The Metroid Prime Trilogy is one of Nintendo’s most critically acclaimed IPs. Co-developed with Retro Studios, the games went on to win numerous praises and awards.
In an interview with Shinesparkers, Technical Lead Engineer of the first three Metroid Prime Games, Jack Mathews, talked about the various aspect of the game’s developments.
One of the challenges Mathews cited was Retro’s dwindling human resource as the game continued development. The studio basically downsized to about a quarter of its initial strength, which made things really difficult.
Shinesparkers: Developing one of the greatest video games ever made can’t have been a completely smooth ride. Can you tell us of any significant problems that came up in development, or disagreements within Retro?
Jack Mathews: On Prime 1 specifically, Retro was kind of this thing that was exploding all around us. During the development of the game, Retro got cut in half, then cut in half again. Between that and all the leaks that were being reported at the time, we just tried to put our heads down and show everyone we could make a great game as a team. It was kind of a “fuck the haters” mentality, especially after the E3 redemption.
Despite that, the first Metroid Prime went on to sell more than a million copies in North America alone and became a critical and financial success leading to Metroid Prime 2 being commissioned.
Still, when Mathews still voiced regrets about the inclusion of multiplayer in Metroid Prime 2.
Shinesparkers: That’s quite a surprising answer! Why do you think that Echoes’ multiplayer mode should never have happened? It would be interesting to hear what you feel could have been done differently.
Jack Mathews: Well, I just feel that the game should have been either one or the other. Metroid Prime Hunters did this really well – it knew it was a multiplayer game and spent all its marbles there. When we started development on Prime 2, multiplayer was actually going to be the focus (I think we internally thought of the project as Metroid Prime 1.5). We were even going to have the ability to play as a Space Pirate and have things like wall grabs and such.
As we moved back towards a primarily single-player focus, we should have ditched multiplayer altogether. There was a ton of effort put forth to make multiplayer happen: we had to actually author third person Samus animations, we had to have support for multiple “players” in a game world, we needed to author all new lower quality effects, add game modes, et cetera et cetera. It’s all work that took quality and mindshare away from the single player.
Plus, as a Metroid fan, I just feel like single-player is how the IP should stay – seeing multiple people run around as Samus never felt right.
Metroid Prime 2 still went on to sell 800 thousand units worldwide, which is quite decent sales. Metroid Prime 4 will be released on the Switch some time in the future, more than a decade after Metroid Prime 3’s release in 2007. You can read the full interview with Mathews here.