E3 2012: Metro: Last Light Developer Interview
“It’s a terrifying, hostile world”
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
THQ Australia were generous enough to offer OXCGN a chance to have an email interview with Huw Beynon, Studio Communications Lead over at 4A games developing Metro: Last Light, the sequel to Metro 2033.
Myself and Nicholas Laborde had a few questions that THQ Australia delivered. They give a great insight into the world of Metro: Last Light and the direction the sequel is being taken.
What looks certain is that the care and effort being put into this sequel is second to none.
Be sure to check out OXCGN’s preview of the game, here.
OXCGN: Atmosphere was such a defining, crucial aspect of the first title. How are you going to move this aspect of the game forward in Last Light?
‘Atmosphere’ is one of those critical game elements that everyone recognises when they see it, but is incredibly hard to achieve.
At 4A, creating atmosphere is one of the fundamental goals for the game that has to run though every moment. We have a number of specific game mechanics to help achieve this – our super minimal UI (which can be removed altogether), the way we portray Artyom’s physical interaction with the game world, the way we use light and audio and other advanced visual effects such as volumetric smoke and particle effects.
But atmosphere is also achieved through pacing, anticipation and suspense, as well as strong in-game dialogue.
We also pour detail into every environment – the richer the world, the more variety in both critical and incidental detail, the more immersed the player feels.
For Last Light we are obviously building on all these techniques, but we are particularly proud of how we’ve developed new dynamic weather effects to bring our outdoor environments to life. And thematically, Last Light explores the supernatural element that runs through the Moscow Metro in more depth.
OXCGN: The dynamic weather effects are stunning and watching Artyom wipe the water from his gas mask is one of those little features that make me appreciate a game more. How has the 4A Engine this time around allowed 4A to visually represent the story they want to tell in Last Light?
Metro: Last Light takes place about a year after the events of 2033, and during this time, the first signs that the earth may be recovering from its 20 year nuclear winter are beginning to show.
In Metro 2033, our outdoor environments were almost universally ashen grey, frozen, bleak and lifeless.
The first hint of spring has allowed us to use a much richer tapestry of texture and colour outdoors – you’ll see rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds, the first signs of vegetation re-claiming the city.
We didn’t want to lose the bleak, hostile atmosphere of the original, so we developed some very extreme dynamic weather effects that will have a real impact on gameplay too.
As Metro is built with our own tech, the 4A Engine, it was just a case of adding these capabilities.
OXCGN: Is exploration going to be a bigger gameplay device? Metro 2033 gave this impression of a wide, expansive metro with tons of nooks and crannies, but unfortunately we only got to see a small slice on Artyom’s journey.
Metro is a linear experience – we do not have hub worlds or side quests.
We do include a number of large levels that present the player with different routes through and plenty of hidden secrets, but we are not an expansive sandbox game.
It won’t be possible to play the entire game with a stealthy approach – we do want the player to experience fierce encounters, particularly against our mutant foes.
However, most human combat encounters will present stealth as an option to the player.
Ultimately, Metro is not a ‘stealth’ game any more than it’s a ‘shooter’ or a ‘survival horror.’ It’s an action adventure that includes many genre types that are appropriate to telling that story.
OXCGN: Is the story going to be a sort of “alternate” version of what the author intended for Metro 2034, or is it a vastly different one? It’s been said that you guys are working with him to craft a story that’s different from the novel sequel.
It’s very different – Metro 2034 was a very different style of novel to Metro 2033, and really not suited to a videogame adaptation.
Metro: Last Light is the direct narrative sequel to 2033 that continues Artyom’s story, and we’ve worked closely with Dmitry to craft this new plotline.
All the genre types within Metro fit the setting and narrative.
It’s a terrifying, hostile world riddled with supernatural phenomena and mutants – so it makes sense to have a strong survival horror element.
It’s a fractured human society of warring, extremist factions into which you – a relatively inexperienced young man, Artyom – are flung.
So we needed strong FPS combat mechanics that demanded the player take a more thoughtful, tactical approach than your average corridor shooter.
Lastly, we’re trying to create a living breathing world for the player to discover and explore, and we wanted to show a side of this word that didn’t just revolve around killing things. Our station cities help us deliver that.
We think all these elements fit together well – we’re not targeting a specific ‘genre’ player, more someone looking for a completely unique, original story-driven experience.
OXCGN: Nearing the end of the demo where we experience a flashback, if you will, through Artyom of what happened to the passengers on the plane, can we expect similar cinematic cutscenes like this throughout the game?
Wait and see. But it would be a shame if we just repeated the same trick all the time…
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
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