Adventuring past the barriers.
Having trouble deciding if Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the right game for you? Sure, it has the biggest open world Ubisoft have ever created, tons of different customizations to choose from and create, a huge progression system that spans the entire game, and even great solo modes that can become online co-op modes at your own discretion.
But what makes this game one of the most ambitious titles Ubisoft have ever worked on? GamingBolt got a chance to sit down with Dominic Butler, Lead Game Designer for a few questions right on the E3 show floor.
"The real spec-ops that we talked to never do it alone. They always, always have that back up. They always have buddies giving them fire support, helping out if they’ve been shot, vehicle support, all that good stuff."
What can you tell us about the single player components of the game? Will players fully enjoy the game while playing the game solo?
This is really important about Ghost Recon: Wildlands it’s a game you can play from start to finish in solo or up to four player co-op. What does that mean? It means as a solo player you can play off-line, you are going to be supported by three AI teammates; because it doesn’t make sense to roam this dangerous open world by yourself. The real spec-ops that we talked to never do it alone. They always, always have that back up. They always have buddies giving them fire support, helping out if they’ve been shot, vehicle support, all that good stuff. For us it’s important to make sure that every part of the game you’re not missing out [on] anything whether you’re playing solo or with your friends. Even when you want to play with your friends, or you, “Look I’ve had enough, I want to play by myself with just the AI.” You never lose out you always have the main singular progression that you take with you in and out of those sessions; so you’re never losing anything.
Do we need to connect online to play the game or is an off-line mode available?
No it has an off-line mode. You can play solo and you will be supported by those AI teammates.
How big is the landscape in Wildlands, and how does it compare to other open world Ubisoft have made?
So I can say in terms of that it’s the largest action – adventure open world that we’ve ever made at Ubisoft. For us what’s more important than just the size – obviously the size makes it cool – it gives us lots of opportunities. It’s set in Bolivia – a beautiful, intensely rich, varied environment in real life. So we are able to leverage that for our game; so we’ve got 11 different ecosystems. What that means is: you’ve got jungle, wildlands, valleys with not much visibility. It’s going to challenge you as you’re moving through these places; you’re going to need aerial support, it makes way more sense than others. You take those big heavy armored vehicles and just rush through the place. But you’re going to have to adapt not only to what the story wants from you, but the AI representing you, and also the environment which is a secondary challenge.
"“What if? what if we turn it up to 11?” "
What kind of story is Wildlands trying to tell?
The game is based on this concept of “what if?” With any good Tom Clancy franchise whatever form that takes especially with games that take this realistic, plausible situation that’s kind of happening, we take one part of that and we say “what if? what if we turn it up to 11?” In our case what we see our drug cartels that are growing in terms of access to funds, in terms of audacity; they’re not hiding anymore, they’re not kind of slinking away, they’re right there, they’re in the news, their present more and more in the culture, especially western culture. So these Mexican drug cartels are getting bigger, and we say “what if one of them took it right away to the next level, moved into Bolivia and took over the whole place, and turned it into a narco state?
What would it look like? What would it feel like to move through? What would the world’s reaction look like?” So in our case that’s the ghost, and the ghosts are there to take down the cartel. The cartel head that we showed you at E3 conference is a guy called El Sueño – a very nasty individual. He runs the whole cartel; he is the one who brought the whole Santa Blanca up, created them, made them what they are today; and then took them to the next level for that taking over a Bolivia into a narco state.
He runs the thing in Bolivia like a business. He’s got his running in influence and security and smuggling and production of different operations within the business. They’ve got support with guys who are spread all over Bolivia; and you’re seeking those guys out; you’re taking them out, causing chaos, breaking that structure down from the inside, ultimately going after the king. You’re there to go after Sueño, but to do that you have to break his organization apart.
Given that this is set in a big open world, will there be some sort of consequence system with respect to the actions performed by the player?
For sure. We have a lot of different systems running. We’ve got the geographical ecosystem: that can affect the time of day, and weather affects, and different topology effects that are going to influence the player. We’ve got a traffic system, then we’ve got real Bolivian people, and we’ve got rebels, and we’ve got Santa Blanca cartel members, and lots of different systems that are intermingling and a crossover. So nothing is really independent. Like a real place, it takes over and has an effect. So what you see in terms of time of day, you see people really going to eat at certain times of day, go to sleep at certain times of day, enemies will go on patrol, workout, or play cards.
You can leverage these things to your advantage. You can find out, for example, one of the targets we’ve been showing here, El Pasajero, this guy gets rid of bodies in acid vats. He’s an unpleasant guy. There’s a bunch of ways you can approach that camp. But if you really scout it out and you look around in terms of bigger systems that are connected – he has bodies that are delivered to him by the cartel. This delivery trucks come during particular times during the week – if you learn those patterns the player can steal the truck for example and use it. We’ve got a faction system with our vehicles.
They can use that to their advantage, take the truck, as long as you drive carefully you’re not going to draw attention to yourself; and drive it right into that camp without causing a fuss. It doesn’t make you invisible but it drastically reduces detection, giving you just a different way to play. It’s that kind of stuff that we are really happy about. It’s that freedom of choice, playing the way you want, when you want, how you want. It’s really in the hands of the player.
Where The Division isn’t recommended to play solo as it can be pretty difficult going out in the city alone, Ubisoft announced Wildlands can be taken solo or with up to four players in co-op. Was there a change of mind about taking on the game alone or was this always the main focus to have both options available?
So Ghost Recon: Wildlands has been in development for almost four years, so we’ve been making this game for quite a while. It’s a complex game. From the start we knew what we wanted with the game, that is parity between the single and the cop experience. It’s one of those things where even inside the office we have people that say, “I love to play co-op games,” and others who just can’t stand it. And there’s no right or wrong answer on this. It’s just your personal preference. Sometimes you have tech limitations, poor internet, or maybe you just don’t like playing online with other people, that’s fine.
The point is we remove those barriers making it’s easier to play with your friends and if you don’t want to do it then we’re not keeping anything from you either. You’re not missing out on all the really good stuff. Let’s be honest, the AI that we’ve made we think is great, it’s super smart. You don’t have to micromanage these guys, they adapt their approach to your play styles. You can give them some basic orders but they will generally take care of themselves to support you. In terms of an open world where anything can happen we’ve got this play-the-way-you-want, how you want.
"The progression system is super long, it takes place over the whole course of the game. Whatever you’ve learned you can take those in and out of the sessions with your friends."
Can you please talk about the progression system?
Sure. I can talk a bit about the progression system. We’re going to be making a big announcement about that very soon. The idea is that the players from the beginning are able to, basically the freedom of choice I talked about earlier – it starts right from the moment you turn the game on. You will customize your ghost, the look, the gear, the weapons they have, all that kind of stuff. From the beginning the kind of loadout you want to take with you and in overtime you’re going to get new weapons new attachments; everything is authenticated by the military, by different weapon companies. You’ll be able to grow as a character as well. You’ll have access to new abilities, tools you can modify them.
So everybody has a drone for example. This is a key part of the player’s toolset. It’s not like it’s just for the recon guy. You can used it in recon to identify threats, and opportunities that are there in the camps. But over time you can find that you can keep it in the air longer, you can get offensive, you can get defensive, you can use it to distract people, you can use it to take out targets, you can use it to disable electricity systems. There are ton of different ways, but the point is we’re not limiting to you to just one thing, there are lots of different ways to play. The progression system is super long, it takes place over the whole course of the game. Whatever you’ve learned you can take those in and out of the sessions with your friends.
So we’re assuming that the game is going to run 1080p on PS4, what about the Xbox One?
As the lead designer I don’t have access to the numbers. We’re not confirming anything.
With the somewhat recent passing of the actual Tom Clancy, do you see his name continuing on as some sort of legacy within the Ubisoft family of games? And has his passing affected the creation of games with the Tom Clancy name behind them since passing?
So with Tom Clancy it’s something that we worked very closely with us. It’s something that we take very seriously as a brand that we are really interested in. It’s something that we’ve developed in partnership with him, independently as well. Taking some franchises that he started, some that we’ve created with the spirit and mind. His son Tom visited us at the booth, and he’s a gamer. And what was fun was that when he put his hands on, he told us, “this is the Ghost Recon that I’ve wanted to play for so long. This is a game that absolutely makes sense. It’s true to the brand, it’s true to the DNA.” So for sure, I feel like we have a blessing but we know what we want to do. And the guys that made Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the guys that have worked on the franchise for years and years – like, 10 plus years – they know the DNA. They know what it means not only to make a Tom Clancy game but a Ghost Recon game. And these are the guys that bring that to Ghost Recon: Wildlands. So we are really happy with the output.