GDC08: Far Cry 2 gives you malaria, deal with it

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During a lecture on narrative design today, Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding revealed that Far Cry 2's health system is tied to infection. Upon arriving in the game's fictitious African country, the player's character -- the strong, silent type -- is immediately stricken with malaria. Ubisoft's Patrick Redding called this device the "ultimate mechanical drawback." The disease creates a dependence on medicine ('health packs'), but the pills aren't scattered throughout the plains or hidden inside crates. Instead, medicine can only be obtained from civilians. The developers use this device as one of the game's few "push" designs; otherwise, players control the order and scope of Far Cry 2.

The reality of malaria and its debilitating symptoms (ultimately death -- if untreated) forces the player to interact with non-threatening characters, in turn, exploiting the urge to anthropomorphize the AI. Human conditions are recreated through these interactions. A few doses might be exchanged for, say, travel papers. The civilians don't simply operate as the game's 'store,' but function as "micronarrative" elements who bring life to the gameworld -- like, the desperation inherent in a war-torn country. But Ubisoft Montreal doesn't "presume to know what's in the player's heart." Whether you obtain the papers simply to quell the fevers and convulsions, or instead come to sympathize with the civilian's helpless condition, the developers provide the space for freedom of experience. You've got malaria. Deal with it.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.