Painting Shangri-La

How the developers of Far Cry 4 created a world with a world, using five colors.

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Far Cry 4 is an open-world shooter set in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat. Mostly.

In Far Cry 4 proper, players assume the role of the American-raised Ajay Ghale, who returns to his ancestral homeland after his mother's death. He finds a land in disarray, ruled by the despot Pagan Min. Faced with difficult choices and unable to ignore Kyrat's plight, he becomes a reluctant warrior for his country.

It's also the story of drug-induced trip to the mystical land of Shangri-La, to which players travel several times throughout the game. Bathed in light form its golden sky and surrounded by blood red seas, Kyrati legend says that Shangri-La is the land where the country's namesake, the goddess Kyra, attained enlightenment.

Shangri-La is a game within a game where Ghale assumes the role of another Kyrati warrior, Kalinag. Ever by his side is a tiger, as brilliant and white as he is focused and deadly to his foes. They are many, these deadly blue magicians.

Shangri-La bears almost no outward resemblance to Kyrat, yet they are, in narrative and in practicality, inseparable. In the real world, they inhabit the same disc. They are part of the whole that forms Far Cry 4. Just as they exist as complementary colors within the game, they're also the product of two distinct studios, both of which contributed to the larger experience. Much of Far Cry 4 came to life at Ubisoft Montreal. But Ubisoft is a worldwide network of studios, many of whom contribute to a single game. Far Cry 4's Shangri-La blossomed at Ubisoft Toronto, the studio art director Joshua Cook calls home.

Inventing Shangri-La was not an easy task. There was excitement and productivity. There were false starts and a creeping distrust between studios and competing visions. At the 2015 Game Developers Conference, Cook took the stage to talk about creating the world, why it ended up so differently than it was supposed to, and how, ultimately, Ubisoft used color to settle its differences and create a world within a world.

Scroll down to browse a gallery of images and learn more about its creation. Click on each image to read how Cook and the teams at Ubisoft created the strange and colorful land of Shangri-La.

Far Cry 4 screenshot

Far Cry 4 concept art

Shangri-La concept art

Shangri-La concept art

Shangri-La enemy

Islands bathed in gold

The red world

Orange objects

White tiger