'Far Cry' Creative Director Dan Hay on the 'Anecdote Factory' of Gameplay

Far Cry is an interesting franchise, with games set across a number of different locations and time periods. Some have been serious dramas that tell meaningful stories, others (like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon) are goofy with a heaping layer of intentional cheesiness.

far_cry-franchise-dan-may Dan Hay says it wouldn't be a Far Cry game without the 'anecdote machine' of gameplay Ubisoft/Newsweek

Far Cry 5 Creative Director Dan Hay spoke with Newsweek about the evolution of the franchise, and how developer Ubisoft manages to balance both the serious nature of the games with some levity to create a unique experience with every game.

To read Hay’s full thoughts, be sure to check out our unedited Q & A on Player.One. Also, watch this video interview to hear how wonderfully soothing Hay’s voice is, so you can read his answers in your head as if he said them.

“I think if you’re approaching it from a narrative perspective, some people feel [Far Cry games] have a fairly serious tone and that there is goofiness underneath,” Hay told Newsweek. “If you’re approaching it from a gameplay perspective, you approach it almost in the exact opposite way – our gameplay is this glorious anecdote factory, and what we try to do is make sure that we can explore topics on top of that anecdote factory.”

Because Hay finds the gameplay and narrative of Far Cry as almost opposites of each other, he says this creates more opportunities for both sides to flourish. “We absolutely want to make it so that players can play the game and have a great deal of fun, and if that means that things get slapstick or goofy or bombastic, that’s okay,” he said. “We also want to make it so that at the same time in that open world, we can have earnest moments or fun moments or crazy moments or emotional moments. You can meet characters of consequence, and it can still make you think.”

It also helps that each Far Cry game is its own experience. No two games overlap in terms of plot, location or characters (with one Hurk-sized exception). “When I think of the brand [Far Cry], I think of it like Twilight Zone or Black Mirror where each individual opus is its own thing,” Hay said. “You end up having an opportunity to have somebody new with a new perspective take all of the elements that work for Far Cry but apply a new lens to it.”

“You end up getting wonderful facets of spectrums for each Far Cry, and I think that’s what makes the freedom, the opportunity and the surprise that we hold so close to our brand,” he continued.

Far Cry 5 tackled some weighty issues, including a doomsday cult and a fear of the world coming to an end. That doesn’t seem like it would be where you should inject some of the “anecdote factory” elements of gameplay into the mix, but Hay says the development team felt it was absolutely crucial to the experience.

“If the whole world that you’re building has one taste or is painted with one brush, you don’t have anything to judge and/or feel based off of that,” Hay said.

Hay says it’s also up to the player if he or she wants to engage in the sillier content or stick to the more serious stuff. “They have a great deal of choice in terms of whether or not they go off and enjoy some of those zanier moments or characters,” he said. “They are very much the author of their experience.”

On the flip side of the spectrum, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was fueled by the “anecdote factory,” leaving little room for serious topics and characters. Hay says this was more or less an outlet for the development team to take a lot of the ideas that were too silly, and put them into practice.

Blood Dragon was an opportunity for us to pursue an idea and to lean into being zany and fun – so we took it,” he said. “So I think that it was great to be able to see that we have the ability to take an idea that was on the floor and grow it and apply it to the anecdote factory.”

As for the future, Hay thinks the Far Cry franchise will still juggle both sides of its personality. “I think that we always look at both sides of the equation; one side can be beautiful and exotic and the other side can be dark and brooding,” he said. “So I think that we’re always going to build something that people are going to talk about and that is built for players to love, but I think it’s always going to have a healthy mix of both.”

Far Cry 5 is now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

So what do you think? Do you come to Far Cry games for the serious nature of the story or the anecdote factory of gameplay? Do you prefer the dramatic moments or the goofy ones? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Editor's Pick