4A Talks Multiplayer Metro, PC-Specific Features

By Nathan Grayson on June 18th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

On Friday, I picked Metro: Last Light communication lead Huw Beynon’s brain about wising up to the fact that players don’t want “dumbed down” games and, er, wrote an ode to a gas mask. It’s incredibly promising things like these that set Metro apart, and yet – this time around – it’s opting to hop aboard the multiplayer train, which also contains, oh, you know, the entire gaming industry. But why? And how will this affect 4A’s laser-sighted focus on single-player? Meanwhile, in the last leg of this last part of this Last Light interview: games journalists howling like giant monstrosities while 4A pretended to shoot them. Seriously. It’s all after the break.

RPS: This year has almost proven to be the rise of the niche audience. It seems like mainly indie developers, but also a few publishers are realizing, yeah, we can find this fairly specific thing, and if we market it properly, we can actually make it sell. You get something like The Witcher 2, which is a smarter RPG and super-duper M-rated, but they still made it sell millions of units. And then, of course, Kickstarter’s taking off – leaving the fate of less mainstream-friendly genres in the hands of their fans.

Beynon: I don’t know whether THQ’s business metrics or marketing insight necessarily agrees with this, but this hobby that we have of gaming, and particularly this single-player experience where we sit down and play this experience in front of a TV on consoles – even the biggest games in that audience are still relatively a niche. Compared to, you know, masses of TV or cinema, or even Angry Birds selling 100 million copies. That’s unbelievable. That’s mass market. It doesn’t matter how big the game is in this space, it’s still a kind of a core audience, a very educated and passionate core audience who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars a year on indulging this hobby.

But I think that a lot of people have realized that to make a game a success, you don’t have to hit this mythical mass market. You just have to understand who’s going to be interested in your game and make sure that you build something that they want to play. I’m thrilled to see the success of something like The Witcher.

Just looking around the show, the things that really catch my eye are something like Dishonored, which I think looks absolutely fantastic. Very different direction from us, they seem to be really focused on emergent, flexible kinds of gameplay. Hitman meets Thief meets BioShock. That’s fantastic. I hope they have success with that because it looks like a breath of fresh air. The kind of setting and the tone that they’ve taken and that we’ve taken, they’re not mass-market. But I think all of them are going to be hugely successful.

RPS: So Metro’s all about immersing the player as fully as possible, but how conducive are shooters – where you’re constantly killing everything – to that goal? Even in the Metro demo, there was the part where Artyom went into the hallway where he gets the shotgun and stuff. He got ambushed, killed the ape rat thing, and then he came back out and Pavel’s like “You’re covered in blood!” And that’s all he does to acknowledge it. He doesn’t even seem to care that Artyom could be, you know, dying.

Beynon: You made it out, right? I mean, realism in games is such an interesting topic, because there is no such thing. The whole thing is inherently unrealistic. Not just the world and the setting, just the fact that you’re going to lug three weapons around with you, or that when you pick up the ammunition, it goes into your magic pocket of bullets. And you can reload with half a clip and somehow all of it [transfers over]. Everyone knows all of this stuff. You ignore some of these things because it’s better for gameplay. You can get too hung up on, you have to make all of this stuff super-realistic. Because if you did that you’d probably end up with a thoroughly unenjoyable game.

The interesting thing for us is to see how close we can get. But I’d love to see a game that changed the whole [dynamic]. That, for me, is one of the things that really bugs me about that, the magic bullet pocket. It’s crazy.

RPS: So it strikes me as akin to the conundrum of watching a Hollywood film. Everyone’s incredibly attractive. In reality there are not that many attractive people all doing these mundane careers and whatever.

Beynon: Just look around the booth now. [chuckles]

RPS: Are you going single-player-only again, or will you have multi this time around?

Beynon: We do have multiplayer. We have confirmed that. It’s actually looking really interesting. We’re not quite ready to talk about it yet. The reason why we’re not talking about yet is because we have one of the most passionate fanbases behind this game. If you liked Metro, you just love it. And the reason they loved it is because it was purely single-player focused, it was something that feels very different from where most games are going.

As soon as we say, “we’re adding multiplayer,” I can hear, across the Internet, groans. I understand, absolutely, the concerns that people have and what that means when we say that. So we’ve just been showing single-player, and hopefully people are getting the message that the campaign is going to be as long, probably longer, it’s going to be more polished, it’s going to be better, we’re adding more playability into it, and we understand everything that people loved about the first game. We are building on it and making it better. So even if you never touch the multiplayer, this is the true sequel to Metro that you want.

Ironically, it’s the studio themselves who are the most passionate about having the multiplayer in there. They’ve got a lot of background in doing multiplayer in other games previously. We had prototypes up and running for 2033. We’ve got a really interesting world, some phenomenal tech, some really interesting mechanics that you’ve seen in the single-player, and this incredible weapon set that feels very far removed both from sci-fi or military. It works, and we’ll show you more about it later.

RPS: It seems like these competitive multiplayer modes, they get a lot of play in the first week they’re out, but they’re generally too shallow to sustain anything any longer – so everyone just goes back to Call of Duty. For instance, look at Dead Space 2 or even Mass Effect 3. This year, though, there’s been a lot of co-op multiplayer modes announced. Dead Space 3 is doing it, Far Cry’s doing it. It seems like there’s this shift happening.

Beynon: Maybe people are just trying to figure out what the formula is. As with everything, the guys at 4A aren’t really paying attention to what other people are doing. They just built what they thought would be most appropriate for Metro. We’ll talk more about multiplayer later.

RPS: Obviously the game is going to look nicer on PC and stuff like that. But what, specifically, will the PC version do better?

Beynon: It’s going to look better. I mean, what we do with the engine will stretch whatever hardware is available to us. So it’s going to look great on 360, for a 360 game, and you’ll see as we get closer to the end of the cycle and squeeze more and more, you find more ways of getting the potential out of these machines. It’s going to look fantastic on 360. And it’s going to look fantastic on PS3 as well. But if you put them next to each other, the PC is [superior].

I guess with a few other games, it’s going to give you a glimpse of what happens when you have an insane amount of processing power and graphical power. It’s going to look better, it’s going to look a lot better. It’s going to look unbelievable. You know, I’d say what you saw today was, it wasn’t running on a latest-gen card. We have that running on a 580. We’ve not done a huge amount of optimization yet for the high-end stuff. That’s just how it’s looking at the moment. By the time we release, as we do with Metro 2033, we’re working really closely with the card manufacturers to make sure that when we ship, we will be stretching every ounce and feature of what they make available to us.

RPS: Are you still going to do like Nvidia 3D Vision and everything?

Beynon: Yeah, we’ve partnered closely with Nvidia, so whatever they have, we’ll support.

RPS: I heard about a certain demo mishap the ended on an absolutely amazing note. Would you mind telling me about it?

Beynon: Yeah, so we’re over half a year from ship, but… We do a live demo. It’s not played off a video. We’ve done countless demonstrations now, and it’s never crashed. We never had a bug once – which, you know, I’m thrilled about.

Except for yesterday, kind of midway through the afternoon, and about two minutes from the end, and about two minutes from the end, your AI companion, for some reason, one of the scripts didn’t trigger. We tried to restart at a checkpoint and he was trapped in the same place. You had these assembled press wondering what’s going to happen, we’re trying to figure out, like, what do we do?

So I said to my producer who was driving the game, “We’re just going to have to act it out.” So we did the last two minutes, as you saw today, I kind of hoisted them up, scrambling over into the next room. We advised the audience to play the role of the mutant hordes; we made them howl and growl at us, we fended them off with shotguns, we hammered on the door to get into the station like mad. It was quite emotional, actually. And they were like AAAAAARGH, growling at us. And then we went through the door and came back with the guys with the flamethrowers, and they were like, WHOA! Whoosh! Torched them to pieces. They were like, “This sounds awesome!”

Maybe we’ll act the whole thing out next time. If that had happened on one of the live stage demos, or like a press conference, I don’t know, would we do the same? I think we’d have to. I think it works.

RPS: That would certainly leave an impression.

Beynon: Well, you know, the graphics would be very realistic. [laughs] It would be very immersive. Yeah. In some ways I’m glad you didn’t see it. In others, I’m kind of sad that you didn’t as well, because… yeah.

RPS: Lastly, because 4A’s closely related to what used to be GSC Game World, how’s everyone taking STALKER 2’s demise?

Beynon: I really don’t know what the reaction to that is. It’s something that we really didn’t know about. A lot of the core team worked on the original story, the original STALKER, but we’ve kind of moved on since then. I wouldn’t want to speculate. It’s not something that I know anything about.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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45 Comments »

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  1. philbot says:

    “Nosalis Horde” would make an excellent co-op multiplayer mode. Protect the station from x number of beasts, with y amount of bullets… let the fun begin. There was a level in 2033 that was kind of like this.

    • scatterbrainless says:

      Get the supplies from one station to another, as a team!
      Cross the surface with limited filters, spot gargoyles for you friends!
      So many great potential game modes, I dearly hope it isn’t endless “Nazis vs Communists”

    • scatterbrainless says:

      Oh, two teams attack a library to retrieve a super Mcguffin, but have to fight each other with stealth or wake the sleeping librarians?

    • Ministry says:

      There are so many very cool things they could do with multiplayer in Last Light it even gets me(don’t care for MP) very excited for it. I just hope they realize the potential they have and give us something great.

  2. Kollega says:

    I really do think the developers are on the right track here. Shame the first game had so little marketing it was practically underground.

    • philbot says:

      Yeah, I just hope the gameplay isn’t on rails like so many games are these days.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        .

      • Desmolas says:

        Im sorry friend I disagree. It wouldn’t be Metro if it wasn’t on rails. The first was as ‘On-rails’ as it gets and it was fantastic.

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          aequidens says:

          You derailed this thread.

        • Arglebargle says:

          ‘Fantastic’ is in the eye of the beholder. The ‘on-rails’ aspect sucked for me, and got the game booted from my hard drive. A shame, as other aspects were quite good.

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      Arathain says:

      They look like they’ve got a great engine up front this time. That should carriage them to success.

    • proudpheeple says:

      I just hope they don’t end up getting the red signal from the publisher’s midway through development.

      • hello_mr.Trout says:

        i don’t think the development will end up stationary at all, looks like they have a tight timetable for everything.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      As long as they mind the gap between console bollocks and what a PC game should be like everything should chug along nicely.

    • BigMistake says:

      I see what you did there :P

  3. KauhuK says:

    I do hope they optimize this game a bit better for the pc than 2033. The last one was quite a killer for any kind of gfx card. I had to play it with headphones because my pc was heating so much that all the fans were on full speed.

  4. coldvvvave says:

    RPS forums taught me that Electronic music is not music and nothing since Ultima VII is an RPG.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Try Nitronic Rush’ soundtrack: http://torcht.com/nitronic-rush-soundtrack/
      Obviously, it’s far more enjoyable if you listen to it after landing your car on a building’s wall at 300mph after doing two barrel rolls with your built-in side thrusters, while hearing an announcer say “Double Rainbow!”, and before jumping and deploying your wings.
      For free.

      • coldvvvave says:

        I don’t know if you are a spambot or not, but thanks anyway. I love electronic music. In fact it’s 99% of what I’m listening to. But thanks to forums I KNOW.

        • Mr. Mister says:

          Spambot? On the mighty RPS comments wall?
          … I guess the best way to get you to believe I’m not would be saying that I am indeed a spambot while making a pun at the same time, but sadly I’m not that much of a funny guy.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    “That, for me, is one of the things that really bugs me about that, the magic bullet pocket.”

    It’s actually a species of gnome. It stands just behind you, so you can never quite see it, but it picks up all the ammo as you pass over it, and when you hold out an empty or partially empty ammo clip it puts a full one into your hand.

    It’s a symbiotic organism endemic to shooters. It relies on the player for protection, and it feeds on freshly dead matter. That’s often where the corpses go when they disappear. Thank goodness for Ammo-Clip Gnomes, says I.

    • KauhuK says:

      That’s actually a splendid idea. Do you mind if I steal it for later use?

    • Xerian says:

      You sir, are amazing.

    • lijenstina says:

      Older builds of Stalker like the 1935 had the ammo belt. To use the ammo you had to move the box from the inventory to the ammo belt. Got dropped from the game later on.

      Also there are mods like the NLC6 that use ammo pouches.

  6. wodin says:

    Oh look Multiplayer..yippee.. to say it doesn’t take away from the single player game is nonsense. the time spent on th multiplayer mode could have been spent on the single player making ti even more awesome.

    Multiplayer should be left to the multiplayer online shooters like the F2P’s and RO 2, COD and BF and the like.

    • Xerian says:

      Actually, thats not true. Once they’re done with the singleplayer, and have polished it… They’re done. They were given what like 6 or 7 extra months of development time just to finish the thing properly? So please, remove this bile-puddle of a comment, thankye. The Singleplayer WILL be awesome, no matter what. Simple as.

      • Jesus H. Christ says:

        huh? since when to devs ever have enough time?

        No, this is going to be marketed to the ps360 shooter crowd first and foremost, and that market requires multi.

        the guy in the interview is obviously well versed in PR (Communication Head, ffs), so there is no way in hell I’m buying this as a preorder. No Stalker 2012 for me :(

        • Toberoth says:

          this is going to be marketed to the ps360 shooter crowd first and foremost

          I really think you’re missing the point here. Beynon says right there: “[A] lot of people have realized that to make a game a success, you don’t have to hit this mythical mass market. You just have to understand who’s going to be interested in your game and make sure that you build something that they want to play.” Seems to me that that’s the sort of game they’re making here, as they’ve talked several times about not dumbing down or removing mechanics at the expense of greater mass market appeal (eg. “the PS360 shooter crowd” as you put it). If they want to add multiplayer based on the prototypes they had from 2033 that’s fair enough, I trust them to also craft a compelling single player experience as they did with the first game.

          Edit: You probably shouldn’t buy anything as a preorder, IMO. I never quite saw the point of doing that, maybe you could explain it to me, out of curiosity? I’m not trying to be sarcastic, btw.

    • Zodiac says:

      You do know that the multiplayer part of a game is always created by another team, right? Even in a small studio like 4A, one part works only on singleplayer, the other on multiplayer. It’s not like the team has to squeeze in the multiplayer part at the last moment or something like that.

  7. RegisteredUser says:

    Wait. Just saying “PC-specific feature” feels like that even has to be a special feature(because we are all slaves unto the console gods) and isn’t a given since you are making a PC game in the first place.

    This worries me.

    Also the equivocation of singleplayer gaming being done in front of a TV with a console.

    What. The. Fuck. Is. Happening.”

    “You just have to understand who’s going to be interested in your game ”

    Protip: The people you are currently speaking to? The ones most likely to want to use a mouse to aim a (shot)gun.

  8. rei says:

    I just got Metro 2033 ja 2034 from the library yesterday! Loved the first game, very excited about the next. Although I have no desire for any sort of multiplayer in my Metro (well, co-op might be nice, but I’m not even sure about that as being alone is good for the tension).

  9. paddymaxson says:

    I’d love to see some co-op specific missions for this, maybe a co-op specific campaign that’s different from the main one where you play a group of Rangers. The sequences where there was another human being with you in Metro 2033 worked quite well and isolation could still exist as the group gets split up (most of the time spent with Bourbon was spent without him for example).

  10. MountAndGames says:

    Come on guys, you cant wail on about how awful the likes of cod and gears of war are, and then insist that the multiplayer audience should be left to those shitty devs.
    Im not a multiplayer fan by any means, much prefer to sit down of an evening with a good singleplayer story to enjoy, but the only multiplayer game i currently enjoy is ME3, it’s NOT competitive as stated in the interview, as i can’t stand competitive MP, and it’s made more enjoyable by being based on a story and world many of us have grown to love over me1/2/3. Although i was disappointed by parts of me3 singleplayer – mainly the side quests that mostly consisted of clicking a planet and being told i’d found a war asset in a text bubble, with no story or mission involved to retrieve it, the multiplayer has given me many more hours to enjoy the universe and tell new stories while enjoying three games worth of honing the shooting mechanics.
    So come on RPS, this game is looking amazing, it’s inspired me to get my hands on the original, and it sounds like a well thought out and intelligent game. Maybe the multiplayer won’t catch on to a large audience, but experiments like this are needed if multiplayer shooters are ever to be anything other than repetitive crap.

  11. Meldreth says:

    It’s funny to read something like ” But I’d love to see a game that changed the whole [dynamic]. That, for me, is one of the things that really bugs me about that, the magic bullet pocket. It’s crazy. “. Since Receiver is coming out today. Well, tonight actually. It’s definitely not a big budget game, since it was made during the ” 7 day FPS challenge “. But the way they handle the gun is amazing, and not as unenjoyable as it may seem.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmqterXyc-w <== All right, it may not be obvious at first how innovative it really is. But it is.

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      mrwonko says:

      Yep, that came to my mind reading this as well. Very interesting concept. I’d like to see it in some other games, though I don’t see it hitting mass market, obviously.

  12. Paul says:

    4A is one of the great hopes of this industry. I pray they never end up like GSC.
    However, I would wish they would open up Metro a bit more, and add more RPG elements.
    Still a day 1 buy though. First game was amazing already.

  13. Premium User Badge

    mcnostril says:

    Can we get full subtitles for Russian this time around?
    I always prefer playing these sorts of games in their intended language (as in, the language of whatever place it’s set in), but the original only had very bare bones subtitles and most things weren’t subtitled at all.

    • Halfgild Wynac says:

      If you were t oknow Russian, you would probably get your dose of laughs listening to the characters. The thing is, the actors were Ukrainian. While voice talents for the main characters did a perfect job to hide this fact, a large number of background characters speak with Ukranian accent. I’ll be the first one to assure you that not everybody in Moscow speak a neutral accent voice actors are trained to to (there are many people from other areas, with minor differences in unstressed vowels and like), but… it.. it was asusing to hear that many Ukranians packed in Moscow subway. ^_^

  14. Synesthesia says:

    A note on the magic ammo pocket. It CAN go away, and it CAN be good for gameplay. Take a look at RO2’s mechanic, for example. If you hold R, you check how much ammo you have left, and when you reload a half filled clip, it later comes up half used in the rotation. It works, it feels better.

    There are variations which can be done on that, too. Maybe chuck a half used clip for a faster reload with a double tap, stuff like that? I do hate the magic bullet pocket. Way faster reload times id like, too. Would give the bullet chatter a lot more rythm.

  15. Ministry says:

    As much as I loved Metro 2033 and am really looking forward to Last light, comments like “and particularly this single-player experience where we sit down and play this experience in front of a TV on consoles” kills me a little bit inside.

  16. alundra says:

    An article with some contradictions, Mr. Grayson implies that the whole industry is on the mp bandwagon, yet Beynon acknowledges that one the thing that made the original Metro such a niche game was that is was SP only.

    Yet they are going the mp way, why don’t we just end the charade and recognize that the mp fad is just the big publishers wanting an excuse for retaining control of their product?

  17. Frantics says:

    Pleaasse play this game if you like cool atmospheric games and settings one of my favourites seriously quality shit looks amazing too.