The yearly celebration of Latin American Heritage Month, also known as Hispanic Heritage Month, is celebrated in both Canada and the United States - where it begins on September 15 and ends October 15, on and near Independence Day anniversaries for several Latin American countries. To celebrate, we spoke to two Latin Far Cry 6 developers on how they channeled their culture through their work.
While the world of Yara in Far Cry 6 may have been fictional; its authentic Latin American sensibilities are not. From the color palette to the soundscape, everything was designed to be as accurate to something you would find on a Caribbean nation as possible.
For two Latine Ubisoft Toronto developers who worked on the game, this focus on authenticity was particularly meaningful. Audio Director Eduardo Vaisman drew upon his childhood in Argentina to create the audio for Far Cry 6, while 3D Team Lead Programmer Stephanie Brenham saw parallels in its story with stories in her mothers’ life. Working on Far Cry 6 felt like an uncanny convergence of the pair’s personal and professional lives; an experience that in tandem was filtered through, and spoke directly to, their Latin American identities.
It’s in the Details
Vaisman grew up during the 1976-1983 Argentine dictatorship. He recalls living in a constant state of tension, where talking about politics with his family was too dangerous, and music by Cuban musicians was played on bootleg cassette tapes at the lowest volume.
Parts of these memories are reflected in Far Cry 6’s sound design. The military propaganda you can hear on the radios are directly inspired by the "comunicados" the Argentine government fed the population at the time, while the military marches were also inspired by those he heard in his youth, and were recorded for the game by a real provincial police orchestra (“There’s something in the sound of a military orchestra that tells you wielding an instrument is not the same thing as wielding a weapon,” muses Vaisman.)
Across all Far Cry 6’s audio design, Vaisman strove to be as authentic to the real Latin-American experience as he possibly could. He traveled to the Caribbean and South America twice to record over 50 hours of ambient backgrounds, including bird songs from some of the 27 endemic species of birds. He worked with several Cuban and Brazilian composers and artists, including Pedro (Netflix’s Narcos) and Afro-Latina Venezuelan artist Gabylonia. Alongside dialect coach Carlo Villas, he also created an original Yaran accent, which blends accents from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and the coastal side of Columbia into something that sounded genuinely Latin but was also completely unique.
Vaisman also overhauled how street musicians worked in Far Cry 6, a feature that might sound minor, but went a long way toward creating a real sense of place. He contracted renowned Cuban composer Hilario Duran to compose music inspired by traditional Latin American music – Cha Cha Cha, Montuno, Conga, Bolero, and Salsa - specifically for these musicians, who play in trios across the sprawling landmass that is Yara. The resulting arrangements were marvelous, and the musicians were animated convincingly to each one.
It's in these details where Vaisman believes Latin America is properly evoked. “All the little things we put in our games might seem like too much, but it’s there where we touch on the real experiences”
The Indominable Spirit of a Fighter
Brenham joined Ubisoft Toronto on September 19, 2016, and she recalls this date with such specificity as it was five days before her mother went into palliative care. During this time, her mom began to talk about her life, in particular, her childhood spent in Colombia. “Her social filters sort of fell away,” says Brenham. “And all of a sudden we were talking about her experiencing El Bogotazo as a little girl.”
Her mother’s stories about the Bogotazo riots that took place through the streets of Bogotá, Colombia and the Colombian civil war that followed were fresh in Brenham’s mind as she began work on Far Cry 6. With its themes of revolution and a story that centers on a freedom fighter protagonist, Dani, her mom’s life, from childhood to her dying weeks, became inextricably entwined with the game.
“My Mom had the indominable spirit of a fighter,” she says. “For me, Dani will always tie into that resourceful, quick-witted survivor spirit that my mother embodied.”
Brenham’s mother passed away a month after she began work on Far Cry 6, but the game, and her work on it, remains a tribute to her. “I felt my mom's presence for another five years,” Brenham says. “What could possibly beat that?”
For more about Ubisoft’s cultural observances, read our interview with Editorial VP Fawzi Mesmar in celebration of Arab Heritage Month, as well as our spotlight on Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and visit our Inside Ubisoft news hub.