Far Cry has, in the past, been a series about chaos and mayhem in exotic lands—at least from a Western perspective. From the plains of Africa in Far Cry 2 to a remote tropical island in Far Cry 3, Ubisoft has built a formula for Far Cry based on these locations. However, for the fifth instalment, they are doing something new by taking the series to North America and tackling the real world concept of cults and the extreme factions of religion in the United States.
I was unsure of how this would all play out as I walked into Ubisoft’s Toronto office before the game’s launch. With a bourbon bar in full swing and consoles showing off the latest build of the game I was able to hear about the process of building Far Cry 5, a game that sounded more exciting the more I heard.
After a riveting and haunting introduction by Father himself Greg Bryk, I got the chance to sit down and have a conversation with narrative director Jean-Sebastien Decant (JS) and lead writer Drew Holmes to discuss this latest entry in the chaotic Far Cry series.
With the sour mash in hand, we went on a journey, eventually landing on what makes this installment so exciting and important.
CGM: The team at Ubisoft are working with a real-world concept this time. What are some of the challenges that you experienced when dealing with a particular scenario as compared to what you have experienced with past installments?
JS: Working in a game with the setting—even if it’s a fantasy version—of Montana has been interesting. It’s so close to us. It’s like a place we grew up in. There are lots of details we are accustomed to and it would be very easy for us in the way we created the world and the visuals, from the style of houses to the brands on the walls.
We had to create a very deep research on the extensive props to ensure that this world would feel right. Where are the signs on the road, etc.? A lot of details that may seem to be logistics but if we were missing that, it would have felt wrong. There is that, and after all, if we’re talking the theme and the fact that we’re in Montana, we [also] have the cult that is armed and ready to go all the way in order to defend what they believe in. As we said in the panel, there are a lot of people in that area that just want to be left alone.
That’s how we started to be interested in creating that threat, what would the cult be, and we felt like it was an untapped space for a Far Cry game. It was a great menace, where there would be a large group focused on one single objective. That would not be the same as let’s say slave traders as in Far Cry 3. It’s not like groups that just want to make money or a have fun or a dictatorship in the Far Cry 4. That really excited us. We studied in a similar way to how someone would before starting a novel or a big article. We studied cults, throughout the ages and throughout the world, and we created our own material, to have something that would feel fresh but also create something that’s ours so we don’t have to worry too much about what could happen in the real world. That was our baby and we just went with it.
CGM: Was there something in that study that you found really surprising and weren’t expecting to find?
Drew Holmes: When you talk with Rick Ross and Mia Diamond—the two people that helped us build the cult, our cult researchers—Rick Ross has studied cults, destructive cults particular and Mia has directed a couple of movies on cults. but it was these people who brought a much broader wealth of knowledge than we had outside of just a basic level.
“Tell us everything you know, what are their commonalities between them? What typically draws people to cults? What keeps people in cults?” There isn’t really one common thread that strings them all together. But I think what we started to dive into was the psychology of what pulls people to this sort of charismatic leader. One that is at first welcoming and giving someone a message of everything that’s broken with you, “I accept and I’m going to make you whole.” And that was something that really started to stick with me.
I remember jotting down really early on about what people’s perception of the cult of Joseph was, and it was something to the effect of Joseph takes all the broken toys and makes them whole. That idea of people who feel disenfranchised, feel left behind, feel that they have no hope in the world. There is this guy out there that’s going, “I feel that way too. I know that you feel this great anxiety of something terrible that’s about to happen. And you’re right, because God has told me that there is this massive collapse coming and I’m here to protect you if you just believe in me.” This message is what he sends out to people, and it’s sent through love and kindness. Once he has you, and you’re in that that that grip, the minute you start to want to pull away you start to see all the mechanisms in place. In real cults that we studied—in terms of the routine—the language that they use to program your mind to say. “You can only think the way that we all think.” And if you start to question that then you become a danger. That was all the sort of the background that we built into Far Cry 5. And for me, it was exciting because I’ve been trying to figure out how are we going to make this Far Cry villain that is so typically flamboyant over the top and larger than life. How do we make it feel much more grounded, much more believable because to me that felt scarier. And it was also something that I hadn’t been seen before.
It felt like a much more imposing force and also something that I think was going to be more interesting to compete against as the player. Far Cry games are so constructed around the villain you need to have someone that is charismatic, and in an a way you empathize with them. And that’s what I didn’t want to stray from. So making sure that this was this was a villain that you at times you wanted to root for was key in what we constructed. Doing all that cult research really helped us bring all these facets to it.
JS: And it’s tricky to talk about differences in the world of movies or games of books because once we give you a reference you could look at the game through that prism. And the thing is the game is so big we have three regions, it’s like three seasons of a TV show in behaviour, so much going on it would reduce the spectrum of what the game needs.
One thing that I can say is that when we worked with Rick Ross and brought our ideas on the cult, we presented that to him and it was amazing how each time he would say, “Oh yeah this is like this other group,” and would have an antidote that was worse than what we thought we were going for, and we were pretty hardcore already. So that kind of the reassured us, we knew that by just acting out this logically we’re pushing at universal things that would be actually seen in the world somewhere.
You can read the full interview with the Far Cry 5 creative team in the April 2018 issue of CGMagazine. Order your copy today.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more from Lisa Mior, such as her interview with Cuphead Artist and Producer Maja Moldenhauer, and her interview with CEO of GungHo Online Entertainment, Kazuki Morishita!
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