The best part about chatting with Dean Evans? The conversation can – and will – go in any and all directions. It’s a rapid-fire rat-a-tat of ideas, delivered with unbridled enthusiasm and infectious energy. But what else would you expect from the creative director of Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon? The recently released standalone digital title from Ubisoft Montreal – which piles on a heaping helping of ’80s-style cyborgs, mutants and other tail-kicking retro-future goodies – has since earned the highest praise from critics and gamers alike. We chatted with Dean shortly before the release of Blood Dragon, after a whirlwind six-month development crush, in a meandering conversation that touched on everything from pirates to unicorns.
When did you realize that Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon wasn’t just a lark?
We’ve been into this kind of things as kids, right? We’ve always known this was amazing. But when the games industry completely exploded into a mammoth entertainment business, we lost stuff like this. It was a real shame that it disappeared. So I was always supremely confident that if you made a game with this kind of look and feel, it would work. The average age of gamer is what 30? 32? Bosh! There you go! Pew! Sniper shot. It’s going to tug at those heartstrings, because it’s always been there.
Many of us have grown up watching those classic ’80s movies too…
Yeah, there’re a ton of movie references in there, but it’s more about the reference to the culture of the ’80s. It’s been a lot of fun making it, writing it with Lucien Soulban. It was a lot of fun trying to make something with a really bad story and terrible script.
It’s one thing to talk about writing a “terrible script.” But there’s an art to doing it well because there’s bad terrible and there’s great terrible. How do you find that balance?
We did it with heart. The intention was never: “Oh, let’s do something that’s written badly.” We knew where our character was going. We knew what kind of notes we wanted to hit and specific beats where we wanted to go. And when it was written, we wanted to write it well, but make sure that we tick off a few of those tropes.
In a way, it’s a loving homage to the ’80s?
Yeah. What we are doing isn’t really different than what The Expendables is doing. It’s not really that different from the Transformers. We are giving a little nod to that style. Who doesn’t want to hear: You can’t leave me, dammit! You gotta live! You have a kid waiting for you!! You need all that sh–t. If we ever get to make a game about cops, it’s got to be like: I want your badge and your gun on my desk in the morning! It was a time period when it was balls out, everything goes, cocaine-fueled, like, f–king madness. It’s nice to look back on that and see how ridiculous that time period was – but also see how wonderfully inspirational it was. Look at what came out then. Recently, we got Total Recall remade, we’re getting Robocop remade, Tron remade, and Judge Dredd remade. A lot of the sh–t made in that time period are absolutely legendary pieces of cinema and entertainment, with incredible characters. Rocky is the sh–t. Rambo is awesome!
Did you ever have any moments when you wanted to squeeze in just one more ’80s reference or ’80s style line of dialogue? Because the game is dense with ’80s references! It’s just hit after hit after hit…
Yeah, the review process with Lucien had been so strange in terms of feedback. It’s like, “Can we make this a little bit sh–ttier? Because this feels like 1998 and we need to go back a little bit.” So, yeah, we did as much as we could to try and squeeze in as much as possible.
You only had around six months to develop Blood Dragon. How much were you able to build on the foundation of Far Cry 3 – the gameplay, the tools – in order to set you free to focus on creativity?
It was a lot of fun trying to make something with a really bad story and terrible script
You’re really bang-on with that one. The majority of development time is building systems and sh–t like that. So we really had an amazing platform to build upon, and we certainly see a lot of our games at Ubisoft as platforms that we can build our games upon. I would really love for us to do more with our games. We are in a difficult time in the industry right now with this transitional period and with quadruple-A games, which is absolutely f–king crazy.
Like triple-A games wasn’t enough…
When we look at the amount of money that our games cost and the amount of copies that we need to sell to break even, it’s an uncomfortable business model. Yet, we have absolutely amazing award-winning game systems and engines. Let’s f–king use them. I’ll have the best first-person cover system in any shooter ever, right? Far Cry 3. OK. Job done. Go re-skin it and let’s have some fun with it and try to do something else with it, and bring those development costs down. Obviously there’s room for the big boys to go out there, but man, I would kill to be like, “Can I have the Assassin’s Creed 3 engine and go off with it?”
Could that possibly be the next thing? Taking Assassin’s Creed and giving it your own unique treatment?
No, man, I’m going to kill myself after this game. I’m going to go with a f–king bang.
Please don’t do that.
I’m just kidding.
Back to Blood Dragon. Is there more to this world?
Oh, this universe is ginormous, and it’s all done. The full trilogy has been done.
So we could see more Blood Dragons?
If fans want some more, and the writers want more, it’s all f–king there.
So you’ve got a full roadmap, then?
We have amazing award-winning game systems and engines. Let’s f–king use them.
Oh yeah. It’s more like a galactic star chart. It’s all completely terrible. The universe is awesome. We had so much fun. It’s that type of universe where you don’t have to worry too much that it doesn’t make sense. It’s awesome! There’s a unicorn in it. Like, where do unicorns come in? It’s a weird horse with an ice cream cone on it…
Did Michael Biehn get it right away?
Yeah, he loved it! I met him at Fantasia Film Festival last year, and he was promoting the first movie he directed and wrote: The Victim. Met him, he was first choice. We went out to dinner, had a chat, I ran through it with him, and he was like, “It sounds terrible, let’s do it.”
That’s exactly what you want to hear…
He embraced it and we really had a great time working on it. And yeah, he’s awesome. That guy’s anecdotes about Aliens and Terminator. Holy sh–t. He’s a God. He has stories. He’s a guy that I would love to work with again.
Were you able to take some of his own anecdotes from that time and kind of work them in?
There were two.
So some rich material. That’s awesome.
I would love to work with him again. He’s only done voice acting a couple of times. So it’s a double-edged sword. It seems easy because you don’t need to worry about lights, marks, memorizing your lines. You don’t have to worry about any of those things. But voice acting, that’s a true talent that is very different from normal acting. I would love to work with him in a more traditional role. An FMV game would be f–king awesome!
The game is coming out and people are excited about it. How are you feeling?
This is my first game as a creative director so, you know, I’m f–king sh–tting my pants. Finding out that Uplay got hacked, Blood Dragon was downloaded, torrents going out. My initial feeling was dread, stress, my f–king eyes welling up. Like, this is a f–king disaster, I can’t believe this is happening. But then when I got on Twitter, got on Neogaf to take a look, got on Reddit, and all we saw was “AWESOME! AWESOME!” Like anything in life, you need to take those negative aspects and do everything you can to turn it to something positive. Yeah, it sucks that the game was leaked, but the reactions were good. And all that’s doing is making Xbox fans and PS3 fans super f–king pumped. It helps push the products a little bit. We’ve been seeing posts from people who pirated it and were like, “We are going to support this.”
If you get a pirate to pay, then you’ve succeeded.
Yeah, I still think that it’s a ploy by Ubisoft to promote Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag, which is full of pirates, and Watch Dogs, which is full of f–king hackers. I still think it’s a f–ked up ploy.