Also from last week's THQ Pre-E3 event, we have a discussion about Metro: Last Light with Studio Communications Lead Huw Beynon.
Prior to our talk, THQ showcased a pre-recorded demo of the game to the Australian arm of its event, showing off the more considered pacing of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi FPS. Attendees were taken through the wastelands of the game scrounging ammunition and supplies, purposefully delivering a very different side to this unique and multi-faceted shooter.
The demo for Metro: Last Light we just saw indicated a ‘glut’ in shooters at the moment. Can you expand on what that is and how Metro escapes it?
Shooters seem to be coalescing around one vision of what a shooter can or should be, which is an authentic military experience that is all about firing as many bullets and killing as many people as you can. I think that’s appealing to a mass audience out there (I still play and enjoy those games in the moment that I’m playing them), but I find it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening next, because I think I already know.
When you look back to before this kind of separate genre kind of split away and somehow came to mean what a first-person shooter was, to classics like Half-Life, you realise just how diverse and interesting first-persons shooters can be. We don’t really think of ourselves as a first-person shooter per se, although shooting is definitely an aspect of it. I think much more, we’re an action/adventure which is told from a first-person perspective and folds in a number of gameplay styles, whether that’s first-person combat, survival-horror, exploration etc.
So you’d delineate then between the mechanic which drives the player and the intended emotional outcome?
Then is the main differentiator between Metro and more contemporary shooters to do with the world and setting or perhaps something less obvious like gameplay pacing?
I think a huge amount of it is to do with the world, and again anything which is set in a contemporary or near contemporary environment has a certain empathy, a kind of authenticity that suggests it could be real. But as a gamer myself, one of the things I always love about games is being transported somewhere completely different that you’re not going to see in real life.
We talk about the world that we’ve created here as having moments of familiarity, but hopefully it will feel very different at the same time. When we talk about those great gaming worlds, I think of worlds like Skyrim or Rapture or City 17, then there’s Dishonored, which is personally very much on my radar. As a gamer, it’s the prospect of being taken to a different world which I find really exciting and it’s that feel we’re hoping to accomplish with Metro.
You’ve indicated that THQ are hugely behind Metro: Last Light. Do you think it’s usually only at a franchise’s second iteration that you’re able to get the kind of budget you need to really make an idea come to life, after having proven yourself with your first game?
When we released Metro: 2033 (which was some time ago now), THQ was going through challenges then as well. I just don’t think the title had the focus internally within THQ. It wasn’t particularly well understood, it wasn’t an internal studio and they had their focus elsewhere. I think they maybe realised the potential of the game a little bit too late, by which time it was booked into a release window and it had to deliver.
Despite that (and the fact that THQ had next to no marketing spend behind the first game) pretty much everything was driven by word-of-mouth and it’s now been extremely commercially successful. When you see what you can do without putting the kind of marketing campaign you almost need behind every title these days just to make it a success, you get an idea of how big the franchise can be.
I remember with 2033, we announced the game about 4 or 5 months before ship.
This time around, we’ll have been through two E3’s and a huge amount of awareness for it, plus that really strong space behind the first game. We’re just in a much better position all around, so we’re really excited about that.
Is this game looking to be everything you’d hope, then, with all this support?
I’ll know the answer when it comes out. Everyone wants to make the best game they possibly can every time they make a game. If they don’t they should.
We’re really proud of Metro: 2033. There was a lot of experience within the studio, but it was the first game for that studio and I think barring a few rough around the edges elements here and there, we created a game where we know that the people who liked it absolutely loved it. And if we can deliver on their expectations, I think we’ll be very happy with it.
Thank you for your time!
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