They inform us that there will be no visual or audio recording during the FarCry 2 demo. Developer Clint Hocking is on the stage, having flown to Seattle from Leipzig for this one, single demo. They've reserved the first two rows for press, eager to ensure their forfeiture of sleep doesn't go unrewarded. The screen is showing a Windows desktop with a big, shiny FarCry 2 logo. Carolyn Carnes opens up, reminding us there is no recording equipment (OR ELSE!), asking us to turn our cellphones off, reminding us this is a pre-alpha (read: if something goes wrong, it's early!) and of course, they won't be able to answer everything during the Q&A session.
They gave a limited demonstration of the game at Leipzig, but this will be the definitive unveiling of the game. She intros Clint, notes he was the lead developer of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (someone yells out, "Oh yeahhhh!") and creative director of the FarCry 2 project. He's been on the project for over 2 years now, starting with a small team of eight guys working to determine how to make a sequel worthy of the original. They went into production three months ago and "aren't even alpha." They're targeting first quarter 2008.
The demo, due to a technological circumstance, will be run in an unfortunately low 800x600 whereas the game has been running for them at 1600x1050, 30fps. The good news: the frame rate should be great.
Wants to reestablish Ubisoft as a top tier PC developer, not just consoles. That's the business mandate ("and I don't care about that frankly.") The second part: Ubisoft believes that games need to evolve into a medium as emotionally involving as any other medium. More than just distraction. In order to compete with other entertainment opportunities they need to be engaging. His job is to prove to us that their beliefs on the evolution of games is not wrong.
They tossed everything from FarCry 1 that didn't belong. What they left:
- It was exotic
- A high level of gameplay
- Very realistic
- Very immersive
They wanted to create an open environment where you could go anywhere at any time. The world is a 50 sq. km world with no loading times that you can go anywhere you want at any time, and return to the same location at any time. In order to make it seem less scripted, they needed to make the world dynamic. They'll illustrate this later.
Rather than making a game where they tell you the relationships between characters, they want you to develop those relationships on your own.
When FarCry 2 opens you will find yourself in a hotel room in Africa dying from malaria. You will be tasked with the job of hunting down and killing a man responsible for selling arms to an African nation. The story opens with him sitting next to your bed reading your dossier on him, laughing. He doesn't bother to kill you. You'll need to track him down by playing both sides, taking missions. The open world applies to gameplay and narrative ("which are fundamentally the same thing") not just geometry and graphics.
The demo will run about 30 minutes.
The demo is not scripted (they actually didn't even make the tools to script it out) so "funny things may happen." The demo starts, the audience claps. We're off!
"Pre-alpha build - August 2007"
Jungles! "Jungles are also an important part of central Africa." Maintains continuity with the first game. They're using "Real Tree" to generate the trees. They're all completely physical and interactive, procedurally generated. The trees are "real", they're destructible.
"This whole notion of high-res textures has gotta go. It' doesn't work." The textures are "very, very, very small. They take up almost no space." That's an advantage since they can't scale down their textures 6 week s before shipping.
Guards patrol the world, meaning if somebody dies the rest of the world will know it. The map is in-world so the character pulls it out and needs to find good light to read it. The map shows 1 sq. km. "In the next 1/2 hour you'll see 1% of our world."
They're showing off the tree bark textures, and they're very high-res "without being high-res at all."
He climbs onto the back of a parked Jeep, fires the turret, and jumps into the driver's seat. The AI is autonomous, so they chase him. "This is not a scripted car chase. This is the AI pissed off I stole their truck."
He crashes the vehicle, gets out, shoots his way through some shacks to take cover. They're looking for him and say, "Let's cut his fucking eyes out."
They'll often break into two teams, with one team providing cover.
He's wounded so he uses a knife to pull out a bullet from his leg. No health packs. In the final game they'll have over 60 animations for first-aid.
The truck flattened a row of grass on it's way in. It's not pretending to blow in the wind, it's "real" and they can render it off to the horizon.
You can pick up ammo from ammo piles, but they're real too. He shoots it and hundreds of bullets start flying around.
They have a real-time day/night cycle. He shows the sun coming up (in the East of course), shows the light coming through the trees (God rays!). He shoots some tree branches off, more light comes through, the tree's shadows change.
He points out a bug, tells us we'll be seeing it a lot.
The skybox is not a texture, those are procedural clouds. He's created a storm, the clouds change, the wind is blowing the grass and the trees. Trees are actually losing branches. Particles from an explosion are blown away in the wind as well.
The tree trunk are still blowing without the branches ("we'll fix that.") The gun jams, true to its real life counterpart. An AK will almost never jam but it's less accurate.
There are no super powers or mutant powers or anything. You can't turn on storms. They'll take control of the weather system at times to emphasize events, make them feel more cinematic.
"I know it sounds cheesy and corny, but is it less cheesy and corny than what we see in movies all the time?"
Stealth is an important part of the game as well.
he shoots a building full of ammo with a rocket launcher and the whole building explodes in a chain reaction, tires fly everywhere.
Somebody asked about ricochets and he happily answers showing an example. RPGs can bounce, but it's dangerous. One explodes too close and he reaches over his arm to put out a fire. Audience claps!
We meet his friend Marty. The audience wants to kill him.
While the RPG is his 2nd favorite weapon, the flame thrower is his first. He lights a tree on fire at the bottom, and watches as the entire thing lights up on its own.
He shoots a guy in the leg, and everyone scatters. Of course, since he's not dead, another comes out to help him and, sure enough, he gets shot. THe audience loves it.
Uh oh, they're after him! He dies, and his friend Marty is there to drag him to safety. If he killed Marty previously, he'd be dead right now. Marty is in the open, and he can be killed just like any other character. Marty left all of his guns on the ground so we've got to find another weapon. The fire he started before has spread even wider.
"Normally when I do this demo it's a little shorter so it's starting to get dark." He lights some stuff on fire to give us more light. You can use fire to also help control fights.
He climbs into a dune buggy (!) and speeds away, intentionally crashing it into a tree and climbs into a hang-glider. "It wouldn't be FarCry without a hang-glider."
"What's it like hang-gliding in a storm?" "not implemented is what it;s like." Laughs.
There's gazelles eating on the ground. You can really get a sense of the scale up in the air. He lands and ends the demo looking out over the sun setting on the African savannah.
We've got 15 minutes for a Q&A.
"What about animals? Will they affect the environment?"
There will be about 12 different types of animals. There will not be predator cats and there won't be any endangered species.
What happens if you kill one faction?
They'll know camp to camp if you're out there. There will be no changing hands of territory. Regardless of how many people you kill, there are hundreds of thousands of people and to affect that, you'd need armies, etc.
Will the wind affect bullets?
It will affect fire, windmills, and obviously trees but probably not bullets. They did discuss it though (nerds!)
Will leaves be affected by things?
More or less, yes.
How will the boundaries be handled since it's no longer an island?
The original game had a "soft boundary" – the water. It felt limitless. THe new game has desert. There's a low desert and a high-desert. You lose stamina?
Is it possible to incinerate the entire game world with wildfires?
You could if you went everywhere and torched everything, but the fire is procedurally generated. You can create a firebreak to protect yourself from burning to death. The burned stuff will regenerate to some degree.
What will users without DX10/Vista be missing out on?
There will be a high-end Vista version for those people (billionaires). The min-spec will be a "very powerful" single core machine. Recommended machine is a dual-core with a graphics card. Demo was on a dual-core XPS with an 8800 at 25fps at 1600 unoptimized.
Sheer size, short development time, how has that affected level design?
In 2 hours a level designer and artist can build a map 1 sq. km in size with gameplay. The engine is built for iteration, and they can just "test, test, test, test, test, test, test" to make gameplay work.
In traditional FPSs, you progress by acquiring new weapons. How does the player progress?
You buy weapons in the game from arms dealers. There are two towns with an arms detente. As long as you don't fire, they won't fire back at you. There are about thirty weapons in the game.
How important is fire to beating the missions?
It's a way to play. it's very dangerous, throws a lot of chaos into the system. It can disrupt the habits of the enemies. The marketing team decided fire was an ample demonstration of their commitment to the open-world ideal.
Will the game take advantage of the PhysX card?
No details to report right now.
If you destroy the vehicles for a camp, how long will it take for them to get a new vehicle?
In short: it depends on all sorts of things.
You don't need food or water, but you are sick with malaria, so you need medicine. You need to do missions to try and help doctors leave the country and help you get medication. That will help increase your health meter. The more terrible things you need to do to progress in the game increases your infamy and, inversely, makes civilians less likely to help you. It's a balancing act.
Will there be in-door environments?
There will be some in the towns, but it's a shortcoming of the engine that they can't do detailed internal lighting. No embassies, nuclear power plants, or convention centers.
That's it. The crowd claps and exits, surely eager to dissect the demo they've just seen.