Chatty Q&A: Metro Redux with 4A Games CTO Oles Shishkovstov

Deep Silver and 4A Games released Metro Redux earlier this week, offering a new way to play through the acclaimed Metro franchise. Whether you decide to play through each game in the style of Metro 2033 or Last Light is ultimately up to you, but if our impressions are anything to go by, it's a compelling experience, regardless.

Prior to the Metro Redux games' arrival, Shacknews reached out to 4A Games for a quick chat. 4A Games Chief Technical Official Oles Shishkovstov was happy to answer questions about the Redux games, what makes them stand out from their predecessors, and some of the features that can be foudn in both the next-gen console and PC versions of the game. He also took some time to answer questions from our Chatty community of Metro players.

Shacknews: What has the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 allowed the team to add to the Metro games that they were not able to in the previous generation of consoles?

4A Games CTO Oles Shishkovstov: Bringing Metro to the previous console generation was always about compromise. Like a handful of development studios, at 4A the approach has always been to aim to stretch the most powerful PC hardware, and then see what we could preserve when bringing the game to fixed console hardware.

Last generation, we had to set some realistic targets – 30fps and sub-720p resolutions – to achieve the image quality and visual effects we thought were essential to the Metro experience. Even then, we had to simplify and scale back a lot of the advanced PC features to get the game run on Xbox 360 and PS3 at those settings.

The next-gen consoles have allowed us to get closer to the high-end PC experience with fewer compromises. We maintain 60 FPS on both consoles, at full 1080p on PS4 and 912p on Xbox One, at somewhere between the PC's 'High' and 'Very High' quality pre-set. Considering the low cost of the consoles, that’s a huge performance level for the price!

Shacknews: How do you feel PC gaming technology has progressed over the course of the past couple of years? How do you feel it makes Redux a stronger version of the Metro games currently out on PC?

Shishkovstov: There has not been one specific hardware development in PC between the release of Last Light (in May 2013) and Redux – instead we have focused on further optimizing the engine, and adding some new advanced features such as global illumination. Of course Metro 2033 was released back in 2010 and there have been huge advances since then – that is why we completely rebuilt 2033 in our latest engine. Not only does the game look better than the original, it runs a lot better!

Shacknews: Was any consideration given into adding extra content to both 2033 and Last Light Redux to give it more of a "Directors Cut" feel?

Shishkovstov: No, we took a conscious decision not to change the story or add new narrative content. For Metro 2033 specifically we added a few new secret areas and encounters to reward returning fans with a slightly different experience, but we did not want to make people feel obliged to play a new 'Director's Cut' version to get the definitive story.

Shacknews: What style of play does the development team lean more towards? Do they prefer the vanilla style of 2033 or the more modernized Last Light?

Shishkovstov: It varies from person to person. By introducing the Last Light mechanic into 2033, the two games now feel more like two halves of one whole, and the difference is more tonal than gameplay driven. But we did also introduce the concept of 'Play Styles' – Spartan, which is the Last Light gameplay balance, and Survival, which is the 2033 gameplay balance, to allow players to experience each game at the pace they prefer.

The Chatty community was also eager to get their questions in, regarding the new Metro Redux games. Shishkovstov was gracious enough to answer them.

warcrow asks: What was the single most challenging technical hurdle in creating the new Metro engine? Pros/Cons for developing on each console?

Shishkovstov: No challenge, no hurdle – just hard work. Getting our game to run on the consoles was a simple case of porting the PC version over, running some tests, and then optimizing to suit the target hardware and our performance benchmark of 60fps.

It is not difficult work for us – just time consuming!

Nerdsbeware asks: So I really like the setting and atmosphere of the Metro games. The whole "bullets as currency" thing was really neat. Did/Have/Are 4A ever considering possibly translation this world over to something like an RPG setting?

Shishkovstov: Well, we already experimented with that kind of idea in the 'Kshatriya' DLC level from Metro: Last Light. And it proved to be very popular with our fans.

valcan_s asks: Is it true that most of the loading transitions have been removed? How difficult was this to implement technically?

Shishkovstov: Yes, in Metro 2033 we were able to join levels together (usually two, sometime three) to create a longer, more immersive level. That was facilitated by our more advanced engine.

RomSteady asks: Is there a side story within the Metro games that the team feels has been generally overlooked by players so far?

Shishkovstov: Well, Metro is famed for its two endings – and the fact that we never telegraph the choices you need to make to get to each one. But many players are still oblivious to this, which is fine by us.

But there are other small touches – like the secret route through Frontlines, or the vast amount of NPC dialogue that players are still discovering for the first time even now...

Put it this way – there are a lot of secrets in the Metro.

valcan_s asks: What are the PC specifics that have been implemented into that version of Metro Redux? Will the engine take advantage of specific DX11/DX11.1/DX11.2 elements or Nvidia Physx? And did you feel development was easier on the PC than with the new consoles?

Shishkovstov: We (continue to) use a lot of DX11 specific features, e.g tessellation, and we have always supported PhysX (in fact we use PhysX in the console versions too).

Was PC 'easier?' We are used to PC – we only had console development kits for about 4 months towards the end of the project (you may have heard stories about how we got them into Kiev...). We have only begun to tap their potential...

InfoBiter asks: Metro 2033 came out over 4 years ago and is still one of the best looking games around. Only now has there been a console experience that is similar to the original PC experience in 2010. What do you see the consoles looking like 4 years from now in 2018? Will 4A Games continue to push the technology as far as they can or are they comfortable with what the current generation of consoles has to offer?

Shishkovstov: Well, following from was stated earlier – we had 4 months with the next gen hardware. It will take many years to unlock their full potential, and you can expect to see visuals improve over the lifecycle, like you do every generation.

And as we said [earlier] – we aim for the highest target, then adjust to suit the target hardware. As PC hardware continues to improve in price and performance, you will see ever more astonishing visuals, and these will still benefit the fixed-hardware (console) versions. Meanwhile the optimization work we do on console will help the PC versions. And so on!

warcrow asks: One of Metro's most interesting elements is its penchant for an acute tactile feel within the game world, and it seems the Wii U could help expand on that immersion with its touch screen (and also could be one of the few games that actually takes proper advantage of that second screen). Was the Wii U ever a consideration or is it just too weak and undersold?

Shishkovstov: We had intended to do a Wii U version when the hardware was announced. Again, there is no reason why we could not adapt to fit the target hardware – Wii U is good at some things, worse at others, but we could make it work, from a technical level.

But at the time, that would have meant taking resources away from 360, PS3, and PC. It did not make sense to do it.

Would we return to it now? If there was a proven commercial case for it, sure, but we are not sure there is.

Mad Brahmin Disease asks: Would 4A Games look into Oculus Rift VR support for either Metro Redux or for future games? What's your opinion on this technology?

Shishkovstov: We are very interested in VR. 4A Games' number one development goal has always been "immersion." But we're not sure if just converting a game to support Oculus is the best use of the hardware.