It’s been almost three months since Capcom unleashed Monster Hunter: World into the wild, and it’s been breaking sales records and winning over new fans ever since. But even with all its success the work for the development team in Japan hasn’t stopped there, with a swathe of new monsters landing in the New World for players to hunt as well as the PC version still hard in the works. But despite being busy, Monster Hunter: World’s director Yuya Tokuda took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about the series, its impact and where it might be going in the future.
GameSpot: The Monster Hunter series has been very popular in Japan for many years, and now with Monster Hunter: World you have a game that’s been hitting big all over the world. Does that success change the way you think about the series moving forward in terms of accessibility?
Yuya Kokuda: Each game has its own targets and goals and we work towards them, and accessibility and ease of play was a big focus for us on World. Moving forward with the series I want to make sure we continue to focus on accessibility but not at the expense of depth--I don’t ever want players to feel like we’ve moved backward.
What were the main conclusions you made when setting out to make Monster Hunt World a more accessible game?
I wanted to evolve the three key pillars of Monster Hunter: action, multiplayer and the gameplay loop. But I wanted to make sure all players could get far enough to fully appreciate those things, so I knew we had to take a look at which parts of the game were hard to understand or too difficult, and revise them--again, without losing depth--or remove them as needed. The controls were a particularly big challenge, as were difficult-to-understand game systems and the challenge of how to tutorialise them. The difficulty curve was also something that needed work to make it more accommodating [for] new players while providing a satisfying challenge to veterans.
Obviously, you wanted Monster Hunter: World to be successful, but did you ever expect it to become the best-selling game in Capcom’s history? Does its success surprise you?
I was confident in the game’s quality, but the quality is never a guarantee of success. Once I saw gamers enjoying the game at events like Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show, and during the beta test on PlayStation 4 at the end of last year, I started to get a good feeling about our chances of doing well. I have to say though, I was still surprised by just how quickly the game sold so many copies!
Despite being more approachable to new players than other games in the series, Monster Hunter: World still feels like it’s full of mystery just waiting to be uncovered. There is a lot of information in the game waiting to be naturally discovered through the course of play. How important was it to you to retain some of that mystery for new players? Was that a difficult thing to balance?
It was very tricky. At its heart the game is about exploration and discovery--you learn how to hunt monsters and you also get to the bottom of the mystery in the storyline. Showing off too much of either would potentially rob players of the joy of discovering these things for themselves, and the sense of achievement and growth they get during the game. I also wanted players to share this kind of information with each other using multiplayer to communicate. I think overall we achieved a good balance, and you can see that in the many players uploading and streaming their own best gameplay moments and discoveries. But there has been a limit on how much information sharing players can carry out in multiplayer, leaving some to perhaps give up on progressing in the game as they don’t know enough. That’s something I want to keep in mind for the future so we can better plan for that.
The last few years have seen a rise in popularity of games with complex and detailed combat systems, like Monster Hunter: World and From Software’s Souls series. Do you think the success of those games and games like them has, in any way, helped prepare Western audiences for Monster Hunter: World?
I think that has been one aspect, yes. The game has some similarities in terms of depth to games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn. Also, games which ask the player to do a certain amount of grinding, like Destiny, are popular in the west, so I think the growth of that segment of the gaming population is also a factor. I love all of these games including the Souls series, by the way.
What was the thing that excited you most about moving Monster Hunter to the powerful consoles?
Being able to use the hardware capabilities to realise the monsters as part of a greater ecosystem. This was what attracted me to joining Capcom 14 years ago, and when I first saw the prototype with monsters fighting each other, I felt a surge of emotion at seeing what I’ve always wanted to create as I’ve worked on the series finally happen!
Monster Hunter has had a good history on Nintendo consoles, and a lot of fans are asking for Monster Hunter: World to come to Nintendo Switch. Former Sony executive Adam Boyes has even offered to help port the game with his company Iron Galaxy. Is a Nintendo Switch version of Monster Hunter: World something you have considered?
(Capcom was unwilling to provide an answer to this question)
Past Monster Hunter games have usually had an ‘Ultimate’ edition released as a separate game. Do you plan to continue the ‘Ultimate’ trend with Monster Hunter World?
We’re focused on supporting the game as it exists now with ongoing post-launch updates and DLC. We’ll regularly be adding new content and features through updates, and are working on new quests as well. We just released our first major title update which saw the return of classic monster Deviljho, which all Monster Hunter: World players can play for free. There’s plenty more in the works, so stay tuned for more news!
Do you have any advice for any future Japanese or Capcom development teams about how to approach more accessible or Western-styled game design?
Every game, team or company has its own strengths and its own creative concepts, so I don’t think they could just do things the way we did. Japanese games are back in vogue in the west these last few years, and I think the ones that succeed are offering a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else. It’s important for developers to understand what kind of play style Western gamers have, but first of all, they need to work on polishing up the best parts of their game to make it more appealing.
There has been a lot of player feedback online about the game’s multiplayer, which some people feel isn’t as player friendly as it could be. What have you learned from that feedback and are there any plans to change how it works in the future, either through patches or in future versions?
User feedback is obviously a really important thing to us, as it helps us learn a lot. We often discover new bugs or issues with gameplay that couldn’t have occurred to us, and we’ve tried to respond to feedback as quickly as we can. We made the game as user-friendly as we could within the constraints of development schedule and budget, but we knew there was more we could have done, so we’ve tried to work out what we can improve through updates, what we can alleviate with messaging, and what we should do better with for future titles.
Speaking of future versions, you have the PC version still in development which I know a bunch of people are looking forward too. What plans have you got for it?
We’re working on it right now--it’s fundamentally the same game as the console versions, with the addition of PC-optimised mouse and keyboard controls. Some players might be worried if the game’s action will work well on PC controls, but during the test phases, I’ve found them to be really great! The game hits PC this autumn so hang tight, PC players!
Is there any word on G Rank?
There’s nothing I can share with you at this time.
What’s your favourite Monster from Monster Hunter: World?
Nergigante and Xeno’jiiva. Nergigante because it’s an action-focused monster who you want to take on again and again when you’ve made a new weapon or got to grips with new moves. And Xeno’jiiva because its visuals are so beautiful--the way the lighting effects look. Combined with its theme music and the experience of fighting it, I think it’s a great and fitting end to the player’s journey of exploration in the New World!