Thanks to a certain Polish RPG, any ambitious open-world game planning to release across two console generations is going to find itself inevitably under the spotlight.
And Far Cry 6’s spectacular world does raise the question of exactly how wary developer Ubisoft Toronto is of setting expectations for those planning to play it on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
“What I can say, and I cannot go so much in details about specs or things like that, is that both on the previous generation and the new Xbox Series and PS5 generation, the game is running fine,” lead gameplay designer David Grivel told VGC.
“One detail I can add about the new generation is that it allowed us to run the game at 60 FPS and in 4K, which is really cool. I test it on kits at the company and I can definitely see that as a great thing on the new generation, but that doesn’t mean that the previous generation is abandoned in any way. We’re really, really cautious about that, so we’ll show more detail and more info very soon.”
Grivel spoke to VGC via video call to discuss the philosophy behind Far Cry 6 and how it’s differentiated from Ubisoft’s other blockbusters. Far Cry 6 is out on October 7, 2021.
Blockbuster games are getting delayed in large numbers as the impact of the pandemic hits home. How have you managed to keep Far Cry 6 largely on schedule?
For sure, the pandemic affected all of us. All I can say is that we delivered the full game at the quality that we wanted by the end, so I would say that’s my answer on this. I can’t talk much about Covid-19 or things like that. But yeah, long story short, the company adapted really fast and we managed to deliver everything we wanted.
What can you tell us about the island of Yara and how it compares to previous Far Cry locations? You’ve previously said it’s your most ambitious sandbox…
The biggest thing for us was that it was the first time we’ve built and entire country. What that means is that we needed new biomes and environments that we’ve never had before. The best example is the main city of Esperanza: it’s the first time we’ve brought such a big urban environment to a Far Cry game, so it was interesting in the sense of, how do we adapt the gameplay to this kind of environment?
The island itself is bigger than any map that we’ve ever done before, which in itself doesn’t mean much because if it’s empty then it’s meaningless. That’s why it was important to us to make sure that you have plenty of content and the right content too. So different types of activities of missions, and sometimes mini-games even, like you saw in the video. You can play Dominos in the guerrilla camps, for example.
That variety was good not only to fill the island with interesting things to do, but also to offer options for the player. It’s not all about you know guerrilla warfare. Of course, that area is very important: the revolution is important narratively, but we wanted to make sure that when you’re in the open, if you want to go fishing for a while, then you can go fishing. If you want to go hunt for a while, then you can go hunting. Not everything you do is always about the revolution.
That’s also what helped us balance the let’s say, more serious aspects of the story to some of the bit of the crazier options that you find in the world, such as some of the weapons or vehicles you could see in the trailer.
You’ve mentioned before that this is the largest sandbox you’ve ever made. The previous maps were already pretty massive…
Yes, so it’s the largest open world in the Far Cry brand. I don’t know about other games, but what was important for us is to create points of interest across the map. So we have cities, we have boats, we have airports and everything in between. We keep things interesting also because now we start building things such as outposts, which we now call FNS bases, which offer a classic Far Cry experience.
We implement them in a… like there is a meaning to the infrastructure, right? It’s not like, ‘ah, there are ten camps in the forest and they all look the same’. Some might be about a sawmill, some might be about a port, some might be about something else, and it’s not just a theme on top of it, it also affects how players approach it because say if now the output is more inside of a building, sniper players will have to adapt to this situation.
“The island itself is bigger than any map that we’ve ever done before, which in itself doesn’t mean much because if it’s empty then it’s meaningless. That’s why it was important to us to make sure that you have plenty of content and the right content too.”
Our level designers did a fantastic job building the world and building this location to keep things interesting, And of course, then you have different biomes based on the area you’re in. So yeah, that’s one way we approach how to make a difference when you traverse the world.
On top of the new outposts, you also have Flak Cannons and Checkpoints for players to worry about.
Yeah. So like I said, big differentiator was the purpose or the role of that place. But also, the other ones that you mentioned like the new Flak Cannons, this is interesting to me because previously I was the kind of player who would grab a helicopter and fly directly across the land just like that. And I would never encounter any pushback from the world… it was like the world was on the ground and that’s it.
This time around we don’t want to prevent players from flying. On the contrary, we have a lot of helicopters and planes and all that, but we wanted also to show that you’re in a country that’s under military control. They control the roads, but they control the sea and air as well.
So, when you go to a location that is a bit more for restricted areas, you will face these Flak Cannons and then it’s up to you to take the risk to go there. Or you can take them out on the ground and liberate the airspace. So as you liberate Yara on land, you can also liberate Yara in the air and see that progression as you go through the story.
Far Cry 5 outsold its predecessor by quite a significant margin. How do you assess what exactly appealed to players about that instalment, and how have you integrated it into 6?
When we start a project, we have a lot of data on what people like or don’t like, so that’s a great starting point for us and also especially for me on the design side, I want to make sure we’re making a game for players, right? So, we have to listen to what the Far Cry players love, but we also have to try to see how we could look at other players that haven’t necessarily been in the brand previously.
This time around for me it was more a question of how we embrace the legacy that we have and still make this feel like an evolution. I think the approach that we had in particular on what we call ‘resolver’, which is that do-it-yourself philosophy, really helped us create quite a few new features and systems based on this.
You can see it in the weapons and vehicles, for example. It was a great way for us to not only fit that island that is frozen in time where people don’t have a lot of means, so they have to make do with whatever they can find, but it also translates to gameplay. This is where things such as the CD launcher or the nail gun come from. It helps us to not just paint with colour over what already existed, but to create new things that we never had previously in the brand.
In recent years Ubisoft has committed to further differentiating its open-world games from each other. Was that a consideration when you designed this game?
Part of the thing we do at the beginning is of course we look at other teams and other brands and what they are doing as well, right? For sure, it’s not intentional if things look the same and we want to make sure that that’s not the case as much as possible while still respecting what made this brand so great in the past. It’s a balancing act between this, what people want, and also our own idea of what should be the next evolution for that specific brand that is Far Cry.
“This time around for me it was more a question of how we embrace the legacy that we have and still make this feel like an evolution. I think the approach that we had in particular on what we call ‘resolver’, which is that do-it-yourself philosophy, really helped us create quite a few new features and systems based on this.”
The ability to holster your weapon and mingle with other characters sounds interesting. What kind of ramifications does that have on gameplay?
I’m really glad you asked this question because it’s one of the things I really pushed for because as you know, in previous Far Cry games you were always the center of attention like enemies knew who you were and they knew kind of almost where you were all the time. So, it was difficult for you to just blend in and for us, because we were building a game based on modern guerrillas, it was important to be able to pass as a civilian.
Now you can holster your gun and that gives you two things: One, if you want to explore the world and just go fishing or walk across the world, holster your gun and you know no one will start shooting at you. But it also gives you the agency to finally start conflict when you want to start conflict, not when the game decides it for you.
For example, if I was driving a car, I could holster my gun and drive up to a military truck and wait until I was right next to it before I pull out the gun, shoot the driver and hijack the truck in one go. That kind of thing was just not an option previously and I think it sounds like a small detail, just holstering a gun, but it really opens a whole new dimension of interaction. You can ambush. You can ambush the army, you know you it really to me allows you to play even more like a guerrilla.
As an ambitious open-world game releasing across two console generations in 2021, many fans will be anxious to know how the last-gen version is running, due to recent events with Cyberpunk’s troubled launch. What assurances can you give us on how authentic the last-gen game will be to your vision? Are there plans to show it before release?
As we go in the next few weeks and months, we’ll definitely start showing more on different platforms. What I can say, and I cannot go so much in details about specs or things like that, is that both on previous generation and the new Xbox Series and PS5 generation, the game is running fine. One detail I can add about the new generation is that it allowed us to run the game at 60 FPS and in 4K, which is really cool.
I test it on kits at the company and I can definitely see that as a great thing on the new generation, but that doesn’t mean that the previous generation is abandoned in any way. We’re really, really cautious about that, so we’ll show more detail and more info very soon. But yeah, we’ll care about all the platforms, both old gen, new gen and even PC, Stadia, Luna and all of that.
So you don’t anticipate any issues with the last-gen console version?
No. We really aim to target maximum quality on all of these platforms, yeah.