Ubisoft's blockbuster FPS project is drawing to the end of a painfully complex two-year production. After spending much time debating the direction for the series, the final decision was to approach an open-world play structure with branching skill trees and other various RPG-stlye elements.
Lead game designer Jamie Keen believes that Far Cry 2, "while a little imperfect", was an ideal launch pad to progress from.
In the first of a series of interviews, Keen explains how his studio wanted to portray the path of a warrior - from confused outsider to a master of surroundings - and do this by merging both narrative and gameplay elements.
CVG: Most first person shooters have evolved to incorporate RPG-style progression elements. Is this something you are considering for Far Cry 3?
KEEN: Yeah the idea of just trying to make players interested over time is challenge because Far Cry 3 has such a long play through, so we need to keep people engaged and feeling like they're progressing. We have a twenty hour mission walkthrough, along with other side-quests on top of that, so to keep people interested over that period of time means that we want to trickle things through.
From a pure design perspective as well, we wanted to put a lot of different features in the game, and to give it to players in one single go could be daunting for them. So with that RPG-style of progression, people pick up new tricks as they go. There's a narrative connection with this too. Which I think is equally as important, but it's a bit more subtle as well.
Jason starts the game as a fish out of water, essentially. He doesn't know too much about what's going on. But eventually he is a master of the island, and that narrative progression - we hope - is reflected by the player's progression.
There's two schools of thought when it comes to upgrades - games can either add things on automatically or they can give players a suite of upgrade options to choose from. What approach will Far Cry 3 take?
Well we've gone for a skill tree system, so we have three different branches tied to this concept of the path of the warrior. You have the spider, the heron and the shark, which loosely translate into stealth, long-range and assault. Within those different sections there are sub-branches of abilities that the player can choose - so one might be upgrading your health, another might be treading silently through the world.
You can pick and choose a selection, or you can decide to go far down one single branch and master a certain skill. But players will likely want to mix up skills even if they want to dedicate themselves to one discipline. So, if you're a stealth player, you still would want power upgrades to be more effective.
I think the design challenge that we're really trying to nail is that each new skill feels meaningful - it's not a tacked-on arbitrary ability. It won't be that your accuracy goes up by a single per cent.
The other key element is the takedowns. The first one you do, you're kind of crap. It's a bit of a struggle. As you progress, you become a more effective hunter, and can end up chaining takedowns and essentially handing a gang all by yourself. You become this super-advanced killer. And soon you start looking for scenarios where you can exercise these abilities.
And will abilities allow players to unlock different parts of the game world?
Yeah, absolutely. There are skills tied to exploration. So you can swim further, dive longer and move faster. Those are the things you'll really notice. And in the game you'll come across different items that you can't reach, and the hope is people will figure it out later in the game when they are given a new abilities.