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Far Cry 3: "We make you tread a familiar path - and then we break it"

Lead writer, Jeffrey Yohalem, talks insanity, killing and meta-gaming...

This article originally appeared in Xbox World magazine.

"Do you know what the definition of insanity is?" Jeffrey Yohalem probably didn't say in his job interview at Ubisoft, which explains why they gave him the writing gig on Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and the Assassin's Creed series. Now he's busy putting the gun into gunishment as he readies the script for Far Cry 3. We caught up with him on a recent trip out to Montreal...

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1. Why are there a bunch of insane people living on Far Cry's islands?

The island exists on multiple planes. It contains pieces of history, the Japanese were there for a while and there's some stuff with mining companies... it basically represents a clash of cultures and globalisation.
You'll see all kinds of situations where one culture has created something and then another culture has come in and painted over pieces of it. It's really about our modern world. We constantly encounter signs of different languages or people who've taken words from one language and repurposed them and turned them into something else. You see that clash on the island.

2. Tell us a bit about Jason Brody. He represents something for you guys, doesn't he?

Jason Brody is a new kind of protagonist for videogames because he's not jaded, he's not against doing things. He's put in a situation where all of a sudden he's on his own, and we ask: who is he going to be in that situation. I think that the players' journey is similar. The player starts the game and then asks, "What is this world, who am I in this world and what does it mean when I shoot people? What does it mean when I go on side missions and gain XP?" All of these things are called into question in this story. It's a game about the player playing a game, so it's going to be about games and what it means to be the player, but at the same time it's about Jason and what it means to be outside of society. The player will interact with that narrative, with Jason's narrative, and Jason interacts with the player's narrative. It's really like a drama that includes the player in it - that's what I think videogame experiences should be.

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3. Jason goes from a guy who's fascinated by seeing an AK47 to someone who is comfortable killing people. What's this journey?

In games players say, "OK, my character picks up a gun and I've shot 1,000 people. Big deal." If you shot 1,000 people in real life it's a big deal, but in a game you don't think about that. It's intentional that you have this guy who has never picked up an AK47 before and goes to throwing knifes and shooting people in the head. That journey is something we want to call attention to. It's not that we're trying to be realistic and say, "This is what killing is like." We want to talk about killing in videogames. The player's journey is going to parallel Jason's journey. The player rapidly becomes great at the shooting mechanic so Jason rapidly becomes good at the shooting mechanic - but Jason is affected psychologically by that. The player will play through levels that reflect Jason's psychology. The player will then have an opportunity to examine what their actions in the game mean to them.

4. So if you, as Jason, kill hundreds of people, can you say that either of you is a good guy anymore? Surely the boundaries are blurred?

There are all kinds of blurring of lines in this game. A medium is right for this exploration when the same path has been trodden so many times that people expect it. That's the best place to be in as an author if you really want to shake things up. It's lazy if the creators say, "We'll take the path the players expect, because that's what they want." In order to examine any art form you have to tread the path and then break it. So you're going to see all kinds of setups where the player will say, 'Oh, this is going to be like this other game,' because they've been taught by the industry to think that. And then we'll change it all up

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