Interviews// Metro: Last Light

Posted 12 Dec 2012 10:30 by
SPOnG: I remember a quote from a past interview that suggests that THQ couldn’t believe its luck when it discovered the Metro franchise. There must be a creative pressure to continue to make games in the series while Dmitry is focusing on art house projects?

Huw Benyon: Well, the IP is Dmitry’s and he has broader plans for the franchise himself. He’s signed the movie rights for Metro 2033 recently, and allowed other writers to release books in the Metro 2033 universe. Most of those are in Russia, but I think there’s an English book called Metro 2033 Britannia, set in Glasgow and London.

There’s an Italian one, and I hear that a Cuban author is working on something as well. There are lots of avenues to explore the franchise - video games is just one aspect of it. And this definitive story of Metro is just a different way of telling that tale. In the same way that Apocalypse Now is a very different film to Heart of Darkness, or the anime of Akira is different to the manga.

SPOnG: The Wii U version is obviously not being worked on anymore. How far did you guys get on it before you cancelled it? Did you guys have an opportunity to use the GamePad?

Huw Benyon: Our look at the Wii U extended to a very early look at some very early kits. We... we did some work on it, but we made a decision fairly early on that we weren’t going to commit further resource to it. So yeah, we didn’t go too far. Take any of the comments you’ve seen attributed with a pinch of salt - it’s certainly not been based on any kind of analysis of final hardware.

SPOnG: There’s a lot of talk from traditional survival horror game developers suggesting that the genre is dead, and is leaning towards action. The Metro series seems to combine both quite well - do you think survival horror is dead?

Huw Benyon: It’s interesting... I’m generally not a big fan of ‘genre’ games in any way. Generally because it seems like they’re excused for all kinds of niggles and irritations that normally wouldn’t be allowed. “It’s an RPG, what do you expect? Of course there’s this gameplay element here!” That sort of thing.

The goal for Metro was never to stick to a particular genre, or style of game. The narrative and player experience always comes first, in the sense that we wanted to tell a very compelling, atmospheric, immersive story. And I think we’ve used a lot of different gameplay styles that make complete sense in the context of the world around Artyom.

To tell that story, our combat is supposed to feel deadly, brutal and dangerous. You should feel overwhelmed and overpowered, because you’re not this supersoldier. You’re a relatively young, inexperienced single man in an extremely hostile environment.

When you’re out on the irradiated surface, populated by mutants, you don’t know what’s around the corner, you have a few seconds left to breathe, the sun’s going down and you can hear the howling of mutants in the distance... that’s the reality of the world. If that then leans towards a survival horror style of gameplay, I think that’s appropriate to the circumstances.

I think we have elements of lots of different genres, and lots of different gameplay styles. I wouldn’t pin us down as being a specific genre. We certainly didn’t set out to make a genre game. I do know that fans of survival horror do really gravitate towards Metro, because we do that aspect of it really well. But for me, survival horror is about making the player feel vulnerable, as opposed to making them feel empowered.

Not many people might agree with that, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to say what survival horror should be, but it’s all about not knowing what’s around the next corner. Just being happy to get to the end, rather than expecting to survive because you’re mowing down scores of enemies and then rappel out to the end of the level. And obviously, there’s the more supernatural and horror side to Metro as well, which I think is quite a uniquely Ukranian take on things.

SPOnG: Has it been a challenge to try and top the previous game, both for you as developer/publishers and for Dmitry to write it?

Huw Benyon: It’s an interesting one, because I still absolutely adore the Metro 2033 experience, and I think those that liked it tended to absolutely love it. There were plenty of mechanical flaws in the first game - we’ll be the first to acknowledge that - but the blueprint, the actual style of game we created, I think we did a fantastic job of.

I think the goal for Last Light is really to try and recapture, or recreate, some of that magic from the first game, but support it with lessons we’ve learned since then. Much more robust systems, more robust mechanics... just making it a little less obtuse, and hopefully allow more people to enjoy what I think is still a unique and incredible experience.

Not just because of its Eastern European perspective - which is obviously quite rare in a market dominated by very commerically-driven Western studios - but in the variety of gameplay too.

SPOnG: Looking forward, do you think you guys would like to pull inspiration from some of the Metro spinoff books, written by other authors?

Huw Benyon: The studio hasn’t really thought that far ahead. It’s a small team, and as a result everyone is hands-on with this project at the moment. But one thing we’ve had the luxury of being able to do, is basically doing what we want at any given time.

So once Metro is out the door and we start thinking about our next move... we’ll have a clearer answer. I wouldn’t rule out another Metro game, nor would I commit to saying that’s what we’re going to do next.

SPOnG: Thanks a lot for your time!

Huw Benyon: Thanks!

Metro: Last Light is heading for a March 2013 release on Xbox 360, PC and PS3.
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Games: Metro: Last Light


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