Bridging the Gap Between Lone Wolf and Wolf Pack
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is playable in single-player or multiplayer, so every story mission is replayable. Your game world and progress are saved, but if you join another player's co-op session, then you're seamlessly melded into their world. The world state is determined by the unlocked and completed missions of the host.
"We wanted to make sure that the players get to play with their friends," says Butler. "Co-op is a core part of the game. Let's say Sam and I have both bought the game, but we didn't start playing together directly. We want to make sure that just because I've completed some missions here, we can still replay some missions together. The system is built to support it. You're never forfeiting something because you decided to play solo one night. The idea is to keep playing."
"If you're going for, as an example, the El Chido extract; if I had done that already and Sam hadn't, I would be able to replay that with Sam," Butler continues. "In my world, El Chido has been extracted. If I join a co-op session, we have a system within our mission tree that allows us to say, 'Ok, I want to play this with Sam,' and the world will basically repopulate."
According to Butler, Ghost Recon: Wildlands also have an adaptive system, allowing different players to play on different difficulty levels in a single co-op session.
Making a game that can be easily played in cooperative online mode means there's little bleed-through between the regions. Ubisoft wants the game to play out like a television show: Completing a region or taking down a captain is the end of one story, not a reason to go driving all the way to another part of the map.
"We try to keep things kind of contained, almost like episodes of a TV show. That way we can be sure that, if you've done this province and he's done that province, we can still play together without having a crazy impact on the whole world," explains Strachman.
"Yes, we could have something where it feels connected," says Butler, "but having that narrative arc that happens, that's contained largely within a province [is important]. When you have this massive open-world with no formal borders, we want players to sit down and feel like they're making a difference, instead of a percentage bar that's just creeping up. We were worried that players would find it too hard to project themselves into their role; keeping things localized within a province means you can do that."
Your Ghost, Your World
There will be a good deal of narrative feedback for your exploits though. Taking out Security might not lower the number of guards elsewhere in the narcostate, but the effect on the world will be related to you through the radio and newscasts.
"There are narrative reactions to these changes you've caused. Say Security's gone and Production is gone, but Trafficking is going well. If you think globally, what does that mean? In general, there's less cocaine coming out of Bolivia. That means the price of cocaine in places like New York is going to skyrocket. There's lots of radio feedback and news feedback in the world," says Strachman.
Finally, the Ghosts themselves are customizable, another artifact of Ghost Recon: Wildlands leaning towards multiplayer play. Gender, skin tone, clothing, and weapon customizations are are choosable by the player. Despite that, the Ghosts themselves participate in cutscenes, necessitating some choices on Ubisoft's part.
"It was a choice we made very early on," says Strachman. "From start, we wanted all four Ghosts to be fully-customizable. We knew that going in. They each have their own distinct personalities, but there's unique actors and voices available."
"You're the one making the decisions, but he or she still has a name and kind of a personality," he continues. "It's not a single-player linear experience, but we don't want it to be boring. We want it to have fun personalities, fun jokes and conversations. It's a very careful line and we think we found that nice middle ground."
So the only question left is, "How are you planning to take down El Sueno?"
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is coming PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on March 7, 2017.