Far Cry Arcade :: Stoneheart Bleeds
Stoneheart Bleeds is a personal project, created for the Far Cry Arcade.
It consists of a series of escalating encounters connected in a linear flow and ending with an intense, explosive, finale. Each combat encounter tests the players skills at both long range and in close quarters and is set in an open area where the player is free to traverse the space and engage the enemy soldiers as they choose. These areas are then connected by dark caves that contrast the open areas with tight reactive combat. The level ends with an intense fire fight at the doors of a sacred temple with bullets flying in from all sides and a helicopter overhead.
The level is constructed in the Far Cry editor primarily using assets from Far Cry 3.
It has a user rating of 92%, you can find it on the Far Cry Arcade site here (Ubisoft login required) or through Far Cry 5 Arcade Mode
The level increases in intensity with each encounter, building to an explosive finale.
The opening combat encounters are simple and there are gaps between them to provide the player with a break. This allows them to recover safely and gives them a moment to explore and scavenge.
As the player advances the gaps between combat areas are reduced and then begin to overlap. The player must earn their rest either by clearing an area and then retreating, or by exploring away from the main path and locating a safe area.
Each of the core combat encounters is designed to escalate, peaking at the mid-point with moments of maximum chaos. Once the player overcomes this peak they have the feeling of dominating the fire-fight as they clear up the remaining enemies.
In the finale of the level the player has no place to hide. They must fight uphill along a narrow path, against a superior force, as a helicopter buzzes overhead.
Cover and Movement Flow
‘Stoneheart Bleeds’ has been designed to take full advantage of Far Cry’s cover system. To achieve this I created combat areas that provided a framework for the player to ‘fire and manoeuvre’. This is the basic combat tactic used by modern infantry and is a set of simple decisions that loop until the soldier wins or gives up.
Each combat area has clear sets of cover, arranged in battle lines. The player is given options to move forward, but also options to move laterally if the route ahead is blocked. A smart player will use the available cover the manoeuvre around to the flanks where they can fire along the line of cover.
Arcs of Fire, Danger Zones, and Safe Zones
Shooters with cover mechanics have an ebb and flow to their fire-fights, they alternate between exchanging fire and taking cover. Moments when the player is under pressure and moments of calm where they can take stock.
To create this experience for the player I used cover and undulations in the terrain to create areas where the player was safe and areas where they were at risk. To advance and engage their enemy the player must correctly judge when to take cover and when to risk moving through the open.
Leading Lines, Breadcrumbs, and other things…
The overall path of the level is linear, but each encounter area is open and has a variety of options for navigation. To ensure the player maintains the correct course I used several techniques to guide them.
- A mud path that connects the players spawn with the final destination.
- Torches and fires that provide yellow lights along the main route.
- Religions objects at exit points to lead the player to the final destination.
- Human detritus along the main route contrasting the natural environment at the fringes.
Level Environment and Lighting
The level is set on a crisp morning in the alpine north of the fictional country of Gorkovia. The natural environment of each area features moss covered rocks and verdant pine forests. Each encounter area then has human encroachment in the centre with buildings and detritus.
These encounter areas are then connected by dark, enclosed, caves. This contrasts the open space of the main combat areas and provides an opportunity for tight, reactive, combat.
The level uses the natural lighting of a slightly cloudy day to give the level a slightly subdued feeling. The ambient light has then been increased to prevent a sharp contrast with the shadows. The dark caves that connect the level are then light with orange flame to contrast the natural light of the outside.
Play-testing and Iterating
By play-testing I used my wealth of experience to hone the gameplay of the level, polishing off the rough edges and ensuring it delivered the desired experience.
Some examples of improvements made:
- Changed the game mode from Bounty Hunt to Assault in response to issues with the spawn system.
- Increased the terrain gradient to create a central depressions that are below the Ai’s fire arc.
- Adjusted the terrain and objects directly behind the sniper positions to ensure a contrast the soldier that gave the player a clear sight picture.
- Added rock spurs to the outer walls of combat areas to push the player inwards and encourage combat
An FPS is first and foremost an individual, visceral, experiences. Here is a technical and narrative breakdown of the players experience through the level and the the decisions they can make.
Several concepts were explored in an attempt to create a unique and interesting setting. These concepts included a medieval castle, underwater city, and ‘Wild West’ town. Each concept was evaluated for feasibility of creation with available tools, graphical fidelity and consistency with available assets, and scope.
To analyse the nuances of Far Cry’s combat gameplay and determine guidelines for level creation I created a number of test scenarios. By doing this I was able to understand the factors that affect how cover was used to create an interesting fire-fight. I was also able to understand the Ai’s behaviour, its response to the players actions, and identify methods for influencing it.