Think of the video game characters you’d describe as nice people. Half-Life 2’s Alyx, maybe? Friendly, helpful. Heart in the right place. We’ve heard and seen a lot of Far Cry 3’s Vaas, but all of it suggests that if we left him in a room with Alyx for ten minutes we’d return to walls repainted a fresh intestinal red.
Not necessarily so, say Ubisoft Montreal. There are times when Vaas can be quite lovely.
“The thing with Vaas is that he can come across almost as nice, sometimes,” said lead game designer Jamie Keen in an illuminating chat with VG247. “But that makes it all the worse because you know that at any moment he can just flip and turn into something different.”
Keen explained: ““People’s realities and what everyone carries around in their head can be wildly different. Everyone has their own weird, little world that they’re carrying around with them; it’s just that for some people it’s more extreme than others.”
And for some, it’s intestinal extraction extreme. But variations on this subtle brand of madness can be found throughout Far Cry 3’s cast, said Keen, who referenced loss-and-mushroom-afflicted ally Dr Earnhardt.
“With Earnhardt, we really wanted this character that’s reasonably cognizant and seems to be fairly benign and then you find out, almost mid-conversation, that he’s living in this completely different reality. That’s the blend that we want, that there are certain levels on which you can interact but just don’t [want to] dig any deeper because it can get really messy, really quickly.”
We talked to Keen the other week too. He told us that Vaas was the in-game equivalent of a "Tube nutter".
It sounds like a brilliant game world to inhabit, frankly - one that should prove hostile in new and unusual ways. It also sounds like Ubi Montreal are suffering from a new breed of Stockholm Syndrome, chained as they are to the characters on the other side of their screens.
Which do you think you’ll prefer? Far Cry 2’s procedurally-generated moments of companionship, or its sequel’s more direct and thematically-tight approach to storytelling?