Far Cry 5's technical artist explains how the team developed a set of procedural tools to generate the vast open world of fictional Hope County, Montana.
Hello PlayStation fans,
My name is Étienne Carrier, technical artist at Ubisoft Montréal. Far Cry 5 will be available in a few days and I can’t wait for everyone to start exploring the beautiful world the team has created. With Far Cry 5, the team deployed state-of-the-art tech to recreate the magnificence of our fictional world of Hope County, Montana.
The sheer size of this world was quite a challenge for us. We needed solutions to fill up these large open spaces beautifully, quickly and with the flexibility to support numerous iterations. At the same time, we also needed to allow fine tuning of smaller locations to deliver tight gameplay experiences. Filling up empty space is easy, but filling it up so it looks natural was an even bigger challenge.
Therefore, in order to reproduce the richness, variation and complexity of Mother Nature we saw in Montana, we developed a sophisticated procedural pipeline using Houdini and Houdini Engine. These tools are typically used in the cinema industry to create complex visual effects, but we harnessed them to push the boundaries to the next level.
In nature, everything is tied together. Mountains will funnel the rainfall into streams, rivers and lakes, which in turn erode the land and affect the surrounding vegetation. That’s why we built an ecosystem of procedural tools to generate freshwater networks, cliffs and vegetation.
When observing Montana’s distinct features, we were able to quickly identify some key visual aspects we needed to replicate. Large grasslands thrive on exposed hills, while Ponderosa forests creep through valleys. On the northern side of mountains, forests are spread thicker where the soil humidity is protected from direct sunlight.
Each species of vegetation has its own reason for growing at any specific location. The conditions have to be just right, and then several species will fight for the ground where they can grow and thrive.
The new biomes procedural system we developed simulates all of these phenomena and more. Our system allowed us to build biome recipes that react to the physical features of the land to ensure coherence throughout the world. It also gave us natural-looking vegetation patterns that can fluctuate with all the chaos that Mother Nature can muster.
We wanted to reach a degree of realism never before seen for the Far Cry franchise, so we spent time on every detail, including reflecting the terrain humidity through the grasses and orienting grass assets on a wind vector map.
Those familiar with the Far Cry franchise will remember that some plants are used as crafting ingredients. For Far Cry 5, we generated these plants through the new sophisticated vegetation system. Each species of plant can be found in its own specific type of environment.
So when you dive into Far Cry 5, take the time to observe the environment where you pick up a particular type of crafting plant.
The new world generation systems helped us deliver amazing results, but we’ve only barely scratched the surface. Hope County is beautiful and wild and we can’t wait for you to check out Far Cry 5 on March 27.