Of all the types of American regions featured in games, the one least explored is the country’s vast open rural landscapes. It’s one of the intriguing aspects of Far Cry 5’s Montana, a sense of anticipation in exploring its diverse terrain as you take on a malicious cult that has claimed the land as their own. Based on our most recent interview with creative director Dan Hay, we learned more about the nuances of rural America as envisioned by Ubisoft Montreal and how this land in conflict promises to deliver a layered experience driven by the allies and enemies you meet.
GameSpot: So from what I’ve gathered so far, The Father’s siblings are managing the map’s various regions controlled by the cult. But it seems like you’re also giving the player that Far Cry style of freedom of focusing on one region at a time or allowing them just slowly picking away at each one.
Dan Hay: Without going into micro detail, I think the key thing for us was to create story bubbles, and opportunities to discover things. Sometimes when we’re authoring a story like this, it seems like all of the characters of the world are cursed with all the knowledge on Earth. You walk to them, you ask them a question, and they seem to know everything that’s going on. I like the idea of meeting characters in the world that don’t really have a clue what’s going on, and they’re only aware of what’s going on in terms of what they can see in front of them. They can be speaking based on what’s going on in the north, but they don’t know or they’re hearing something else that’s going down in the south. What that does is create friction. We want to give fish-hook opportunities to the player. These NPC’s friends have been taken from them, they don’t know where those people are. They’re stuck in the middle of the world. They don’t have the knowledge of a lot of what’s going on. And yes, you’ll have the opportunity to jump between regions controlled by the cult. You can go and meet John, and do everything in John’s area. At any time, you can head up to Jacob and Faith’s region.
I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of a cult. That no matter how organized, they probably don’t have the wherewithal or the resources to actually fully control the land. Are they all relying on walkie-talkies?
We did a little bit of work to figure this out. How do these communications tools work? How far would it go? I think it’s somewhere in between 12 and 25 miles, depending on what’s around you. It’s believable for us that if that first moment when things go south, that the cult is getting on CB radios and they’re going, “Hey guys. This is what you need to do.”
But not everybody knows what’s going on at the same time, and that creates an interesting series of events. For a while, this allows you to fly under their radar. Then, once you begin to get this notoriety, you get to build this resistance, and the cult turn their attention more towards you.
Do you think you can probably delay getting The Father’s attention if you spread your accomplishments across all the regions evenly?
That’s an interesting question. The way that I would answer that is if you decide to go into John’s region, and you decide to head directly for the community of resistance fighters, then you go right at the cult, John is going to know who you are really quick. John is going to offer a proportional response against what you do.
If you don’t, if you go out into the world and you smack a bit on John’s area, then you smack a bit on Faith’s, and then go back to Jacob’s, there’s definitely a period where you can do more and maybe fly under the radar a bit. It’s not the intention of the game to be able to provide all those opportunities, but it’s something that can happen just as far as the way the game is set up.
It’s interesting that this isn’t a cult that actually has had multiple generations rooted in the Hope County. Is this approach of buying up cheap land typical?
I don’t know if it’s typical, but it’s valid. We wanted to be able to make it so that the cult went to this place, chosen specifically because it’s remote, and because there’s an opportunity for them to be able to own it and take over the community. We didn’t feel like it needed to be something that had existed for a long time.
I like the idea that The Father had this epiphany when he was younger. It wasn’t something that was handed to him from his father. I think if we had made it so that The Father inherited this leadership role, then this isn’t really his cause or it’s something that’s just a belief that’s been passed down. Instead, he was once a relatively average person and then he made the conscious effort based off what he was seeing and what he heard. He chose to remove himself from what you considered to be regular society and moved to this place to build a separate community because he believes the end of times is coming. That makes him much more interesting as a person.
Thinking about the resistance factions of the other Far Crys, would you say that this new set of groups is a little bit more unified despite their diverse backgrounds?
It feels like it could be unified. We’ve created a really interesting set of events where personalities that you meet in Fall’s End may not be the personality types that you meet in previous games. Their motivations for how they push back may not be the same. If you head up north, you’re going to get a completely different group people who are pushing back against Jacob. They may all end up being unified in terms of what they’re doing and how they operate. In terms of what drives them, in terms of how they move, in terms of the resources they have at their disposal, and how prepared they were for this event, they’re completely different.
When you knew you were going to set the game in America, was there ever the thought of a more suburban or urban setting?
I think what’s interesting about Montana was that it had an interesting flavor of a little bit of both. Did we ever have conversations about that? I vaguely remember us talking about different locations. We very quickly stuck with an idea of being in a rural community and making it feel like small town America.
We wanted to put you in a situation that was different and unique. We’ve all driven down those dusty roads in wherever it is that we’re from. We end up going out in the wilderness, and you feel this sense of “Okay. I’m shedding the tapestry of urban, and I’m moving into the wilderness.”
It’s really interesting for us to tell the stories of people that have been cut off for a little while and make their own rules.
When you think about the different types of settings in prior Far Crys, Montana is the furthest thing from the islands Far Cry 3 and I doubt that it’ll match the verticality of Far Cry 4. What would you say is the one aspect of this new map that sums it up?
Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m struggling to come up with just one thing. What’s really interesting is when we were making Far Cry Primal, we did those Beast Master quests, and we’re like, “Whoa. Okay. Hold on. There’s something really cool here.” So, that says “You know what? For Far Cry 5, let’s explore the relationship with coop AI.” And that’s what lead to Boomer. And then, let’s start talking about guns-for-hire and people that you bring in with their unique personalities and abilities.
What we do is like throwing a rock in the water and see how it ripples and see what we want to make it, and I think that we’re evolving through each of these franchises. But I cannot come up with just one thing. When I look back on what I was doing in Far Cry 4, I was doing a lot. I was wingsuiting, sneaking, sniping, and you’re right, verticality was a big thing, and it felt like I was always attacking from above or I was stealthily going through the space. There’s just a ton of stuff that I can do in Far Cry 5. I’ve struggled to come up with just one experience.
What is the most inviting aspect of this rural setting that will discourage players from habitually using fast travel as often as possible? I imagine you’ll want them to soak in the land, so to speak.
One of the things that we as a team had a conversation about is that when you spend time in the States, there’s something magical about getting inside a muscle car and just driving down the road. You feel like a badass. Something as simple as that or getting into a cult vehicle and hearing the sounds of the station that they play and all the hymns that are playing. It’s just something about making the world believable. And so, when I get into a classic car, and I drive down the highway in our version of Montana and I just look at the landscape, it feels very real to me.