Judging by this demonstration shown behind closed doors at E3 2017, Beyond Good & Evil 2 will be a video game of ambitious scope — in the playing space, in the characters, in the choices it presents and the story uniting it all.
It's the game Michel Ancel wished to create for Beyond Good & Evil, but, obviously, the technology of 14 years ago simply couldn't handle that vision. Perhaps the best metaphor of what Ancel and Ubisoft Montpellier are going for in Beyond Good & Evil 2 can be seen at 3:49 of this behind-the-scenes video.
That's Knox, the monkey-human hybrid seen in the trailer that closed out Ubisoft's E3 2017 keynote and gobsmacked BG&E fans. The camera zooms out from the detail seen on the skin of the Ganesh monument, past the atmosphere and into orbit, without any transition or break. Apparently it can go even further.
"Precise from space to one millimeter of distance, to see all the details," Ancel told the Ubisoft blog. "That's the kind of challenge we need to face for the game. It's not a small part of the world. Every centimeter needs to be very precise."
The cast will be of a comparable scale. Unlike the first Beyond Good & Evil, in which players inhabited the persona of Jade, and the relationships she made were all wired to the story, Beyond Good & Evil will involve a created protagonist. Who they meet are still critical to the story, but how they meet them will be up to players' explorations.
"We want people to create their play style, their crew, they customize their ship, but they are in the same universe, the same adventure,” Ancel said. “So you can say, ‘How did you get into the prison?’ Oh, I did that and that.’ ‘Oh no, I did another thing!’ But at the end, everybody went into the prison and got the guy and added him to the crew. You will have different possible decisions, of course, but there is a structure. You can compare to each other what you’ve done.”
Beyond Good & Evil 2 will find the player in a golden age of piracy, the 22nd century in a place called System 3, a fertile nexus of trading. As such, Ancel and narrative director Gabrielle Shrager felt it appropriate to stage a prequel to the original game, rather than a sequel.
Shrager conceived of a huge backstory — in the 22nd century, China and India were the superpowers of Earth, and became the colonial powers of space. The hybrid animals that give Beyond Good & Evil's cast its distinctive misfit appeal were developed as a slave labor force that could resist hostile environments.
These are perfect spacefaring companions, Ancel says. "Pirates accept anyone who wants to be part of their crew, irrespective of origin," Ancel said. "Pirates stick together."
Players will have to begin with next to nothing. "We might give you a small space tuk-tuk," says Guillaume Brunier, the senior producer, referencing the three-wheeled taxis seen in south Asian locales. "The idea of the game is you are going to live this life that is going from nobody to a space legend."
Vehicles will similarly scale up. The main pirate ship that serves as the game's hub is a garage for smaller customizable spaceships that the player will also operate on their adventures.
They will have plenty of space to explore. Beyond Good & Evil won't be set in a galaxy, per se, but in a single star system that must be traversable in a way that impresses that scale on the user. That zooming out from the city to the atmosphere was only the beginning; from there the player should move out further to see that the planet is actually the satellite of a larger ringed planet (seen in some of the horizon shots on the surface).
Ancel says System 3 will behave — planets and satellites rotating and revolving as normal — in real time, such that the sunsets and sunrises one sees on the surface of a world are manifestations of what's going on out ... there. Procedural generation will be used to fill out some of the worlds out in the system. "Today, we can hand-craft everything," Ancel said, "or we can decide to have a kind of robot that is going to calculate the history of the planet."
This is what Beyond Good & Evil 2 aspires to at what its creators call “day zero” of development. It’s no surprise, then, that no launch timeframe at all has been given.