‘Far Cry 4′ Director Explains Lessons Learned From ‘Far Cry 3′

Published 11 months ago by

For obvious PR reasons, it’s rare to hear game developers working on major franchises to speak candidly about the flaws of previous titles in the series, especially if they only came out a couple of years ago. Developers will often discuss improvements to come in future titles, but these aren’t often voiced alongside blunt acknowledgements of the faults that needed to be fixed.

With that in mind, Game Informer‘s new gameplay video and interview with Far Cry 4‘s narrative director Mark Thompson is not only incredibly refreshing, but also fascinating as an insight into how game developers view their past works critically. Thompson was also the narrative director of Far Cry 3, a game that was widely praised but had its own fair share of shortcomings, and in the interview he discusses the lessons that he learned from the reviewer and audience responses to his last game.

Possibly one of the most-discussed aspects of Far Cry 3‘s narrative was its use of the “white savior” trope (in which a white character lands in a foreign country and rescues the apparently helpless indigenous people), and some of the unfortunate implications thereof. Thompson has spoken previously about how Far Cry 4 will turn the narrative of Far Cry 3 on its head by making the protagonist a native son of Kyrat rather than a crusading outsider, and he elaborates a little on how Ajay Ghale’s nationality was a response to the criticisms of Jason Brody.

“The first thing we said was, ‘This guy is from Kyrat.’ No matter what happens, the most important thing is he is part of this world, he belongs here, that’s where his parents are from, that’s where his family are from. So when you go back there, it’s a place you belong to. Everything you do is part of your history and culture and background…

“The Jason Brodys this time around are the bad guys. The outsiders who come in and try and have their escapist white savior fantasy are actually the bad guys. So it’s like an evolution of us trying out our own ideas.”

Far Cry 4 selfie

Just because Ajay is from Kyrat, it doesn’t mean that he is already intimately familiar with the country when he arrives. Thompson explains that Ajay moved to the USA when he was four years old, to escape from the revolution that had been started by his own father, and that therefore he returns to a place where everyone (including antagonist Pagan Min) knows who he is, while Ajay is still trying to piece his own history together.

The video also features some new gameplay footage, including the much-touted elephants that the player can either mount and ride into battle, or provoke into attacking strongholds and enemy soldiers. According to Thompson, Far Cry 4 won’t try to make players feel guilty for their violent actions, but will instead try to lighten the mood a little by mixing in dark humor with its more brutal aspects.

The promise of taking the best of Far Cry 3 and leaving behind its faults to create a rich new experience is more than enough to get us excited for this new adventure. Tell us in the comments if you like the sound of the changes that Thompson made for Far Cry 4.

Far Cry 4 will be available for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on November 18, 2014.

Source: GI

TAGS: Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4, PC, PS3, PS4, Ubisoft, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • KnockKnock

    Trashing the White savior trope is the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. If Hollywood can take note and also follow suit then that will be even more awesome. It’s a trope that’s been beaten to death and leaves a bad taste in many dark ethnic people.

    • Eric

      I agree with Darthmalnu comments about seeing Jason Brodie as a “White Saviour”. Only in the guilt-ridden, political-correctness infested little minds of critics and so-called intellectuals( invariably white skinned themselves) can you jump to such conclusions.Why does the skin colour of a video game hero matter???? He is not real and he is certainly not flawless or perfect in the story.The chief villain himself is also white so???Nobody objected and said this demeans Whites or stereotypes them????

  • DarthMalnu

    How in any way is Jason Brody a “white savior” in Far Cry 3? he was pushed into almost every situation he was in, and all he wanted to do was find his friends and get the hell out of there. The fact they made him some sort of “chosen one” style jungle killer was ridiculous, but his intentions were never save the native people… really, he was just there on vacation and was kidnapped.

    I think this is an attempt by Ubisoft to make some sort of politically correct PR stand to make up for the controversy of no women being un AC Unity (yet no one seems to notice that nobody in France has a French accent in that game).

    • http://gamerant.com Hannah Shaw-Williams

      First of all, I feel I should point out that you’re arguing that the narrative director of a game is wrong about the narrative that he directed.

      Secondly, I’m not sure how you can watch the scene in which Jason Brody is quite literally hailed as a savior by the Rakyat tribesmen and still insist that he doesn’t fit the white savior trope.

      With regards to this being a PR stunt, this interview was not released by Ubisoft, but by Game Informer. It was most likely recorded either during or prior to E3. Even if it had been made by Ubisoft, releasing a video interview in which a developer acknowledges that another Ubisoft game was borderline racist seems like a very counter-intuitive way to combat accusations of not being “politically correct.”

      I won’t even begin to tackle the logic of Ajay Ghale’s ethnicity and background somehow being a response to the Assassin’s Creed: Unity controversy, since the character was revealed before the controversy ever began.

      • Jeff

        They forced that on him. He didn’t go native, which is what is required to be the white savior. He escaped his captors, psycho girl called him the chosen one, then they forced everything on him from that point forward. Being white, and fighting for native people is not the white savior trope. It’s being white and going native, and living among the people. Jason walked in, said “hi I’m Jason, I want to rescue my friends and leave,” and the natives reply “all hail the chosen one.”


        • http://gamerant.com Hannah Shaw-Williams

          Even that TV Tropes page you just linked to lists Far Cry 3 as an example of the trope.

          Jason has an arm full of Rakyat tattoos by the end of the game. There is a boss fight in which he takes hallucinogenic drugs and then battles a Rakyat demon, after which he makes a speech to the Rakyat tribesmen declaring that he is going to free them from their oppression, and ends the speech with the words, “WE are the warriors of the Rakyat!” In one of the endings for the game he actually kills his girlfriend in order to prove his allegiance to the Rakyat. I mean… he goes pretty native.

          Not to mention that fact that at the top of this article is an interview with the narrative director of Far Cry 3, in which he explicitly describes the narrative that he directed as an “escapist white savior fantasy.”

          • Big Baby Jesus

            They never FORCED it on him, he made a decision to save the lives of his friends instead of not while knowing the risks. He was simply asked for favors by the tribe, and he went along with it.

            Peer pressure is not real.

      • Yur

        It doesn’t matter that Jason was a hero in Far Cry 3, people just seem to be trying to find racism in every nook and cranny.

      • DarthMalnu

        To be clear, the PR stunt idea was a silly wild madcap accusation, and I didn’t actually think they were writing the character as a response to the controversy… I didn’t expect that bit to be taken seriously, so my bad on not getting that across.

        I do however stand by my feelings that Jason Brody is not an example of the white savior trope. It’s the opposite. The whole point of Far Cry 3 was to make you think he was going to be the “white saviour”, only to realize he was being manipulated all along. The problem is the story was a bit too subtle at times and too cliché at others… also it would have worked better in a less open world game where the urgency isn’t lost while exploring.

        Vaas was supposed to be the Warrior of the Rakyat tribe, and they were the ones who drugged him up and made him a psychopathic killer. When he left, there was a void that needed to be filled. They find Jason Brody, a rich white kid from LA who’s alone, far from home, and just escaped the best warrior they had. The Rakyat use Jason to overthrow Hoyt so they can once again regain control of Rook island.

        The “We are the warriors of the Rakyat” speech, and the hailing as saviour bits are actually the tribe making Jason think he’s saving them from oppression, when really he’s doing their dirty work to control the island (and the drugs). He just wants to get his friends and go home, but in order to do this he must work with the tribe. They give him drugs and tell him he needs them to be a true warrior, they give him a tribal tattoo that he must become a killer to earn. They train him to be a ruthless murderer until he begins to enjoy the killing, he starts feeling like an action hero, he starts to really believe he’s the “chosen one”… but really, he is no different than Vaas. They may treat him like a saviour, but he’s actually only a pawn.

        “Escapist white saviour fantasy” is not the story of the game, only Jason Brody’s perspective of it. The Rakyat are merely telling him what he wants to hear. It’s a subtle, but extremely important difference.

        • sirslud

          It can be both things. It was uncomfortable for perfectly understandable reasons, and it was ok that it was called out for for white guy saves the universe reasons. If you wanna write theses on why it’s not a white saviour trope, knock yourself out. You’re fighting the already defended fight.

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      I don’t think this has anything to do with AC:U given the timing and what the devs said before. It’s totally that trope.

    • Mike

      Not true, after tbhe halfway mark Jason doesn’t care about saving his friends anymore, all he wants to do is avenge his brother by killing Vaas and Hoyt. And after finishing the game he stays on the island because he is too insane for civilization. Would be pretty awesome if you FC5 was about Jason Brody eventually escaping the islands…

  • Noname

    I am so sick of this “politically correct” nonsense. All I want is for Far Cry 4 to be as much fun as Far Cry 3. I don’t care if the protagonist is white, black, yellow, purple, or rainbow colored, all that matters is that the game is exciting and new. If this racial BS ruins the game I will be very unhappy.

    • Matt

      @ Noname. Hear, hear!!

    • hanzo

      Everyone is just spoiled with everything anymore. One group can be happy with something but it turns into junk because another group cries “racial blah blah” and the devs have to bends to them, making the game vanilla. Its sad now adays that someone cant just release a movie, game, tv show, song, poster, drawing, etc etc etc without someone being “offended”. Everyone cant just let it roll off their back anymore. Its extremely sad really.

      (if you cant tell thats something that urks the shit out of me)

  • JT

    Gotta love it when people don’t get satire.

    • http://gamerant.com Hannah Shaw-Williams

      I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people who claimed to “get” the satire of Far Cry 3 only actually got it after they read interviews with the game’s writer explaining that he had intended it as satire.

      That’s not to say that it can’t be interpreted as satire (it actually becomes much more interesting if you play it through with that interpretation in mind), but DarthMalnu’s explanation of the game is clearly just paraphrasing the RPS interview with Jeffrey Yohalem.

      Also, if you’re going to accuse people of not getting the satire, keep in mind that you’re saying the narrative director of a game didn’t “get” his own game.

      • JT

        Yeah… when a theme is pushed that hard you have to know something is up. Reminds me of All Star Batman and Robin.

      • DarthMalnu

        Well, firstly, I’d never read any interviews with Jeffery Yohalem, so I don’t appreciate the accusation. Also I don’t understand how agreeing with the actual writer of the games narrative makes me wrong about it.

        Secondly, now that I have looked into it more, Mark Thompson was the level design director of Far Cry 3, not the narrative director. His perspective of the story is more informed by set placement and pacing of story beats, which he admits in this interview were disjointed and in my opinion was one of the worst aspects of the game. This tells me that perhaps maybe he didn’t understand the intentions of the narrative, which would explain why at times it felt like Jason was doing one thing and saying another.

        I don’t exactly blame him though, I don’t think the story was particularly well written. I think it wanted to be a deep and thought provoking comment on the psychology of Hollywood/video game action brought to horrifying life. It wanted to draw you in with violence, sex, and a “save the world” idea, and then turn it all back on you. It didn’t really work though, the social commentary was cringe inducingly obvious (i.e. “it felt like winning”) or too cryptic (boss fights/hallucinations), and then on top of that the open world left huge gaps in what should have been a very tight personal story.

        No matter if it worked or not, the story is objectively not about a white guy going to an island and saving the day. No matter which ending you pick, peoples lives (including Jasons) are ruined by his actions. His rise and fall have nothing to do with the colour of his skin, and though the white saviour may be touched upon, it is not enforced. To say that would be to say that Biochock Infinite is racist because there’s racism in it.

        If anything it’s “American saviour” (The plot wouldn’t have changed if he were of a different skin tone), a theme that seems to be continuing on into Far Cry 4 which nobody appears to have a problem with… heaven forbid a Canadian developer make a Canadian character. (I know he was born in Kyat, but from the age of 4 he’s American)

        I’m done ranting on this, and if you disagree then that is of course your right. I’m just becoming concerned with the growing trend of it being perfectly acceptable to criticize white men as being wrong just for existing. I absolutely support diversity in games and life but that doesn’t mean that a character is wrong for being white, or that it’s somehow racist for a white man to be a champion for other ethnicities. It creates an attitude that we should “stick to our own” which is what breeds racism in the first place.

        Obviously the white hetero man is in no way oppressed in our culture, it’s silly to think so, and almost audacious to be concerned about this, but understand that I have two young boys. If at two and five they are entering a society that is already accepting that it’s okay to dismiss their worth as an individual based on the fact that they share the same skin colour and genitals as a historically oppressive majority, how is it going to be when they themselves are men? We should always fight for equality, but equality is not turn based. Giving others a voice does not take away mine.

        As I said, I’ll quit my ranting now. Far Cry 4 looks awesome… and good day to you.

        • buck wade

          You brought up very valid criticism on the story of far cry 3 rather than just judging it by personnel enjoyment which always differs from person to person. And I agree with the points you brought up on the whole white savior trope

      • EternalAmbiguity

        Weren’t the Alice in Wonderland quotes obvious enough? And the times where Jason comes to himself and asks, “what the **** have I become?”

        I saw Lord of the Flies all over the story before I ever read that interview.

  • Atomic gumshoe

    I didn’t mid the White savior aspect of far cry 3 since the whole thing seemed to be a critique of video games and their protagonists anyway.

  • Big Baby Jesus

    If people complain about the good guy being white, then that is just as racist as them complaining because Kingpin is not black, or how the part for the Human Torch should go to a white guy. I hear people complain about that all the time.

    As long as the game is worth $60, I will be happy.

    • KnockKnock

      People rejecting the notion that only white people can save indigenous people from there own inner toils is not racist. That is a constant perpetuated trope in Western stories. A white man/woman goes to some country/area full of dark skinned people and saves them from their selves. Some find that insulting, especially since it’s trope that has been used to death. Even when they are not human, I.e Avatar, Hollywood still thinks it takes a white man to save the day. It’s ridiculous.

      • Big Baby Jesus

        I am okay with ANY race being the protagonist/antagonist for any game, but lets not pretend that having a white guy as a hero is a mistake and it is something to learn from.

        • KnockKnock

          Portraying ethnic people as victims who always need to be saved by a white hero is a mistake. It shows a serious lack of faith in the capabilities of indigenous people. it’s a superiority complex.

          • Big Baby Jesus

            Treating white heros as mistakes that need to be learned from, is wrong.

            As long as this game is as fun as the third one. Funner if possible.

          • knock knock

            “Treating white heros as mistakes that need to be learned from, is wrong.”

            lol no one said that.
            What is wrong is creating stories where ethnic indigneous people are always victims being saved by a white hero, as if it’s not possible for a hero to be anything but white.

            When that same trope is used over and over again, it starts to send an unfair message to those people who watch, read , and play those stories that are not white.

          • Big Baby Jesus

            knock. knock.

            I. agree. with. you… but. I. never. heard. anyone. complain. about. that. before.

            It. was. not. a. mistake. to. have. a. white. person. as. a. hero. it. was. a. choice. and. the. first. person. I. heard. complain. was. the. director. of. Far. Cry. Four.

            He. practically. said. Jason. Brody. was. a. mistake. What. else. do. you. “learn. lessons”. from. other. then. mistakes?

  • dan

    As I said before on Hannah’s article,

    Customization of protagonists is the best way to kill this white male trope. And honestly, how difficult would it be? The dev allows a choice for each sex, synchs up the skin tone to a shading scale, provides a list of voices to choose from, and if they’re feeling generous, allows you to customize their physical assets; such as tall, short, fat, skinny, etc.

    Unfortunately, it seems that this is too much for devs to consider.

    Let’s face it. The trope is here to stay, until some studios actively work to abolish it- which hasn’t happened since our beloved industry got its start.

    • KnockKnock

      I agree with customization. It surprises me that function isn’t apart of all games yet. It makes since to give that control to the player. The amount of immersion it offers when the protagonist is your own unique expression of yourself and your idea of what a hero looks like is unparalleled.

    • wnatch

      I disagree. Customization can be great to give people options to play as whatever person you want to be but it can undermine authored stories to a huge degree. If the devs want the story of this game to be about a Kyrat native’s adventure as he returns to scatter his mothers ashes, it won’t make much sense if the player character can be a super buff white dude from SoCal. They simply can’t write compelling stories about every potential player identity.

      In a game like Saints Row where the story and gameplay work independently of whether you are guy/girl, white/black/asian/ etc. customization is awesome. Whereas in story driven games it’s less feasible as an option.

      Additionally, having customization options for player characters limits potential graphical fidelity for that character due to the necessity of programming for every individual feature. For better or worse, graphics are still a huge part of what makes up the gaming industry; so when devs sit down to make their game, they will often air towards designing a great looking character instead of giving us the tools to create our own decent looking one.

    • EternalAmbiguity

      The reason for this is that VAing is so expensive. Over an entire game, providing two or four voices doubles, quadrouples the cost.

    • buck wade

      so if the outside saviour of some natives is african and the natives happen to be african its cool. But if the outsider happens to be white then it automaticall is racist even when the story mentions nothing about racism? Wow.

  • Eric

    My answer to you KnockKnock is let the dark skinned people make video games in which they are the heroes main protagonists and then everybody will be happy. Nobody is stopping or preventing them far as I know!

    Anyway Ubisoft is a French company and yet all their heroes or main characters in their games always have an American or British connection( Assassin’s Creed)…

    • KnockKnock

      Eric – like the British and many Americans, the French are Caucasian. So whatever point you where trying to make is moot. Many white Americans and brits are in fact French.

      As far as your other point is concerned, the trope is one of ethics. The developer is entitled to do whatever they want. If they want to continue to perpetuate the notion indigenous people are always victims, they can do so. Obviously Ubisoft has decided to take the higher ground. Good for them.

      Also I’m pretty sure there ethnic developers in all programming teams. So dark people do make games.

  • buck wade

    u know what? screw this whole, “its racist because this person here has this skin color thing”, okay, now people are just overreacting. What bugs me about far cry 3 is that it makes almost no sense how Jason, a completely inexperienced outisder who knew nothing about the island managed to singlehandedly beat the badies when the others had way more experienced barely were surviving. take the movie Avatar. The protagonist in it was the “Savior” because he knew about the bad guys more than anyone, giving him the advantage. See how that was handled better than far cry 3?

  • Elow

    I liked how I could pick a character in Far Cry 2, I felt like that worked well within the confines of that game’s fairly loose story and I remember there being a good selection of varied characters of different backgrounds but I do with that the game had done more with it and let you bond more with your companion characters and flesh out the personalities more. I suppose for FC3 that wouldn’t have worked well unless your family also had their skin color/voices match the type of character you picked but as someone pointed out above, voice acting costs are quite a bit of $$ and to have so many variations can cripple the game’s budget to an extent. I’d actually want to play as a girl in a new Far Cry game, I think it could be an interesting experience to hear some inner thoughts of someone of the opposite gender than myself in any of the crazy situations Far Cry puts us in.