Screenshot: Kotaku (Far Cry 5)

Far Cry 5 finally got a new game plus mode last week along with its third and final DLC, a set of brief new zombie missions. The new additions have inspired players, always looking for mysteries in the game’s fictional open world of Hope County, Montana, to desperately search for signs the game may be changing seasons to match our planet’s actual orbit around the sun.

“I noticed while playing earlier that some trees had began to turn orange and leaves can be seen falling,” wrote one player on the game’s subreddit yesterday. “Is the game slowly cycling to autumn in real time, or have there always been trees like this?” A fascinating question indeed! To see Far Cry 5’s foliage change from cascading greens to a sea of glowing golds, warm reds, and bright oranges would be truly magnificent.

Other players clearly think so as well, which is why some of them took the whisper of possible changes to the world as a call to hunt for further signs of a coming autumnal equinox. “You know, I was playing yesterday and thought the same thing,” another Far Cry 5 player wrote in the same thread. “I got the game on release but having a little one running around it takes me a long time to finish a game. I don’t think I’m 50% done yet, but I was playing yesterday and thought damn those trees looks alot more yellow than usual. If this is actually it would be epic.”

Others weren’t convinced, but a seed once planted, in the Far Cry community at least, has a knack for taking on a life of its own, even if the mystery never amounts to something more. First there was the hunt for Bigfoot based on various hints off the game’s beaten paths. Then there was the investigation into strange voices heard through the game’s radio static in certain locations when tuned to certain stations. Nothing came of either of these searches, and it’s unlikely anything will come of this latest one, either.

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I walked around a little in the game this morning and didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary. The leaves were as green as ever. When it comes to the changing of the season, as one player on the subreddit pointed out, Ubisoft isn’t the type to just let massive updates begin taking shape unannounced. When asked by Kotaku for comment on the subject of season weather getting added to Far Cry 5, Ubisoft did not immediately respond.

But perhaps the best proof that Far Cry 5’s deciduous fauna aren’t slowly changing color comes from an August presentation about rendering open worlds delivered by one of the game’s designers at the educational conference SIGGRAPH 2018. The slides for the presentation by Ubisoft’s Steve McAuley were recently put online, and as NYU Game Center professor Robert Yang pointed out, they show that something akin to seasons had originally been planned for the game’s lighting but was ultimately left out.

One of the design problems, apparently, was that every day and night being different would lead to difficulties with lighting, especially in regards to modelling the moon at night as it changed. Instead of trying to model the complexities of a planet hurtling through space, the game loops the same day over and over, while playing with the elevations and things like fog effects that burn away as it gets brighter to give the sense of a dynamic environment. In reality though, Hope County is trapped in a Groundhog Day-like purgatory which, all things considered, feels appropriate for Far Cry 5.