"The respawning guardposts thing - yeah, we're getting raked over the coals for that. Funny thing is, we did discuss it. I decided it was better to have them repopulate rather than have the player be able to empty the world of gameplay. I still think it is the better solution, barring a really robust one that would have taken weeks we did not have. As much as I think it is the best possible solution, I admit I underestimated the response. Lesson learned.
"I would very much have liked to have done a better job of realising the buddy system, making them more present and meaningful," he continued. Time, it appears, became a deadly factor in development.
"We didn't know until far too late how long those faction missions would be - they are three times as long as we imagined, easily, making the pacing of the 'hunting The Jackal' story much weaker."
Hocking's self-awareness has been taken to heart by the Far Cry 3 team - they know how good Hocking's game was, and they know there's room for improvement. "Far Cry 2 is an amazing platform to start from," says Keen. "There were definitely some things we can improve on. Those are the things we want to address first and foremost."
GOING THE DISTANCE
"I think we specifically wanted to make sure that we build a game where, if you're a shooter player, you can come straight in and be successful," says Hay. "But if you play other types of games, like RPGs, you can still pick up the controller and enjoy it. (Main man) Jason Brody is a character just like you. He's on vacation and his plane crashes, and he's forced to survive.
"We wanted to make sure that the act of going through the jungle wasn't arduous," he explains. "We wanted to make sure there's something around every corner. You might find an worked, amplifying the experience in strange and interesting ways. The brutality of the world matched the lawless, war-torn setting, and the difficulty of crossing the terrain and unreliable weapons gave it an edge of hyper-realism few games have ever matched.
"They tried some really brave stuff," says Keen. "That brutal world, no HUD... That's a really brave direction, especially in an open world game where there's a lot of information you need to relay to the player. In Far Cry 3 we don't want to alienate the player, but we still want to retain some of Far Cry 2's heritage."
Far Cry 2 felt like a world first and a game second. There were few concessions to modern game design - no sign-posting of objectives, for example. So while you'd curse your flimsy weapons or the twitchy AI, you still felt perpetually on the edge. While Far Cry 3's world is more accessible by design, it's more deliberately immersive, too.
"We want our setting to feel like a living place. Not something you're driving yourself, but something you just kind of get involved in," says Keen. "You'll see villagers doing something over there, or a fight happening over here, or a crash that's happened. You'll get a real feeling that the world is alive and that it's going about its business when you're not there. There are people trying to live their lives in this dangerous world. You're going to meet people who'll offer you tasks that aren't all about combat. Even the really bad guys will leave you alone if you help them out."
There's a new economy, a cover system, a levelling system, and weapons which simply explode with power. "It's really important," says Keen, "for us to make it all feel real."
THE UNREAL THING
Reality was Far Cry 2's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. As Hocking put it: "If we've managed to make a shooter that makes the average person feel something because of all the violence he is causing then I think we've succeeded." On those terms it was a spectacular success, right up to the final moments where you're given one last choice: How do you die? A bomb or a bullet?