An Afternoon With Hideo Kojima: 25 Years Of Metal Gear Solid [INTERVIEW] (Part 1)

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Hideo Kojima (creator of Metal Gear Solid franchise) and Lorenzo Winfrey (founder of ZoKnowsGaming) at DC press event.

Last week I had a very rare opportunity to participate in a press event sponsored by Konami that allowed a few of us gaming journalist to spend about two hours with Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Kojima was in town because of the “The Art of Video Games” exhibit which is currently on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from March 16, 2012 – September 30, 2012. Two of his games from the franchise are featured in the exhibit, Metal Gear Solid (released in 1998, PS1) and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (released in 2001, PS2). Believe it or not this was Kojima’s first time in the nation’s capital as he noted that his staff had come to DC to do research for MGS2, but issues at the time prohibited him from making the trip. He said that he had already gotten a chance to view the exhibit at the Smithsonian and was hoping he would be able to make it to the International Spy Museum before he left. He talked about walking around DC and noticing the Cherry Blossoms were beginning to come in, this made him especially sentimental since the trees are from an area in Japan close to his hometown. So that’s the backdrop to our encounter, time to get down to the details of what we talked about.  I struggled with how to structure this post, hopefully my chosen format has the desired effect.

Boss Battle Development In Metal Gear Solid

In terms of boss battle development, Kojima said that they usually start off with 20 to 30 ideas for different characters and then whittle that down based on technical feasibility and fit. He went on to say that whatever the number of bosses that end up in the final game, assume there were originally more than double that many possible bosses when they first started development.

Metal Gear Solid On The Big Screen

When asked why Metal Gear Solid has never made it to the big screen, not even to small screen in any official capacity Kojima was a bit coy. He said that he couldn’t speak on whether it would or wouldn’t happen but said that he is not against the idea at all and it is a possibility at some point. As someone that was in the room when he was saying this I got the impression that we may seem something on this front in relation to either an anime adaptation or major motion picture  sooner than later, but that’s just my personal feeling so take it with a grain of salt. Let me be clear on this one, Mr. Kojima gave no indication either way, I’m just expressing MY gut feeling.

Designing The Metal Gears

When it comes to designing the massive Metal Gear mechs that are always central to every game, Kojima said that he always wants them to have a real world feel. Even though are these fantasy creations, he bases characteristics of them on real world machines like cranes and such. He said that he wanted to each Metal Gear to feel slightly familiar to players even if they didn’t quite understand why when they were playing.

The Game He Is Most Proud Of

This was a bit of a trick question but Kojima handled it well. He said that he really doesn’t have a favorite and that he is both pleased and displeased with all of them. He said that if he were forced to answer he would probably whatever he was working on at the time, so I guess right now that would be Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (see how I worked that in). Kojima is not as involved in rising as in previous Metal Gear games but he is the executive producer and has vowed in previous interviews to not let the title get too far from its roots. For informational purposes of those that are or will be new to the franchise, Rising is not part of the main Metal Gear Solid series and takes places at some point after the events of  Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. That’s about as much Rising talk as I could realistically fit into this piece, back to our regularly scheduled program.

What Is Needed To Make A Game A Global Success

Earlier I told you that Kojima said that he tries to take a world view when he is developing games, but he want into specific in terms of the 3 elements that he feels are needed to make a video game a global success. He says that the game must utilize great technology, have high quality gameplay, and take a world view on subject matter. He admitted that he thought that Japanese tech was actually a bit behind in some respects if you can believe that. Kojima expressed his belief that other Japanese game designers aren’t trying to make games with tons of freedom, rather they are content with making games based on the culture that they know. He said that ultimately the reason behind this is that Japan doesn’t really look outside its borders for new tech and ideas and therefore they don’t come in.

Breaking Down The 4th Wall

For the uninitiated the fourth wall is a term used to describe the imaginary wall between the audience and the stage, or in this case the gamer and the video game. The term derives from a movie or television set having three walls; the fourth wall is the camera. In effect, it is the separation of the real and the imagined. As anyone who has played through the Metal Gear Solid franchise, it takes breaking the 4th wall to a whole other level, the most famous of which may be the Psycho Mantis battle from Metal Gear Solid. That battle had some many elements I can’t even do it justice, so if you’re not familiar just Google it.

When it comes to breaking through the 4th wall in Metal Gear Solid games, Kojima said that they try to always evaluate the latest technology and then push it to the limit. At this point, the Psycho Mantis battle is the stuff of video game legends, but he said that the time people on his team were really pissed off with him because they just didn’t understand it and didn’t think players enjoy it. Guess they were wrong.

Lack Of True Stealth Games Being Developed

So let me say up front I’m a bit biased on this one and I personally recognize very few game franchises as truly being stealth games, as a matter of fact only three: Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, and Hitman. Interestingly enough, the last Splinter Cell game went away from that premise and so will the next Metal Gear game but it looks like Hitman Absolution will deliver. With that said, when I asked Kojima about the lack of more titles like those games given the success that the two franchises have seen, he had an interesting response. He said that true stealth games create a lot of tension and pressure on the player that makes it hard to find the right balance. If the game is too hard people get frustrated and stop playing, if it’s too easy then they get bored. He noted that he thought that the rise of the FPS is because people believe that genre is much more approachable and that they may have some misconceptions about what a real stealth game truly is.

Well that is all for Part 1 folks, stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of our chat with Hideo Kojima.

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Lorenzo Winfrey

Lorenzo Winfrey

Editor-In-Chief at ZoKnowsGaming
I am the Co-Ceo of DLT Digital Media. We are a company that is focused on developing new and innovative web properties in addition to developing WordPress based web sites for others. But before I was all that, I was a gamer.
Lorenzo Winfrey