Far Cry 3: ITF Interview with Cinematics Director Robert Purdy

Editor: Brady Ruiters
Photography: Darryl Linington

ITF Gaming was lucky enough to catch up with Robert Darryl Purdy, the cinematics director for Far Cry 3 at Ubisoft Montreal, at rAge 2012. We sat down with Purdy and were able to ask him a few questions about one of 2012’s most anticipated releases.

Purdy directs the cinematics, which sounds like a single task but actually stretches over a wide range of areas. Purdy also oversees the animation, works with the script writers, assists with the casting of the talent, directing the actors during motion capture and then taking that data and getting it up to scratch on the game’s side. It’s quite the task.

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According to Purdy, the script writers are the main drivers behind the script but found that due to the fact that because they were telling the story from a first-person point of view, the performances by the actors had to be really strong. The actors also tended to go off the script at times when they were sort of in the moment but the writers wanted to give them the freedom to bring something to the script provided that the intent of the message was still intact.

ITF Gaming: When exactly did development start on Far Cry 3?

Purdy: I guess it’s been in development for about 3 years. I came in and wasn’t part of the initial development. I joined Ubisoft about partway through the production of Far Cry 3 so I couldn’t tell you exactly how long the project was in development. I’ve been on it about two and a half years.

ITF Gaming: Haha! That’s a long part of your life

Purdy: Yeah, I mean you invest a lot of time into it, so it’s nice to see. I’ve been in the industry quite a while; I started in television, I’ve been in games and I’ve also been in film. As a commercial artist, you do have to do work that pays the bills so it’s really nice to work on a project that you’ve invested a lot of time into and you see it being a rewarding kind of product at the end. I mean, I’m a fan of Far Cry 3, which is great because I get to work on it and I can’t wait to play it. I mean I play it at work but I can’t wait to have my copy of the official game.

ITF Gaming: You mentioned that you worked in television, games and film; which area was the best experience for you?

Purdy: Honestly, I think that Far Cry 3 is one of the highlights of my career. It’s a massive project and with a project of this size, you have production issues. Overall, if I wasn’t at Ubisoft and working on Far Cry 3, I don’t think that I would have had the opportunity to do what I did on this project. So I feel really thankful to Ubisoft for letting me work on Far Cry 3. I also worked on Halo 3 which was a nice game to work on; I did the cinematics on that. Even though I’ve worked in those three areas, I’ve spent most of my time in gaming. Like I’ve been in gaming for about, I think nine plus years.

ITF Gaming: *astonishing whistle* that’s quite a portfolio you have there!

Purdy: Haha!

ITF Gaming: Are there any secrets that that no one else really knows about yet that you can divulge or hint at? I know I’m pushing my luck on this one but I had to try *chuckle*.

Purdy: I don’t know really, since we’re launching so soon. We’re pretty open with what we’re showing but of course we are holding a few things back. It’s like if I saw a movie trailer and it showed me the entire plot line, I’d feel cheated. So yeah, there are some things that we’re holding back. I mean, a big part of our game is exploration so we want to keep some stuff back so players can explore and be like “Oh man, I didn’t see that coming.”

ITF Gaming: That’s very true, I love exploring open world games and discovering things on my own. I tend to get so lost in just the environment.

Purdy: That’s what we want for the players.

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ITF Gaming: What was the first game that you ever played?

Purdy: I used to play Space Invaders on the Atari. Also, I don’t know why this burned into my memory but you could get a floppy and have like a hundred games on it. It’s like putting in that disk and just seeing this long list of games. Half of them didn’t work.

ITF Gaming: And there were duplicates too.

Purdy: Yeah! And I think there was a basketball game on the first Nintendo and it left an impression on me. I was a sports kid and I still play a lot of sports games. In that game, you could also smash the backboard and then this little guy would come out and clean it up.

ITF Gaming: Hahahaha!

Purdy: I don’t know, as a kid I got a kick out of that. Also, one of my favourite games of all time is the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Like with the movement, when the prince starts moving, it’s like a rhythm and the prince felt weighted as if he existed in the world. I consider it a masterpiece in movement.

ITF Gaming: Doing the cinematics, was it tricky to convey emotions while using a first-person perspective?

Purdy: With Jason, the protagonist, that was a tough thing. In the gaming industry, the player feels like “Well, it’s a game. I should have control.” But those players are looking for stronger storylines in their games because gamers are maturing. I think the core gaming market is in their thirties. It’s kind of a juxtaposition because in order to be able to tell a good story sometimes, you need to take control of the camera because especially with Jason, we tried to put emotion into the camera.

Like the Vaas “Insanity” speech is a good example, you have a little control because at moments when Vaas became heightened, we wanted Jason to look down at his hands and start panicking so the camera gets a little more frantic. But when Vaas looks at him, the camera steadies as if Jason doesn’t want Vaas to see him trying to escape. You may not see it immediately but hopefully you feel it. We treat the camera as an actor for Jason. What we did, when we captured the scenes; we actually shot it like a film set, pretty much identical. We had the actor who played Jason and we mounted a camera on his glasses so we could see what the point of view was like.

ITF Gaming: You weren’t involved with the development of Far Cry 2, were you?

Purdy: No, no I wasn’t.

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ITF Gaming: Ah. Well, do you perhaps know why they went back to the island aesthetic? The island environment was in the first game with a soldier, the second game featured a savannah with a mercenary and now Far Cry 3 goes back to the island environment and features a civilian trying to save his friends. Do you maybe know why they went with that decision?

Purdy: Yeah, it all came when we were developing the story. We knew that we didn’t want our protagonist to be like a spec ops or someone trained in the military. And because the game is a first-person shooter, we knew that we wanted to explore the idea of how using a gun can take a toll on someone who isn’t familiar with them. Like myself for example: I grew up in a hunting culture, I know which end the bullet comes out, I know how to reload a gun but obviously, I’ve never used it to shoot somebody. So it’s like what would happen if you took someone who is not a killer and forced them to kill in order to survive and save their friends? We saw it as a coming of age, so we thought we’re going to pick this young group of kids who are travelling and they think they know the world. They’re like “We’ve travelled here and we’ve been to South East Asia.”

ITF Gaming: Kids who are all young and brash?

Purdy: That’s right, exactly! So we thought what if the rug was pulled out from under them? And they ended up in an environment that they weren’t used to. So that’s why we went back to the island since it’s a really nice place but it also suggests seclusion, it’s in the middle of nowhere and not to sound cheesy, but a far cry from normal civilisation.

ITF Gaming: So, Far Cry 4?

Purdy: Haha! I don’t understand that word.

ITF Gaming: Ha! Well, it was worth a shot. Anyway, as a gamer, what other game are you looking forward to that is being released this year?

Purdy: I don’t know if I’m supposed to say because I’m here for Ubisoft. *chuckle* but no, The Last of Us, I am really looking forward to that.

ITF Gaming: I actually thought that you might have said Assassin’s Creed III.

Purdy: I am. That’s an easy one; like I would buy Assassin’s Creed III just to pilot one of those tall ships. I mean, it’s amazing; I was watching it over there and thought “Man, what a great mechanic!” Anyways, I am a huge fan of Master and Commander; the movie and the book so I’m like “Wow! I get to be a captain of one of those?” But yeah, The Last of Us; I really like the post-apocalyptic setting.

But if you have a chance, definitely try out the Far Cry 3 demo; I enjoy watching people play it. Like yesterday, I was watching this guy play and he was hunting a buffalo and he had the Winchester shotgun, you know, like Terminator 2? And the buffalo sees him, lines up, puts his head down and charges. Then the guy just stands his ground. And the buffalo just charges and charges and the player goes BOOM! And the buffalo slides and ends at his feet. I was like “Wow! That was amazing!” Hunting is amazing in the game.

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ITF Gaming: Yep, it’s fun to see the players actually create their own little cinematic experiences.

Purdy: That’s it! Yeah, it’s amazing to see because everybody plays it so differently and that’s what’s fun about it. So, we’re pretty excited.

As a final question, we asked Purdy what he does when he isn’t developing games. Being a Canadian and also being quite fond of winter, Purdy is a big fan of playing ice hockey and snowboarding. Also, being trained as an animator, he enjoys doing animating in his spare time, citing JurassicPark as inspiration for becoming an animator. It also seems that creature animations are one of Purdy’s favourite things to animate. A surprising fact is that he is also quite a big fan of playing FIFA. According to Purdy, it’s rather underrated in North America but considers it to be the best sports game. He has also enjoyed his time at rAge 2012 due to the simple fact that this expo is actually open to the public and not just a closed event for media. This gives a bit of an idea of how people will respond to the games.

A big thanks goes out to Robert Darryl Purdy for taking time out to speak to us. We hope that you enjoyed your trip to South Africa and rAge 2012.

Known as Brady Ruiters by day and GuitarDemon by night (Well, on the PSN mostly…) Professional, creative and frank, a self-proclaimed gaming journalist moulded by a passion and fascination for gaming and music, and in turn, taking a crack at shaping the rest of the world with the very same obsession. That, however, remains a trying task.

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