Avalanche’s Roland Lesterlin talks about staying true to the series while introducing new toys.
Regardless of what kind of gamer you are, it was hard not to be a fan of Just Cause’s wanton destruction and mayhem. The series peaked with Just Cause 2 which gave us an even bigger world to explore and much more avenue for creative dismantling but Avalanche Studios looks ready to outdo itself with Just Cause 3. Releasing on December 1st for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, it will see the return of Rico and several new additions to gameplay including multiple grappling hooks, a wingsuit and much more. How will you be fighting evil, one explosion after another, this time around? GamingBolt speaks to game director Roland Lesterlin for more information.
"We worked with Havok to incorporate all new destruction techniques that allows us to destroy entire bridges and huge military structures in unique physics driven ways. We spent a huge amount of effort pushing the feel of locomotion in the world, so Rico would look great and still be highly responsive."
Just Cause 3 has been hotly anticipated. How long has it been in development?
Roland Lesterlin: We’ve been at it for a little over three and a half years, but it still feels far from done as we now are discussing all the ideas that can make for great extended content.
It was the second game that really made the franchise stand out with its explosiveness and action packed hijinx. What will Just Cause 3 do to further up the ante?
Roland Lesterlin: To start with, lots more explosive and action packed hijinks! To be more specific, we overhauled the engine – the proprietary Avalanche Engine – that allows us to sculpt the terrain in 3D. This may seem like a small detail, but it allowed us to capture the feeling of the Mediterranean with huge cliffs, tunnels and caves that we couldn’t do with the previous system. We worked with Nvidia to create a fully physicalized water system that makes our seas more fun as it basically creates jumps for boats. We overhauled all the vehicles from the ground up to give them more weight that is reminiscent of action racing games. We added new deformation and hinged parts to the vehicles to make their destruction more enjoyable, because they are first and foremost another creative toy for the player.
We worked with Havok to incorporate all new destruction techniques that allows us to destroy entire bridges and huge military structures in unique physics driven ways. We spent a huge amount of effort pushing the feel of locomotion in the world, so Rico would look great and still be highly responsive. This meant slowing down the parachute to make it easier to fight from the air and adding the wingsuit for joyful traversal. You now can have multiple tethers in the world at the same time and navigate using the grapple without the tethers detaching. You can control the tension of those tethers as well, which adds a huge amount of creativity with that mechanic. There is also a suite of online features like seeing your friends’ ghosts in challenges and interactive leader boards that allows you to challenge your friends to beat your best feats. There are just so many new features (I didn’t even get into the whole upgrade system and rebel drop that allows players to customize the way they play the game), that one paragraph doesn’t do it justice. The hope is that the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts. We wanted to create a game that celebrates the player’s creativity and rewards them with massive explosions.
The campaign, while fun, was secondary to simply messing about in the open world and blowing up everything. Will there be a stronger focus on the campaign with the third game or will it still rely on random acts of chaos towards a bigger goal?
Roland Lesterlin: Honestly, Just Cause is a creative sandbox first. That’s the primary focus and we wanted to get that right. We did spend quite a lot of time working on the tone of the story and the core missions that go with it. You’ll get to meet characters that knew Rico growing up so they have a different perspective on him and thus give the player insight into Rico’s past. So, yes, there is a little more focus on storytelling but not at the expense of the random acts of chaos!
"Pretty much everything we are now doing with physics would not have been possible before. We are also using tons of new graphics techniques, higher resolution textures and many more animations and AI."
Tell us about some of the new vehicles, weapons and objectives we can expect in Just Cause 3.
Roland Lesterlin: Our weapons, vehicles and objectives all focus on giving you a greater variety of choices to create your perfect action moment. Some personal favorites that we haven’t really shown people yet: I love the F1 inspired racecar. It clings to road, goes insanely fast and once combined with nitrous and turbo jump, becomes a great way to quickly traverse the world. All the explosive weapons are obviously tons of fun to play with, but I personally still love taking some powerful semi-auto pistols, dual-wielding those from parachute, and unloading on an enemy base from the air. It’s an action sequence that you just don’t usually see elsewhere, never mind play with. As to objectives, there’s a mission I love that has you stunting between jets while protecting a civilian plane. You can dual tether the jets together for huge explosions or jump between them, throwing the pilots from their cockpits. I won’t reveal more as I don’t want to spoil the surprises in store for our players.
At one point, Avalanche said there wouldn’t be any co-op multiplayer at launch but that this could change in the future. Is that stance still the same or are you any closer to co-op becoming a reality for Just Cause 3?
Roland Lesterlin: We put our focus on the single player experience and asynchronous online play this time around. We wanted to make an amazing single player experience that really puts the power of the sandbox into the player’s hands. It was important for us to stay completely focused on doing that well first. So no, we have no new information on co-op at this time.
What are your thoughts on developing Mad Max and Just Cause 3 side by side, especially since both games are so different in gameplay and tone?
Roland Lesterlin: We have a studio filled with so many talented people with tons of different backgrounds and experience. We are able to draw from that expertise and learn from each other. Mad Max and Just Cause 3 had different teams working on each game, but we’ve been cheering each other along and sharing technology solutions where feasible. The two games are indeed very different and I think that’s a testament to the diverse skillsets across all Avalanche Studios, but they both retain that joyful Avalanche Studios’ DNA that ChristoferSundberg and Linus Blomberg instill into every project.
How has the power of the PS4 and Xbox One allowed for bigger and more explosive scenarios in Just Cause 3? What scenarios wouldn’t have been possible on the previous generation of consoles?
Roland Lesterlin: Pretty much everything we are now doing with physics would not have been possible before. We are also using tons of new graphics techniques, higher resolution textures and many more animations and AI. Being able to combine all of that and optimize it for the new generation of consoles has been a real joy and this generation of games is just getting started!
"The game runs at 1080p on PS4 and 900p on Xbox One. We do so much with physics and screen space effects, that we are confident our players will thoroughly enjoy themselves no matter the platform they play the game on."
What changes, if any, will be made to the combat system this time around? Will there be other ways to murder foes using the grapple hook?
Roland Lesterlin: The grapple hook has many new features to make playing with physics and foes even more fun. You have up to 6 tethers in the world at once, which allows for awesome and usually hilarious chains of objects and enemies. The ability to control the tension of the tether means that you can apply a little pressure and slowly drag objects together or a lot of tension and fling a soldier 100s of meters (which also results in a fun feat as you try and find the spot in the world to fling a soldier a kilometer or more). You can now also reel into enemies, delivering a devastating flying kick. You can even fire your weapon while reeling into someone or something, thus allowing you to get up close and personal with an explosion.
How large is the open world of Just Cause 3 in terms of scale and things to do?
Roland Lesterlin: It’s a hard to just talk about scale and specifics as the game is really built around systems. Those offer the opportunity for player creativity in this enormous sandbox. I’ve seen people just play with the new grapple retract feature and the multiple tethers for hours on end, laughing at all the things that can be attached together. For numbers sake, it is 400 square miles (around 1000 square kilometers), with over 80 vehicles and over 100 settlements to explore (and liberate through destruction!). We also have tons of challenges that unlock new gear mods, our version of an upgrade system that allows the player to alter their gameplay style, for players to test skills and compete with friends via high scores and ghosts. For example, a planted explosive can be modified into a proximity mine. Planting that on a car, then tethering it into a base so it explodes only when it is near an enemy could be another creative method of approaching combat.
Okay this is a big one. I am kind of confident that the game will run at 1080p on the PS4. But what about the Xbox One? Can Xbox One players expect native 1080p resolution?
Roland Lesterlin: The game runs at 1080p on PS4 and 900p on Xbox One. We do so much with physics and screen space effects, that we are confident our players will thoroughly enjoy themselves no matter the platform they play the game on.
There has been a lot of talk regarding Xbox One’s eSRAM as the major culprit behind the lack of 1080p resolution. Do you think things are stable now and developers have been able to overcome it now?
Roland Lesterlin: All I can say is that Microsoft has been amazing to work with. They have supported us as we learned the new console and have helped us optimize a number of areas of the game to take full advantage of the console’s power.
"We strived to stay true to the core of Just Cause (the explosive action, the stunting, the traversal, the sense of humor, the enormous and beautiful open world), while adding lots of new toys for players to discover."
I was wondering if you are using the latest SDK that allows more Xbox One CPU power for better performance. How has that improved performance of the game?
Roland Lesterlin: We are using the latest SDK. We push both consoles to their max, so every programmer on the team has enjoyed using that extra power to push the game that tiny bit further.
Just Cause 2 was a sight to behold on the PC. How is the PC version of JC3 shaping up? Any plans for native mod support?
Roland Lesterlin: In my opinion, which is obviously inherently biased, the PC version is shaping up pretty damn well. I’m excited for the PC community. The mod community on PC has been a huge part of keeping Just Cause 2 alive, so we plan on continuing to support that community long after release. We don’t have any specific announcements at this time on this though.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Roland Lesterlin: Less about the game and maybe a little note to the Just Cause fans out there. We strived to stay true to the core of Just Cause (the explosive action, the stunting, the traversal, the sense of humor, the enormous and beautiful open world), while adding lots of new toys for players to discover. Just Cause is a video game first and foremost and we just hope that after a long day, you can boot it up and smile as you drive a car off a cliff back flipping into parachute and watching it destroy a cascade of fuel tanks. Thanks so much for all the support!