Itís not hard to see why so many people respect Hideo Kojima, the man responsible for the Metal Gear Solid series. Heís a well spoken, visionary creative who has a lot to say when it comes to his craft.
His passion as a game designer - which can put him at odds with his role as a studio leader and producer - can be seen whenever he talks about the industry at large, or when he jokes about pitting Gray Fox against zombies.
Both of these subjects, and more, were discussed at length during a mammoth roundtable conversation, in which Kojima spoke to SPOnG about the Metal Gear
character of the moment - Raiden. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
was released on Friday, and the legendary developer was present to talk about the gameís development - both at Kojima Productions and at Platinum Games.
A lot of subjects were covered, so weíll just let you go ahead and dig into his fascinating thoughts, in his own words. Enjoy.
Blade Modeís Conception...
The concept originally came from the fact that Raiden is the main character, and he uses a katana. My concept was that if we had him limited to only using a sword, he could still do many things, depending on how he used it. You could do a limitless number of things, if you give the player enough control.
One sword could be used in hundreds of different ways - equal to two or three hundred different weapons. That was my concept from the beginning, when we were developing it in-house... even though eventually some additional weapons got introduced.
When we were developing this... we have great programmers and an awesome team, but theyíre very scientifically minded. When they approached this problem of having to cut things freely, they did it in an extremely detailed way. Almost like an industrial simulation!
It was very slow, methodical and precise, but it wasnít very fun. So when we handed it to Platinum Games, they did away with some of that precision, but focused on making it feel very good, and feel fun.
...and its level-destroying potential
Back when we were developing the game in-house, you could cut almost anything in the game. You could cut enemies, buildings, pieces of a stage... and all those pieces would fall down realistically in physics simulation, and would remain in the stage.
You could bump into them, kick them around, use them as part of the gameplay. It was very accurate, but also extremely intense and demanding on the system. Not to mention, gameplay-wise it was very hard to balance. When we gave it to Platinum, they focused more on making the cutting feel satisfying. So really, the final version of Blade Time that you see is really thanks to Platinum and their sensibilities in bringing the balance into the game.
The one thing that I was a little nervous about [with Platinum] was that... the studio makes excellent games, thereís no arguing about that - but theyíre not very good at honouring schedules [laughs]. They take their time with the games.
So I was a little worried at first, but I made it clear that in order to succeed on a worldwide scale, you not only have to make a good product, but you also have to keep a tight schedule. This time, they came through and delivered the product on time. I think even [Hideki] Kamiya-san was surprised!
Concerns with handing the Metal Gear license to an external studio:
Actually, I wasnít too worried about [how Platinum would handle the franchise]. I was more worried about how users would react. But, because this is a spinoff - itís not a numbered game in the series that features Snake as a main character - I wanted the team to be able to relax. I didnít want to be too overbearing. I just told Platinum to go ahead and make what they wanted to make, to relax and to have fun with it.
In the beginning, it was probably [Konamiís] upper management that was more worried about this than I was. Theyíre very protective of the IP and were asking me questions like, ĎWhy are you taking our most valuable franchise and offloading it to Platinum?í But, what I said was, ĎDonít worry about it! Even if Platinum messes up, Iím working on Ground Zeroes, so itís okay!í [Laughs]
Of course, I always believed that it would end well, and it did end well... but I had to say that to management in order to convince them.
Collaborating with other studios in the future:
It really depends on the project, and it has to be something that matches. You have to match the studio to the project. In the past, we did [Metal Gear Solid
] Twin Snakes
with Silicon Knights up in Canada, and it didnít do that well. Part of the reason was that we were trying to control it too much.
Really, I think if youíre going to use an outside studio, it has to be in order to take advantage of their abilities. If they have a specialty, and you have a project which happens to [have] features that theyíre best at, then thatís fine. But I donít want to have to force myself to give something to an outside studio just because I want to offload something.
Creative compromises between Kojima Productions and Platinum Games:
Honestly, my role as the producer of this project was really to support development and make sure that we took the best advantage of Platinumís skills as possible. That said, I was opposed to some of the early ideas they proposed.
For example, thereís a scene where Raiden throws the Metal Gear Ray into the air, and I thought, ĎThereís no way... this is ridiculous!í But when they actually put it into the game and I had a chance to play it, it actually felt very good within the context of the scene.
My job went from... not necessarily fighting with them... occasionally we did have disagreements... but I just had to move that line a little bit. Make sure we could take the best advantage of Platinum and work on something together that takes advantage of the unique strengths of each studio.
... Of course, this isnít a game by me, this is a game by Platinum. There are some things about the story that I may have done differently, but I think the end result is something that neither studio could have made on their own. Itís a synergy of the best parts of each studio and I think the end product is very satisfying.
On Metal Gear Rising impacting future titles in the series:
I think Rising
is a special case. In the future, we may make other games, maybe featuring the Boss as the main character. Thatís something I want to make personally... but as far as a series of spinoffs? Maybe thereíll be another Rising
in the future, but itís not something Iím going to make a habit of.
One thing I want to make clear is that Metal Gear Solid
, will always be a stealth series. The core gameplay is feeling that excitement and tension that you feel as you sneak through a stage or environment and achieve your mission. That, to me, is the core of the series. And as far as the numbered titles in the series are concerned, they will always feature that type of gameplay.
Metal Gear Risingís near-cancellation:
We actually worked on it pretty hard, for two years in-house. Then we ran into problems. Normally what would happen at that point would be Iíd jump in, take over the project and start from scratch. But I was already busy with [Metal Gear Solid
] Ground Zeroes
so I was actually planning to cancel the game at that point.
The only problem was, we had already announced Metal Gear Solid: Rising
at E3, and there were a lot of users looking forward to the game. So I really tried to think of a way to keep the project alive. Platinum Games was really the only studio I could think of that could take over and do it properly.
So in essence, if Platinum had said no to this offer, then Rising
would not have existed. But in the end, Platinum did take over, they did a great job, and we have a great product as a result.