Dengeki Online has put up an interview with Monster Hunter: World executive director/art director Fujioka Kaname, director Tokuda Yuuya, and package artist/shader artist Takagi Yasuyuki.
— 電撃オンライン (@dengekionline) April 3, 2018
The interviewer starts with them discussing the Anjanath. Fujioka says that development started with them knowing that the terrain would be complex, and that the monster that they used to test whether terrain would be traversable was what would later became Anjanath. Tokuda adds that they had decided to start development with three types of monsters: The flying Rathalos, a monster that would chase the player around, and a monster that would work in a pack. The pack monster would become Jagras, and the monster that chased the player became Anjanath.
Tokuda says that due to the nature of the game, the design was more area-centric this time, with monster placement being important. The first step in development was making a prototype with the ancient forest and the monster that would later become Anjanath: The staff had no problems with the actual action parts of the gameplay due to knowhow from previous instalments, but they had problems implementing new field-related elements like tracking monsters and hunts using environmental hazards, and so set goals like being able to use the slinger to cause rocks to fall on monsters.
When asked which of system or visual elements were worked on first, Fujioka says they were done at the same time; Visual elements had to be done from scratch due to it being a new non-portable console, but they could not wait for visual elements to be done to work on the rest of the game, so it was done concurrently. They carried out tests on system elements in the early stages, while working on visual elements, then combined the two once the visual elements were to some extent complete. This still resulted in problems early on, such as with lighting, which affects players’ sense of direction and thus gameplay. This was handled by making lighting and shaders to fit different situtations.
Takagi says that with most games shaders from other titles can be taken and reused, but most of those in MH:W are order-made, like those for monster plumage. Fujioka adds that the Anjanath’s plumage is derived from how recent theories say that dinosaurs were feathered. Takagi mentions the texturing used for hair in Resident Evil 7, and how it would have required more than millions of polygons to use the same technology in MH:W. Ultimately they used a different thing optimal for short fur, which they first tested on the cats before use on the Anjanath, and then adapted it for use on other monsters like the Paolumu which would not have had fur otherwise.
The interview moves on to discuss the Rathaloth. Fujioka mentions how they went in-depth in designing individual parts of the monster. Additionally, while detail was added on a textural level before, due to the higher quality of graphics, detail had to be added on a modelling level this time. This meant that staff who only worked on textures before had to learn how to work with shaders as well.
Takagi mentions how they also made special shaders for the incense, where you can see the burning part turn from red to black, and for cooking meat, where you can see the smooth transition from raw to rare to cooked to burnt.
When asked about how work started on the test monster that would later become Anjanath, Fujioka says that usually the designer and planner start moving at the same time, with the designer coming up with the design and the planner coming up with what sort of gameplay hunting the monster will give the player. This case was different, however, as they first had to get the monster to be able to adapt to the terrain, and it was only after it could traverse the field and had several actions done that they started to think about how it would work as part of the game. Tokuda adds that the monster started off looking nothing like the Anjanath, being just a skeleton, and that they called it “the new brute wyvern” or “the wyvern that chases you”. It was only after some testing was done that they started to add gimmicks like places to hide and recover. This resulted in them having to figure out how monsters would react to hiding players, and so they made it so that the Anjanath would eventually find the player by smelling them.
The small wings the Anjanath has are brought up, and Fujioka says they serve as a sign to tell the player when the monster is angry, which is important as the monster chases players when angry. Tokuda mentions that the wings also serve to give the monster originality, as it otherwise does not look much different from a real dinosaur.
Takagi and Fujioka go on to speak about the translucent parts used in Anjanath, which served to make it look more organic, and also help make the monster not look too dark when it stands in front of a light source. Another way more detail was added was with the movement of muscles under the skin.
They then discuss how animation was also important, with Tokuda bringing up how simply making monsters turn their heads to look at the player while chasing them made them far more lifelike.
(Continued in part 2)