I’m amazed at the ease-of-use and power of the stunning Map Editor for the game Far Cry 2 (2008). It’s possibly the most intuitive bit of 3D software I’ve used since the Spore Creature Creator. There may be better level editors out there, but I seriously doubt they are as easy to instantly use as this one. And it does real-time rendering, as you create the set using simple drag & drop. It’s easy to create a third-world / Fallout 3 -style / urban-decay -style scene in just a few minutes. The game was badly reviewed, and can be picked up along with the editor now for about $10/£6 from Amazon or eBay. I found mine for about £5.30 including shipping.
Here’s a quick-start overview:
1. Install the game. It seems the editor inherits your in-game graphics settings, so set the game to use high quality graphics and the best lighting.
2. Unlock a whole bunch of new models and capabilities. Download the fc2_editor_mod_v1.4.rar fan patch. Unpack it and drop the patch.dat and patch.fat into C:\Program Files\Ubisoft\Far Cry 2\Data_Win32. It’s that simple.
3. Find the editor (FC2Editor.exe) in C:\Program Files\Ubisoft\Far Cry 2\bin. You don’t get a shortcut to the Editor, so you may want to make one.
4. The interface is amazing simple and easy to use…
5. With the editor patch you have access to all the game’s assets, except people and animals (there are some rare wild animals, such as zebra, in the game). Just drag and drop from the library sidebar…
6. You can also load “collections” onto a brush, much like a turbo-charged version of the planter in iClone, and paint the landscape in a few clicks. This was created in about eight clicks…
7. Change the sun position and the weather with simple sliders. Unfortunately the wind-level and the skies are locked together. You can’t get cloudy skies without also increasing the tree-sway animation.
8. You can pan and zoom, with a three-button mouse, to get exactly the right shot. Potentially very useful for “distant views” that would strain iClone and take ages to set up and light.
And props can be easily rotated and moved…
9. For your iClone video backdrop, FRAPS can capture the real-time animation happening in the preview window. I got 18-20 FPS without FRAPS running. This only dropped to about 16 FPS on video capture using FRAPS. The resulting video does not need cropping. FRAPS is intelligent enough to just capture the game-engine display. It even includes a suitable African ambient-sounds audio track, if you need that.
10. You can also play what you’ve just created. Unfortunately there’s no way to get the gun/hand off the screen when playing. However you can apparently place “spectator” slots, which can presumably be filled by someone recording with FRAPS, for when the map is uploaded to the Far Cry 2 multiplayer servers.
You can of course also create much more urban settings than my example above, with an emphasis on decay and wear. The game-engine does fire especially well. There is no way of importing your own models.
There are a number of YouTube tutorial videos, a proper tutorials book, and a map-making forum although one focussed entirely on multiplayer shoot-outs rather than machinima. There seem to be no single-player or camera mods.
And what of the game itself?
After installing the game, non-gamers and those adverse to repetitive and generic plots (it’s a stinker, from what I read) may want to get a save-game such as this one, made by someone who’s slogged through the tedium for you. Just pick up the battery to exit the hut — after first marvelling at the Dunia game engine’s interiors, lighting and character modelling. Then you can go walkabout and get a feel for the game’s outdoor world. You’re in a free-roaming version of Central Africa. Twenty square miles of it. You can take the entire HUD off the screen, including the gun’s cross-hairs. That’s the good. The bad, machinima-wise, is:
* there is absolutely no way of getting the hand/gun combo off the screen in single-player mode. You’ll have to crop FRAPS video while carrying the pistol or machete, if you want to get in-play machinima video backdrops for use with iClone.
* Twenty square miles of lowland Central Africa… and no method of fast-travel. There are bus-stops. The buses take you to the bus depots in the sparse cities. There are vehicles, but masses of generic armed checkpoints. Sigh. Fan-tip: explorers should find and follow the disused railway lines to avoid a lot of tedious roadblocks. As with other huge open-world games which don’t allow the fans to add stuff to the single-player world with mods (games like Fuel), it’s apparently all rather repetitive. A collection of named save-games could allow you a type of fast-travel, but I’ve yet to find one.
* It’s soldier-boy-game brown. Very brown. With trees and shrubs that are dull green. No bright girly colours here to shrivel a young gamers’ manhood. You might be able to add some vibrancy to your video with the filters in a good video-editor, though.