Far Cry Instincts Q&A: Jungle Smarts

Tech director Laurent Mascherpa tells us how the upcoming Xbox shooter's AI will make your survival a difficult thing to maintain.

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Far Cry was one of the biggest surprise hits on the PC last year, and now that Ubisoft is bringing Crytek's winning shooter to the Xbox later this year as Far Cry Instincts, we couldn't help wondering how the underlying game systems will change and evolve to best suit the console experience. With that thought in mind, we put some questions to the project's technical creative director, Laurent Mascherpa, about the artificial intelligence that will drive Jack Carver's notoriously wily adversaries in the upcoming game.

GameSpot: What can you tell us about Far Cry Instincts' AI?

Laurent Mascherpa: Instincts' AI is based on the PC version, and has been adapted for the console version. We kept the wide-open environments we had on the PC, and the AI is able to go anywhere the player goes and hunt him down. This is very important, because in the first part of the game, the player will be prey. It means that having enemies tracking you is a major point.

The game has procedural AI, allowing the player to play either stealth/tactical or aggressive. The AI will react differently depending on how you choose to play. It offers more replay value and satisfaction than scripted AI.

For Instincts, we made some optimization for console needs and some enhancements. In the AI system, we added a tool to integrate the story into the experience, because in Instincts all story events are interactive.

GS: What features of the game engine ensure an intelligent response to the player's actions?

LM: In Instincts, any AI has its own understanding of the environment--they see, they hear, and they have knowledge of what something is: an ally, an enemy, a vehicle, a grenade, a gunshot, a dead body...

Based on this information, an AI character makes decisions, changes its state of mind, or not, and takes action. It allows us to have credible human behavior.

For stealth situations, the player is encouraged to use environment to his advantage. The AI detection system takes into account the vegetation (grass and bushes), the water, the ambient noise, and the visibility. Since the AI hear things and see things, we can try to trick them. For example, throwing a rock will emit some sound that distracts them in order to backstab them silently, or also to attract them into a branch whip.

You'll have to use all the elements of the jungle to help you hide from the mercenaries.

In firefight situations, knowing the environment permits them to have a dynamic use of covers to hide, to lean and shoot from behind, and to flank the player. In the first part of the game, the player is a prey, so when he quits combat the AI will track him down. In the second part, as the player shifts more and more to become a predator, the reaction of the enemies will be different and their strategy will change.

GS: What will the AI in Far Cry Instincts allow the enemies to do in the game? Can they work in groups or protect their own lives?

LM: Yes, enemies act as a group. They'll use cover in the environments to protect themselves and will adopt complementary strategies. For example, when you arrive in a fight, one will try to flank you while one will stay away, throwing grenades and shooting at you from behind his cover. Enemies are also able to trigger alarms to alert the camp or call reinforcements if they see you before you kill them.

GS: Will the enemies be aware of changes in environments, like a bird that flies away or foliage movements, making them spot the player?

LM: The player is encouraged to use the wilderness of the environment to be protected from the enemies. But anything that makes noise (for example: getting out of water too fast) can raise their interest in your direction.

GS: Can they use weapons of their fallen teammates, or replace them behind a mounted weapon? Can they use any vehicles?

LM: All enemies are already well equipped, so they will not use dropped weapons. If some enemies are asked to protect a point, and if you kill the guy that is using the mounted weapon, another will take his position unless this is not the best choice for him (for example: a grenade has been thrown in the direction of the mounted weapon). In these huge islands, enemies are able to use vehicles to chase you, to block your way, or to bring reinforcements. In Instincts you will see mercenaries in Humvees, on ATVs, in helicopters, on water scooters, and on a variety of boats.

The mercs can use all the tricks of the trade to take you out.

GS: Will there be any AI-controlled friendly characters in the game?

LM: We have a character called Valerie, who will sometimes act with Jack. Her objective in the game is more to reach a safe spot than to fight enemies, but she will do some fighting.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add?

LM: In Instincts, we introduce new gameplay elements affecting the AI, like the backstab, the branch whip, and the feral abilities, so you can expect a response from the AI and a lot of fun!

GS: Thanks for your time.

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