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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

“All things tend toward chaos”: Just Cause devs answer our Questionnaire

Just Cause 3 lead designer Francesco Antolini (left) and producer Omar Shakir (right) are joined by director Roland Lesterlin (center, not interviewed but wanted to be photographed anyway)
Just Cause 3 lead designer Francesco Antolini (left) and producer Omar Shakir (right) are joined by director Roland Lesterlin (center, not interviewed but wanted to be photographed anyway)

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2015 show floor. We picked four of our favorites (and carried over one from last year’s batch); those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.


There are a lot of big games with crazy explosions at E3 2015, but Just Cause 3 is probably the biggest and craziest. In this sequel, Rico Rodriguez, secret agent/human natural disaster, is chasing down the tyrannical General Di Ravello on the fictional Mediterranean island of Medici. Unfortunately for Di Ravello and the architecture of Medici, where Rico goes, mass explosions tend to follow. Lead designer Francesco Antolini and producer Omar Shakir were eager to take a break from leveling military facilities to answer the Questionnaire—so eager, in fact, that they wanted more of your questions than I had on hand, so I scrambled to recall a few Questionnaire queries and suggestions from past years.

The A.V. Club: What’s one thing in your game that took a lot of work to get right but that players probably won’t immediately notice?

Francesco Antolini: I think this is a production question.

Omar Shakir: No. This is a good design question. I’ll give you my answer. Francesco will have a different answer, most likely. I would say “what to destroy” was the first challenging thing that took quite a bit for us. And I don’t necessarily mean where and why, I mean what. What are you going to explode? Like for example, propaganda speakers. It took us kind of a little bit to—what would a dictator put that you could destroy that was something that, once you removed it from the world, the world is much prettier now. Looking at it in that sense—that took quite a bit. But I’m sure Francesco has like 90 other things.

FA: Okay. I will give a couple of very technical examples, okay?

AVC: Yeah.

FA: One, what we call the “flow motion.” Rico can move seamlessly, okay. You never get stuck on things because you know he can automatically go up little steps. He can seamlessly transition from parachute to wingsuit and back from wingsuit to parachute to grappling hook, or from just reeling in the grappling hook to parachute or wingsuit. And we have fancy names that we use inside the studio for all these maneuvers.


OS: Sling-suiting and wing-shotting—so many different versions.

FA: Exactly. This kind of stuff. Okay, so this, hopefully, is going to be felt as extremely natural and almost obvious from a player perspective, that they can do this. We spent a lot of time on defining the controls that we present to the player, so that it will take 10 minutes, but after 10 minutes, you really master everything. You can go into these modes really, really quickly. So that’s also why, in the game, they are unlocked in the first 15 minutes. What the player will probably never know is that there are more than 4,500 pieces of animation to make this happen seamlessly. So this is one example.


And one even more technical example I’ll give you, is auto-aiming. I would say, it’s not auto-aiming, it’s assist. It’s aim assist. This is completely unnoticeable to the player, but finding that sweet spot which allows you to play the game in a carefree way, and at the same time, if you want to demonstrate your competence because you found a line with your gun and are taking this headshot, you have both. This requires a really staggering amount of iteration from our design staff.

OS: That’s not one thing. That’s several.

FA: We could give you 30 more!

AVC: If you were to embed a playable retro title into your game, which would it be and why?


OS: River City Ransom. I would put River City Ransom. I loved that game as a kid. Like, that was my game, and you could do all kinds of cool shit other than just punching people, like in other games like [Pretends to cough and says “Double Dragon”] were doing. I would put River City Ransom on a screen somewhere playing—like, have somebody playing it.

FA: I have two immediately. Desert Strike and Carmageddon.

AVC: If you had tried to make this game 15 to 20 years ago, what would you have had to do differently?


FA: Less tethers in the world at the same time, because we couldn’t have done it. Probably we wouldn’t have chosen the Mediterranean, because it has a variety of biomes and things that are really hard to render with that technology, like lavender fields and sunflower fields.

OS: Yeah. Or normal maps, so there’s no depth to anything, that would make being up in the parachute incredibly dull. But a big part of [the game], in terms of core philosophies, is it’s a beautiful world that you destroy things in. So you kind of need this generation of consoles into last to really make it look and feel fun to be in a parachute at great distances from the world. That’s a big part of it. Yeah, that’s all Francesco. I wouldn’t want to tackle that.

AVC: If my resume included a whole summer spent just playing your game, how should I spin it as valuable experience?


FA: It’s a valuable experience. I would say that, absolutely. I would like to… rather than answer this question directly, I will say this: When I interview candidates, if they haven’t spent at least a dozen hours in the previous Just Cause games, they’re automatically out. I find it interesting to talk to those people who have actually spent 40 or more hours, and I think it’s a matter—if you apply for a company, it’s a matter of respect for the company you’re trying to apply to that you’ve played the games that they’ve done before. So for sure, you can use that as a nice credential in your resume if you want to apply at a video game company in general, and to our studios in particular.

AVC: What about any other kind of job? What could I learn from Just Cause 3 that would be a valuable experience for applying to a different kind of job?


FA: I would say quick thinking and rapid tactical strategizing. Second-to-second creative… destruction ability? That doesn’t really…

OS: I’m going to riff off that. I would say that what’s great about the game is that you can pick it up, and as you grow more accustomed to the type of tools that you’re given, and how they all interconnect systemically, you become more and more able to improvise, as Francesco was saying. And that improvisation takes a little bit of skill. The first and second time, you’ll fail, but that third time, when you pull it off, you’re like, “Holy crap, I was able to do that.” So improvisation is definitely something.


FA: And Just Cause 3 makes you better at playing jazz. This is a jazz symphony of destruction. Yes. Next question! [Laughs.]

AVC: There’s one more. If your game were the main course of a meal, what food would be the appetizer and what food would be dessert?


OS: Oh, this is great. He’s Italian. He should start.

FA: Oh my god. Okay, so, as an appetizer I would say this is kiwi and salami. You can’t possibly imagine if you haven’t had it before how good kiwi and salami fits together.


AVC: No, I wouldn’t know.

FA: You go home and you try, and then you play Just Cause 3. You feel these different tastes in your mouth, and they amalgamate in a strange but flavorful right way. And then we’d end up with a pastiera napoletana, which is a typical pie from Naples that is famous for being rich and something you totally throw yourself into. Something that you need to cleanse your mouth after so many flavors.


OS: So as far as an appetizer, it would be a lot like Willy Wonka’s Gobstoppers, you know? It would be a candy that you could just throw in your mouth right before. And then as far as main dish it’d probably be like jambalaya—Louisiana style jambalaya—which is a bunch of flavors but all together. It’s just like, “Oh my god, that’s delicious.”

AVC: So Just Cause 3 is the jambalaya in this scenario. What’s the dessert?

OS: [Pauses.] Oh, it would—no—that wouldn’t be right because that’s like a singular taste. I need—what is something that has like tons of different flavors but somehow adds up—?


FA: That’s why I said pastiera.

OS: How about a pastiera? I’ve never had it, but I trust him.

AVC: Well, that’s it.

OS: That’s it?

FA: Oh man, please.

OS: You don’t have any more questions? Because we can stay.

AVC: I could try to think of some of the other submissions.

OS: Go ahead!

AVC: I’ll try to think of the other reader suggestions. They’re not going to be exact, so people will probably be mad. Let’s see. How about: If you were the protagonist in your game—so, if you were Rico—how long would you last before you died, and how would you die?


[Both laugh.]

OS: I’d be dead within a second. Done. I have no chance.

FA: I think I would thrive, actually. I mean, I could say it’s kind of a game I know like my pockets. I know this world intimately. I think I would have a lot of fun inside it, if this was for real.


OS: How long would you survive, though?

FA: I think I would not die. [All laugh.]

OS: That’s why he’s the designer. There is no “no.”

AVC: If you had a $10,000 collector’s edition, what would be in it?

FA: First of all, there’s no $10,000 collector’s edition. It’s not enough. So my collector’s edition is a quarter of a million dollars, and you’ve got a working grappling hook in it.


OS: Because I’m production, I will stay within the confines of the cost you offered me. So if I had that $10,000 edition, I will say, fuck—what could you afford for 10,000 bucks? Oh. A tr—no. God, how do I not sound like I’m some sort of guerilla guy that wants to blow up the world with this answer? I’ll tell you what: a wingsuit. I would definitely want a wingsuit and like an all-expense-paid trip to like, I don’t know, the Himalayas or something where I could just—

FA: You’re blowing up the budget already.

OS: That’s not 10,000! The wingsuit is like a thousand, plus like $9,000 trip and hotel stay? I’m a producer, man. That’s exactly what that would cost.


AVC: If your game were the last remnant of human civilization, and aliens came and they found it, what would they learn about us?

FA: That we like explosions—especially if there is a Michael Bay movie just next to it. Then we’re doomed.


AVC: And it’s probably why we no longer exist.

OS: I was just thinking, they’d play the game and be like, “Oh, if this is what they did, then no wonder there’s nothing left.” Yeah, I would say something along those lines. Yeah, we were just generally a ridiculous civilization, and good riddance.


FA: They would say, “That’s why they don’t exist, but they had a lot of fun.”

OS: But then what would happen is then one of them would be like, “Oh, that parachute was cool,” and then they would make a parachute, and then they would slowly evolve, and then eventually it would come—because, you know, history is elliptical—it would just loop back around to endless destruction. Eventually, all things tend toward chaos.