It’s Far Cry Primal week!
We’ve spent most of the last seven days getting ready for Ubisoft’s upcoming addition to the Far Cry universe. To celebrate our trip 12,000 years in the past we have two guests from Ubisoft on the show to chat prehistoric man (and woman, come on Andy).
Andy even had the chance to take part in a Motion Capture rehersal for the game. Get ready to see someone with little to no acting training, make a complete fool of himself.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
Shaggy Dave continues with his extended view on everything new and exciting in the world of gaming. Id Software announcing this week that their upcoming multiplayer release DOOM will include a 13 hour single player campaign.
Do shooters need campaigns?
Is it worth the resources?
What games work without campaigns?
Click below to listen to the complete episode of the program, below that an extend interview with the Cinematic Director at Ubisoft.
Andy spends hours this week explaining exactly what it was like to be at Ubisoft and take part in the motion capture rehearsal for the upcoming game Far Cry.
While he was there he spoke with David Footman, Cinematic Director on the game about how difficult it was to create a story, over 12,000 years old. Listen to the complete interview or read along with the extended transcript below.
Footman has a unique perspective, as someone who has worked on titles like Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell before but in his words this project was, “by far my most challenging yet.”
Interview with David Footman - Far Cry
Andy: We’re in this beautiful Mo-cap studio we had the chance to actually play out some scenes, and my leader the person that took me thought it. Thank you so much for letting me be in your game. I’m going to be in the game right?
David: Oh ya, oh ya. You are Takkar.
Andy: Who am I speaking with today?
David: David Footman and I’m the Cinematic Director on Far Cry Primal.
Andy: So we got a great chance to actually see what it’s like to develop a lot of senses here on far cry prim. For those that weren’t fortunate enough to be invited to Ubisoft. What were some of the difficulties of development now the cinematic for Far Cry Primal because you’re taking on these huge challenges? Different language differently alien time period. What was it like?
David: I think it was extremely intimidating when we first started the project. Because a lot of people tried to interpret what the Stone Age looks like. So there was no shortage of media out there depicting early man. And I think that when you dive into a fantasy like that, one of the pillars of our brand is authentic and the living breathing world that the art team is going to create in the game is going to be second to none.
So when it comes to cinematic when you’re bringing characters and story to life. There’s kind of a ragged line between being an authenticity and great performances and going to far. Having it look too campy or cartoony or cliché like. So there’s a lot to work we put into the research, to try to define how these people move because its could easily become a bunch of characters in a stone-age stetting, just walking around like people now a-days.
Andy: Like a 1920’s idea of how they were.
David: Exactly and I think the more research we did the more we realized that we need to attack the para dime of what it means to be primal.
Andy: What is some of the ways you were able to do that thought the actual mechanics of developing these cinematic, I got a chance to play around and would love to hear from your own words. What you do to bring out both the emotion and the clarity that players need.
David: Were sort of working with experts. We started working with Terry Notary who a movement coach and two movement coaches in Toronto, Roberto Campanella and Anissa Typar. The goal was to run workshops for the actors were we really deconstructed the contemporary para dime they had and we created movement for each of the tribes. So there are three tribes the “Wenja” the “Udam” and “Izlial”.
So we had a signature for each tribe and a foundation that they all shared that was all the same. And watching Terry work was kind of amazing because he has a circus background, his body control was mind blowing. As a director I’ve never worked with movement and didn’t understand how it worked. We probably spent 6 days with the crew, animators and actors working though this movement where he would deconstruct movement of the actors and then reconstruct the character by just talking about the energy, force and space.
Like all of this movement is really different than I’ve ever used in dialog with actors, we talk about “intrinsic force” “Extrinsic Force” we talk about types of energy. We talk about space. And space can be heavy, it can be medium, it can be thin, it can be light space and even talking about how people move. Like do they start with their head? What is their field of view? It was a whole new way to understand what an actor can do to create a character from the inside out, Right? They’re not putting it on, it just comes out.
Andy: Did you think when you were tasked to create cinematics with a video game that you’d have relearn the basics of theater in the round and become that kind of artist of trying to develop these kinds of thing?
David: For me it was such a different experience usually I work contemporary and fantasy but I’ve never done something that, i guess they fear of creating something is there’s no proof of what it was really like. So you almost feel vulnerable when you’re presenting something, someone’s going to say “all that’s silly, that doesn’t work, that’s cliché” it’s not really a safe place because there’s no reference of what it could be like.
But what’s crazy is the commitment that we got from Ubisoft to achieve this fantasy. Because the fantasy the stone-age is the game. Without it we fail. So there was a lot of attention, a lot of energy a lot of inference on that fantasy and they gave us the resources to achieve that.
Andy: I was speaking with the linguist that helped developed the language and one of the most touching things he said was when he first heard, completely done up with the characters. He started to cry because he spends his whole life focusing on this and this is authentic and this is exactly what he’s learned and this is exactly what he believes that these people did.
So my one question is that, there’s always a great commitment from Ubisoft to be authentic to the time period. Since this is so alien, how do you develop these characters in a way that still works for a video game?
David: Well that’s sort of the huge challenge. Because they need to work with the mechanics of game play.
Andy: Especially when you’re dealing with movement and its very different then perhaps it would be, I’m just wondering, when I’m grabbing the controller how this attention to detail might translate a little bit?
David: Well when you’re creating characters in a video game, what makes a character compelling as in they have a need. So every time we present a character, they need to have a strong need in the scene from the players. Where we are doing the Stone Age or contemporaneity this is like a threat that we have to have. So I think this is something that we always had in our scenes.
The other thing I think to help us connect it was having the pillars of touch by the world and our first person camera allowed us to hit the pillars that we needed to hit in terms of Stone Age and have that be part of the scenes that are introducing game play. Because were characterizing. But were also reveling inner character for our characters and were exploring their desires and needs and how the player can interact with that. It almost has to connect to a mission. Or some sort or reaction item.
I like to say “Bad people don’t say bad things, they do bad things” and that’s sort of something we live by with our characters. It’s the same with the player. It’s designed with their actions.
Andy: I would really like to know what it’s like for the actor I guess, cause you’re with them trying to introduce them. You mentioned before that you have to kind a deconstruct and then rebuild.
What is it like for their process to develop characters like this from the director’s point of view?
David: I think my number one job is creating a really safe place. So in general when you are working in a performance capture volume, it’s quite a hostile place in terms of technology. You’re surrounded by 80 cameras and lights and technology and wires. It doesn’t look anything like a set.
You’re not wearing wardrobe, so in terms of all the realization and all the tools that actors get. My Job as a director is to try and make it a very safe place and to try and help them not see this technology.
It needs to become invisible and they need to be focus on the emotion on the performance. They need to be focused on how they are moving through space, how they are connected to their bodies and about truth right? It’s about truthfulness, if an actor doesn’t know their lines they will never be able to earn their lines in a way that comes inside out.
Where their transcending the scene in which way, so it’s really critical when you work In performance capture we do a lot of rehearsals. We do more rehearsals then they do in television or film, I know some films they do a lot of table reads and early rehearsals. But because of the technology because of how foreign it is in here, we tend to do rehearsals versus shooting two to one.
David: Even if it’s a really simple scene, I run it like a football play.
Just by going through the body movement and the actions.
What it does is it makes the actor relax and forget about…You know they can be very vulnerable right? I mean their putting themselves out in a really vulnerable place when you’re acting. So it’s not… it needs to be super safe. Because great acting comes when they take risks. Risks of looking stupid or silly, it needs to be a place where they can do that. There is so many things that they have forget here. The Cameras, the lights…
Andy: The machine on their face as well.
David: There is a camera that ranges from their face, there in like a tight black suit. It’s really about overcoming all of that and making that safe space. I find that we have a lot more success with people who have some theatre background. Because it’s not all centric to a camera because we can move the camera where ever we want in the scene.
We use reference cameras to judge and validate the scenes but we find that people with theatre background have a more consciousness of their movement and space and more connected to their bodies. Saying that, when we choose an actor with a lot of theatre background it just means we need to rehearse more and prepare more before we do the role.
Andy: When I think of the Far Cry games I immediately think of your relevancy, the irony, the dedication of making me laugh in different sorts of ways I could never anticipated. A lot of that through the writing a lot of that through the cinematics. Far Cry Primal, will I still have moments like that and as the director how difficult was it to bring in the Far Cry signature?
You know into this kind of world? It’s so foreign I can’t even imagine how you guys are going to do it.
David: Well in what you are talking about is the DNA of the brand and when I describe the brand its like a mix drink.
Its fish out of water, it’s like what the heck just happened? Its insanity right?
These are like the pillars of the brand, so we definitely have those elements, but we haven’t announced them yet in the game. So I think that some of the characters, some of the NPCS. We call them specialist that you are going to bring into your tribe. Some of these characters completely fit the role.
Andy: And it’s still in your mind from the research you have it that it’s authentic. Cause like you said that so important to you and Ubisoft when you create games like this, that it is authentic
David: It is and some of it, most of it is authentic but when you know what the rules are once in a while you can break them so we definitely did break the rules to create some insanity, some really cool stuff. I feel like all of that really crucial sort of DNA from Far Cry is still in the game. But it’s a lot of stuff that we haven’t announced yet.
Interview with Linguist Andrew Byrd - Far Cry
Andy: Alright well thank you so much for taking the time, I really do appreciate it.
I guess just a final note very quickly what do you hope players get from this game, you know as the cinematic director knowing the cinematic experiences. What do you hope they get from that, what they haven’t gotten from maybe any video game in general?
David: Well I think for me, like what I find most profound about Far Cry Primal.
It’s that Stone Age fantasy, it’s a place that we’ve read about we’ve studied about in school, about this time period. I think it’s just such a mind blowing experience to be around that mega fauna, to be hunting in reeds and in river beds and climbing up cliffs,
It’s a game that I love to explore the open world in and Far Cry has always had an amazing open world. But there is something magical about this open world I think that going in to Cinematics we knew that the world, the open world and the realization would be second to none because that’s what Far Cry, that’s a part of the DNA.
The open world always looks amazing; if you watch Far Cry trailers you will notice that half the shots in a Far Cry Trailer are debug cameras in the open world. There not cinematic cameras, because it looks that good.
When you make Cinematics for a game like this it needs to measure up. you need to have all those elements in there.
So I really think that’s the experience I’m most excited about when I play the game. Is that I believe we measured up to that realism and to that authenticity that you see in the open world in our kinematics.
We’ve layered them and integrated them into the open world really well and I think people are going to get really excited being in that time because it was so well executed by the art team, the mega fauna, the animals the mammoths, the sabre tooth, the bears. Like it really, it’s a totally different paradigm and it’s just a cool place to be.
Click here for more Far Cry Primal Coverage
Transcript by Nason Ibrahim, Matt Miklipk