Far Cry 4 is the upcoming first-person shooter from developer Ubisoft Montreal. Set in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, this nation torn apart by war draws heavily from real-world locations to make the game feel authentic.
We caught up with Mark Thompson, narrative director, and Alex Hutchinson, creative director, to find out how visiting Nepal to meet people who actually fought in the civil war helped to inspire the development of Far Cry 4.
“One of the first things we did was to write down a list of different animals to include in the game,” Mark told us when we met up with the team at Ubisoft recently in Montreal.
“We also made a list of environment features we wanted. From that we looked at locations where the two would make sense, and we came to the Himalayas. We needed to find somewhere that had a history of conflict — somewhere that could be politically unstable — the kind of place that you would go to that was on the edge of the map. Places that are referred to as ‘failed states.'”
The difference between taking inspiration from real-world conflict and actually trying to show a real war is key to understanding the setting for Far Cry 4, Mark explained:
“When you come face-to-face with another human who has been through conflict, it makes you think about things a little differently. You think very seriously about what the conflict is and how you’re going to be inspired by that to make a video game. Before we went to Nepal we were definitely more earnest. We were very focused on the Nepalese civil war and what we had in terms of good versus evil was very much inspired by that.”
By meeting local people who had been affected by such conflict, what the team learned in Nepal altered the direction of the game irrevocably.
“In Nepal I was talking to people who had been child soldiers in a conflict to save their own country, and we didn’t want to misrepresent that”, said Mark, “We have lots of objectives and rewards that involve shooting guns just for fun — ultimately the game we make is fun.”
Rather than attempting to catalog a historical war, the game pushes towards an extreme, almost darkly comic narrative, as Alex Hutchinson, creative director on Far Cry 4 explained:
“We are not a grey-brown military shooter. You’re not in the game because you made a promise to someone or to get your men back from behind enemy lines — we tell ‘fish out of water’ tales.
“In Far Cry 4 your character is actually from Kyrat and you’re coming back. We put the player in the character’s shoes, so they’re discovering — or rediscovering — this location for themselves.”
You will have caught a glimpse of some of the more extreme aspects of Kyrat in the recent trailers involving Far Cry 4’s big bad — Pagan Min. You’ll see him on the cover of the game wearing a bright pink suit and rocking a bleached blonde hairdo, but Pagan Min could have sported a very different look.
“Initially Pagan Min was kind of a straight down the line, classic dictator,” says Alex. With much more info to come surrounding the seemingly psychotic Min, this is one tyrant sure to titillate and terrify in equal measure.
There are several aspects to Far Cry 4 that show it as a game with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek, whether you’re experiencing over-the-top action aboard a gyrocopter or charging enemies atop an elephant. One area we found particularly pleasing was in the subtle, witty wordplay of its lively, colorful script.
“I’m the only British guy that contributes to the narrative and I think I’ve been colored by the pun culture of the tabloid press in Britain. Most of the terrible puns you can find in the game are directly attributable to me” — look out for “Shangri Lager”, a nod to the recently announced Shangri-La single-player missions, for a taste of Mark’s punmanship.
“Sometimes you’ll find that the game is self-aware, sometimes you’ll find dark humor where you won’t know whether to laugh or be mortally offended by it, but the puns you’ll find are my way of making the game a little less heavy — which I think a lot of shooters try to be.”