Monster Hunter: World director Yuya Tokuda, and Senior Manager of Global Production Peter Fabiano appeared on stage at GDC 2018, for a presentation on how the development team tailored the gameplay changes for this iteration through a prototype of the game. [Thanks, Famitsu!]
When Monster Hunter: World development was just beginning, Senior Producer Ryozo Tsujimoto provided two missions for the title to achieve: “Create a ‘next gen’ Monster Hunter for home consoles’, and ‘Create a Monster Hunter game that both Japanese and International Players will enjoy’.
Next, Tokuda and Fabiano showed off the storyboard and concept art for the prototype. It was revealed that the Scoutflies and the Slinger were conceived from the original concept. Using the concept art, a prototype was created.
In the prototype, the Hunter starts off in a dark forest, which eventually became the basis for the Ancient Forest. After pushing past the trees, the Hunter swats away a spiderweb that sends the spider scuttling away. There were also small lizards climbing about as well.
One of the purposes of the prototype was to test out how dense of a ‘living, breathing environment’ they could make by placing these small creatures. The team was really proud of creating animations for even these smaller animals.
A dark cave, with Scoutflies and the environment as the only light sources, was also created to see how much of a feeling of exploration could be achieved. Although the atmosphere created was great, gameplay suffered due to the darkness, so the caves were made to be more brighter in the final game.
Furthermore, the team tested out how much hunting could be done just by using the environment, without using the weapon at all.
Later in the footage, the Anjanath appeared to chase the Hunter. According to Tokuda, in previous Monster Hunter titles, the routines for movement were such that monsters would get stuck between the trees. Using the prototype, the development team customized the tech to allow monsters to move around without getting stuck.
The Mounting feature was also tested out on this Anjanath. With the increased action elements to the Mounting feature, they later tested out having a recovery option available if requirements were met, that made it into the final game.
While the previous screenshots come from a prototype based on the engine created for Monster Hunter: World, Tokuda and Fabiano then revealed that there was an earlier prototype using the existing engine from previous game, and showed off footage from it.
The footage started off with a Hunter running away from an Anjanath, but using the Slinger, he managed to get away. At this point, Tokuda explained, “You spend so much time with the boss battles in Monster Hunter, so we tried to utilize a broad number of methods to have a good variety, and keep a good tempo going.” This was how they came to realize the game’s most ambitious change, which was using the environment.
The Hunter then hid behind a tree and drank a Potion. Due to the change to seamless maps, it became impossible to change Areas to drink potions, which is why hiding mechanics were added. However, it would be incredibly easy to trap the monster in a loop if Hunters were able to hide forever, so the development team made it so that the monsters will eventually find out the player’s position.
Then came a scene of using the environment (a river) to push away Anjanath. Just as the hunt seemed like it was about to end, a Lagiacrus appeared and attacked the Anjanath. Lagiacrus was added to test out the Turf War mechanic, and in fact was the actual target of the hunt. This was why the Hunter didn’t use his weapon to fight the Anjanath at all. The prototype footage ended with the Hunter pulling out his weapon against the roaring Lagiacrus.
Despite the footage, the Monster Hunter: World developers stated clearly that Lagiacrus will not appear as any of the following monster updates. This was because there were too many technical issues in creating new motions and animations for the Lagiacrus.
However, the results of the tests with Lagiacrus still remain in MH:W, as it was shown in the footage that parts of the earth was upheaved as it swam. It was meant to be a sign that the Lagiacrus was about to appear, but it was also meant to test out how monster movements could change the characteristics of the ground to allow for things such as jump strikes. This made it into the final game for monsters such as Jyuratodus.
According to Fabiano, using the prototype allowed the staff to easily understand the goals of development, and increased the quality and speed of the game development.
After the presentation, a Q&A session was held. Here are the highlights:
- There were several aspects that were added even though they expected there would be criticism for it, one of them being the addition of damage numbers. They felt that the Japanese userbase would not welcome the change, as up until now players had to judge from the reaction of the monsters, but after focus testing with Western players, the feedback was that they wanted to see something immediately. They also made it possible to turn off in order to appease Japanese players.
- The prototype gameplay was completed in about a year, and the graphics tests took another half a year. Furthermore, all of the shown footage was done in gameplay.
- The prototype was created by a team of around 50-70 people.
- A lot of the dev team members like cats.
- When designing monsters, they design it around a motif, such as a bulldozer. However, having said that, they had to then go back and make sure it fit in the living, breathing environment.
- They didn’t do any playtests for the Japanese domestic audience, as they could do it within the company, and obviously as a Japanese team they had the same sensibilities. For overseas, they had two playtesting opportunities, one in the US and one in the UK. They also got feedback during conferences and events such as Gamescom.
- As they predicted that there would be many people playing Monster Hunter for the first time, they decided to make the setting a new continent where everyone started with only the same amount of basic knowledge. In order to show the theme of an ‘ecosystem’, the story starts with the Hunter being chased through the environment, before the Research Commission is introduced.
- They wanted to have more new monsters which were adapted to the environments in the new world, so they created new monsters for each new environment.
- Tokuda had to speak to the entire dev team everyday in order to reach the quality of the prototype, as his vision wasn’t being conveyed well enough just speaking to the team leaders.
- In order to create a living world, they had to think of a food pyramid. What would be at the very bottom, and what would be eating the thing at the very bottom, etc. Although the world is still structured around these large monsters, they also added in a lot of smaller environmental creatures to present a dense world.
- The game design team first thought of the level curve, what they wanted players to experience, the number of monsters, and other elements. They would then place that within the food pyramid to figure out what monster that would be, then leave it to the artists to present concepts.
Monster Hunter: World is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PC version will release in Fall 2018.