Predator and prey

The Monster Hunter series of games is one that can be infuriatingly addictive if it gets its claws into you. Renowned for excellent combat and massive scale, fights against the titans that roam the wilds in these games can last for a quite a chunk of time. There's nothing quite like the feeling of finally killing that monster that's eluded defeat for so long, harvesting it for parts, and then taking those parts to forge stuff that will allow you to kill bigger monsters. Still, one must wonder, what goes into the creation of these magnificent beasts?

In an interview with Siliconera, Kaname Fujioka - the director of the upcoming title - gave a little bit of background. For starters, he revealed that all monster animations are done by hand, with the exception of a few cutscenes. Designers will also go to aquariums and zoos to observe the movements and behaviors of a wide array of animals, in order to give their monsters as much realistic movement as possible. Kaname says that this is important as it's the subtle nuances in a monsters movements that give it personality, and also clue in the player as to how they should approach it. Monster Hunter is a game about recognizing and capitalizing on opportunity, after all, so the behaviors of the beasts are absolutely critical.

It's important for us that players understand what kind of tactics they need to use. We give clues to players on how a monster may act based on its various expressions, and emotional and behavioural states (such as alarmed, enraged, exhausted, etc.) We plan for the monster's behaviour first, so we keep in mind things such as distance between the player and the monster, logic behind the monster's behaviours, and so on.

For instance, the Gore Magala has a status change in Frenzied mode in addition to the standard range of emotions, so additional development is needed to plan for this amped up state. When it's Frenzied, a shift happens pretty drastically where the Gore Magala will attack in a very aggressive way. As a player, you'll recognize the higher risk and revise your tactics so that you can adapt to this mode as best as possible.

It's also emphasized that - with improved technology and experience levels in the development team - there's been an increased emphasis on cinematic qualities in this outing.

I remember being blown away by the integration of CG and live-action in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and after that I became much more aware of CG. I saw further progress of CG techniques in Jurassic Park and Toy Story and was very inspired by the rich emotional expressions I saw. I think these works marked a turning point for computer graphics. CG is integral for game development and is heavily affected by the overall advancements and technologies and hardware.The same goes for Monster Hunter's development progress. In the past, it was mainly about texture details and simple mapping for shadows but recently, mapping advancements can enable changes in reflection and transparency of lights, rendering surfaces, and other complex textures. In animation, it's also become possible to make complex changes in real-time expressions. The vertical terrain in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has also benefitted from the advancement of this type of technology. With all the improvements available today, it's important for us to make sure players have an immersive experience in the virtual world while balancing the proper game mechanics.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is set to hit western stores on 13th February. Are you excited for the upcoming release? Do you appreciate the subtleties of animation in these games? Let out a roar in the comments below.