Today we have a remarkable story to share with you. Some of you will recall that Gameplanet recently partnered with the teams behind Metro: Last Light to give away a gaming PC.
We challenged you all to come up with a design for a new weapon that could be cobbled together from items found in the post-apocalyptic Moscow metro system. Entries were to be judged on their relevance to the world of Metro: Last Light, their practicality, and their innovation, or humour.
There were many exceptional designs, but there could be only one winner: the 'Multi-Barreled Bicycle Shotgun' by Alexandre "Hypron" Bannwrath.
"A great design that looks far too feasible for our liking, Hypron's Bicycle Shotgun is simple yet gloriously demented," we wrote as we declared Alexandre the winner. "It fits the design brief perfectly, and it will be scandalous if 4A Games doesn't immediately release it as free DLC for the game."
What we haven't been able to share with you until now is that the team behind Metro: Last Light were as impressed with Alexandre's detailed design as we were, and they immediately reached out to see if they couldn't make our lighthearted challenge a reality.
We're very pleased to welcome 4A Games to Gameplanet, and in this special guest feature to recount how a Victoria University student's submission went from fan-made design to in-game reality.
The Multi-Barreled Bicycle Shotgun
From fan-made design to in-game reality
by 4A Games
"It will be scandalous if 4A Games doesn't immediately release it as free DLC for the game..."
These were the words that sparked the idea, appearing as they did alongside the winning submission to a 'Metro: Last Light Design a Weapon' competition that had been arranged by a New Zealand website, Gameplanet.co.nz.
The winner was Alexandre Bannwarth, a first year design student at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His entry was the clear stand out - a revolving, multi-barreled shotgun made from old bicycle parts. It was expertly designed, beautifully presented, but crucially it looked like it might actually work...
The hand-made weapons in Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light were designed by 4A Games' co-founder and creative director, Andrew 'Prof' Prokhorov - a self-confessed gun enthusiast with a background in engineering. All of Prof's designs, from the stubborn, overheating 'Bastard' to the pneumatic 'Tihar' are based on sound mechanical principles, and could conceivably function in the real world.
Alexandre’s Multi-Barreled Bicycle Shotgun represented a new, meticulously detailed blueprint for exactly this kind of weapon.
Prof loved it. He agreed it was mechanically sound, and technically possible. Incredibly, it looked like we could make this happen...
We contacted Alexandre, who agreed to let us use the design (and was understandably thrilled that his work might actually appear in the game). He provided the following extensive notes on his design to assist the studio…
“While designing a weapon for the Gameplanet competition I tried to stay in the spirit of the Metro setting and create a simple but efficient weapon that could be manufactured and operated with minimal training, with as few machined parts as possible and made mostly out of easily scavenged elements.
“As far as efficiency and ease of use were concerned a shotgun seemed like an obvious choice. Used in the many enclosed spaces of the metro, a shotgun would offer similar firepower to a sub-machine-gun at short- to mid-range while being easier to handle and maintain.
“While contemplating where the basic parts for a firearm could be salvaged from (barrel, frame, trigger, stock, etc.) the bicycle ended up being a perfect fit. The frame itself could realistically be sawed and welded back together to form a basic firearm, the hollow cylindrical bars of older bicycles could be used as barrels, or any metal pipe of the right size. The brake handles could be turned into a rudimentary trigger and the seat might offer some sort of recoil absorption.
“While there might not be many bicycles in the metro itself, them being so commonplace in the outside world would ensure a relatively reliable supply, given some of the inhabitants of the metro would be ready to brave the nuclear winter.
“I then looked into firing mechanisms that would allow repeated fire, and the multiple barrel design stood out as the most simple. Despite being less compact than a magazine it involves fewer moving parts and springs, while having full length barrels (instead of using a multi-chambered revolving cylinder) avoids the risk of being burnt by hot gas escaping from the gap between the cylinder and barrel. This mechanism allows the weapon to be refitted to fire a range of different ammunition, while also making the gun look relatively intimidating, a valuable attribute in an environment where one can't afford to waste ammunition and risk their life where a fight could be avoided.
“During this process I researched precedents in multi-barreled shotgun designs. The prototypes for the Winchester Liberator and Colt Defender stood out. Particularly the full length trigger developed for untrained guerrilla fighters of the Liberator that could be replaced by the brake handles of the bicycle, and the compact and threatening 8-barrel design of the defender.
“The earliest design of the operation mechanism used the complete rotation of the crank to cycle through the barrels, much like in a Gatling gun, but the full range of movement necessary to do so and the lack of stability of the weapon as one hand had to operate the crank and the other the trigger made the design highly impractical. From there I envisioned either getting rid of the trigger and making the hammer fall periodically in rhythm with the rotation of the crank, or use the free-wheel mechanism common in all modern bikes to create a more realistic lever action. This along with moving the crank backwards allows for the entire mechanism to be operated with one hand, and with the addition of a finger lever welded onto the crank the action can be performed smoothly and efficiently.
“Realistically the gear system would need precise machining to work efficiently but I felt I could take artistic license in this instance as the design remained rather believable. Drawing inspiration from some real life examples, the system was made to seem functional and simple enough for it to be manufactured without advanced skills or machinery. In using a nail as the striker and generally keeping the mechanism exposed and uncomplicated I aimed to have it looking sturdy and straightforward enough to be easily maintained, while also creating, along with the lever action and gear system, a distinctive visual identity, specifically in contrast with the Hellsing rifle that shares the same elementary multi-barreled design. When designing my presentation drawing in Illustrator I aimed to make it as intelligible and informative as possible, while still keeping some degree of humour in a few of the descriptive texts, as well as the Metro : Last Light colour scheme.
“Overall it was a very enjoyable project, although very different from my usual undertakings. The conditions and ambience of the metro setting were really interesting to consider and work within, this competition offered a relatively singular design challenge that I was eager to tackle.”
In total, it took 4A about 200 man hours to get the weapon into the game.
Our original hope had been to release the weapon as a free, stand-alone piece of DLC - it would then appear throughout the single player campaign, either carried by certain enemies and / or available to purchase at the various trading posts along the way. Unfortunately, 4A weren't able to work this into the campaign without a lot of additional effort, and we just didn’t have the time to do this.
Instead, we were able to add the weapon to the 'Shooting Gallery' and ‘AI Arena’ components of the Developer Pack DLC - a gun range / challenge arena where every weapon, in every configuration is available to test. The weapon will also appear in the upcoming ‘Chronicles Pack’ DLC.
The in-game implementation wasn’t without its own problems. The guns in Metro: Last Light are not just superficial models - they are actual mechanically functioning in-game. The transition from on-paper design to in-game model had illuminated a potential flaw with the firing mechanism - and because the mechanical workings of Alexandre's design are very exposed, 4A could not disguise this behind a 'fake' visual effect. A mechanical solution had to be found that would address the issue, and as a result the finished in-game weapon deviates slightly from Alexandre’s original design. However, the principles proved to be sound, and the studio were delighted to have been able to turn this design into reality.
4A Games would like to thank Alexandre for his contribution, and wish him all the best as he pursues his career in the world of design.