Monster Hunter World's first prototype didn't actually feature any combat, helping the team decide how well the sequel's new environmental focus would hold up.
Debuting for the first time at a postmortem during the 2018 Game Developers Conference, the prototype was mostly set in an almost pitch-black forest with small monsters, and featured many familiar elements that made it into the final game.
"What we're testing [is how much we can] create a living and breathing world by placing creatures, other than [large] monsters," director Yuya Tokuda told attendees, including Eurogamer.
"When it's dark, we want to see how much of the exploration feel we can still get, from using the scoutfly containers and light sources from the brightmoss."
"We also tried adding animation [the hunter] sensing and reacting to the monsters. As you can see, the atmosphere is there, but with so many other monsters showing up in the game, there are too many other elements that came into play - like with the lighting and the tech - [and it] didn't really work out as we envisioned, so we actually have to scale it back a little bit.
"But that doesn't mean we're not going to pursue this look and feel, hopefully sometime when we get a chance sometime in the future. We got this far, and seeing how it looks, we really want to make an attempt to get it to this level again."
Meanwhile, the second half of the prototype was set in a more familiar, brightly-lit forest, with the hunter facing off against an Anjanath. Though it was a playable demo, the encounter took on a much more cinematic approach.
After showing off mounting - though again, no weapon was drawn - the Anjanath followed the hunter up a tall cliff, testing how well monsters would adapt to uneven surfaces, before chasing them through a clearing of trees far narrower than anything seen in the final game, again, testing how monsters would adapt to different environments.
The idea of hiding in small enclosures was also shown, so players could heal and seek respite in the game's now seamless environments. However, to stop players hiding forever, the Anjanath could smash down the enclosure before the chase began again.
The prototype ended with a showcase of the game's destructible surroundings, with a dam breaking and carrying both hunter and monster back down the cliff.
The reveal at the end of the demo - and another reason why a weapon wasn't drawn at all during the prototype - was encountering Anjanath helped the hunter lure out a different creature, Monster Hunter 3's Lagiacrus, which then emerged from the water.
For those wondering, don't expect to see this monster to appear in World at any point.
"I know we're showing Lagiacrus off so much in the video, but I do want to say, this is not a tease into something you're going to see in the future," Tokuda said. "You will not see Lagiacrus in the future in anything - including any DLCs!
"[With the prototype we were] able to realise Monster Hunter World's most ambitious change and challenge, which is to use the environment," Tokuda said, wrapping up the talk.
"We succeeded in making it possible to create a variety of actions and situations without ever drawing your weapon."
The prototype - completed in November 2015 - was developed over the course of 18 months with a team of 50 to 70 staff, and helped the team to go on a full game that became Monster Hunter World.