Many open world games are built on the expectation and assumption that you, the player, will want to experience the story they’ve put together. The team at Avalanche Studios, currently hard at work on Just Cause 3, certainly want you to experience their story, but it’s far from their first priority.
In an interview with three members of the Just Cause 3 team – Producer Omar Shakir, Senior Designer Francesco Antolini, and Game Director Roland Lesterlin – we talked about just where their priorities lie. Whether we were talking about vehicles, the wingsuit, the infamous grappling hook, or the game’s story, it all ended up coming back around to giving the player a collection of brushes, the knowledge to use them, and a canvas upon which to paint some awesome chaos.
One of the most basic tenets of the Just Cause series is modder friendliness. While the team hasn’t yet announced just what will be available, Lesterlin was clear that mod support is part of the plan:
We’ve talked with modders before, a lot of members of the team started as modders, hacking into games and ripping them apart. It would be weird to me to finally be in a position to make huge, awesome games like this and then turn around and stop the next kids who are going to be doing that with this game, who will probably wind up as designers, programmers, producers in games. That first moment you tweak a game is the first moment you realize you have the power to do what’s in your imagination. So while I don’t have any specific information, we’re definitely going to make sure the modding community has the tools they need.
The team’s PR manager has been in direct contact with modders, even bringing into the studio the Australian modders that built the multiplayer add-on for Just Cause 2. They want to be able to dedicate resources to respond to the community both from that PR perspective and from the more technical “how do I get access to that file” side of things. As much as they’d like to, Avalanche can’t just release the source code, but they want to pull things out so that modders can hook into them to build fun stuff wherever possible.
Lesterlin said that knowing the modding community has their backs has allowed them to focus on building the game – the world, the different systems, weapons, and vehicles that fill it. If your game is good, he said, then people might be willing to spend their time modding the game.
“So we’re spending our time creating awesome systems that work really well together in a really polished experience,” he said, giving modders something to rip apart and “do all the crazy stuff you see on the Internet.” Lesterlin and the team are well aware of the roles that YouTube, Twitch, and modding have played in giving Just Cause 2 the long tail it has enjoyed on services like Steam, continuing to sell long after its release date.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is how little of it is actually hidden behind the story. Developers often put new tools – additional grapples, the wingsuit, new kinds of explosives – behind story beats. First, to ensure that you see the story they’ve built and, second, so that you’re not overwhelmed by a huge overabundance of options. Instead of gating things behind a story, the team wants to teach you how to use items by having you find them in the world and accomplish challenges using them.
“At minute 15, you really have everything you need – explosives, the wingsuit, everything,” said Antolini. Through the use of in-game challenges, the team hopes that you’ll learn bit by bit what your different tools are capable of. Lesterlin pulled the wingsuit itself as an example. Wingsuit challenges will pull the player closer and closer to the ground, teaching them that flying chin-scrapingly close to the ground will get them a massive speed boost. Similarly, skill points are gone entirely. Avalanche wants to train the player to get the most out of their game, not make them work to simply access it and then never use it.
The mission structure itself is even designed to encourage this. While one mission has to be finished to open the next, missions are laid out in such a way that it’s assumed you’ll get distracted with collecting some of the over 80 vehicles, completing challenges, and just finding ways to blow stuff up.
Speaking of those vehicles, this is another area they’ve spent a lot of time on. While Just Cause 2 had plenty of vehicles, there wasn’t enough variation.
With Just Cause 3, Lesterlin says, “we tried to expand the range of what you even call a car – all the way from an F1 inspired racer to an off-road buggy. We have awesome sports cars, vintage sports cars, tractors, APCs, lots of military vehicles.” Don’t forget jets, helicopters, pontoon planes, boats, speedboats and city busses. There are even a few “quite large and intense” military vehicles they haven’t shown off yet. Each vehicle has its own destruction and deformation models, and they want each vehicle to feel different, sound different, and most importantly, explode differently. There’s a spyboat Lesterlin was especially excited about. Applying a few of the variety of vehicle modifications available led him to waste almost half a workday trying to jump other boats and landmasses. The team doesn’t want to put an hour count on the game because they hope moments like those will be something every player can find.
“You can play it for 40 hours, sure,” he says.
“Or 40 years!” interjects Antolini.
There’s going to be a ton of variety in Just Cause 3, and once modders get their hands on, it’s going to get even crazier. The team set a couple bars for streamers and modders to overcome, though, just to make sure they didn’t feel like the bar was being set low. One story beat has you driving a car out of a cargo plane, Fast and Furious-style, while another has you literally walking on a flying missile. How’s that for topping Just Cause 2?
Just Cause 3 hits PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on December 1.