Far Cry 2

Art director Alex Amancio on squeezing the console version

You might have some small reservations over the new team behind Far Cry, but one thing you can't argue with is its looks.

With that in mind then, it was good to catch up with art director Alex Amancio, who's slept rough in South Africa just to make the trees and zebras look perfect. And that's that's dedication.

Can you give us a bit of background on how you came onto Far Cry 2?

Amancio: The team that's working on this Far Cry has been at it for over three years. A year after the original Far Cry we started working on this game. We came from different projects. Some of the core members came from Splinter Cell and other games, but we're basically a brand new team for this franchise.


We started working on Far Cry 2 before Instincts had even decided if it was going to have mutant powers. We started fresh and our key was to have a realistic game, we didn't want any mutant powers in the game.

We obviously changed the setting to Africa; we wanted to keep the very iconic setting of Far Cry but we got rid of the desert island scene.

Frankly the desert island scene was becoming very crowded with Lost and stuff like that, so we tried to go with a setting that was really fresh and new and Africa came to mind. Plus its so iconic; that image of the Savannah is very, very underexploited in videogames.

Basically our mission was to create a sequel for the original, so everything that came out before wasn't our mandate and really had nothing to do with us. The first one was really the first shooter that felt like an open world environment, so we decided to push the bar further an actually have an open world, 50 square kilometres.

So when you came to assemble a new team at Montreal did you take anything from original developer Crytek? Any advice shared?

Amancio: Nope. We basically started as a very closed off team. Very early on we decided that we wanted to create the engine ourselves because with the different things that we wanted to accomplish, we found that no engine could give us everything that we wanted to have.

We wanted an open world game, we wanted a game that was going to look top notch and we wanted a game that wouldn't just run on super high-end PCs. As you can see we're running on Xbox 360.

The way we created everything, we really took on a different philosophy to most games. Everybody usually thinks that large textures means high resolution, we actually went the opposite way.

Very early on we said that if we were going to run this on reasonable machines we need to save memory. So we started using small textures and just tiling them up on top of each other, then just using masks that basically hide all the different layers with all these different generic patterns. Everything looks organic, everything looks different and yet it's all using very low memory. It's a very innovative way of thinking.


Like characters re-use normal maps, but I don't know if you've notice as you play the game but every NPC is different; you don't see two guys that are the same.

All the trees and grass are dynamic, simulating the wind. What kind of challenges did that lumber on you as the art director?

Amancio: It was really hard. Even with the dynamic time of day the game has to look good at every time of day, but it needs to look different. If you have a linear level you can just basically tweak an area and then have the perfect area, because you know where the player's coming from.

We can approach an area from any direction so yeah, having to tweak every direction, for it to be beautiful from any direction, at any time of day... it's an enormous challenge. It took a lot of effort to be able to do this.

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