Back in June 2014, German developer, publisher and CryEngine creator, Crytek, announced Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, a four-player, free-to-play, third-person shooter set in the late 19th century. The game’s developer, Crytek USA (formerly Vigil Studios), debuted gameplay footage at E3 2014 and it looked extremely promising, showing a group of dapper looking hunters trudging through a swampland looking for a damned witch, with gameplay that was very redolent of Left 4 Dead. Despite being free-to-play, the game’s director, David L. Adams said that the Gilded Age would still be a AAA experience.
A beta was announced for the end of 2014, however, in July 2014 as a result of some financial concerns, Crytek closed its USA studio and development was moved to the company’s primary team in Frankfurt. Sadly, that is where the game’s development would end, and from the ashes of Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age came its phoenix, Hunt: Showdown.
Officially revealed in June 2017, Hunt: Showdown is a fresh new take on the Hunt premise. Gone is the third-person view and the four-player PvE experience. Instead, the German developers have opted for a first-person view, and while the game is still a co-op experience you’re now rolling in pairs instead of a squad of four. The game was shown off for the first time at E3 2017 and it was very popular with critics, winning numerous ‘best of E3 2017’ awards.
Recently, we were able to chat with Hunt’s Lead Designer, Dennis Schwarz about how the Hunt project transitioned from Gilded Age to Showdown and what the team at Crytek have in-store for the impressive looking shooter.
Hunt: Showdown’s environments look incredible thanks to CryEngine
DYEGB: Can you briefly explain what Hunt: Showdown is?
DS: Hunt: Showdown is a competitive first-person PvP monster hunting game with heavy PvE elements thrown in the mix. It combines the most thrilling moments from survival games and packs them into a match-based format.
In Hunt: Showdown you will compete with others for gold. Players need to decide whether to go all in or just take a small bounty and run. Combined with the thrill that comes from literally risking your hunter’s life and their progress every match, this creates a unique and incredibly intense experience.
DYEGB: How long have you been working on Showdown?
DS: We started the development on Hunt: Showdown in April 2016.
DYEGB: Hunt: Showdown began life as Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age, which looked like a really promising four-player experience. What were the main reasons for the complete overhaul of the Gilded Age project?
DS: Apart from the era, and the concept of gunslingers hunting down monsters for a reward, the two projects don’t have much in common. When we moved the development of Hunt to our Frankfurt studio, we moved to a match-based PvP format with challenging AI in a dark and gritty setting. This is the concept we have been building on since and by now we see Hunt: Showdown as a new game.
Every team at Crytek has their specific strengths and vision for a game. When we took over development, our team in Frankfurt came up with more and more ideas that moved away from what the Austin team had built. By the time we started the development on Hunt: Showdown, the original concept had been transformed into a game we believe can stand out due to the new focus on what we do best: first person experiences.
DYEGB: At E3 you showed the game running on PC, are there any plans to bring Hunt to consoles?
DS: We are bringing Hunt: Showdown to PC first.
DYEGB: On the topic of consoles. At the recent E3, Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One X, ‘the most powerful console ever’. From a development view, what benefits do these mid-generation console updates provide? Do you think this model of mid-gen updates is better than cyclical console generations?
DS: For us developers, it’s always nice to have more power at our fingertips. From that point of view, console updates are very welcome.
DYEGB: Will the game utilise the free-to-play model that Gilded Age was going to use, or has this been abandoned also?
DS: Hunt: Showdown won’t be a free-to-play title. That’s all we can say for now.
DYEGB: We’ve seen in the past similar games that have struggled to find longevity with their concept. What steps or features are you implementing to ensure that the community continues to thrive long after the game’s release?
DS: We believe that what we are building right now has a lot of replayability to offer but we also plan to update the game with new content frequently.
The thrill of competing with other players for the bounty and never knowing for sure if another team might have you in their gun sights creates memorable moments in Hunt: Showdown
DYEGB: Hunt: Showdown appears to be a mixture of PvP and PvE. Why did the team choose to focus on PvP over PvE?
DS: The thrill of competing with other players for the bounty and never knowing for sure if another team might have you in their gun sights creates memorable moments in Hunt: Showdown. We feel that these magic moments are what the players will cherish and talk about and help make Hunt: Showdown a remarkable experience for a very long time to come.
DYEGB: What happens if a particular match cannot find enough players, will there be AI teams?
DS: We don’t have any plans for AI teams at the moment but we wouldn’t rule it out. A match requires 10 players, and we believe with proper matchmaking in place there will never be much downtime between matches.
DYEGB: You’ve changed the game’s viewpoint from third-person to first-person, what benefits does this change bring to the new direction?
DS: Our goal for Hunt: Showdown is to create a believable world consisting of real fighters and tense situations in which the player has to track, find, and kill their enemies. During a mission what you can see and what you cannot is very important. In order for the player to see what the character sees and to create high-tension gameplay, we switched from a third-person to the first-person view.
Furthermore, Crytek’s DNA is built on first-person experiences, and that’s a massive advantage when you want to show the world from the player’s perspective.
Just the normal crowd you see on a stroll through the Lousiana bayou
DYEGB: Will customisation options be limited to weaponry or will players be able to customise their character?
DS: We’re still deciding what kind of options we want to see in the game and until this is final we can’t really talk about it.
DYEGB: Your E3 2017 gameplay video explained that the game has a permadeath system, where players lose all their character’s progress and acquired weapons if they die. Why did the team choose to go with this system and are there any stats or items that carry over?
DS: You recruit hunters into your bloodline and take them on dangerous missions to slay monsters and collect the bounty. Hunters gain experience, level up, and learn new skills. And when a hunter dies, their experience is transferred to the bloodline.The bloodline is a system that allows players to unlock new gear, draw in better recruits and select new traits for other hunters. Death is permanent in Hunt: Showdown, and that’s a big deal because you lose the character’s level and all their gear. The bloodline is a way to preserve your progress and at the same time keep the thrill of risking your hunter’s life on every mission.
DYEGB: The E3 gameplay also showed us some amazing and creepy looking environments. What has been your inspiration for the world building of Hunt?
DS: The Louisiana Bayou is home to our main mission at the moment, and it provides a rich lore together with a setting that matches Hunt’s dark tone perfectly. We’re open to exploring other corners of the world later, but for now, the swamp is where the actions is.
Crytek’s DNA is built on first-person experiences, and that’s a massive advantage when you want to show the world from the player’s perspective
DYEGB: Will missions have a day/night cycle? Or will missions be pre-set to a particular time of day?
DS: We’ll have different times of day, but it will not change mid-match so that players can bring the right equipment.
DYEGB: Will there be a marketplace for players to buy/upgrade gear with XP or currency? Will these differ from weapons and other items found in-mission?
DS: As we are still evaluating options and ideas, we’re not ready to talk about that yet.
DYEGB: Do you have a release window in mind?
DS: We haven’t set a release date yet. We want to get the community playing the game we are building first and to play the game with/against the community. Basically, we want to make sure the game is as fun as it can be before we roll it out to the public.
DYEGB: We’ve seen one of the bosses is a gigantic spider. Have you considered making an Australian animal a boss, such as a deadly kickboxing kangaroo?
DS: If it’s a gigantic spider, there is a very high chance it’s from Australia… where else could it be from?
DYEGB: Thank you for your time and good luck with the rest of Hunt’s development. We look forward to playing it.
DS: Thank you.
While Dennis wasn’t giving much away when it comes to the game’s release window and platforms, his answers do allude to Hunt potentially being an early access title at some point. It also seems that depending on how the PC launch is received, console players could eventually get their hands on the five-team shooter. Furthermore, it is pleasing to see that Crytek has dropped the free-to-play aspect of Hunt, something that I was never a fan of with the original Gilded Age concept.
I for one, am very excited to see how Hunt: Showdown turns out. The concept and premise/setting is intriguing, I just hope that there’s enough meat on the bone to keep players satisfied for a while after launch.
You can check out Crytek’s first dev diary below: