Just Cause 3 Interview: The Miracles of Havok and Destruction

Avalanche shares its thoughts on the process behind Just Cause 3’s destruction.

Posted By | On 15th, Jan. 2016 Under Article, Interviews


Avalanche Studios’ Just Cause 3 has been out and about for a while now. Some are disappointed with regards to content – not to mention the bugs it launched with – but nearly everyone has enjoyed the scale of destruction and chaos possible in-game. Whether you’re taking down bridges and statues or grappling groups of enemies together, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Just Cause 3. How was all this destruction possible though?

Note: This interview was conducted before the launch of Just Cause 3.

GamingBolt spoke to Cormac O’Brien, a Developer Support Engineer at Havok, about its usage of Havok Destruction, which essentially allows developers to build destructible assets and worlds, and how it was used to full effect in Just Cause 3.

just cause 3

"The nice thing too is that the bridges get ‘rebuilt’ while you’re away, so you can come back and wreck them again."

Just Cause 2 was a pinnacle in itself for the potential destruction that players could cause but now Avalanche is upping the ante with Just Cause 3. What new features can we look forward to help enhance the destruction?

JC3 is using Havok’s new Destruction tech, which is designed for latest-gen consoles and multi-core PCs. For any destructible object in the game, artists may define its mechanical parameters – the strength, the pattern of fracturing, even the number of pieces of debris that it can shatter into.

When the game runs, there’s a simulation of the internal strains caused by, say, a colliding vehicle or a rocket strike. And the object will destruct dynamically in response to the emergent mayhem caused by the player. So it can happen differently each time.

Can you give us an example of the scale of destruction that players will be capable of?

The destructible bridges are a great example. Traffic-carrying bridges that span a valley can be wrecked in all kinds of ways. And Avalanche has made really great use of Havok AI to make traffic and NPCs react to the dynamically-changing environment.

The nice thing too is that the bridges get ‘rebuilt’ while you’re away, so you can come back and wreck them again. There may also be some other even larger destruction set-pieces but I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about that!

How does the grappling hook and the ability to hook on to multiple objects affect the complexity of destruction seen in Just Cause 3?

The grapple is also fully simulated as a dynamic physics constraint, which can attach to any point on a physics object and apply forces.

So you can trigger destruction and deformation by adding enough grapples to overcome the breaking strength of the object. A particularly nice example is the General statues, which have been specially made with very detailed destruction to give you the opportunity to smash them up in imaginative ways. (Though his head is designed as one large piece so that you can use it as a wrecking-ball!)

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"Havok simulation currently runs on CPU, with careful low-level optimization to get the best performance from each platform – whether PC, Xbox One, PS4, or other hardware."

What is the relation like with Microsoft which now owns Havok? Are things any different?

It’s business as usual. Nothing’s changed in our day-to-day dealings with the Avalanche team.

Since Microsoft owns Havok, did it result in any enhanced destruction physics for the Xbox One version of Just Cause 3?

No, the content is the same on all platforms.

What kind of requirements did the Just Cause 3 team had from Havok and what kind of modifications did you implemented in the middleware?

As a member of the support team at Havok I can say that working with Avalanchehaspushed our technology forward significantly. We’re driven by what our clients need, and a game with crazy amounts of physics and destruction simulation that still needs to run smoothly is a huge challenge even on modern hardware.

Will we see enhanced destruction on the PC version and in turn will the PS4 have better effects than the X1 due to the former’s better GPU?

Havok simulation currently runs on CPU, with careful low-level optimization to get the best performance from each platform – whether PC, Xbox One, PS4, or other hardware (we ship on a lot of platforms!). But the same Havok Physics and Destruction features are available on all supported platforms – there’s no artificial advantage bestowed on any given set of hardware.

Level of detail of destruction is defined by VFX artists, and in theory it could vary per-platform. But again, as far as I know, it doesn’t.


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