After making its home on 3DS for the past five years, Capcom is bringing the Monster Hunter series back to home consoles with Monster Hunter: World, which is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in early 2018 (with a PC release following soon afterward). Unveiled during Sony's E3 2017 press conference, World looks like something of a departure for the series, introducing new elements like camouflage and a grappling hook-like weapon that add a whole new layer of strategy to the way players approach a hunt.
In addition to the live demo we got to witness at E3, GameSpot got a chance to speak with Monster Hunter producer Ryozo Tsujimoto and executive director Kaname Fujioka via an interpreter about the new title. We asked the developers about their decision to bring Monster Hunter back to home consoles, as well as what new elements players can expect to find in the upcoming installment.
GameSpot: What made you decide to bring this particular installment to home consoles after the most recent ones have been on handhelds?
Ryozo Tsujimoto: The series has been going for about 13 years now, so it's quite long in the tooth, but we felt it was a good time to start reevaluating the series and what we want to do with the next title. It was a good opportunity at this particular time because the current generation of technology is so powerful that it will allow us to express a much more dynamic, living world than we've ever been able to before. So when we had that concept in place, it seemed to make sense at this time to take advantage of home console hardware and bring Monster Hunter back to consoles. It's going to let us have a lot more dynamism and monster behavior, more realistic AI, and complex interactions between monsters. Everything, the timing, just seemed to be right for us.
As far as how the game is structured, are all the individual areas of the map still segmented as they were in the older titles? Or has moving to home consoles allowed you make a more seamless world this time around?
Tsujimoto: We still have the idea that there are numbered zones, different locales in the map, but they are seamless. There's no loading screen between individual areas. It's created as each map is one whole area. That's something that has led us to flowing on from that change, making certain key quality-of-life improvements that make more sense within the concept. For example, in the past, whenever you used potions or similar items, your character stopped and did animations and it was kind of the strategy of what do you prioritize. You have to run out of the area and make a loading screen happen, and now that you're in a clear area you have a chance to take your potion. Now that there's no loading screen, it made sense to make it possible to drink potions while you're walking and other things like that. It's an exciting change to the way the maps work. It's really brought in a domino effect on other parts of the gameplay. But it's still at its core a Monster Hunter experience.
I think both of those styles are Monster Hunter gameplay. It's just that you have to make sure that the entirety of the gameplay system works within the context of what you've done with the maps. That's how we approached it.
Has moving to more powerful consoles allowed you to include more elements that you weren't able to achieve before on weaker hardware?
Kaname Fujioka: The power of the current generation of hardware has really let us make these seamless environments come to life, whether it's just literally the graphical detail, more detailed structures with everything like plants and smaller animals and creatures, up to the big monsters. But when it comes to the fact that we've got more complex 3D geography in the maps, with lots of verticality, that means the more complex the environment gets, the more you have to work on the computation of the monster behavior to make it move around those environments realistically because it's not just moving on a flat plane. It's got to climb complex inclines, jump down cliffs, and things like that. To add all those things together into one living, breathing ecosystem, it really does take the power of the current generation.
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How long has Monster Hunter: World been in development?
Fujioka: I think over three years, at the moment. We also had period of about a year when we were first kicking off the project prototyping the concept of what we wanted to do.
Does Monster Hunter: World build off the elements that were introduced in Monster Hunter Generations, like the Hunting Styles and Hunter Arts? Are they going to appear in this game, as well?
Tsujimoto: The Hunter Arts and Hunting Styles from Generations are not featured. Those were part of the concept of that title. That was kind of a celebration of Monster Hunter history to that point. One of the focuses of that title was flashy, unique action style, which was going to make everyone pick which one of the four styles they wanted to use. That was that concept. Every title we make, we have a key concept, and from that flows forth the gameplay decisions. That doesn't necessary mean that once you made a decision for one game it makes sense to just bring wholesale all those elements back into the next one. So, as I said earlier, World, the name itself, is the concept for our new title. It's a comprehensive, detailed, vivid, living, breathing world that you're just going to dive right into as a hunter. That's where all of our gameplay decisions flowed from.
Fujioka: We want you to think about this world and also use it. It's something you can use strategically as part of your hunting strategy. You've got this new sub-weapon or sub-tool called the Slinger. It's something you can use not just to hook shot off of parts of the environment, but you can pick up rocks and things and use it to fire them out or even create distractions. You'll also be able to use it to cause environmental effects which damage the monster. Thinking about the world that way, as an aspect of your actual hunting action, is a concept we wanted to go for this time. That's something that's just separate from what we did on Generations.
There was one weapon in the game's debut trailer that looked kind of like a machine gun. Are there going to be new types of weapons that change your fighting styles in this game?
Fujioka: It's the same 14 weapon classes that are in the existing series. It's separated into blades and guns, as usual. What you saw in the trailer was actually a special kind of ammo mode for the heavy bowgun. It's not a separate machine gun weapon. When you load up a certain kind of special ammo, you've got a certain amount of time in which you can create this machine gun damage effect. But we haven't added a machine gun. It's within the same construct within the existing weapon classes.
Every weapon has been reevaluated, re-looked at, with new moves, new combos. So even if you're a veteran hunter and you know your favorite weapon really well, you're going to have a lot of fun diving in and finding out what's new and what's changed.
As far as online play goes, is that going to be restricted by region, or will it be opened up to let you hunt with players from other regions as well?
Tsujimoto: It's first-ever worldwide global servers, part of the "world" concept. You can team up with anyone from around the world to go hunting with. Of course, if you choose to filter it by, say, language, you can limit your search as well. But, yeah, you can for the first time ever combine Europe, American, and Japanese servers into one.
That sounds more ambitious than previous titles. Has it been more difficult on the server side to ensure that players can team up with other hunters from all around the world?
Tsujimoto: We were totally ready to take on that approach from the start, because in the past Monster Hunter has usually released first in Japan. You've got a period of time [before] Western releases. I think the shortest was six months for Generations, but often up to close to a year before the Western version comes out. We knew right away from the start for this game we wanted to have a simultaneous global launch window for the title. We're planning to do that for World in early 2018. When you do that, it just makes so much sense. The title is releasing everywhere at the same time, then you want to make all the players be able to play with each other. So we have taken appropriate steps since the beginning of the project to be ready to bring global servers for online quests.
Will Monster Hunter: World also feature PS4 Pro or Xbox One X support?
Tsujimoto: Yeah, we're planning to support both Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. It's great to see the specs are finally coming out for Xbox One X. So, yeah, we're gearing up to bring you guys support for those platforms.
In Monster Hunter Generations and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, there were a lot of really fun collaboration items and gear. Can we expect those in Monster Hunter: World as well?
Tsujimoto: Yeah, we were looking at bring some fun collaborations to you. It's the kind of situation where, because we just announced the title a couple days ago, we can't even go talk to the guys we want to collaborate with until the veil of secrecy is lifted at E3. [Laughs] So we're going to try to bring something fun for you guys.