I have always wanted to post more about Monster Hunter, especially in its 5th anniversary year, but just couldn't find the time to properly do it. Hope this article, an interview Famitsu PSP + PS3 did
late last year, is a start. Really love the series, especially Monster Hunter Portable, very much and I know it has quite a number of fans here but not sure how many. So do tell me if you want more articles like this in future so I'm more motivated to do so :)
Producer Ryozo Tsujimoto, planner Shintaro Kojima and director Yasunori Ichinose.
Goal: A Big Hit
They were first asked if MHP 2ndG's success was expected. Tsujimoto says their goal when developing the game was indeed for it to become a hit in Japan and although they expect the game to have long legs but were surprised to see the game reaches 2 million copies so quickly (in 50 days and it has since sold more than 3 copies).
MHP 2ndG was announced in TGS 2007 and even though only the title and its save data transfer with MHP 2nd were revealed, the responses from the gamers were great. Tsujimoto says a combination of players' expectations and great memories of MHP 2nd were probably the reasons behind it. Kojima adds that they were worried if they can meet such a huge expectation and didn't know to what extend they can deliver.
Tsujimoto says the fact that players can start the game with MHP 2nd's save data changed their perception of the game and give them the impression that it's an ongoing game. As a result, he was asked plenty of times about the extend of save data transfer. Ichinose says his answers is “almost” everything can be carried over but they were still asked to be more specific. Something Tsuimoto says they just couldn't give the exact answer at the time because there isn't a clear line between what can and can't be transferred.
Ichinose says there are players who have spent more than 1,000 hours or at least hundreds of hours on MHP 2nd, so it's important not to make them feel that they have wasted all those hours and MHP 2ndG is being made as a way to repay their investment in the game. Tsujimoto says with MHP 2ndG, they had a choice to make players start over again or continuing the game while enjoying the new elements and they picked the latter.
Famitsu says MHP 2nd's players encouraging new players to buy the game could be the reason behind the explosive sales. Tsujimoto agrees but he says it's also because the timing to switch from MHP 2nd to MHP 2ndG is just right. Kojima says another reason could be players who have been playing since the beginning feels like they should continue playing with MHP 2ndG.
Famitsu asked if the impressive sales result changed their thinking, to which Tsujimoto says he sees no changes for himself and Kojima feels that they have more responsibilities now. He also jokes that Tsujimoto now has more crazy suggestions for the game as a result of that. Famitsu then asked if it will change the way they develop future games in the MHP series. Tsujimoto says it will still be a multiplayer focused game but they always look into ways to expand existing mechanics. One good example is the addition of Otomo Ailu that will helps players who don't play a lot of multiplayer.
Key Monster: Narugakuruga
The original idea for MHP 2ndG is G-Rank quests but in order to avoid the notion that they are simply recycling monsters from previous games, new moves were to be added to existing monsters. A sub-species of Tigarex was the original idea of “new” monster but thankfully, after some discussions, they decided to create an all new monster, the Narugakuruga.
On the concept behind Narugakuruga, the developers started by looking at the new map Jyukai and the monsters that are likely to live inside. Ichinose says that the instruction from Tsujimoto was to avoid Tigarex's more direct attacking styles and has something different. Kojima admits that it's not a simple task to create a main monster because it is something that players have to fight throughout the game and they certainly do not want it to have a too much similarity with other monsters. Dinosaurs and various animals that are likely to live in Jyukai were researched in order to achieve the same impact as Tigarex does in MHP 2nd.
As a result, an extremely cunning monster was created. It moves softly and quietly, attack from hunter's blind spot, often times without warning. One of the problems this created is it might not be easy for players to follow the monster on screen and plenty of time were spent at getting this just right. In the end, they are really happy with Narugakuruga and feels it holds up pretty well against previous cover monsters like Rioreusu and Kusharudaora. Something I think many of us will agree, the monster just look scary.
On the process of difficulty adjustments for Narugakuruga, Kojima says when the monster was first tested, the feedbacks were that it's too weak. They went back and make the monster stronger but still getting the same complains. It's a process that Kojima says is always tough and has the potential of ruining the entire balance of the game if done wrong. After testing with all the weapons and countless trials and errors, they found the most suitable difficulty level. However, bigger monster like Narugakuruga are relatively easy to adjust compared to the smaller ones because it's always tough to make a weak monsters stronger. Which is why they always make them stronger at first. Ichinose added that there were times when Narugakuruga is just too strong as well, to the point where as soon as you lose sight of it, the next thing you see is your base camp.
The developers were asked if there are other interesting things during balance adjustments. Tsujimoto says Hipknock was initially really strong and he was frequently beaten by the big bird, a monster that 'migrated' from Monster Hunter Frontier. The reason being that whenever it goes into rage mode, its continuous kicks was just too hard to avoid and as soon as he gets up after being kicked, another wave of kicks come right at him again. Ichinose explained that Hipknock's main attack is to put hunter to sleep but since a lot of MHP players play alone most of the time, it's probably inappropriate if they're asleep most of the time. After observing the way Turkey attacks its victims with legs, the idea of continuous kicks was born. Tsujimoto adds that Kojima's initial concept art for the move actually looks awkward and didn't really match with its joints.
Famitsu then asked how they explain these moves to the developers. Kojima say he will show videos of animal movements and provide some descriptions. But he has to demonstrate these moves to them sometimes, resulting in some hilarious meetings. They also explained how Narugakuruga's tail whip was described to the developers. Kojima say he first tell them how the monster swings its tail and how it should looks when doing such move. The developers were also asked to come up with ideas based on scorpions tail.
The developers' vision for the 'final boss' of MHP 2ndG is to have an all new monster that has the same level as Narugakuruga but based in the snowy areas (its home was a specially made map called Snowy Mountain Deep). However, they do not want it to has the same attacking styles as Narugakuruga and think it will be more appropriate if the it is huge and heavy looking, seeing it moves will makes you shake and requires new strategy to fight against it. As a result, Ukamurubasu was born and it's something that looks like a snow mover, it's mouth looks like a soil scoop and it's nails are like excavator scoop. Ichinose say it's actually harder to create than Narugakuruga while Kojima added that it's a monster that triggers avalanche.
Famitsu notes that it looks a little like MHP 2nd's 'final boss' Akamutorumu but feature a very different attacks. Kojima says Ukamurubasu's attacks timing require hunters to come out with a different strategy when facing it and they originally wanted it to be even bigger but that will make it impossible to dodge its dash attack. They were then asked to explain where did the name Ukamurubasu came from and Ichinose explain that it's a combination of white, snow and god (White God of Snow).
Among the reward for beating Ukamurubasu is it opens up new branch for some of the armors. Ichinose says this is to add to the longevity of the game and to encourage players to check out the lesser used armors for some of the tougher quests. Some weapons also see new extensions to their existing branches, something that was actually not planned for MHP 2ndG but was added much later in the development cycle after hearing some suggestions among the development team.