In testing the open world of Far Cry 3, designers used an extensive system to track the playtester’s experience.

Designing a game is tough, and it keeps getting tougher. Back in the early days, it was one thing to track a player’s linear path through a screen or level, but in modern open world games there are a near infinite number of possible actions a player can take. It’s the job of the studio to run such a game through its rigors, and Ubisoft Montreal did so for Far Cry 3 with vigor. Mark Thompson – Level Design Director – explained how they used special software tools to record every movement a tester made through the island setting, allowed designers to look at all that data to improve the game, and even watch video of what the players were doing as their avatar perished.

“This tool is called DNA,” Thompson told Kill Screen in an episode of its Creators Project series. “It’s super-super powerful. I’ve never worked with anything as cool as this before. We can see the actual physical paths that players take to get from one mission to the next.”

Thompson said it was his goal from test to test to remove the straight lines of players running from mission to mission, and have them be replaced with an explosion of scraggly lines – representing the varied paths players took to explore their surroundings. He asked his designers to entice the players to the enjoy the game around the story of Far Cry 3.

“It’s basically their job to distract players as much as possible,” he said. “Another thing that’s important to understand is why people died.”

Thompson used DNA to call up a video of a player who was driving a jeep at night before crashing in a ravine. Even with all that data, it’s important to recognize what’s a problem in design and what is just a crappy decision by the player.

“There’s not a lot we can do to help this guy except hope that he’ll learn from his own mistake,” he said.

As games get more sophisticated, it’s important for developers to have more sophisticated tools to analyze the habits of players. It’s cool to see the back end of how all that works for a game that engineers fun as well as Far Cry 3. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat some mushrooms and shoot a tapir.

Source: Creators Project

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