Mark Madsen talks Bioshock, post-apocalypse and Metro: Last Light
|INTERVIEWS - VIDEOGAMES|
Metro's Global Brand Manager explains just why gamers should be so excited for Metro: Last Light...
Back in May, Shadowlocked was invited to a preview of Metro: Last Light, the upcoming FPS-esque release from THQ. As if a day spent enjoying surreal graphics, exploring a truly unique title and snacking on fine cuisine wasn't enough, we were also treated to an exclusive interview with the Global Brand Manager behind Metro, Mark Madsen.
This is that interview...
We’ve been told how Metro: Last Light is going to combat ‘shooter fatigue' - how do you define that and how is Metro going to improve on other shooters?
We see shooter fatigue as a multifaceted phenomenon right now, and I think what we’re speaking of is the dilution of the single player campaign. The single player campaign in the FPS genre is being relegated to more of a shooting gallery - or even a training mode - for multi-player. We’re definitely not that; we’re intently focused on delivering a vividly memorable, story driven single player experience.
When it comes to story, there’s a lot of source material with the book Metro 2033. However, this is separate to that, a new story, but have you had input from Metro author Dmitry Glukhovsky? And why have you done this, rather than follow up with the Metro 2034 novel?
The Metro 2033 game followed to a tee...almost...the Metro 2033 novel, and in Metro: Last Light we continue on that narrative. It doesn’t follow the Metro 2034 narrative because it’s a good book, but it’s very straightforward; it’s not as actionable or gameable from a design perspective.
So, we've approached it in a very bespoke, interesting way; and we did have input from Dmitry Glukhovsky, the author of 2033. He’s in step with us in building this narrative structure.
Metro: Last Light is aiming to be better than the original, which was unexpectedly successful, but what do you think were the main flaws of Metro 2033, and how are they going to be improved for this?
First and foremost we didn’t market the game and we fully acknowledge that. The press and consumers didn’t know what to expect - or, frankly, that it was coming - so it was a big misstep on our behalf. Code-wise, we admitted last year that there were some things we could’ve done better. The enemy A.I. has been overhauled, the combat system, the stealth, even just the simple cues as to what your objectives are and how you best utilise the toolset that we give you...we’ve worked hard to make these things as clear as possible.
The demo we saw was all about survival, having to pick up new gas masks, needing to wipe them clean. I noticed the gas masks throughout the demo were cracking after being attacked, what does that signify? If the mask cracks too much does it lead to death?
Yeah, your gas mask definitely has a limited warranty, so to speak. The more you take damage, the more cracks you’re going to have on your gas mask lens, and eventually, if you take too much damage, there will be a hole punctured in that gas mask. From there, you'll have around twenty to thirty seconds before you pass out, so the only way to survive is to find another gas mask in proximity and get it on - which, as you'll see, is going to be a rare find.
"We’re feeling very confident about its prospects and the studio delivering quality code..."
So how are you ensuring that in a game driven by story, the player has the opportunity to look around and take everything in, but also attempting to survive a punctured gas mask at the same time?
Within each level our goal is to have a multifaceted approach to get from point A to point B. So, you’re going to be rewarded for your exploration and even if you stick to the critical patch you’ll be fine, but as you explore you’re going to be rewarded with more items and possibly more narrative.
We saw during the demo that there were flashbacks to the past before the nuclear attacks, some of which were quite harrowing. Is that the sort of emotion you want to draw from players in order to bring them properly into the narrative?
Yes, this time around we want to explore more of the connection to the past. I think it really cements how far along that society has come within the game because it’s twenty years since the people have evolved their society, all of which took place in the depths [of the Metro], and the supernatural phenomenon is something we’re really going to play up more than we did last time.
To establish the narrative there’s also the short film depicting the last moments before the missile attacks. What are the main reasons for making the film, and what do you hope it’ll achieve? Is it to bring in people who aren’t familiar with the story of the books, to bring newcomers in, or both?
It’s both and a lot more. It’s a vote of confidence for anyone within the industry and gamers because we under-marketed Metro 2033 and this time we want to show in a big way that we’re feeling very bullish about this title. We’re feeling very confident about its prospects and the studio delivering quality code, and it’s also a homage for the Metro 2033 fans because we didn’t really explain in great detail what the circumstances were leading up to this catastrophic event. On top of that we think it’s compelling and likely to bring in a good spectrum of new gamers, so we wanted to develop a storyline / dialogue that welcomed them into the Metro fold...
In this post-apocalyptic setting, how are you ensuring Metro: Last Light isn’t just what we’ve seen before in games such as the Fallout series?
Well, the first one is really easy; it’s not in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco or Tokyo. This is in Eastern Europe; Moscow of all places. Its source material is authentically Russian, the studio is from the Ukraine, and from a development standpoint we’re really not getting in the way of their vision. So you’re not going to have bandits in the desert; you’re going to have demons and ghosts alongside your crude handmade weaponry, and lashings of post-Soviet mysticism.
Metro: Last Light’s release date has been delayed, what are the main reasons for this? Is it just to avoid a last minute rush to get the game out there?
Yeah, absolutely. We really want to build in time for polish and balance which was really a luxury we didn’t have for Metro 2033, and frankly I think the studio has earned it.
"We're fans of that genre and we think (well, we know) Metro can hold its own amongst other, more established titles."
Which games would your team give as inspirations in their development of Metro: Last Light?
We’re definitely all fans of games...and we play them - we don’t just play Metro: Last Light exclusively, otherwise we wouldn’t know what we’re talking about!
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for one; we love the storytelling and unique atmosphere and quality that BioShock has, along with Dead Space and Fallout. We’re fans of that genre and we think (well, we know) Metro can hold its own amongst other, more established titles.
For those who aren’t familiar with Metro: Last Light, how would you sum it up?
If you’re tired of the same old post-apocalyptic, run and gun type of shooter; if you’re tired of looking for something completely different, Metro is an atmospheric breath of fresh air.
A big thanks to Premier PR and THQ for their hospitality; and to Mark Madsen for his time...
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