Far Cry 3 dev on game narratives: "almost no-one" can get great performances

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The maniacal performance of the player character's captor, Vaas in the Far Cry 3 demo was one of the most memorable moments of E3 this year. We caught up with narrative director on Far Cry 3, Jason Vandenberghe on the show floor to discuss the art of honing a great virtual performance, and explore the reasons why so many virtual actors end up in "the uncanny valley of performance."

Far Cry 3's virtual actors are captured from real performances, using technology that records body and face movements simultaneously. Vandenberghe told us that keeping the body and facial performances together made it much easier to shoot Far Cry 3's scenes. "We were able to play it as a movie," he says.

However, getting Vaas's performance onto a hard drive involved more than simply pointing a camera at the actor. "I think we have to be sophisticated and use these tools correctly," says Vandenberghe. "Directing actors is also a technical discipline, and a creative discipline.

"There are techniques in acting and performance that evoke great performances, and there are techniques in acting and performance that evoke good performances. The industry has gotten really good at getting good performances, almost no-one can get great ones."

Talking about why some virtual performances work and others don't, Vanderberghe said "there's an uncanny valley of performance, not just in characters, but performance, and we are just , like, one or two of us have just gotten across that frickin' gulf, right? Like, scrambling up of it, going "okay!"

"Now we have to figure out how to repeat that, and make sure that we're consistent in doing it, so it's a fun moment to be pushing that. Our goal is to be at the very front, to be way ahead of anyone else."

For more on Far Cry 3, check out our Far Cry 3 preview from the E3 2011 show floor. The Far Cry 3 announcement was one of our pick of the biggest news stories of E3 this year.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.