Exoprimal developers tell how they paid to get thousands of dinosaurs on screen, and why it has nothing to do with Dino Crisis

This past July, I had the opportunity to play an early beta for Exoprimal, Capcom’s upcoming multiplayer shooter that pits you and a group of mech-suit-clad buddies against hordes of unstoppable raptors. In the nine months since I took the wheel of a T-Rex and did a sick backflip, my life has known no peace. “I’m really excited to play Exoprimal,” I’ll tell colleagues, without excuse, at important meetings unrelated to anything prehistoric in nature. “From what I’ve played, it mixes PvE and PvP gameplay into a single multiplayer mode that feels very unique and very fun.” My tax return was canceled because I had a large stegosaurus painted on it. I’ve renamed the cat “Sniper Neosaur,” and I’m disappointed it hasn’t yet emerged from a sticky purple ball.

It was a pleasure, then, to have the opportunity to sit down with key members of the game’s development team to discuss Exoprimal’s inspirations, its inevitable comparisons to Dino Crisis and how Capcom plans to use it as a model for live-service games. Move forward. Along with a new opportunity to check out the game, I moved into a Zoom call with Exoprimal Director Takuro Hiraoka, Artistic Director Kazuki Abe, and Artistic Director Takuro Fuse.

Along with my preview last year, I also made this great video where I read my article out loud and put some video footage of the game in the background. New concept, I agree.

Even if you ignore the hordes of mutating dinosaurs, expressive mech suits and sinister AI spellcasters, Exoprimal is an unusual proposition for Capcom. As the publisher of both Monster Hunter and Street Fighter, games that update frequently after their initial release, they’re well equipped to ensure their titles are given long, healthy lives. But Exoprimal is being touted as a more traditional live service release, complete with seasonal updates, time-limited content, and a premium battle pass.

Despite its ubiquity, it’s a type of multiplayer game that Capcom has yet to explore (outside of last year’s Resident Evil spinoff Re:Verse). But in a recent interview with Famitsu (thanks to Siliconera), Capcom president Haruhiro Tsujimoto called Exoprimal a “touchstone” for how the company treats games as a service moving forward, meaning the game has ramifications beyond the one-off release about hitting a raptor with a big sword. “Aside from the concept of the game, this title is a bit of a challenge for ourselves to take on and deal with game design elements, like running a game as a service, running our own servers, to enable cross-platform play,” says Kazuki Abe. “Do these things that Capcom wasn’t. known in the past, and do it our way so that we have a foundation to move forward and expand into future projects using similar technologies and similar strategies.”

No pressure then, I suppose. However, the team appears to be in a strong position to achieve this goal, and is made up of several Monster Hunter alumni. In fact, director Takuro Hiraoka and art director Kazuki Abe have both worked on multiple titles in the series, including Generations Ultimate, World’s Iceborne expansion pack, and Frontier Online. I was curious if this experience helped create Exoprimal, something Hiraoka confirmed. “It was definitely helpful,” he says. I’m sure you know if you’ve played the series, there are 14 different types of weapons, each with their moment to shine depending on the monster you’re playing against. Although there is quite a difference in the number of enemies involved between Monster Hunter vs. That multiplayer game design experience was already in the DNA of Monster Hunter.

Action, in general, I think is definitely one of Capcom’s strengths and one of our main legacies. So incorporating these aspects, while it wasn’t like I could translate them directly into some elements, I was able to grasp the fact that I know how to make a great sword or A longsword against a specific monster and translating it to ‘Okay, okay, dead eye suit, how is that going to work and players are going to want to use those skills against these dinosaurs in these situations?’ There are a lot of crosshairs you can use.”

One aspect of Exoprimal that doesn’t quite match its monster-hunting cousin is the structure of the matches. Framed as a test being run by an AI (certainly normal, not at all evil) to create a weapon capable of keeping the scaly and squeaky floods at bay, the games are a race between two teams of five players to see who can complete a set number of dinosaur-killing challenges before the other. The final round shakes up the proceedings by pitting teams against one another squarely, forcing them to fend off player-controlled combatants along with pesky AI dinosaurs.

Concept art of a futuristic dam

It was the pacing of these matches, not the dinosaurs (well, dinos partly) that sparked my imagination when I first played the game. Dubbed Dino Survival, the rhythm of Exoprimal’s primary mode is energetic and exciting. There is a unique tension in the matches, a frantic build-up to an explosive finale that offers the losing teams a chance to snatch victory from the elusive giant jaws of defeat.

I asked Hiraoka about the team’s inspiration for this particular mix of cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes and was glad to hear that it came from a somewhat unexpected (but unsurprising) source. “There are so many wonderful things [PvE] Games out there,” he told me. “You know, like the Left for Dead series. And one of the things we felt is that in the beginning, while you’re still getting used to the concept, you might find it quite challenging. But in the end, you will probably master how to face the enemies and what will happen during the game. After a while, the thrill may wear off. You know what to do with the game. becomes somewhat predictable.

“In comparison, something like the Dark Souls series, it’s basically a single-player game. And again, it’s hard, but you can master it, and you can get used to the more difficult behavior of this world and the enemies. And then, all of a sudden, there are these points where it spreads Another player in your world. And it’s not an AI-controlled enemy or something you can predict based on the rules of the game yet. It just throws you in to get a loop on what they’re going to do and how you should interact with them. And in that exciting, scary moment, you go like, “I don’t know how Deal with this!” In the context of the game I’ve mastered at this point, I think it’s really exciting as a concept.”

A mech suit squirts projectiles at the open jaws of Exoprimal's T-Rex

“So when it came to teamwork against massive dinosaur hordes, we also felt that while you might feel like you’re in control of everything, and you’re thrown in this curve ball, where you don’t just have to take down dinosaurs, but then with another team that was doing the same thing.” The missions run in parallel, and that should keep things spicy. You never quite know what’s going to happen at that moment. Even if you’ve been playing the first missions for a long time. That extra level of unpredictability, variety, and excitement, would add a new edge to the game design It also adds more longevity and surprise.”

But what about Capcom’s other dinosaur-based series? One that was notably absent from the company’s lineup just 20 years ago? Exoprimal has been compared to Dino Crisis at every turn, and despite some similarities between the two in terms of gameplay and presentation, it’s hard not to think of Regina and her SORTs as you play. Two decades after the release of the heavily mutilated Dino Crisis 3, I was curious if Exoprimal had started life as some sort of reboot. “To be honest, no,” Hiraoka says. “It always started as a concept to create a new IP. The fact that there are dinosaurs in it naturally puts people in mind for another game with dinosaurs in it. But that is the only level of overlap between the two games.” fair enough. Perhaps we’ll see some Dino Crisis-themed cosmetics at a future crossover event, since the company has already confirmed that Capcom-themed content will arrive after launch.

Three figures speaking against a sunset in Exoprimal

The reveal trailer for Exoprimal — which featured a red-headed character who bears a striking resemblance to Dino Crisis’ protagonist, Regina — didn’t help when it came to comparisons between the two games.

Someone thought I couldn’t shake during my time with the game last summer was how Exoprimal felt like a perfect PlayStation 2 version. It included all the hallmarks of a Capcom game from the era: Experimental game mechanics. Neat work. A goofy sense of fun permeates every mech suit, dinosaur and story. It’s a somewhat nebulous theme, to be held, a feeling rather than a series of mechanics or a particular design consideration.

I asked if there was a conscious decision to try and create a game that fit the classic Capcom mould, and after the translator relayed my question to the team, it was met with loud laughter. At first, I was worried that I had caused offense. I meant it positively, in praise of the game’s tone, but I was horrified that they assumed I was mocking its presentation or technical achievements instead. After a few stressful minutes, I was put out of my misery. While Hiraoka maintains that he was also a huge fan of Capcom games during the era, and that those influences may have led to the creation of a game that fit that mold, it was not a conscious decision. On the other hand, it was Abby’s response that elicited laughter.

“I don’t really have the same experience, because I was already at Capcom during the PS2 era!” He says, since his tenure at the company has been compared with Hiraoka who seems caught off guard. “So I don’t have that kind of a gaming outsider’s perspective as a pure gamer. But my take on what you said is that back then, in the PS2 era, people were bringing their own tastes and personalities to the fore. When they were making these games, there was a lot of authorship and you could kind of From recognizing the kind of people who made them. Not to say we don’t necessarily do that anymore. But I think as time goes on, and games become a team effort, you don’t necessarily get that individual character out of things anymore.

The mech suits stop a swarm of vicious birds of prey in Exoprimal

Exopriomal is a brand new IP and it was a great opportunity for the team to do what I just described, which is you know: ‘I want dinosaurs! I want hundreds of them! I love robots! I think that this character really shines. And because she doesn’t have the legacy of the previous games in the series to build on, she can be what she is. You get it from Capcom games in the classic era.”

As our time draws to a close, I ask Hiraoka one last question: Is there a particular element of the game that he’s most proud of? “I think I’m really proud of the fact that I was able to bring a new IP to fruition literally from scratch from a very vague and out-of-the-box concept. It’s a multiplayer game where you’re facing a huge number of enemies,” he says. Like, that’s the sentence that started it all. And then, well, “What if the enemies were dinosaurs?” Then you decide what you’re going to play and how many are going to be on screen. And the technical process [that] I started with 100 dinosaurs on screen, pushed it to 500, pushed it to 1,000. The whole time, I’m standing behind everyone like, “More dinosaurs!” And with the fact that we’ve been able to get it to the kind of insane levels that we have at the moment. Of course, I’m not alone. It’s a huge team effort. But over the past few years, after seeing it all come together, and now we’re about to finally release the game. Yes, I’m proud that things are coming together the way they’ve been done.”

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