Rest assured: 'World' is the next 'main' 'Monster Hunter' game
Rest assured: 'World' is the next 'main' 'Monster Hunter' game
Though Capcom's illustrious Monster Hunter series been wildly successful in their home country of Japan for more than a decade, it's proved an enigma to Western audiences. Its cult swells just a bit greater with each stateside release, but the franchise's arcane controls and reliance on outmoded technology has so far prevented it from gaining a substantial foothold in the charts, even as its devoted fanbase continues to evangelize. Now, with the recently-announced Monster Hunter: World marking Capcom's first real attempt to take the hunting party beyond Japanese shores, these very fans find themselves worrying whether or not this would-be world-beater will become "Westernized" – and thus perhaps compromised – in the import process.
If you ask producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and director Yuya Tokuda, that's the last thing they should be worried about. Glixel caught up with the duo at E3 to talk big changes, the pervasive influence of open-world games, the Monster Hunter's grander ambitions.
How do you view the relationship between Monster Hunter: World and the other Monster Hunter games? Is this a spinoff, or a main title?
Ryozo Tsujimoto: This is the next main Monster Hunter game. Our Osaka team is working on it. We've brought in some people who are more familiar with next-gen technology to come in and help us adapt it for the current generation of consoles. When you have a series that runs into the higher numbers, I think the numbers themselves start to become off-putting. New players might think, "Oh, I've missed four games already, I can't possibly join at this point." Just because we've taken the number off the title doesn't mean it's not a main Monster Hunter game. We just wanted to have "world" in the title because it speaks to the concept of the game in a variety of ways. This is the first simultaneous worldwide release for the game, and the servers are global this time.
As the first Monster Hunter game that many players will experience, what kind of mechanical changes can we expect, beyond what you've already revealed? Are you trying to target a wider audience with these changes?
Tsujimoto: Well, we just announced the title, so we've only shown you a small fraction of it. There's more time to talk about the changes later, but overall, the concept of a living, seamless "world" for players to enjoy served as our base, and all our decisions flow from that. This led us to look at everything that makes up Monster Hunter, put it all on the table, and think hard about what really works and what really doesn't. Through this, we'll be able to make the series more accessible than ever before. These changes come from the world concept, but in general, they'll make the game more accessible to a wider audience. It's not dumbing down feature "X" because people didn't like it – it's more that now that we have a seamless map, for example, it means that it makes more sense for you to be able to drink a potion while you're walking, because you're always going to be closer to the monsters. That's just one example, but all these gameplay changes have flowed from this central "world" concept. But we're not abandoning our veteran hunters.
Yuya Tokuda: We want to make sure that newcomers don't have the same experience they had with previous Monster Hunter games. We always hear people telling their friends, "Wow, this game is really incredible once you get to grips with it," but their friends just don't have time to research how to play the game. Those people will have a better time with World. We want everybody to have a chance. This is absolutely a multiplayer game, and it's absolutely a Monster Hunter game. But we have to introduce what exactly a Monster Hunter game is to a wider audience now, and we just began with the single-player portion. We're starting simple so people will be able to understand the multiplayer when the time comes.
Despite Monster Hunter's mammoth success in Japan, it's always been a niche phenomenon in the States. You might have one friend who's incredibly devoted to it, but it doesn't exactly rock the sales charts. Why do you think that is, and how are you working to reverse that trend with World?
Tsujimoto: We've always seen the West and Japan as fundamentally different, especially when it comes to factors like population density. With people commuting on trains in Japan, it was a lot easier to find people to form a hunting party with to take down a big monster. Now that it's finally coming to console, it's going to be a lot more comfortable for most people. If you're the person trying to evangelize Monster Hunter to a friend, you previously had to be there in the same room to show them the ropes. You needed a private guide. Now that we're on the current gen, online play means that you can access an incredible global community of veteran hunters, not your one friend. That's going to be huge for the West.
Tokuda: But, additionally, there are some changes we'll be making to the slightly more arcane aspects of the series. I don't think it hurts to address them. We always need to be ready to evolve. For example, Monster Hunter has never shown the health bars on the monsters. That's something you have to understand yourself, by watching the monster's behavior, or reading a guide. This time around, we've added damage numbers. There's no health bar, but now you know when you're doing slightly more damage. It's a small change, but it will help newbies tremendously. For veteran hunters, you can just turn this off. A lot of these examples involve the controls, which are totally optional changes. You can now click the thumbstick to run instead of holding a trigger, which most players in the West are used to, and you can use a radial menu to pick out items, instead of scrolling. Aiming with the bowguns is now more like a traditional third-person shooter. It's nothing major, but it goes a long way. We don't want to discard the series' tremendous legacy, of course. That's why it's an option.
The term "world" in gaming is irrevocably tied to the rise of the open-world approach in big-budget gaming. From what we've seen so far of the game, the way that the ecosystem interacts with both the player and itself reminds me of games that bandy about their "living, breathing worlds," like Far Cry. Did those games inspire some of the changes that you just described?
Tsujimoto: Well, of course. We're gamers and we love games, but it's not so much that we were directly inspired by Western games, but more that we worked out of our central "world" concept. Now that we have a seamless world, it just seemed natural to allow the player to see how the monsters interact when the player isn't around. Scavenging interactions, survival of the fittest – all that stuff is really important to Monster Hunter. We've always wanted to include it in the past, but the technology limited us. Now, we can have as much detail as we want, not just in the environments, but in the AI of the monsters, and how they interact with each other. It all flows from that central concept. We think about monsters a lot while making this game.
Tokuda: The concept of the "open world" is exactly what we're always wanted. We've always aimed to make each map a little compact ecosystem. We don't want to have some massive space where you have to chase the monster for miles. The map's size isn't the only thing. It's not about having a big world, it's about having a deep world. In a way, it's the ultimate expression of what the concept that's been there from the start. But only now are we able to make it the way we want.
This is the first time that a Monster Hunter game has come to PC. Do you expect that to present its own set of challenges?
Tsujimoto: Well, the PC version is coming out a little later than the console versions. We really want to make sure that we take time to optimize the PC experience. It's certainly true that the core Monster Hunter team in Osaka hasn't made that many PC games before, but overall, we're willing to put in the time that it takes to give everybody a great experience.
What's the one thing you're most excited about for Monster Hunter: World?
Tsujimoto: For me, it's using the world itself to your advantage in the hunts. You'll be able to use everything around you to help you best the monsters. Using those elements strategically is something I'm really excited to show people over the next few months.
Tokuda: I really enjoy tracking monsters down with the new tracking and tracing system with the Scoutflies. The thrill of beating a monster after that is really what I like. You see a footprint, a scrape on a tree, and finally, you turn a corner and see the monster you've been hunting. That moment where you finally find the prey you've been hunting – that's what it's all about.