Far Cry 5 is the most recent rendition of the popular Far Cry series. It takes place in a fictional town called ‘Hope County’ in Montana, USA. The player takes on the role of a rookie Sheriff Deputy that is tasked to eliminate the doomsday cult leader Joseph Seed or ‘The Father’ as he is better known and his multitude of deranged disciples. Situated in a lush large open world filled with systemically designed encounters and unique individually scripted story and side missions throughout the open world. There are also areas called Outposts. Outposts are areas in the game that are a stronghold for the faction in the game that acts a point of power for the enemy and an attractive challenge for the player to complete in the world. The most recent Far Cry title is no different and features a number of Cult Outposts scattered across each of the three regions that pose an obvious threat to the player if they are not eliminated and taken back for the resistance.
A typical gameplay loop of an Outpost is the player decides on their approach whether it is to ignore stealth and proceed with a direct attack or covertly incapacitate enemies depending on what they choose the player will start to eliminate the NPCs in the area. If the player is spotted during a stealth approach they can choose to hide from enemies or switch to a direct attack. Using the tools at their disposal the player will either succeed or fail at liberating the Outpost this point the player will complete the scenario and open the Outpost for side mission content.
The Main Entrance to One of the Outposts in Far Cry 5.
The Outposts are designed with the intention of supporting different playstyles, whether the player wants to use stealth or with force the Outpost for the most part supports this by giving different routes to tackle the challenge of eliminating the patrolling NPCs. Often there are a number of potential routes in and around the Outpost, some are heavily defended, and others lightly defended that are covered by trees and foliage.
A Broken Fence Helps to Signpost an Alternate Route into the Outpost.
There are routes around the Outposts specifically designed to give the player that prefers a stealth playstyle a stealth option with often hidden and paths leading to the flanks of the location or to provide a vantage point the player can recon and eliminate enemies with a sniper or bow from afar. Whereas others are heavily defended with clusters of NPCs and mounted weapons, giving the player who prefers force to cause carnage and ultimately creating fun unpredictable moments and open the level to the player’s depiction.
A Sniper Covers Two Approaches into the Farm Outpost.
As the Outposts are situated the Open World they are often designed and constructed in a location that features vantage points however they often prevent the player from finding all of the patrolling NPCs. It is only when the player infiltrates the Outpost they will find passages and routes that allow them to find potentially hidden NPCs., unavailable from a distance.
A key design element of an Outpost is the placement of the cover in the area. As the game is first person rather than third person there is no cover to cover therefore the player must be able to visually understand the cover elements available to maximise movement in the space and to plan a potential attack. A good example of intentional cover placement is found in a pumpkin farm Outpost where there are three conveniently placed crates in a field. This is an example of hand placed cover by the designer to give the player a potential path to reach further into the Outpost and getting closer to the roaming NPCs allowing for takedowns or specific shots.
Cover is placed scarcely on the outer edges of Outposts with dense cover placed when near the center of the Outpost where there is an increased NPC presence.
Layered Cover Props Placed in a Line Provide an Obvious Path.
The above screenshot shows how cover was placed next to a sniper location to assist the player in remaining undiscovered. The crates have been placed in a line that provides the player an obvious path to follow to reach the inner sections of the Outpost whilst retaining the grounded in reality aspect, the props make sense for the location. This cover was placed due to the sniper being placed ontop of the red barn, a design consideration of both NPC placement and cover placement. This allows the player to reach different sections of the Outpost easier or gain access to the ladder also seen in the screenshot.
Cover Props Placed in the Center of the Outpost to Give the Player Protection.
Navigation is key in each of the Outpost, despite each being intrinsically different in setting each feature navigation ingredients to help the player flow through environment including grapple points, ladders and ziplines. Each navigation ingredient aims to aid the player to reach vantage points, reach secret areas or enter the space quicker. This helps to improve the flow of the ‘level’ by making it easier to traverse the Outpost with minimal hassle. The player can easily identify the navigation points by the blue colour of the prop, like other games such as Uncharted colour is utilised to help navigation elements stand out from the backdrop.
Ziplines are a Quick Way to Enter the Space.
The Blue Navigation Props Often Stand Out from the Backdrop.
As each Outpost is different in setting and tone it characteristically aids in designing the layout of the Outpost, this constraint is also increased with each region having different ecosystems. Each of the layouts in the Outposts work well with the environment it is set in as each Outpost often features large open section or courtyards, narrow sections that feature low and high cover routes, interior sections that create hiding spots, large and small props that create or disrupt line of sights. Each Outpost features a unique setting and locale ranging from lumberyards to farms to ranches each feels different from the last and is unique to explore and unravel. There are elements of environmental storytelling that matches the overarching tone and aids in telling a story of what happened prior to the players involvement and helps to add more context to the world the game is set in.
By adding an element of mystery to the story of civilians and the locale it helps to create a more interesting experience for the player. An example of this can be seen in the form of dead bodies lined up against a wall, blood splatters and bullets holes cover a fence. This helps to make this encounter and Outpost unique and separate from the other Outposts in the open world.
Storytelling Helps to Give Context & Villianise the Enemy Faction.Environmental
With each Outpost having a different tone and theme it helps to provide the designer an idea on what to design and what to place in the space, the layout, the type of buildings and the type of NPC interactions they could have for the space are all depicted by the locale. The locations of the Outpost help to depict what the overall art and design is developed for the space, depending on the location it therefore determines what cover is used and what NPC synergies are used. It is clear that the designer had constraints to consider and worked to address them to make the Outpost ‘feel’ correct for the location.
In each Outpost the NPC Synergies used, the culmination of different NPC archetypes, often determine the difficulty and the player’s potential approach. If the player sees a sniper on a roof they are inherently pushed to eliminate him first before proceeding to avoid getting spotted or getting shot. This helps direct player movement and the overall flow. The Outposts features a number of different NPCs that work in cooperation in a combined effect to create gameplay scenarios or unexpected events helping to create memorable moments for the player, greatly increasing in the chance of retaining the player.
NPC Roamers Patrol Different Sections of the Outpost.
Often the NPC synergies determines the difficulty of an Outpost as different archetypes can create added challenge for the player such as a VIP Cultist, an NPC that cannot be silently eliminated from afar in one shot, or a heavy flamer NPC that starts pockets of fires around the Outpost and creating a navigational hazard. Specific NPCs are chosen for each Outpost to create a good synergy of NPCs in each of the Outposts. The designer also adds possible roaming paths the NPCs can take making the player plan their attack depending on the playstyle and adding an element of strategy.
Outposts regularly use an array of design ingredients to add to the overall experience the player might have, to increase challenge and increase the complexity of the level. Outposts often feature ingredients such as explosive barrels, patrolling fighter planes that spot the player, random reinforcements or patrolling Cultist vehicles, triggerable alarms that alert all enemies in the area and calls for reinforcements and mounted weapons all of which add to the challenge of the Outpost.
An Alarm System is Watched By Patrolling NPCs.
The designer strategically places ingredients around the layout of an Outpost to add to the overall gameplay scenarios and give the player tools to use. Ingredients such as the alarms are placed in areas that are intended to be difficult to reach as often they are placed deep inside the Outpost that makes the player infiltrate the compound making themselves vulnerable to being spotted. The ingredients stimulate the need to explore unintended gameplay scenarios, not planned or scripted events and opens the player to interpret the space their way. Outposts are designed to give the player the opportunity to express their creativity, by utilising the tools and skills available to the player in each Outpost.
Whilst this post focused more so on Far Cry 5 the same thoughts would be considered for the Outposts in previous installments of Far Cry as each share similar mechanics and design considerations.