Hideo Kojima Talks Metal Gear and Other Solid Things
The first two titles in the Metal Gear Solid series enjoyed unequaled success in terms of both sales and critical reviews-and though it won't be released until 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3 ranks among today's most eagerly anticipated PlayStation 2 titles. The Show Daily chatted with developer Hideo Kojima about Metal Gear, his unique vampire-hunting game for GameBoy Advance, and what's next for him and his team.
Fun in the jungle
Metal Gear Solid 2 was designed to play on a then-new console, so people naturally expected it to be more visually stunning than its predecessor. Since MGS3 will play on the same system, Kojima says different strategies are in order on the development side. "We cannot depend on the powers and surprises of a new console as we were able to with Metal Gear Solid 2, when we jumped from PS1 to PS2. That's why, for Metal Gear Solid 3, I have decided to pursue freshness from a software standpoint, including a new game system and new game concept," he says.
This, in part, is why Kojima chose to hold the reins on MGS3. "Very flexible ideas and dynamic decision-making are necessary. And no mistakes can be made. This is exactly why I have decided to be the director and be in charge of the game design," he says.
Although he wouldn't reveal much about the game's plot, Kojima did mention "jungle" as a key word. "Soldiers and the natural environment-weather, landscape, animals, bugs-are your enemy. You must fight the enemy to survive. You must also eat animals and plants to survive."
And a new level of stealth is added in the form of jungle camouflage. "You must switch through different camouflage gears to fool the enemy eye, and you can also paint your face and body," says Kojima.
After the success of the previous Metal Gear games, Kojima feels the series no longer belongs to him alone.
"Metal Gear was the first game I gave birth to after I joined the videogame industry-that's why I have intense feelings for this series. Metal Gear Solid has become a worldwide hit. It's no longer my property; it's the property of all the fans. As long as fans want more, the Metal Gear Solid series must live on, even if the main staff and myself are replaced over the coming years. Just like the 007 film series," he says.
Being in charge of such a dominant game franchise is not without its demands. "Our ultimate goal is to make sure people who play our game have fun," Kojima says. "The greatest pressure comes from within me. I create my games under a creative plan based on objectives such as 'I want to do this much!' and 'I want to surprise people this way!' However, videogames are very technology dependent. There is a development schedule and development costs. What always bugs me is that I must make some kind of compromise. I fight within myself over how to make this compromise."
Twin Snakes and two greats
As if developing a third entry in the Metal Gear Solid series wasn't enough, Kojima has collaborated with Shigeru Miyamoto to bring Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes to GameCube.
"Metal Gear Solid 1 was praised as one of the best videogame stories ever. Metal Gear Solid 2 was praised for its action and game system. Twin Snakes is the re-creation of the best story with the best game system. It is a re-imagination, a remake, made possible only with the medium of videogames," says Kojima.
A game combining the work of the father of Solid Snake with that of the creator of Mario andLink is a dream come true for gamers-and for two amazing game developers. "The spirit of providing service through action-oriented games that highly value great control is something Mr. Miyamoto and I share," says Kojima. "The keywords we share are not graphics, sound, or story; it is whether or not the game is fun. Through this collaboration, which I've dreamed of, I was able to reconfirm that we shared these values."
Looking ahead at what's next for him and for his Metal Gear Solid team, Kojima says the series will live on for quite some time. "The Metal Gear Solid series, with myself as producer, will live on as long as players ask for it. As a game designer, I hope I can start up a new franchise," he says.
Soak up the sun
Gamers have a chance to see Kojima's hand in a possible new franchise right here at E3. Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand for GameBoy Advance lets players hunt down vampires with a little help from Mr. Sun. Sensors in the game can tell how many actual rays of sunlight the player is being exposed to. The greater the number of solar rays available, the more powerful the character becomes-and the darker it gets, the tougher the bad guys become.
Kojima assures us that Boktai is more than a ploy to get kids outside. "It is not just that I want people to step outside-I want people to be in a relationship with the sun and Earth, both indoors and outdoors. I hope that through the relationship with the sun that they will while playing the game, people will start thinking about the environment and the universe: 'Is it going to be sunny tomorrow?' 'Is it going to rain?' I want gamers of the 21st century to think about these very simple and natural things," he says.
This adds a layer of depth not available in traditional games. "I thought that by introducing the natural element of sunlight, I could implement a 'live' feel that takes into account regional differences, time, and weather," Kojima says. "Even if people play with the same ROM, the way they play will differ depending on where and when they play. Game designing is predicting players' actions and providing services based on those predictions. But that limits gameplay within the realm of what I create," Kojima says. "Introducing the sun-natural light-over which man-the game designer-has no control, gives the game unlimited depth."
Kojima believes that adding the element of nature to Boktai is like adding the "live" element of online gaming. "We have reached a point at which there is not much left to do with games that only allow the player to follow the rails provided by the game creator," he says. "Games are an interactive medium-the more ways of playing there are, the more fun and freedom there will be. More of the individuality, the personality of the player must be reflected in the game. What's important is how this 'live' feel can be incorporated into games."
Kojima says he is excited for this year's E3. "I like the atmosphere at E3. I like the journalists. It feels like we all become one. It is something that I really look forward to every year," he says. "As for something specific that I am excited about seeing, I look forward to the film The Matrix: Reloaded."