If you told me that demons were coming to the modern warfare world of Just Cause 4, I would not be surprised. And so I had a deadpan reaction when Victoria Setian, senior producer of the game at Avalanche Studios, told me just that.
In this extended storyline, Rico and Javi will investigate a newly discovered temple off the shore of Solis, where an archaeologist working with the Black Hand unexpectedly releases an ancient demonic force from its imprisonment.
A parasitic infestation spreads across Solis, terrorizing its inhabitants and attacking any Black Hand forces that stand in its way. Rico must tackle the horrifying new threat and seek out answers to eradicate the demon invasion from the island.
Vicious demons spit corrosive projectiles, possess soldiers, and even take over military vehicles and turn them against Rico. The new missions enhance the crazy open world experience further and provide a return to the popular liberation gameplay of the Just Cause 3.
Just Cause 4 has also launched a spring update with better graphics and smoother gameplay. I talked with Setian about this. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: What kind of physics do demons have? Are they heavier than people or different in other ways?
Victoria Setian: All of Just Cause 4 and Just Cause in general is a physics sandbox, so certainly our demons will add to the experience. They’re a completely new enemy type. They’re going to have different movement patterns, different attack patterns, different types of attacks. They can fly, so the physics of what you can do with them — it’s all going to be something new for our players.
GamesBeat: Why did it make sense to add demons to the game?
Setian: There’s so much we want to do. DLC allows us an opportunity get really creative. It was an interesting idea. We have the character, Javi, one of our backers in Just Cause 4. Delving more into his story, his history, and seeing what we could do there, what would be an interesting experience for players. That led us down this path to introducing the supernatural for the first time in Just Cause.
GamesBeat: Do you expect this to go over well with players because of any particular pattern or history here?
Setian: Our fans are really important to us. We look at the feedback, see what people are saying online. We’re fans of our own game too. One thing people had said that they missed from Just Cause 4 was the liberation system from Just Cause 3. That was another inspiration point in this DLC. You’ll see a lot of that sort of gameplay making a return, but we’ve pushed further as well. There’s a lot more variety, especially with introducing these new enemy types.
The infestation zones that are filled with incredible, disgusting, and also beautiful organic destruction objects, coupled with the demons — every infestation zone has some sort of unique flavor and experience. It really pushes that and brings it to new heights.
GamesBeat: Like the big flying bugs in the trailer.
Setian: Those are our demons, yeah. In addition to the demond, we have substrates infecting the different areas across Solis. They’re these hyper-colored, psychedelic areas filled with organic growth. They’re similar to chaos objects. They’re destructive, and they bleed and pulse with their own life force. They’ve taken over all of these different zones throughout Solis.
We’re going to see that there’s an ancient threat unleashed upon Solis, and this is part of that threat. Each zone is going to have some different flavor, different gameplay, but all of it is built on the idea of the growth of this life force and these demons that have come and infected the island.
GamesBeat: From a developer’s point of view it must be fun to create this stuff.
Setian: It was a lot of fun to have the team come together. Everyone collaborated so well. I feel like you see that creativity and fun and love that we gave this DLC really shine through. We’re excited to see what the players think once they get their hands on it. It was exciting to see the trailer go up and get people’s first thoughts. It’s a distinctive look, and we’re curious to see all of that flavor and of our joy come together. Hopefully our fans love it as much as we do.
GamesBeat: I guess the game is crazy and over the top enough that — why not do something even more crazy, or seemingly mismatched in it?
Setian: For us it all works. Ultimately Just Cause is an experience that’s built on many real-life physics. There are some things that are very serious and grounded in this game. But we still find a way to bring it over the top and on the edge of — you could almost believe this could happen. I think this is what you’re going to see here. We’ll continue to push ourselves and find ways to make it feel like it’s in the realm of possibility.
GamesBeat: If there’s some internal consistency here, what is it? Does it make sense for any particular reason?
Setian: We have our archaeologist, Javi. The idea is he’s gone through these excavations, and he made all of these discoveries throughout the main game, finding all of these tombs. Here, we’re digging deeper. What happens if — I don’t want to give too much of our story away, but what happens when other people get involved who don’t have the best intentions? What happens when we don’t respect our history and our past? We’ll meet some new characters along the way, and all of these events will unfold. But it all stems from the idea of, what is the deeper history of Solis? It’ll let us know more about Javi, who we’ve already met, and follow him down that path.
GamesBeat: It seems like there’s some history of game developers giving a lot of license for DLC. I think of the Far Cry franchise, with things like Blood Dragon. It almost seems like fans are demanding that DICE and EA put dinosaurs into Battlefield. The rationale seems to be, hey, it’s fun, right? If it’s fun, it’s okay.
Setian: I can’t speak for other studios, but for us, we did try to make sure that there’s something that always ties it back to the DNA of not just the Just Cause games in general, but of Just Cause 4. While we do want to have fun and explore and push ourselves, it’s also important for us to continue to make sure we’re holding true to that DNA.
GamesBeat: How did you make some choices about what to add in the update? I assume you don’t have infinite ability to upgrade the graphics and things like that.
Setian: Like I was saying earlier, our fans are super important to us, and we’re always looking and hearing what they’re saying. We’re also looking at what the critics are saying too, and ourselves. We put so much time and energy into this game, so much love. We just want to turn out the best experience we can. When we look at all of these different factors, we figure out, okay, what should we focus on? That’s how we came to focusing on to the pass on the lighting, or adding some new cool fun themes, like our destructible Black Hand statues.
GamesBeat: The statues don’t seem like they’re a major overhaul, but the lighting definitely seems like a big change, and a lot of work.
Setian: A lot of work went into the lighting pass, yeah. The statues, we know that was something that people enjoyed in previous titles, so we wanted to reintroduce that here as part of the update. Sometimes it’s about the bigger focus, like the lighting, and sometimes it’s about, hey, people miss blowing up statues, let’s see if we can make that happen for them.
GamesBeat: What are the characteristics of the demon crossbow and the demon egg supply drop?
Setian: The crossbow is actually going to be this really special, cool artifact that Rico will discover early on in the DLC. It’s made out of the biomechanics of the demons you’re going to encounter. It’s going to be a really important tool while you explore the infestation zones and take them down. When we considered what weapon we wanted to do here, we wanted to make sure it was something that would feel impactful and important. Why is this the thing that Rico needs to use here? You’ll discover that its mechanics lean toward making it a useful weapon throughout the DLC.
GamesBeat: If you look back on the past months and the way the fans have been putting up videos, what strikes you as some of the most entertaining or funniest things that they’ve been doing in the game?
Setian: Oh, man. It’s been super fun. People do things that we would just never think of. Our goal, really, is just to provide a bunch of toys in the sandbox so players can let their imaginations run wild and see what they can do with it. When they come up with things we never thought of, or just the way that they string things together, or even watching how they figure out how to set up things and send them flying into the air, it’s really exciting.
We come at development from the perspective of, what is a tool we can give to players so that they can come up with completely new experiences, out of the box, that we never would have thought of? That’s one of the best parts of the experience. Whenever we launch new content, we look to see how players are interacting with the toys we’ve given them.
GamesBeat: You have more ammo now. Why not just give players unlimited ammo?
Setian: Well, like anything, you need to make sure there’s a balance. Otherwise you end up dialing back the game. You want to make sure there’s always a challenge, always something to overcome, and some sort of reward. If you take away the challenge aspect of it, I’d say the enjoyment level is going to drop at that point. We wanted to make sure it still feels like you’re powerful, like you’re mowing guys down, but you have to still keep an eye on that ammo count. We don’t want this to be without any challenge. That takes away a lot of the fun.
GamesBeat: As far as the challenge of doing this, how do you feel about where the current generation of systems is at, and whether you’d like to be able to do this in the next generation more easily?
Setian: I think any generation, we’re always going to continue trying to push ourselves further. With the current generation, I feel like we really tried to top ourselves with the introduction of extreme weather. We studied real-life weather systems and made simulations of those clouds. What type of clouds form a tornado? What kind of storm leads to that? With all of our extreme weather types. We’ll always try to see what the bounds are of any system, any specs, to see what we can do to push those.
GamesBeat: Is Rico still a pretty natural person, or does he become supernatural himself when he’s fighting the demons?
Setian: He’s a normal person who’s going through extraordinary circumstances, I would say. But he’s still just like you and me.
GamesBeat: Demons can possess soldiers. What happens when they do that?
Setian: It depends on the soldier type. Depending on the enemy that the possess, they’re going to take on that enemy’s type of abilities. That could mean they possess a ghost and then they get a cloaking ability. I was playing yesterday and I just could not get this guy. Suddenly he cloaked and disappeared from view, and it was just like — oh my God, where did they go? Not only can they possess the Black Hand, but they can also possess vehicles. It’s pretty fearsome when all of a sudden you come up against a possessed tank.
You’ll find that the way they possess, and the way the organic growth possesses different things as part of these infestation zones — it’ll continually take you by surprise, and constantly add to that sensation of suspense, but also the fun once you discover what’s happening and take on all of these disgustingly gorgeous organic growths. Some of our most amazing VFX are going to be in this DLC.
GamesBeat: That reminds me of the tanks in Uncharted, the ones that would just never go away.
Setian: To clarify, they’re part of this ancient force that gets unleashed on the world. The demons can possess many things. But as far as the vehicles, that’s part of the overall organic growth infestations. They’ll be moving, but it’s not necessarily the flying demons.
GamesBeat: Is there some root in history for Los Demonios? Does it go back to some kind of historical story?
Setian: There was inspiration, but ultimately we wanted to make this a story about Solis. Solis is, again, inspired by South America, but it’s its own unique creation.
GamesBeat: Is there anything else I haven’t asked about that’s interesting?
Setian: We’re super stoked about both the spring update and getting a chance to do more on this game that we’re all very passionate about. We’re happy that we have so many fans that are passionate about it too, that are continually interested. Today’s an exciting day for us. Los Demonios, we’re excited that it’s finally being shown to the world. We can’t wait to see what players think and get a chance to go into this new content and see what we have to offer. And also maybe see a couple of the toys we’ve thrown in there. How do they react to the rest of the world?