Just Cause 3’s tech designer talks explosions physics & why Rico is Mario in disguise

Along with attempting to offer the most authentic sandbox experience on the market (and offering the opportunity to be a fully-armed bastard), Just Cause 3 has one thing on its mind: explosions. In the latest issue of Official Xbox Magazine, Avalanche Studios’ senior technical designer Anders Bodbacka says the jump to current-gen has given the Swedish developer all it needs to create a new playground of destruction.

OXM: What aims did you set out with?
We wanted destruction to be more physics-driven and more like a fun toybox that can be used as part of the gameplay. More than looking pretty and going boom, if you tether things correctly you can use them defensively or create cascading destruction – destroying an entire base just by pulling one tether. That wasn’t possible before, but improvements in technology let you do this stuff. 

OXM: How did you evolve this cinematic chaos? AB: Finding that sweet spot between cool and realistic is difficult. It’s really about creating drama in destruction. If you shoot one thing and it goes boom, you can do it a couple of times and know it’ll go boom – and soon it’s not so much fun. But if you attach it to a helicopter or shoot its supports and they crumble and it begins to roll away… well, you’re now directing all that destruction. You’re Michael Bay.

OXM: Do you place items to shape destruction?AB: The good thing about using the Havok physics is not scripting events – by just placing things in a general area, you create something unique. If you know a barrel causes so much damage you can think, ‘I need to place the barrel approximately here and it will affect this or that object.’ But you still have the option to tether a barrel to a helicopter to destroy it, or you tether it to the helicopter, take over that helicopter and fly them both into a base. Not designing is part of designing.

OXM: How do you decide the level of destruction?AB: The main philosophy behind the game is to beautify the world through destruction, so everything built by the government is destructible – so by destroying those things, you make the world more beautiful. We wanted a beautiful world that’s worthy of destruction – you want to free this world. In order to do that we have populated towns that feel like they are alive so there’s something to care about and fight for. These people are oppressed and you can feel it when you are nearby – liberate an area and suddenly everyone is out drinking in the street. It’s a totally different environment. 

OXM: I love the fireworks that go off when you save a town. It’s like the end of a Mario level. AB: Yes! You even grab a flag. 

OXM: JC3 is basically Mario with explosions.

The latest issue of Official Xbox Magazine, with Halo 5: Guardians on the cover, is out now. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.

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