, and such a great cast of characters with interesting personalities, that we were really unlimited to where we could go with a new story. The question really became “how do we create something new and interesting that still feels grounded in the Gears universe and is familiar to fans of the franchise?”

After a lot of discussion, we all got really excited by the concept of exploring what Sera would be like after 25 years of peace. What does the world look like now? How does it recover from years of war and destruction? How does it rebuild when most of the population has been wiped out? What does a new generation of characters look like, and how do they deal with a new deadly threat when they’ve never faced conflict in their lifetime?  Telling the story of JD Fenix and his relationship with his father Marcus is one of the central narrative themes of Gears 4, and to be able to explore that and take this franchise in a new direction was something we found very intriguing and inspiring.

EGM: Can you tell us about The Swarm?

Osieja: Fans are going to love the Swarm. They are a brand new enemy in the Gears of War world and they bring a whole new feeling to the combat. The variety in the Swarm is like nothing players have seen in Gears before. They come in a wide variety of styles, and each brings a unique threat to each combat encounter.

There will naturally be some comparison between the Locust and Swarm—this occurs mainly in the “mirror” enemies, though. These are enemies that act like the player, or mirror their abilities. This makes up the foundational layer of enemies in a cover-based combat experience. Then you start to branch off into more unique units and abilities. This is where the similarities between the two ends, and the Swarm become very unique and distinctive.

The way they act, strategize, and fight in encounters adds a whole new dimension to the game. A big emphasis for some of the Swarm was to design enemy characters that really leverage cooperative gameplay. Gears has always been at its best when you play with someone else, and we wanted to really emphasize teamwork between players when fighting the Swarm.

Juvie Closeup

EGM: Will wind flares be a recurring obstacle for JD and his crew, as opposed to Razorhail or the Kryll, which were limited to small sections of their respective games? How else might weather affect gameplay?

Osieja: Wind flares can impact game play throughout the Campaign. Rod has always talked about how Gears turns everything to “eleven.” We don’t have bats, we have murderous Kryll; we don’t have hail, we have Razorhail. So, when it came to designing something like the wind flares, we knew we needed to really turn up the intensity, and create something worthy of the Gears franchise. Wind flares are a system in the game, not a scripted event, so they can happen anywhere–and at varying intensity–so you really have to pay attention to the environment as well as the encounters.

Wind flares are almost like a “tidal wave” of wind that crashes onto the battlefield, affecting everything in its path. It can impact character movement, and it can actually lift cover out of the encounter, or send new cover crashing onto the battlefield. Clever players can dislodge loose cover with their bullets, causing the wind to send obstacles hurtling into—and crushing—entrenched enemies. The intensity of the wind does effect some of your weapons, with the air currents changing the flight path of grenades, Boomshots, Buzzkills, and Dropshots, so a little extra precision is needed when using them in a full force gale.

When a Wind flare peaks, it unleashes the “Storm wall” which contains lightning flurries. Think a forest of lightning, which pack a powerhouse of electricity as they touch down, and then wander aimlessly across the battlefield crackling with intensity. Lightning flurries are unpredictable, and can easily take out unsuspecting enemies—or you—if you aren’t careful.

EGM: Are there any major differences between playing the campaign co-op versus solo? Are there branching paths like in previous games?

Osieja: Cooperative play has always been a focus of Gears of War, and it is again in Gears 4. Like previous Gears games, there are branching paths throughout the campaign. The player will be able to select which route they want to take. The paths are designed to create different experiences based on the choice of path, but they are all designed to be cooperative. This means that, even though you will have your own unique encounters, you’ll also need to work with the players on the other path—sometimes providing support or executing specific tasks—to successfully complete the branch.

Siege Beast

EGM: What has the addition of the combat knife and new close-quarters combat kills done for the flow of gameplay?

Osieja: Introducing Close Cover Combat moves to Gears of War 4 has introduced a new layer of strategic play and unpredictability. It encourages players to stay mobile, making for faster and more spirited play, as well as changing the dynamic when players find themselves on the opposite side of the same piece of cover. Close Cover Combat maneuvers can be used to counteract anyone who relies too much on cover, by vaulting over cover, or yanking an enemy to your side of cover, stunning them, and opening them up to a combat knife execution.

One of the crucial aspects of the Close Cover Combat was making sure it was a fair mechanic in Multiplayer matches. When you execute a Close Cover Combat move, there is a brief moment where the intended victim is prompted to “counter” the move, completely turning the tables on the attacker and opening them up for a combat knife execution. As you take on the harder difficulty levels in Campaign, Horde, and Versus modes, you’ll see the AI attempting Close Cover Combat moves as well.

EGM: What can you tell us about Gears 4‘s Horde mode?

Osieja: Horde is one of the modes I’m most excited about. Gears of War invented Horde game play, and now we’re taking it to a whole new level in Gears 4. The new Horde 3.0 is really about empowering players to choose the way they want to play and discovering emergent strategies over the course of a session. By putting choice in the player’s hands, you can now completely choose how you want to build, and how you want to solve the problem of each of the 50 waves of enemies. We are unshackling the player to allow them to approach the waves however they want. Horde 3.0 is the ultimate team experience, and players who coordinate and work together will be the most successful. I’m really excited to watch the videos of how players conquer Horde, because the way you can set up your defenses and outfit your character is nearly limitless.


EGM: Can you tell us more about the bounty-card system being introduced to multiplayer? How do you expect it will affect how people will play?

Osieja: In competitive play, Gear Cards will have no effect on gameplay balance, as they offer cosmetic items such as weapon and character skins. Bounty cards allow players to set a personal challenge in the match based around a specific task. Successfully completing the Bounty in game gives the player the XP reward that is listed on the card. Don’t worry though, you only consume the card when you successfully complete the bounty.

Bounty cards come in a wide variety of types, and can be specific to a particular character, completing a number or specific type of kill, or it can be based on particular game mode. Bounty cards come in a variety of rarities as well, with the more rare cards giving a larger XP bonus when you complete them—which in turn enables you to level your character that much quicker.

EGM: Gears has always had a strong competitive community. What measures are you taking to help support Gears 4’s eSports potential?

Osieja: Earlier this month, we announced the Gears Pro Circuit for Gears of War 4, in partnership with MLG and Gfinity, with a starting $1,000,000 in cash prizes. Amplifying the success we had with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the Gears of War 4 Pro Circuit will invite players from around the world to earn Gears Pro Points to qualify for the international open events, and we’re keen to kick things off this November in Columbus, OH.

In terms of development around Gears of War 4, we’re focused on building Gears of War 4 Versus Multiplayer from the ground up with eSports as a foundation, with modes like Escalation and specific maps that are designed with competitive play in mind.

We’re also adding features to make broadcasting of matches more interesting and dynamic, with two dedicated spectator slots. There are new overlays for spectating that give a more in-depth view of the action, including what weapons all players are using at any moment during a match. There are also a variety of camera positions that can be quickly switched to, while spectating, to see elevated views of the battles and watch strategies play out from a new perspective.

We look forward to sharing even more details and announcements about Gears of War 4 eSports in the coming months!

Kait Knife Battle

Hack to the future

A lot of attention has been paid to the unique hacking gameplay Watch_Dogs is going to be bringing to current and next gen consoles in November. But there’s still a story behind Aiden Pearce and his uber-connected world of the near future. With this in mind, we were able to sit down for a few minutes with Kevin Shortt, one of the writers and Lead Story Designer for Watch_Dogs and pick his brain a little.

EGM: Watch_Dogs has been in development for more than four years now and a lot can change in that time. How has the story changed, at all, from the original vision you guys started with?

KS: I think the core idea has always been there. We wanted a bit of an anti-hero whose making questionable choices towards a noble cause. The story itself, for sure, it’s shifted a lot. And that’s going to happen. As you’re working with the game developers and designers and creative director, we all get in a room and we start realizing what the best flow is both for gameplay and for story.

And so as a result, you end up having to shift the story quite a bit to make sure it hits all the right beats and has the right energy. Four years, for sure, you start thinking to yourself “that idea was kind of crap, but this idea is f***ing amazing and we’re going to go with this.”

So, we finally landed on that amazing idea that we’re really happy about it and we think is a story that’s going to resonate with people. They’re going to get pulled into it. What’s cool about the story is it’s really reflective of how the player’s going to play. The player will find it easy to live Aiden’s life because he’s a guy who can’t stand by and just watch people get hurt and I think the way the game is you find you can’t just walk away from these situations. You have to step in.

EGM: Has it been difficult crafting an anti-hero as your main protagonist?

KS: Yeah, well I think any story can be difficult. They can all be quite difficult to make. The easy thing would be to make him a black and white hero, and off you go. But, we wanted him to be three-dimensional, and that means you have to really think about what are the human choices you would make that aren’t necessarily the right choice. We all make these mistakes and I think that’s what we were after, to make sure he was very human.

The people around him, as well; that was an important part. The characters—we’ve mentioned Clara and Jordi, two characters that you meet in the game—they have their own stories as well. And their stories don’t mesh perfectly. They are not crafted to strictly help Aiden Pearce. They’ve got more than that going on. They’ve got their own ups and downs and their own goals that they’re trying to achieve while Pearce is trying to achieve his goals. And that makes for a great collision between the characters and makes for an exciting story.

EGM: What went into the decision to set the game in Chicago?

KS: We loved the character of the city, the landmarks, the history. I think another thing is we looked at it from a gameplay perspective. It’s a great city for that. Look at all those bridges. And we knew this would just translate into a fun city both visually and gameplay-wise to explore and have fun in and that as well was a big reason why we went with Chiacgo.

EGM: What are you most proud of with the story?

KS: That’s hard to say. I guess I’m most proud of the depth of the characters we have. We’ve got a rich cast of characters who all have their own goals and they end up blending well together without serving each other too obviously.

So, overall I’m pleased with how well we crafted the story and integrated it with gameplay. What was different about this game from other games that I’ve worked on is from day one, I was sitting there in the room with the game designers, the creative director, the level designers, and we worked out together how’s the gameplay and how’s the story going to work. That doesn’t always happen in games at all.

Story quite often can come much later. And you’re wrestling to fit your story into the gameplay. For us, we worked on it right from the beginning.

I’d say that’s what I’m most proud of. We’ve gotten to a point where the gameplay and the story mesh so well that I think it all just flows really beautifully together. We’re able to adapt quite easily on the fly. If gameplay has a problem that they need to solve, because we’ve worked together already so well, it’s easy for us to adjust it this way to make it work and still hold everything together.