Dear Avalanche, Please Let Just Cause 3 Focus On Fun

Dear Avalanche Studios,

Hi, I hope you’re all well. I wanted to get in touch to make a few requests about Just Cause 3.

Obviously you’re deep into development now, but with no fixed release date, I’m also sure there are many months left to go. So I hope I’m not too late with my requests. After I begged and begged and begged and begged that you not let the game get in the way of the fun during the run-up to Just Cause 2, you let the game get in the way of the fun in Just Cause 2, so it seems imperative that I get in touch now.

You guys are amazing. The spirit in which you create the Just Cause games is one that I desperately wish others would follow. Abandoning idiotic ambitions of “realism”, and replacing them instead with tools for pure, daft fun. “Infinite parachutes” is a phrase I imagine is written over the entrance to your office, emblematic of all that makes the series so special. One parachute is realistic, but offers a lot less potential for fun. Infinite parachutes is beyond ridiculous, and absolutely brilliant. Combined with infinite grappling hooks willing to grapple to almost any surface, and a huge, open island on which to blow shit up, everything is in place for so much entertainment.

And then you add in a story. And escalating difficulty.

Avalanche, Just Cause 3 doesn’t need a story. If the evidence of Just Cause and Just Cause 2 is anything to go by, you’re really, really terrible at writing stories. The flimsy, yet oh-so incessant narrative excuses for the fun are completely superfluous. I do not need to sit through hours of cutscenes, and have dreadful voice actors bark inane gibberish at me, to feel motivated to run about the island enjoying myself. Sure, there needs to be some sort of ultimate direction, a nebulous purpose to aim for, something about which to structure scripted missions, that we can ignore for as long as we want. But it should be where it belongs, in the background, keeping out of our way.

Just Cause is not, I’m afraid, going to be remembered alongside the works of Dostoevsky or Ingmar Bergman. School children of the future are not going to be studying its texts, before going to see live stage productions. Just Cause 3 is not going to feature a story that will be told around the post-apocalyptic campfires of 2019. If it is remembered at all, it will be for being the annoying stuff that got in the way of the fun. It doesn’t need to do that.

Learn the lesson that Ubisoft cannot, show them the way. Show them that creating a playground packed with joyful pleasure is not something that needs to be roped off, hidden behind construction walls, or with signs saying, “You must have completed THIS arbitrary portion of the story to ride”.

The stories we love in games like yours are the stories we create for ourselves. The madness that unfolds by the glory of the opportunities your games create. The barked banalities of some angry local warlord, and the snippy demands of a remote CIA agent, probably feel important to you, but they don’t to us. They’re your vanity, getting in the way of your game. Set yourselves, and us, free from it all.

And now to turn to difficulty. Games need to provide some challenge, certainly. But unfortunately something went a bit wrong a few years back when others tried to mimic Rockstar’s escalating police response system. In GTA, the point was that if you raised your scale of wanton destruction to certain levels, the city would respond in kind, eventually bringing your waged carnage to an abrupt end. But, importantly, usually with no penalty. Others took this system, and misunderstood it, misapplied it, such that it became a fun limiter. “Uh oh, you’re having too much fun at this point! We’d better send in three helicopters and ten tanks to stop you.” Rather than giving you more opportunity to blow more shit up, they were the authorities, shutting you down. And none got this more wrong than Just Cause 2.

By the later stages of the game, even on the easiest setting, just trying to take over a settlement saw players automatically raised to extremely high “heat” levels, such that impossible armies of red-hatted enemies poured on you, and ensured you weren’t able to enjoy yourself at all. It’s fun to shoot down/take over one helicopter responding to your antics. It’s miserable to see three of them and know that you absolutely cannot survive, as one will kill you while you take on another. And you’ll probably get a rocket launcher in the back of your head fired from one of thirty spawned soldiers, anyway.

Please, don’t do this in Just Cause 3. And if you do feel the need to implement a similar system, let it be meaningfully moderated by players who would rather be free to have a good time. Modders attempted to break through the unhelpful code of JC2 to fix this, but the game seemed to fight incredibly hard to stop such things – it’s worth recognising this strong desire in a huge portion of your customers, and acknowledging how people want to play your games.

It’s about fun! And you are so completely brilliant at creating it. And then you get all worried and start piling up boxes in front of it all in case anyone sees. Everyone wants to see! Games afford us this freedom, and they don’t need to behave like an overly busy swimming pool, handing out coloured wristbands and demanding, “Could all people with blue wristbands please stop having a good time.” We can stay in all day, and never need to share the floats or slides with anyone but our friends.

So please. Please please please. Please, in Just Cause 3, don’t let the game get in the way. Please.

Love,
John

99 Comments

  1. RuySan says:

    Disagree on some points:

    Story was stupid, but also quite funny, even if it could be unintentional, like the way one of our lady allies speak (i forgot what’s her name), or the last two levels, one with all the statues (where Rico argues that the dictator is trying to make up for something) and the one on top of the missile.

    Default difficulty was also fine, if it was made easier it would have lost it’s meaning and it wouldn’t gave the same rush. Also, in the end, after having the full upgraded tank, it becomes a cakewalk.

    So, Avalanche, do whatever you must do and don’t listen to John.

    • jonahcutter says:

      I was thinking something similar. Some people like stupid stories as a complement to their stupid action. Chocolate and peanut butter.

      What can make a bad action movie great isn’t just the over-the-top action sequences, but also the horrible dialogue and scene-chewing delivery by unchecked journeymen and character actors.

    • Siimon says:

      Absolutely 100% agree!

      I need some story, something to push me forward, some reason to go around and do things. A 100% sandbox isn’t fun unless it is co-op/multiplayer, and even then I much prefer some structure.

      Of course, don’t lock people in to a story. Do what you did with JC2: Let me rampage across the whole world and ignore the story if I so choose, but let there be a story.

      And difficulty… Really? Yes, sometimes it got annoying that waves of enemies would spawn from locations they really shouldn’t and even more so when those enemies were helicopters, but for the most part the game wasn’t very difficult. Endless waves of respawning -anything- gets very -tedious- though!

      Don’t make the mistake that SR3 (and even much more so SR4, and to some extent FC4) did and make the game too easy by making the player to overpowered.

      Perhaps you could have your regular game mode, a la JC/JC2, and also a sandbox mode/skirmish mode. Just don’t put too much effort into sandbox…

      Put all the effort into co-op, including full campaign co-op (with LAN support!) and I’ll love you even more.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      I do find the complaints about difficulty a bit odd. To be fair it has been a few years since I played JC2, but I seem to remember finding it quite easy. All due respect John but maybe you’re a bit rubbish?

      I’m hoping that the devs take a leaf from Saints Row 3/4 and GTA4/5’s book and have a way to remove heat from within a shoot-up.

    • ikehaiku says:

      I, for one, get the point about difficulty – but it wasn’t so much the case of JC2 being difficult, but tedious. By the end game (even mid-game), as soon as helicopters would shown up, you just couldn’t escape the army in any “fun” way. You just had to hightail, go underwater, and wait. Goshdarn copters. Hijack one, another is right here. Destroy it, another one is there. It was to the point of it was sometimes easier (as in, quicker, and funnier) to just let yourself get killed to reset the heat meter.

      But I agree with you guys on the story. Yes, it was bad. But that was, well, maybe not the point, but at least a great part why the game was so good. I’ll remember Bolo Santosi till the end of time. When I barely remember any characters in GTA games.

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        keithzg says:

        I actually found taking out the helicopters pretty easy; just hijack one and shoot down all the others with it. I don’t remember it giving me any trouble at all (in fairness, I’m pretty sure I had the difficulty set to the lowest, but John claims to have done the same).

        But yeah, the story was silly and stupid and clichéd and I honestly rather loved it for that; it had me laughing nearly constantly. Plus it was pretty easy to ignore if you wanted.

        • median says:

          Were you just following the story missions or blowing up towns and bases throughout the game? Because I was playing for completion (and ignoring the story missions), and there’s a tipping point where another helicopter will show up as soon as you capture one. It just becomes a game of daisy chaining helicopter captures together and it never ends. And then the helicopters come sooner, so that while you’re grappling a helicopter, the other one will start plinking at you, so that limits how long you play that game; then two helicopters start showing up … there’s definitely an end point to the fun.

    • Thule says:

      How could you forget, BOLO SANTOSI?

      • lordfrikk says:

        I’m almost sure someone even confirmed that’s an actual accent people speak and not some videogame parody of it.

        • April March says:

          The weirdest thing about BOLO SANTOSI is that in her introductory cutscene (which I watched over and over because it’s unskippable in the 360 JC2 demo, back when it cost actual money) is that both her and “Scorpio” are talking with the cadence and pronunciation of someone who’s making double entendres with every line… except that they don’t make any, they just discuss their thing normally. It’s like someone who was exceptionally pure of mind had watched a James Bond flick and tried to emulate its style without understanding what was happening.

    • James Currie says:

      I can’t help but agree with you. There is a great amount of fun in something utterly bat-shit nuts with an equally bat-shit story. Riding a nuke to whip a dictator with a grappling hook? Only in JC 2. And I cannot help but love the game for its lunacy.

      I can – to a limited extent – understand the point about difficulty. The game isn’t ‘difficult’ per se. I found it quite easy but there was never the right mix of ‘Woo! Blowing up stuff!’ and ‘Shit! Gotta run!’ It was always one or the other.

      I would steal a heli, wreck some shit, send some army dudes into orbit with my missiles and be on my merry way. OR I would turn a corner to a missile to the face, dodge it in epic style only to get shot in the back. Woo… I guess. There was never that sweet middle ground of pure fun that made dieharding (the proper term I assure you) a heli an idea that was both non-suicidal and tactically helpful. It takes the immortality mod to set that up, becuase you’d just die otherwise.

      Seriously – dieharding things is fun – so goddamnit let me get on with it Just Cause!

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      I was thinking along these lines too. Having picked up JC2 without any real idea what I was getting into I felt like the game opened itself up pretty quickly while still easing me into things a bit. Once I learned to stay mobile the heat meter wasn’t that much of an impediment in most situations, although I did sometimes feel like the endless stream of helicopters prevented me from using anything but armored vehicles.
      To some extent I think the heat system actually improved the game though. It provided a sort of counterweight to the temptation to 100% everything even if doing so became unenjoyable. I often found it more fun to lead the military on a merry cross country chase blowing up whatever happened to be convenient than I did crawling around looking for that last powerbox with a red stripe on it.
      And you could ignore the story if you wanted, but why would you ignore anything that ends with a fistfight with a squat island dictator on top of an ICBM in flight?

  2. eggy toast says:

    I always thought JC2 was the gold standard for “get out of my way and let me do what I want and have fun,” to be perfectly honest every opinion I’ve ever heard about the game has been the polar opposite of this article.

    • PoulWrist says:

      To be honest, the number of soldiers, tanks and helicopters showing up once you were a bit in to the game were rather excessive and fighting them off became tedious. Especially as it wasn’t really possible to fight them off. There was a constant stream of new ones. So you’d have to escape. I know I died a lot, but not quite as much as the article makes it sound, it was more that I had to constantly run away to avoid the dying.

      I would not mind if there was some way to either stop the reinforcements from showing up so numerously or there being an end to their numbers. So at least you could get round to 100% that military base or whatever without fighting 20 attack helicopters and 100 guys.

      And I enjoyed Just Cause 2 a lot… I played through it to near 100% twice. Which my steam tells me is about 140 hours spent in it.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        My main problem with the escalation was that he game never gave you enough ammo. The guns were so lackluster that I pretty much avoided combat unless I could find a vehicle with explosive weaponry.

        • Frosty840 says:

          Sure, the default guns were meh, but the guns in the DLC were marvelous, as were the DLC-only vehicles (I don’t see that as a good thing).
          Kinda sours me on JC3, to be honest, after that recent kerfuffle about JC3’s impending microtransactions and the eventual not-really-a-real-climbdown where we were reassured that even though there’s going to be a shedload of microtransactions, you’re going to have to leave the game to buy the ingame currency, or some similar weasel-worded phrasing.

        • median says:

          I’m not sure about this one… were you upgrading the weapons with the weapons chest and the helicopter dude? I found the upgraded machine gun dispatched people quite nicely, and duel wielding upgraded revolvers was quite effective as well. And you can get all the ammo you want off the chopper; the real problem with that is the obnoxious cut scene which put in an unecessary delay. Fortunately: there’s a mod for that.

      • fish99 says:

        Yeah a reasonable limit to reinforcements would have improved the game.

    • Shadow says:

      The story of JC2 was lame, indeed, but it wasn’t a significant impediment to the sandbox.

      The default difficulty was fine, and I can’t really believe the article’s complaining it’s not easy enough. It seems as if it’d want the player to remain unfazed regardless of whatever the local government can throw at them. The higher heat levels require thinking, and you can only hold your ground so long before you need to retreat and likely find a way to lay low. And that’s fine.

      You always had plenty of time to do whatever you meant to do at a given location. And if you just wanted to explode everything, remaining mobile while you did it was the best way to keep the local army from surrounding you.

      Come on, this is nowhere near GTA2 and its tank roadblocks and entire population turned machinegun-toting soldiers on the highest heat level. THAT was punishing and unsurvivable.

      • April March says:

        The difference, I think, is that in GTA killing soldiers and blowing up tanks is the fun. In JC, blowing up stationary stuff, flying around and throwing cars at cars is the fun, and I have to stop having fun to kill soldiers and blow up tanks.

        I haven’t played as far as John, but even in the earliest bit of the game I’m in I’m sick of being killed already. I don’t want to kill or be killed. I dream of a game where I can just grapple stuff happily forever.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah. I’d pay this as much attention as John’s DO/DON’Ts.

  3. jezcentral says:

    It was all so much fun until either Heat 3 or 4. Then helicopters.

    I did like the way that JC2 didn’t hide the world away from you, forcing you to do some story missions to unlock a part of the island. Plus, I never had a problem with the difficulty level. You were as hard as nails all the way through. Even when you tripped the Heat Level Of Doom, all those enemies spawning were more of a hindrance, than an actual danger. (A bit like those wretched Aliens in Saints Row 4. I would just run after the monitor and smash it before they turned up).

    God, I’m looking forward to this.

    • thedosbox says:

      Yeah, the higher heat levels were ridiculous if you wanted to roam about outside of a vehicle. The mod to limit heat was pretty much essential IMO.

  4. STJamie says:

    To go immediately off topic this was the reason why i loved the Mercenary series so much, especially the first one. It just plopped you in a sandbox map and said “Here’s 52 people we want you to get” and that was it bar a little pat on the tooshie and an assault helicopter. Nothing stopped you trying to drive a tank up a mountain, or calling a mortar strike on any building that looked at you funny. When you found one of the wanted targets you could go completely nuts in any which way you fancied, the only worry being if one of your rockets happened to explode a bit too close to the target and leave you with half the cash you wanted. The second one seemed to try a bit too hard with the story stuff and cutscenes but the basic premise of a sandbox war was still solid. I wish they’d make another one, or make JC3 more like them.

  5. Menthalion says:

    I always found it stupid you had to rebuy vehicles and weapons in JC2.
    In JC 3 they should have unlocked weapons or vehicles available as drop or from safehouses.

    • LimEJET says:

      I don’t think having to buy another car after you drove the first one off a cliff seems that unreasonable.

      • Immobile Piper says:

        Is it reasonable? Yes.
        Does it enable my wanton lust for destruction and disregard for property? Not really.

        I don’t play Just Cause 2 to be reasonable.

  6. c-Row says:

    Yeah, and the next thing we will read is somebody complaining about JC3 being just a huge sandbox without a story to tie it all together.

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      John Walker says:

      Not here you won’t.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        What’s this, an opportunity for me to be CONTRARY and ANTAGONISTIC?

      • morbiusnl says:

        nope, you disagree with the writers you get banned.

        • Monggerel says:

          I regularly disagree with Grant Morrison and he has yet to ban me from Rock Paper Shotgun.
          (He should though)
          (Probably could too)

          • April March says:

            But now, if he disagrees that he should ban you, he can’t ban you because he doesn’t think that, while if he agrees that he should ban you, he can’t ban you because you’re agreeing with him! You’ve trapped him!

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Only if you’re a dick about it. They somewhat naively apply real-world standards of etiquette to internet situations. Were you joking? Oh nevermind.

  7. Turin Turambar says:

    Judging from the past Just Cause games, they would first have to learn to make fun action with good feeling in shooting and moving to make fun games.

  8. Surcouf says:

    While I agree that I didn’t care one bit about the awful story in the previous just cause, I did enjoy that there were scripted missions. The sandbox is quite a lot of fun to play it, but I think it gets better when I can take a break from creating my own fun and have a goal to work toward to. Also some scripted events capture very well the kind of craziness that the game offers like jumping from a plane to “surf” on a recently launched ICBM.

    To me the best thing they could do it to keep a “story” but get rid of the superfluous characters and cut scenes and just tell me “there a fleet of bombardier coming to bomb the island. go destroy it single-handedly” “go blow up that dish atop a mountain and then escape in snowmobile as hundreds of enemy chase you down the slope exploding and shooting around”

    Mission can provide great set pieces in which we can further enjoy the grappling hook/car surfing/ infinichute shenanigans.

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      John Walker says:

      You’re absolutely correct, and I didn’t make that point at all clearly. Have added in that we need something around which to structure those scripted missions.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      This guy said all I wanted to say, really.

  9. Monggerel says:

    Yeah but you can hopefully just mod the shit out of the game and completely bypass the bits you don’t care for.

    Like Far Cry 3. All skills and the wingsuit and other unlockables available from start, alongside the second island. Cutscenes skipped via liberal application of speedhack. Game almost becomes enjoyable that way, until I remember how little there is (which is to say, absolutely nothing else) to do besides murder.

  10. PopeRatzo says:

    Dear Just Cause 3 developers: Please don’t listen to the advice of bloggers. Just make the game you want to make. The game belongs in the game. Leave the online multiplayer sandbox to indie devs who can’t afford to put a game in the game.

    • jezcentral says:

      “Leave the online multiplayer sandbox to indie devs who can’t afford to put a game in the game.”

      With apologies to indie devs, but…This.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Bad game design is still bad game design. No matter how much it cost to shoehorn it in.

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      John Walker says:

      Ooh, “bloggers”. Burn.

      (No mention of “online” anywhere in the article. Wouldn’t want that.)

    • Faxanadu says:

      Yeah because that turned out so great last time.

      JESUS MCMUFFIN, GUYS, THE ONLY REASON DIZ SHIZ IS FAMOUS IS BECAUSE OF THE MULTIPLAYER!

      And everyone is like, “hey, let the same guys who failed at pulling off the multiplayer properly fail at pulling it off properly again!” NO. We NEED a properly synced multiplayer with a factions system and money earning for guns SO BAD. It would be SO GOOD. (Real Life server showed it can work.) Pull it off and you might ACCIDENTALLY make JC3 into a successful MMORPGFPS, something NOBODY has pulled off yet, despite all the freakin firefalls and neocrons and whatnots…

    • April March says:

      Dear Just Cause 3 developers,

      Do not allow the BLASPHEMY of the HERETICS to SOIL the HOLY WORK of thine SCULPTURE OF HOLY CODE. The bloggers are buggerers and pederasts and seek only to destroy thine work for the worms that they are to feed upon. THINE STATION IS ORDAINED BY GOD AND THEREFORE PERFECT BY NATURE. AWAY WITH THE MONSTRUOUS REGIMENT OF PLAYTESTING!

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      “Please don’t listen to the advice of bloggers, but please do listen to my advice, which happens to appear in the comments beneath their advice. Am I asking too much?”

  11. groovychainsaw says:

    I’d rather have some minimal simulation, like shadow of mordor + mercenaries 2 (as mentioned above in the comments). 52 top baddies, island(s) divvied up between them, that you get to ‘free’ in any order you like. Bad guys get more resources/more powerful as there are fewer left. Maybe they fight amongst themselves a bit, and you can influence this. You get bad heat in the toughest areas, and virtually none in the areas you have ‘freed’. There you go. Fixed it! No story required, but an interesting and replayable experience that builds on all the strengths of just cause 2 without any of the aforementioned weaknesses. I LOVE JC2, but the story and the escalating heat were the 2 worst things in it, and so easily fixed!

    • Baltech says:

      Yes, this or like they did it in Crackdown which also let you loose in an open world with targets you could tackle any which way you chose. Maybe add some radio chatter and some slick oneliners and only two cutscenes for bookending the whole shebang. That would be swell.

      • groovychainsaw says:

        Love crackdown, too, but wanted a little more from the systems, a bit more antagonism between the bad guys, and a bit more variety. I don’t think just cause 3 will deliver this, but one can dream…

        • April March says:

          I’m going to go right out and say that aspiring to be Crackdown only better is a loftier goal than aspiring to be Just Cause only better, at least as far as structure was concerned.

    • Razumen says:

      I don’t know about Mercs 2, the little I did play it seemed so ridiculously buggy that I dropped it in Disgust. BUT Mercs 1 was amazing, such a shame no one has successfully copied its formula yet.

      • malkav11 says:

        Mercs 2 was in many respects a trainwreck (though it did have some lovely Peter Stormare voicework, and produced helloitsdan & lithuaniandad’s tremendous LP), but I’d love a proper followup to what the first Mercenaries was doing. or even an uprezzed Mercs 1 port.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      You know what, great idea. Shadow of Mordor is one of the first games that makes a dynamic factions/characters system be fun. There is good cross-breeding potential with JC3.

  12. Paul says:

    “..that I desperately wish others would follow. Abandoning idiotic ambitions of “realism”, and replacing them instead with tools for pure, daft fun.”

    Yeah, all games should be all about “fun”. Down with realistic games! No more ArmAs for you! No more Kingdom Comes! No more Mafias!

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      John Walker says:

      Context dear, context.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        You might want to avoid using “dear” in arguments, darling. Unless this is your wife, in which case I feel like I’m interrupting something.

  13. jsbenjamin says:

    The real standard for a system that just lets us have fun is Saints Row 4. Get your “heat” up high and you could take out a warden, or capture that gold globe thingy and remove all your heat. It let you go crazy, then back things off if you started to feel overwhelmed.

    I agree with some others about the story: I kinda liked the silliness (though I agree with John that any sort of “gating” of fun stuff with mandatory story bits is not good – although I don’t recall Just Cause 2 doing that, since I played for hours upon hours all over the huge map without doing more than the intro story bits). The “heat” thing, though – yeah, that should be like SR4.

  14. Serph says:

    Unfortunately this conflates the idea that a story can’t possibly be “fun” or unrealistic, which is totally not the case. Maybe it just needs to be more over the top in a Saints Row kind of way. As long as people are not forced into it, I don’t see why it couldn’t still be there for people who want to do it (see also: Skyrim).

    • Urthman says:

      But surely not every game needs a story. Developers should be asking “Does this game need a story?” rather than “Ok, so what’s our story going to be.”

      How often do you play a game and think, “This game needed more story cuts cenes”? If we never think that, then devs are almost certainly erring on the side of too many story cut scenes.

      • Siimon says:

        You don’t need cutscenes to have story. Most games are better off without any, imo.

        You can have minimal story just for the sake of progression. You can tell the story through missions.

  15. Razumen says:

    I disagree, running around and causing mayhem by yourself is all well and good, but a lot of these open world games seriously lack decent, fun and epic missions. I mean you have this whole huge and detailed world as a backdrop, but all too often missions are confined to a woefully small playable area and suddenly it’s like we’re back in the 90’s again. Design missions to be BIG, Long and interesting! They can be tough too, as long as there’s multiple difficulty settings for those less inclined to challenge.

    • median says:

      JC2 missions were sort of interesting the first time I played them. The second time, I realized I could order myself a huey before starting the mission, grapple the mission limousine to it, and carry it directly to its destination. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but it’s certainly fun. It’s difficult to create long, epic, challenging missions when you have that kind of freedom. And artificially limiting that freedom would change the tone of the game. To a certain extent, what you’re asking for may essentially be a different game with similar mechanics but a different philosophy.

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    DuncUK says:

    I want more systems in my sandbox games. Interacting systems that occasionally combine with hilarious consequences, like the dragons in Skyrim and the homicidal wildlife of Far Cry 4. I loved that I could get people arrested in GTA4 by goading them into punching me with my refusal to respect their personal space. I liked the spontaneous riots that could occur in Skyrim when you dropped a valuable item whereupon 2 npcs to both take a shine to it with the resulting fracas leaving half the town dead. I love this shit and one day I’d like to play a game that is a car crash of systems like this and this alone.

    If you must add scripted storyline missions – and I understand the necessity of these – then at least make them freeform. Let me do them my way, no matter how game-breaking it is. That’s my call. Sleeping Dogs, why give me a fully armoured, machine gun toting super car and then force me to drive everyone else around in their tedious conveyances? Also, game writers everywhere stop writing games with cool weapons, abilities and super-powers only to script missions where they are taken away! Saints Row 4, I’m looking at you. Worst of all, stop punishing me from wandering away from my ‘mission area’. Damn it, Far Cry 4, I’m just going to get an elephant / gryocopter. I’ll be back, honest!

  17. Kollega says:

    Well, if Rico having an infinite supply of C4 is any indication, I’m actually pretty sure that Avalanche are not going to let the game get in the way of the fun. Or not as much, at least. And the developers pretty much promised in a Game Informer interview that they’ll be focusing primarily on the sandbox rather than any kind of story. So yeah, it’s very likely that JC3 will be fun first, game second.

  18. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    All I can say is I completely disagree. If anything, JC2 is arguable the most pure ‘fun’ I’ve ever had in an open-world game.

    So in that sense I can’t even begin to comprehend the main thrust of the article.

    Basically: More of the same please for JC3!

    • DrGonzo says:

      It’s not though. Annoying cutscenes and objectives get in the way. It is anything but sandbox in the story, it’s go here, do this. Which is the essence of this article

      • fish99 says:

        But at least the story was a small percentage of the game. I remember a point in Far Cry 4 where to unlock the 2nd half of the map I had to play about 10 story missions in a row. There was nothing like that in JC2.

  19. wileman says:

    I’m all for this but it seems like games that focus on pure gamey/arcadey fun usually don’t give much attention to things like driving, movement, shooting, weight, atmosphere and immersion. I know it sounds silly to want to be immersed in a game while also riding on top of planes etc but suspension of disbelief doesn’t mean your character and how it interacts with the world should should abandon a sound underlying physics engine, weighty movement and satisfying gunplay with real weight behind it. Gta IV went so far in this direction it left out the crazy fun of earlier games and so it deserves the criticism it gets but gamey fun and sound, satisfying underlying mechanics aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Everything in GTA IV had a great sense of weight and presence but was so glued to reality there wasn’t much you could do with it. All the other sandbox games I can think of in a similar style that have a pure “fun” approach just feel hollow to me because while there are much crazier things to do, the feel of your character and how it interacts with things just feels crap.

    TLDR – Third person sandbox games should use GTA IV’s mechanics/physics as a base to build a game on and add craziness to that.

    Also, leave humor out of games, its never funny. Subtlety is already something games struggle with and humor without subtlety is just bad humor. I can’t go near the saints row games because of this but then again, I’m not sure if Saints Row with a dark surrealist chris morris comedy style would work either…..GTA IV is depressing enough for it i guess…

  20. Colthor says:

    “The annoying stuff that got in the way of the fun” is a pretty good description of “plot in videogames”.

    I’ve been playing Far Cry 3 and even more frustrating than having to trudge through the plot missions is that you’re on an island with: friends to rescue, locals to free from tyranny, a territory control system, and a boss villain, and they couldn’t spot the obvious game design staring them right in the face. It would’ve saved them a lot of effort on cutscenes, and spared the world QTEs and tactless handling of rapists.

    The flamethrower mission can stay though.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Augh, I know, right? Why the fuck Ubi continues to believe that railroading the player through their dumb stories is the way to go is a mystery for the ages, especially since the Far Cry games would work as more dynamic and freeform experiences without changing most of the basics. FC3 and FC4 are both great games on a purely systemic level, but their narrative design is just complete garbage.

      And don’t get me started on taunting the player with plot-gated skills. They could at least have the decency to keep those skills secret until you got them instead of forcing you to do more missions to get skills you’re constantly teased with whenever you open the skill tree.

  21. fish99 says:

    Last three games I’ve played have been Far Cry 4, Far Cry 3 and now Dying Light, and these kinda of games have far too many cut scenes with obnoxious characters, dreadful story and a protagonist you end up hating because he’s either dumb, naive, or both. It’s not good for the player to be constantly questioning the actions (and IQ) of your protagonist, I wish writers would realize that.

    Funnily enough I thought Just Cause 2 did keep the story in the background, and there wasn’t a huge amount of it either, certainly in comparison to those games, and at least the story was so B-movie you could never take it seriously. I hope they don’t go all ‘Far Cry 3’ with JC3s story, it’s a bad trend. Honestly I’d rather you didn’t hire a writer if Far Cry 3 is the result.

  22. DrGonzo says:

    This article is spot on. The story was just absolutely dreadful in just cause 2. It’s why I never really played much of the game. Occasionally I install it, steal a motorbike and just drive for an hour.

    If you’ve ever played Crackdown, that is a perfect structure for just cause. The very centre of the map (possibly) has a big bad evil dude. Going and killing him straight away is incredibly difficult coz he has an army. You go around the map blowing up bases and getting rid of his army. Then when you feel like it, from the very start if you like ala crackdown, you head over and kill him to finish the story.

  23. Sandepande says:

    The heat system could be more interesting. Maybe there wouldn’t be helicopters every time it gets high enough…

  24. Werthead says:

    Sounds like they need some new writers. Apparently Harper Lee’s free now she’s delivered TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD 2: THE MOCKINGBIRD STRIKES BACK.

  25. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Things we want more of in JC3:
    Explosions to walk away from
    Things to blow up
    Explosions to not look at while we walk away
    Giant missiles to surf on
    Explosions that cause other explosions
    Things to grapple enemies to that explode
    Explosions that destroy scenery
    Floating pleasure blimps
    Explosions that throw vehicles around, possibly causing them to explode

    Oh, and if you could make the parachute thrusters available from early on that would be lovely ta.

  26. Velko says:

    Ohhhh I hope they read this. I so, so much hope they read this. Just let me have my fun! Even with all its flaws, Just Cause 2 was the best imaginary vacation I’ve ever had; now improve on that!

  27. derbefrier says:

    I liked jc2 but mywishlistfor jc3is quite simple.

    Better combat. (Seemsto be a curse of the open world action game. The only reason. I am playing GTA 5 is because of the fps view)

    That’s about it really. I never got far in the game cause the combat was so bad. Flying around hijacking cars with a hookshot is great fun. just get the combat right this time and they have an instant classic on their hands.

  28. HauntedQuiche says:

    “And then you add in a story. And escalating difficulty.”

    Oh, what a lot of utter tosh. The story and escalating difficulti in JC2 are the only bloody reason I play the game. Without it, you’d just have some crappy piss-around thing like Goat Simulator. A lot of fun, sure but… hardly what you’d describe as a solid release.

    Driving and jumping and grappling and ex[loding things in JC2 gets really dull, really quickly when there is no challenge. Without the missions giving you cool stuff to do and the cops giving you angry people to explode, all you can do is…. drive around and tie things to things…?

    How very boring.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      You don’t seem to have read past that line.

      • Siimon says:

        I did (twice) and I agree with the above comment. Many users have commented here saying that they disagree with you, yet you’ve very few actual replies.

        One comment of yours was “when that “story” is nothing but tedious enforced cutscenes interrupting all the fun, then we’re far better without them.”; however, here I (as many others) disagree with you. The story was funny, because it was just as “stupid” as the rest of JC2 and the terrible voicing added to that. Not to say that I think JC3 should have more cutscenes (I don’t), but to say that the game is better without everything except sandbox mode is (imo) missing the point. Apart from the initial missions, there were very few cutscenes/story items you had to do; JC2 was very open from the near start.

        Perhaps my biggest issue is that this article, and your subsequent comments, are more akin to “I’m right, you’re wrong” instead of something like “everyone has their own preferences, and these are mine”. It is a bit unlike the RPS I’ve been reading (and at times, “supporting”) over the past… seven years.

    • malkav11 says:

      Unfortunately, the missions don’t give you cool stuff to do, and the cops go from speedbump to brick wall with no inbetween. Including story and (to a much lesser extent) challenge are important for the reason you cite, Just Cause 2 is just really really bad at both and the result is a game that personally I pretty quickly found dull and stopped playing.

  29. Radiant says:

    BEAM THIS INTO THEIR MINDS.

  30. ajf0 says:

    This is completely wrong and infuriating.

    The heat levels do NOT get punishingly difficult if you do as you are told and destroy the radio masts /satellite dishes. This reduces the response time and amount of soldiers.

    • median says:

      Really? I hadn’t noticed that in playing the game to completion. Maybe popping generals counteracts the effects of radio towers? Or maybe upping the completion level erases any of those benefits? If blowing up radio towers does help response time, isn’t that a bad thing b/c it makes the game easier as you progress? It’s probably an impossible balance of making things harder, but giving you some control over making them temporarily easier.

      I’m starting to think we’re getting different opinions on the games from people who play to 100% and those who do the bare minimum story missions. I think JC2 gets more difficult as you complete more acts of terrorism — and that’s the only thing that’s considered. Missions make the game harder only insofar as it destroys infrastructure.

      I wonder what the bare minimum world completion you’d need to finish the story missions. My guess is that it’s rather low.

  31. Stevostin says:

    Dear John Walke

    My incentive to buy “fun” games is +10%
    My incentive to buy “interesting story” is +35%
    (ok, rough estimation)

    Now I don’t want to impose anything, but maybe, just maybe those guys understand you don’t make decent number “just” with a playground. I mean if you just want a playground, there is gary’s mod already.

    I am not a publisher and have no idea about the trends but I guess there must be a reason for GTA to always include stong narrative elements. Even SRIV have those.

    Now you’re right it doesn’t have to stand in the way. But I hope you realise that story matters, even for this kind of game. Look at the binding of Isaac: without the story, it’s just a pretty cheap game. It has to have *something*.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I think it’s important to read this in the context that I’ve spent fifteen years campaigning for games to improve and take seriously their stories, and argued that writers need to be involved in projects from the start, and throughout, not externally hired at some point late on.

      However, when that “story” is nothing but tedious enforced cutscenes interrupting all the fun, then we’re far better without them. And the JC series has shown that it would be far better without them.

  32. Bart Stewart says:

    I found myself so frustrated at having my progress through JC2 repeatedly reset by the combination of the schoolmarmish “you kids settle down or else!” escalating difficulty and the lazy no-quicksave checkpointing system that I had to stop playing. It stopped being fun.

    My suggested solution was “enable quicksave in the PC version, dammit.” In retrospect, I think I like John’s suggestion better. I wouldn’t feel so much frustration at having to replay story progress bits because of difficulty spikes if there weren’t as many fiddly story bits.

    I mean, I still prefer being able to save and load when I want. If I want to preserve my efforts before I try some mad bit of system-exploration, I’d really appreciate being trusted enough to know what’s fun for me to let me have that power.

    But yes: designing JC3 to emphasize, not penalize, the fun of glorious destructiveness sounds like good advice to me.

  33. malkav11 says:

    I entirely disagree with your first point and entirely agree with your second.

    Oh, the first two games had thoroughly rubbish stories, no argument there. But that made the games feel empty and pointless to me, especially when there was very little in that vast sprawling open world that distinguished itself from other parts of it in a way that wasn’t purely cosmetic. I absolutely do need narrative context to make this stuff feel meaningful, and if you don’t provide it, or you’re staggeringly incompetent at providing it, I will get nothing out of your game. The solution is to hire better writers and mission scripters, not to jettison the idea entirely. But failing that, even Crackdown did a better job at providing a largely narrativeless open world because they defined their world in distinct architectural spaces and particularly set up each boss fight as its own combat environment. I don’t think that would be entirely sufficient for me, because Crackdown’s big draw for me was superpowers, and Just Cause’s infinite parachute/grappling hook combo just doesn’t quite count. But it’d be a start.

    The ridiculous alert system certainly killed any fun that I might have had with the game despite these failings, though. Compounding the issue was the fact that almost none of the good toys actually spawned in the open world and the black market was a) way too expensive and b) had way too long a transition to and from it to be convenient or enjoyable to use. (You could mod it to fix these things, but for whatever reason it didn’t work with the DLC stuff. DRM, I expect.)

  34. MellowKrogoth says:

    I didn’t really feel the story got in the way, but the army response could have been better paced. From what I remember once you start a fight outside of a base capture mission, there’s an endless stream of increasingly strong enemies, leaving you with the single choice of fleeing the area to avoid dying? Perhaps there should be a climax to fights like that so you basically “win” a small area, at least temporarily while the enemy regroup and rearm (i.e. flee like cowards).

    Other decisive moments of the fight could be your character going on a rampage after filling an adrenaline bar, and/or a ranking officer deciding to negociate with you (corruption must run rampant on those island kingdoms).

    The game map should have many dynamically generated missions, such as helping citizens that the army persecutes in your stead, and so on. The more interesting and varied stuff you can find on the map, the less of a need for a story. See: Minecraft, Spelunky, Civ series.

  35. montorsi says:

    I dunno, I got bored because the story was dumb and didn’t invest me in the game at all. I don’t think the solution is to kill storytelling but to raise the bar a bit. You don’t even need to raise it all that far… the Saboteur was cheesy as hell but managed to make me give a crap about the people and places.

  36. Premium User Badge

    Bozzley says:

    For open world games, all of them, I want the story missions to show me cool shit I might not have thought of doing myself, cool shit that is absolutely possible during normal gameplay. Open world games are brilliant at saying “here’s a world to explore, and here’s you, have fun”, but they’re terrible at saying “you’re clearly not very intelligent or observant, let me show you something you might not have thought of doing yet”.

  37. KenTWOu says:

    This series desperately needs fully fledge stealth system. FC4, WD or even AC4 stealth system would be really good. It will make the game significanly more fun. Yeah, and what John said.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      I’m tempted to agree, except that if they attempt to do everything they’ll likely make every system mediocre. I’d rather have a good game focused on blowing things up.

  38. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I also agree with everyone who said that Just Cause 2 did nothing wrong. If you want an example of a truly miserable take on a “power fantasy” open-world experience, try inFAMOUS on the PS3. They make you a superhero, and then make you wish you had one of the mobs’ guns instead.

  39. median says:

    I also found the police response to be annoying. But I’d like to play devil’s advocate and say that Rico is a covert ops terrorist, not superman, so it makes sense that he has to play hit-and-run. One tactic I used was to stick remote control bombs on every target and blow everything up at once from the comfort of a nearby hilltop. Done!

    And while we’re talking about annoying police presences, the Panau Helicopter Response team has been mentioned, but not the annoying gnats of the motorcycle cops. Those bastards *ruin* what could be a very fun Need-for-Speed-with-Guns sandbox gameplay. They zip right up and shoot out your tires before you can do anything, they have a magical gyroscope that makes sideswiping them impossible, and they have solid tires that are impossible to blow out. Without them, I could lead quite a merry chase.