Far Cry is as much about capturing natural beauty as it is about explosive mayhem, and with Far Cry 5, the bar for re-creating the wilderness is especially high. Unlike the fictional Kyrat or Rook Islands, Montana’s forests, farmlands, and highways will feel familiar to a lot of players – and that means the developers needed to accurately capture every detail, from the wildlife to the logos on roadside shops to the bark on trees, to make Hope County feel like a convincing place.
“We needed to change the way we prepared ourselves,” says Isaac Papismado, assistant art director on Far Cry 5. “In the past, we used the internet, we used a lot of secondary sources, books, things like that. Whereas now, we really want to go onsite with a team with cameras, and get as much as we can.”
That meant taking a series of trips to Montana, during which the developers trekked into small towns and wilderness locations. They got to know Montana’s ecosystem, wildlife, and people, and took thousands of photos, many of which were used to re-create the landscape in a process called photogrammetry. Using photogrammetry, objects like trees, vegetation, buildings, and even people are photographed from multiple angles and scanned to create lifelike 3D objects. This technique led not only to some of the most detailed environments Far Cry has seen to date, but to a few surprises that made their way into the story.
“When Richard, our lead on biomes, came back and scanned a birch, and there was actually a heart shape with initials and names, and we’re like ‘this is awesome!'” says Associate Producer Philippe Fournier. “This is the level of detail you can find in some of the assets. We can tweak it and make it story-based, but getting that sort of detail is definitely a first for us.”
The team’s photos ended up informing not just the look of Far Cry 5’s environments, but the way the game world itself was structured. Like the real Montana, Far Cry 5’s landscape is dotted with road signs and billboards, and they aren’t just set dressing; they’re there to organically alert you to where you are, direct you to specific businesses or locations that might be of help, and even unlock intel about good fishing spots. And a big part of making those messages stick out is through branding.
“Every logo is almost a character in and of itself,” says Fournier. “You’re always asking, ‘what’s the history behind that? Who’s the owner? What’s next, where can I find this person? I see there’s a shop, maybe I can find this shop somewhere?’ And it attracts you to go and find it, so it ties into the exploration of the world as you see those signs.”
Another key part of understanding where you are is in the businesses themselves, which are frequently named for their region or town, or after the characters who run them. In fact, says Assistant Art Director Marco Beauchemin, it wasn’t unusual during development for a business and its branding to develop from characters who appeared in the storyline.
“We have that guy from the narrative, and that guy should have a marina, so let’s give that guy’s name to the marina,” says Beauchemin. From there, that name becomes part of logos and signage, radio ads, billboards, and even vehicles associated with the marina, all of which make that marina feel more like a real place instead of just a point of interest on your map.
The approach to branding isn’t just about business, either. It extends to the homes of the characters themselves; the team wanted to create interiors that felt lived-in, with decorations that tell you something about the person who lives there, what they do, and how well they take care of their stuff.
Another thing that came out of the branding process was the identity of the resistance movement you’ll build in Hope County, which stems from the Hope County Cougars, a local baseball team. Starting out as a sign to dress up a part of a baseball field, the team’s branding spread to pennants and promotional calendars in the game’s bars.
“During production, we came to ‘who are the rebels, what are their logos?'” says Beauchemin. “We took that baseball team. It’s a team of people that are really grounded in the region, so it’s normal that the rebels would take that as their logo, so let’s go for it. And then the narrative added to that with a character who’s all about the baseball team, and we can go into someone’s house and we know that guy was playing for the Cougars a long time ago.”
All of these elements combine to create a rich backdrop for an explosive adventure to liberate Hope County from the grip of The Project at Eden’s Gate cult. Far Cry 5’s world is packed with activity and danger – not the least of which comes from the bears, wolves, skunks, and feared wolverines that might complicate a mission by attacking at any time – and its version of Montana is a beautiful, diverse place to explore.
Far Cry 5 will launch on PS4, PC, and Xbox One on February 27, 2018. To find out more, check out our previous Far Cry 5 coverage.