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  • Writer's pictureTiago Massochin

A Battle for Information: The FND Disruptor Design Development Process

Updated: Apr 9

In my next development log, I'll talk about how I came up with the Disruptor for the Ubisoft Next 2024 Game Design Challenge. This challenge was about creating a human enemy for a Far Cry game. I chose Far Cry 6, and here's why: looking at previous winners, I noticed they often picked the latest games from Ubisoft, which might mean the judges prefer that. But there's more to my choice. I also wanted to enter the Level Design Challenge, aiming to bring my Brazilian heritage into play by taking advantage of my familiarity with Latin American architecture. Far Cry 6, set on a Caribbean Island, seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this. I dive deeper into how I use my architectural experience into my level design for the Ubisoft Next 2024 challenge in this other post for those interested.

EMP as the initial spark

My journey began with a deep dive into Far Cry 6, aiming to find something new for its already large enemy lineup—a tough task given the wide variety of enemies in the game. This vast array of foes made it hard to think of a unique enemy type. However, during my research, I noticed something missing: an enemy that uses EMP technology. This idea of adding an EMP-using enemy was interesting at first, but it soon felt somewhat simplistic and lacking in impact. Just adding a new type of enemy without a strong reason or a way to make the game better didn't seem enough. So, I decided to put that idea aside for a while and started looking for something more innovative that could truly add to Far Cry 6's enemy roster, aiming for a feature that would be both new and significantly improve the game.

Realizing that just looking over spreadsheets of current enemies’ stats wouldn't spark the idea I needed, I jumped back into Far Cry 6 to get a fresh perspective. I thought playing the game again might show me something I missed before, a chance to find a new kind of enemy. This approach really worked, especially in the intense moments of the game. I noticed how the game's interface, with all its radar for enemy positions and enemy tags, gave away too much information, making things too easy once you got powerful weapons like grenade launchers and explosive arrows. I ended up just targeting enemies as dots on the radar, firing away without really seeing them and effectively killing them. This heavy reliance on the game's UI made the experience less engaging, turning exciting moments into routine actions that no longer felt adventurous or surprising.

This revelation spotlighted a potential avenue for innovation: an enemy designed to exploit the player's dependence on these informational crutches by disrupting them, thereby transforming an advantage into a vulnerability. This strategy not only aligns with the natural progression towards greater gameplay challenges at the end state but also reinstates the element of unpredictability and discovery that enhances engagement. Echoing Greg Costikyan's arguments in 'Uncertainty in Games,'[1] removing unpredictability from games can lead to a lackluster experience. Recognizing this, the design aims to revitalize the game by reintroducing a sense of uncertainty and excitement in a diegetic way, keeping the players' interest alive.

You need to try it to be sure

Luckily, Far Cry 6 offers an option to turn off the UI elements like the radar and enemy tags, making a game without these guiding tools possible. I took this chance to test my idea by playing the game without the UI. Whenever an enemy spotted me, I quickly went into the settings to turn off the radar and enemy tags. This change significantly intensified and enriched my gaming experience. Without the enemy indicators, I had to improve my awareness in combat, listen more carefully, and move through fights with more caution and excitement. It was the kind of tension that makes battles more thrilling, forcing me to think and act more strategically.

This test convinced me more than ever to develop a new enemy type based on this concept. Also, while playing, I noticed how powerful the Supremos—clearly by design, as they're meant to be strong weapons—and vehicles can be, without any drawbacks. This observation opened another area to explore. Putting these ideas together, I came up with an enemy that combines three core aspects: the yet-to-be-used EMP technology not seen in the FND's lineup, a method to make combat more engaging by providing less information, and a countermeasure to the player's very powerful Supremos and vehicles.

Crucially, to ensure this concept remained balanced, this enemy would lack direct offensive capabilities, posing no immediate physical threat to the player. Instead, it focuses on disrupting the player's UI aids and neutralizing Supremos and vehicles. This strategic limitation creates an adversary focused solely on stripping away player advantages rather than engaging in direct confrontation. After I mixed the concept of removing visual info with the flee dynamic, it revealed a gameplay issue: without a radar, tracking this elusive enemy becomes challenging. To solve this, I introduced an auditory cue—a beep sound emanating from the Disruptor's location. This allows players to rely on sound to locate the enemy, compensating for the absence of visual aids and maintaining the game's balance and interactivity, while offering a new way to players to interact with the game.

By synthesizing these elements, the blueprint for the FND Disruptor was formed, an enemy archetype designed to transform the battlefield by exploiting gameplay dimensions, thereby introducing a level of strategic complexity previously unseen in Far Cry 6.

A Familiar Language

After finalizing the idea for my enemy design, I began working on my entry for the competition: a comprehensive 10-slide presentation that outlined my vision for this new adversary. This presentation was carefully crafted to highlight my design goals and key concepts, aiming to showcase the unique role, appeal, and potential impact of this enemy in Far Cry 6. I also dedicated a significant part of my presentation to the details—such as its equipment, abilities, and operation within the game. This focus aimed to show the judges that I had thoroughly considered key aspects of the development process, vital for the enemy's successful implementation in the game. This includes selecting weapons and armor that already exist in the game (making the implementation easy), defining rules and metrics for its abilities, detailing its machine state/behavior for different situations, its attack range, cooldown periods, and the variety it brings to combat scenarios.

My approach was also highly technical, to highlight my focus on game balance and practical implementation right from the start. Understanding the variety of play styles in Far Cry, I included slides to demonstrate how my design could adjust to different player approaches, making sure the enemy was flexible and accommodating of the many ways players interact with Far Cry 6. It was important to acknowledge the diversity of player experiences and to ensure my enemy stood out as a novel, non-repetitive element within the game's existing enemy lineup, thus enriching the diversity of adversaries without seeming unnecessary.

Disruptor's State Machine used in first brief
Disruptor's State Machine used in first brief

Although the competition guidelines recommended avoiding slides dense with text, the intricate nature of my design required thorough descriptions. To address this, I carefully structured the information hierarchy in my slides. This approach guaranteed that a quick look would provide a clear grasp of my idea, while also offering the option for a detailed dive into each aspect for judges’ keen on more specific insights. Such structuring turned what could have been overwhelming blocks of text into content that was easy to navigate, digest and compelling.

Furthermore, to strengthen the connection between my enemy concept and Far Cry 6, I adopted the game's UI design elements for my presentation slides. By reflecting the layout, color scheme, and font style of the game's menu, my goal was to underline how seamlessly my antagonist fits into the Far Cry 6 world, making a visual case that this new enemy belongs naturally within the game's ecosystem. This choice of visual harmony went beyond aesthetic appeal; it was a deliberate decision to highlight the antagonist's fit and significance within the Far Cry 6 narrative and gameplay.

Bridging Game Design and Narrative

After my initial submission was accepted by the jury, I moved on to creating my second submission: a Detailed Design Document for the Disruptor. Luckily, I had already prepared the foundation for this document while working on the first submission, where I had carefully detailed the Disruptor's design specifics—including its metrics, mechanics, and how it fits into the game's world. This groundwork gave me a significant advantage, allowing me to refine and further develop the existing ideas with more detail and accuracy.

An essential refinement in my design process came when I tackled an oversight regarding accessibility and player interaction through sound. Initially, my design for the Disruptor leaned heavily on audio signals, specifically a beeping sound, to guide players to its location. However, I soon realized the potential challenges this could create for players with hearing disabilities, as well as the possibility of players missing these auditory hints. To address these concerns, I made a key adjustment. I reconfigured the player's cellphone, which was already non-functional within the Disruptor's range, but now also serves as a visual aid for pinpointing the Disruptor's location. This change not only resolved the accessibility issue by providing two different options to track the Disruptor but also enriched the overall gameplay experience by offering an innovative way to interact with the game's mechanics.

Beyond refining the design, I also paid close attention to how the document itself was presented, aiming to fully engage the judges' interest. Inspired by the game's storytelling, I formatted the document to mimic an official report from the FND, adorned with Yara government letterheads and even President Castillo's signature. This creative approach stemmed from recognizing that traditional documents often struggle to captivate readers. By infusing the document with elements from the Far Cry 6 narrative and making it resemble something from its world, my goal was to elevate the submission into a narrative-rich experience. This tactic went beyond merely catching the judges' eyes; it was about making the document not only engaging but also a distinctive piece that vividly conveyed the innovation and complexity of the Disruptor's design.

The Grand Finale

Heading into the final stretch of the competition, I was tasked with creating a comprehensive final briefing presentation for the Disruptor. This last stage allowed for a 15-slide presentation, slightly more than the initial submission, but with a crucial new element—I would get to present in person to the judges. This shift dramatically changed my presentation strategy. The heavy text blocks that filled my initial slides were no longer needed because I could now explain my design concepts verbally. As a result, I simplified the slides, removing the excess text and planning to cover the intricate details through my spoken explanation.

Taking a creative approach, I decided to strategically navigate the rules concerning slide count by leveraging the organizers' clarification that title slides wouldn’t be included in the total count. I extended this interpretation to include subtitle slides as well, using this to my advantage. Consequently, I integrated subtitle slides as smooth transitions between different sections of my presentation, like “Design,” “Process,” and other crucial topics. This technique helped maintain a coherent and well-organized progression throughout the presentation.

Also, in my final submission, I decided to make a key addition by incorporating animations into my slides. This dynamic feature enabled me to manage how information was presented and paced, keeping the judges engaged and ensuring that no slide seemed too cluttered or daunting. Utilizing animations not only elevated the professionalism of my presentation but also greatly improved its ability to hold the audience's attention and interest.

However, the cornerstone of this final presentation was, without a doubt, rigorous rehearsal. I dedicated myself to practicing my delivery with relentless focus, carefully honing every detail—from the emotional tone and pitch of my voice to the rhythm and pace of my words. This thorough preparation was crucial, enabling me to not only present the Disruptor design convincingly but also with compelling enthusiasm that highlighted its innovative qualities and importance. It was this clear articulation and persuasive presentation that ultimately won over the judges, garnering their attention, respect, and, in the end, their full support.

Final Thoughts

Winning the contest with the Disruptor design was not only a validation of the design’s creativity and specifications; it was a victory for meticulous slide design, savvy interpretation of the rules, and exhaustive practice. This achievement didn't just confirm the Disruptor's potential to transform the gameplay; it also spotlighted my skill and creativity in game design, marking a pivotal moment in my career.

Me receiving the award at the ceremony
Me receiving the award at the ceremony

See you next time,

Zizo Mass



[1] Costikyan, G. (2013). Uncertainty in Games. MIT Press.


Ubisoft Next 2024 - Game Design - Phase I – Creative Brief Presentation
Download PDF • 101.77MB

Detailed Design Document – FND Disruptor - V1.1
Download PDF • 1.33MB

Disruptor Brief Final Presentation
Download ZIP • 98.77MB

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