PAX 2018: Just Cause 4 Interview & Live Code Demonstration with Avalanche’s Ronny Mraz

October 29, 2018

While the bright lights and loud noises of PAX 2018 were happening, we slipped away into a private room for a chat with Ronny Mraz, the technical sound director for Just Cause 4 at Avalanche Studios. Hidden away behind closed doors we got to check out some live code of the game, and Ronny showed us the ins and outs of what to expect in the different biomes on offer. So get ready to be blown away in Rocket Chainsaw’s exclusive Just Cause 4 interview.

Hi Ronny, thanks for joining us today, it’s a pleasure to get to see the game in action, we’re big fans of the franchise. To get things started, what are the main new features in Just Cause 4?

The main feature that we’re most excited about for the player is the fully customisable grappling hook. So obviously as you can see through the movement, the grappling from Just Cause 3 is back but this time we’ve added a bunch of features to it. You have your basic tether, but we can also use rocket boosters, and we’ve also added an air lift component which lets you send objects up in to the air.

Ronny was sending civilians up into the air with the air lift component of the grappling hook, and we jokingly said it reminded us of Metal Gear Solid..

Exactly! Yeah! You can combine the functionality of multiple grappling hook features.

Is the balloon eventually going to pop, or are they going to keep going up?

It will pop if you do damage to it, or you can cancel the grapple point. We’ve given players the ability to customise any parameter within the grappling hook that they want. So we just looked at the basic features of the retractor, the air-lifter and the booster. If we go in to the modification menu for our retractor loadout, we can edit the natural behaviours of the retractor. We can add a force pulse, so when two grapple points come together they cause a pulse explosion. So if we use this on these two conveniently parked motorcycles, you can see that they slingshot away from each other in either direction, and of course you can use this on single objects, creating a single-directional pulse.

Avalanche has taken great strides with Just Cause 4 in having an amazing physics engine where anything is possible. We asked, “Does the force pulse have a recharge option, or can you just keep doing it?”

You can do it as much as you want. With every feature of the customizable grappling hook you can have up to twelve tethers active at a time, so if you wanted to you could combine that feature with any of the other loadouts that you have designed for yourself. And the modifications also permeate to the airlifter and the booster. So if we jump in to the modification menu for the airlifter we can set it so the objects that are being airlifted will follow Rico around wherever he goes. So if we were to grab a couple of people from around here, we can send them up in to the sky..

Just Cause 4 interview

(“It’s one of the best games to just watch, isn’t it?” We said to one of the reps that was cracking up laughing in the corner of the room. “It’s so much fun!” they replied.)

Are all of these features available straight away in the game, or will players have to unlock them?

No. So, we brought the chaos bar back from Just Cause 2. So narratively, the game takes place three years after Just Cause 3, Rico comes to Solis because he hears that his father contributed to a research project for a weapon…

“And died.” we said, which was revealed in the Just Cause 4 story trailer.

Correct. Solis is the home turf of the Black Hand and they’re run by their leader Gabriela. In order to rescue the island from the tyranny of the Black Hand, Rico and a team of rebellions form an army called the Army of Chaos. Throughout the game the Army of Chaos and the Black Hand square off in skirmishes known as “Front lines” which will be visual representations of the player’s progress throughout the world. So players can cause Chaos, and the more Chaos you cause the more squads, pilots, airdrops, and challenges you will unlock. Completing the challenges will give you more feature modifications for your grappling hook. When the player starts off, they only have the basic features of the grappling hook and even when they start the game they’ll have to do specific tasks to unlock more than just the retractor.

Great. Moving on to the Just Cause 4 map, it’s been said it’s about the same size as Just Cause 3 except there’s a lot more land. Are there big open spaces, or will we be finding hidden items and Easter eggs?

So this is the world on a singular landmass and each biome presents its own unique gameplay. So there’s tonnes of landmarks and surprises in every biome, and every biome is structured around its own gameplay and extreme weather event. The grasslands for instance has a lot of vertical points for a player to use to take off and traverse larger hills, valleys and farmlands whereas the rainforest has more dense vegetation when you’re inside the forest so it’s not as optimal for grappling. The desert is a much more more open space, and of course the alpine is a mountainous region giving the player a lot of opportunities to wingsuit and parachute off.

We put a lot more emphasis on the design of the wingsuit and parachute from Just Cause 3, it was very important to us to make it feel as natural as possible and almost an extension of Rico’s natural movements to create a much more smoother interaction between the wingsuit and parachute.

Just Cause 4 interview

What can Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro owners expect to enjoy over the base version, and will PC settings go even higher than the 4K consoles?

From a technical standpoint, One X and Pro users will just experience the benefits of having a more powerful system, same thing with PC. We have a mid-spec that we design to across the board, and the more powerful machine you’re playing on will be the experience you get with most games, we don’t have any specific features with the 4K consoles.

With Just Cause 3 at launch we saw framerate issues and other bugs..

We’re of course aware of all the technical issues we had at the launch of Just Cause 3, we actually built out a new proprietary game engine called the Apex Engine which is basically the reason why we’re able to pull off all of these over the top extreme weather events, it allows us more advanced physics simulation, we have a wind system at the front of it and it allows us to push over the top destruction combined with wind to create these extreme weather sequences and provide a technically sound gameplay experience for the player.

Which leads directly to our next question, with the sound in Just Cause 4, will it literally blow us away due to the natural disasters?

Hahahaha, yes!!

You mentioned there are different natural disasters in each biome…

Yes, so, taking a look at the map each biome has a unique weather event, the rainforest has a tropical storm, the grasslands has the tornado, the desert has the sandstorm, and the alpine region has the blizzard.

How will that affect the sheer sound of going through those natural disasters?

One of the things we’re most proud about with the audio of the game is having a very sophisticated dynamic mix system. Just Cause 4 is a game that’s effectively built on systems and the interaction of the different systems. As I mentioned, physics and wind interacting with destruction, interacting with weather is the crux of gameplay. We tapped in to those systems with our overall dynamic mix, so we give the player an auditory experience that is contextually most important to them. Let’s say you’re in a firefight at a base and a tropical storm rolls in. Even though there’s a bunch of Black Hand soldiers shooting at you, contextually that might not be where your attention lies when a giant tropical storm is barreling into your gameplay space.

When the player is interacting with those events it’s important to us to make it feel as epic as possible before introducing other elements of the soundscape as they begin to become more relevant to the player as you stay inside the storm for a while.

Just Cause 4 interview

So with the storms rolling in, will the NPC’s be responding to that as you’d expect them to, including civilians as well, we’re not going to see a civilian standing out in the middle of of a blizzard?

Haha, yes, correct!

While we’re discussing NPC’s, how many voice actors have been part of the development and how elaborate will NPC dialogue be?

I’m not sure exactly how many voice actors have been involved in the development of the game, but as far as dialogue between NPC’s go, one of the pillars we had for the design of Just Cause 4 was to create a living world within Solis. As you’re travelling through different settlements you will hear back and forth conversations between NPC’s. You’ll hear them speaking on cellphones and you’ll have a wide variety of dialogue that plays from NPC’s and contributes that the overall living world. It was very important to us to have a wide variety of voices throughout the game and create a modular system with NPC characters.

Will it be affected by how far through the story you are and how much of Solis that you’ve unlocked?

There will be some aspects of the game that will be affected by that, but NPC dialogue is not one of them. I unfortunately can’t go in to what those specific features are at this time.

Just Cause 4 interview

Coming back to the Just Cause 4 story, Rico learning about the fate of his father, should players expect an emotional story with some twists?

Yes. It was one of our goals to create a more deep narrative within the Just Cause franchise. For this game we wanted Rico to feel more like an action hero as opposed to just a stoic medium for the player to cause destruction. You’ll get to know a lot more about Rico and his past and how he interacts with the people that he comes in to contact with throughout his journey.

So what he’s found out about his father might not actually be the whole story.

Well you’re just going to have to play the game, haha!

Sounds intriguing! Just one last question, will Just Cause 4 have similar post-launch support to Just Cause 3 and what can you tell us about what’s coming post-launch?

We do have downloadable content planned post-launch for Just Cause 4. That’s pretty much all I can say at this time.

Just Cause 4 DLC Names

Will it be similar to Just Cause 3 or entirely different?

It will be a similar release structure, but the gameplay for the packs will be very unique. It will be very unique gameplay, very different to typical Just Cause gameplay.

Possibly more story-driven?

Ronny went quiet here, not wanting to say anything that would spoil the game, so we wrapped up the on-the-record part of our Just Cause 4 interview. We then switched our recorder off and had a more casual chat about the game while Ronny showed us some new gameplay elements on the screen. He went through a similar gameplay scenario to the recent hurricane trailer, and we got to see in real-time how Rico can fly around an active tornado and how you can almost control its direction. We learnt that you can fly above the tornadoes and come down into them, however Rico is less affected by the tornado than inanimate objects, and you’re more likely to be able to use natural disasters to your advantage than have them be a hindrance.

Just Cause 4 interview

Just Cause 4 is launching on December 4 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC platforms. We hope you enjoyed our Just Cause 4 interview and make sure stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw as we reveal more details about the game closer to launch. For more info on Just Cause 4 check out our E3 2018 coverage here, and head to the official website here.