Far Cry 2's Redding: 'We're Still In The Software Business'

Talking to Gamasutra, Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding (Far Cry 2) cautions against mirroring Hollywood's rigid development practices, suggesting that "low-level, non-critical, non-fatal failures" are an integral part of game development.
"We've got to occasionally remind ourselves we're still in the software business," says Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding, speaking to Gamasutra in a recent, extensive interview reflecting back on open-world shooter Far Cry 2. Redding, who served as narrative designer on the project, notes that it is important for developers not to too closely attempt to mirror Hollywood. Even though comparisons to the film business and budgeting are often made by observers both within and outside of the industry,its production practices and intended final experiences are quite different, he says. "While I'm sure there might be some kind of very superficial comfort and certainty in saying, 'We've pulled our budget and schedule from the last game, and we know exactly how long it takes to do this thing,' it's a completely false sense of security, and it's not going to actually help you run your business well," he says. "I think where there's plenty of room for debate, and will continue to be a lot of lively debate, is how much of that design and development process is going to be driven top-down versus bottom-up." "We are always going to be dealing with a succession of low-level, non-critical, non-fatal failures that we can then kind of attenuate and make less frequent and make less severe," the Far Cry 2 developer continues. "The only way that I can think of at this stage to kind of manage that problem is to embrace it and say, 'Great. Let's make sure that we're prototyping things. Let's make sure that we're putting stuff into the game as fast as possible so that we can see if we're even on the right path with it.'" Redding also speaks on the types of experiences offered by games -- and stressed that the medium has its own fundamental, integral properties that must remain central. "For all of the kind of superficial similarities we may have to some other [forms], at our beating heart our currency is interactivity and interaction," he says. "For the player, that consists of a set of verbs. And on the developer side, it consists of creating the necessary logical framework and the content to be able to support those verbs in an interesting way." That currency may not be fully developed yet, Redding notes: "One of the problems is, if we want to make games that are tackling broader topics that are a bit more adult or mature or more meaningful, we need to realize that that means that those verbs, that verb set that we're working in, may not be adequate at this point," he adds. "It's about a certain kind of collaboration between art and design and technology, between content and process, that allows us to very quickly iterate on a set of features that we feel support a certain aesthetic direction and try to get those things into some kind of engine," the narrative designer says, pointing out the importance of prototyping and iterative development -- versus the more strictly-scheduled Hollywood style of production. "There should be no question that that flexibility -- the ability to alter and change the design, the ability to alter and change kind of your understanding of what the final product needs to deliver -- is something we need to hang on to at all costs."

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