Avalanche’s chaos-crazy de­vel­op­ers tell us how ex­treme weather and cre­ative de­struc­tion are the or­der of the day in Just Cause 4

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - JUST CAUSE 4 -

How has the new Apex en­gine helped de­vel­op­ment and what can we ex­pect from it?

Francesco An­tolini, game di­rec­tor: Each of the new fea­tures that Just Cause 4 of­fers wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble with­out it, from the new de­struc­tion model and stunt­ing me­chan­ics to wind and ex­treme weather it­self. But first and fore­most, it makes for a game that’s much more sta­ble in per­for­mance than its pre­de­ces­sor.

Apart from the new game me­chan­ics, how is JustCause4 dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous games?

Francesco: The first thing you’ll no­tice is that we’ve stepped away from the ‘shop­ping list’ style of the pre­vi­ous two ti­tles to of­fer a sys­tem that gives play­ers greater au­ton­omy, and at the same time is grounded in So­lis’ nar­ra­tive and Rico’s mo­ti­va­tions. So­lis it­self is a world that’s quite dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous games: we’re back to South Amer­ica, but with a level of de­tail and an amount of va­ri­ety a Just Cause has never seen be­fore. My favourite nov­elty is prob­a­bly the new de­struc­tion model: we started just blow­ing up ve­hi­cles in Just Cause; we got Chaos Ob­jects in Just Cause 2, with de­struc­tion states ren­dered through the good old model swap; we ap­proached phys­i­calised de­struc­tion in Just Cause 3, but it’s only with Just Cause 4 that we could fully re­alise that vi­sion. In Just Cause 3, even if Chaos Ob­jects are com­posed by dif­fer­ent phys­i­calised parts, once they get dam­age they ig­nite a self-de­struc­tion se­quence. That was some­thing we had to do be­cause of tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions, so that you could never, say, take that gi­ant spher­i­cal fuel tank and roll it over a mil­i­tary base. We haven’t had those lim­i­ta­tions any more with Just Cause 4, and the re­sult is what I call ‘play-with-me-de­struc­tion’: a set of props and de­struc­tibles that can re­ally be used in cre­ative ways; de­struc­tion goes be­yond sim­ple de­struc­tion to of­fer emer­gent game­play op­por­tu­ni­ties. One of my favourites is the clas­sic hor­i­zon­tal fuel tank: in Just Cause 3 it ex­ploded, in Just Cause 4 it can pro­pel it­self for­ward, ef­fec­tively be­com­ing a rocket, wreak­ing havoc all along its path.

What did you learn from the pre­vi­ous games?

Francesco: I joined Avalanche as lead de­signer on Just Cause 3, con­tribut­ing to the open­ing of the then-new New York stu­dio. The big­gest learn­ing from that ex­pe­ri­ence has been in re­gards to pro­cesses and ways to work to­gether – and that get­ting that right is a first, fun­da­men­tal step in mak­ing a stu­dio a great stu­dio. His­tory can con­firm that: suc­cess­ful and long-liv­ing stu­dios are usu­ally de­fined by a core team that has stuck to­gether through the years, and some­times by the fact that that team has fo­cused on per­fect­ing a sin­gle orig­i­nal IP or idea. The fact that Just Cause 4 packs more than four times

the scope and far deeper me­chan­ics of its pre­de­ces­sor tells us a lot about how changes in pro­cesses and mind­set can ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit both cre­ativ­ity and pro­duc­tion.

Where does Rico get the mo­ti­va­tion to take on all these dic­ta­tors and mer­ce­nar­ies?

Omar Shakir, nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor: Rico started as a vic­tim of a se­ries of events that were out of his con­trol. In­trin­si­cally, he can’t stop him­self from get­ting in­volved in sit­u­a­tions where he sees oth­ers are vic­tims.Be­cause he tends to solve prob­lems in loud ways this of­ten draws the ire of dic­ta­tors.They see Rico as the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge. If they can stop him, then they can prove they are in con­trol.In Just Cause 4, we dive into the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Rico’s re­bel­lious na­ture and those that seek to con­trol him.Be­yond the sym­bolic good guy vs bad guy dy­namic, we dis­cover just how in­ter­twined their fates are.

What have been the big­gest chal­lenges you’ve had to over­come dur­ing de­vel­op­ment?

Nik­las Norin, lead AI de­signer: The in­tro­duc­tion of ex­treme weather. Not only the im­ple­men­ta­tion of that in iso­la­tion, which is an achieve­ment on its own, but to make it work with all the other sys­tems in the game. What hap­pens if a tor­nado hits a front-line bat­tle? How do car chases work in the sand­storm? Hav­ing a game with so many sys­tems that can al­ready be com­bined in dif­fer­ent ways makes it a big chal­lenge to in­tro­duce some­thing that ba­si­cally in­ter­acts with all of them.

What can you tell us about Gabriela Mo­rales?

Omar: Gabriela rep­re­sents Rico’s an­tithe­sis. Whereas the rebel with a cause fights with­out think­ing about con­se­quences, there must also be some­one that fights the rebel be­cause of the chaos they cause.The funny thing about Rico and Gabriela is they both want the same thing. Pre­sent­ing Rico with an en­emy that he can’t just out­right hate is very dis­arm­ing for him.It’s eas­ier to fight with some­one who de­serves it, it’s harder when you have to fight against some­one that, any other day of the week, you might ac­tu­ally agree with.How that re­solves, well – you’ll just have to play the game.

What were the chal­lenges in cre­at­ing So­lis?

Ja­copo An­tonucci, world de­signer: We knew that we wanted to of­fer more va­ri­ety than in pre­vi­ous ti­tles, while also main­tain­ing a large map that catered for the speed of the Just Cause fran­chise. In or­der for us to fully re­alise our vi­sion we in­cor­po­rated a pro­ce­dural- gen­er­a­tion pipe­line when cre­at­ing our land­scapes. By thor­oughly re­search­ing each of these land­scapes we were able to mimic the essence of each and ev­ery en­vi­ron­ment at a very quick pace, some­thing we haven’t been able to do be­fore. Know­ing the game­play style of Just Cause the chal­lenge lay in cre­at­ing a land­scape that was in­ter­est­ing both from the sky as well as from the ground, the for­mer pre­fer­ring big and dra­matic un­du­la­tion and the lat­ter lean­ing more to­wards a toned down ap­proach.

Apart from the change of land­scape, how will each biome dif­fer from the next?

Ja­copo: Each biome of­fers a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for the player, both in terms of vis­ual va­ri­ety but also in terms of how it changes the player’s in­ter­ac­tion with the game. Rivers and water­falls snake across the rain­for­est, en­cour­ag­ing tra­ver­sal by boat and the dras­tic high peaks of the moun­tain biome are bet­ter suited for tra­ver­sal by air, for ex­am­ple. Paired with each biome hous­ing their own Ex­treme Weather event the player will never see the same thing twice.

What’s the cra­zi­est thing you’ve done or seen some­one do us­ing the new tools and abil­i­ties?

Joshua Jay Espinosa, tech­ni­cal de­signer: One time, I saw a player get into a bit of trou­ble with the Black Hand on a bridge. They set their Air Lifters to have Ex­plo­sive Hy­dro­gen Gas and lined the bridge with them. When the Black Hand came rush­ing in, the player re­leased all the tethers caus­ing the Lifters to ex­plode and blow up the ve­hi­cles. The ex­plo­sion caused the bridge to col­lapse and the trail­ing Black Hand all drove off the bridge and into the wa­ter. It was wild!

“De­struc­tion goes be­yond sim­ple de­struc­tion to of­fer emer­gent game­play op­por­tu­nity”

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