Hideo Kojima is one of those rare game designers who need no introduction. The mastermind behind Metal Gear sat down with us for an exclusive chat about his new development studio, Kojima Productions, and the future of its projects.
GameSpot: How did Kojima Productions come about? Why did you decide it was time to go in that direction?
Hideo Kojima: Well, for about 10 years, we had a kind of smaller company called Konami Japan, and in that there was the Kojima team, and we had, we were a publicly listed company, so we had responsibility, a different responsibility, and we had the feed on our own.
Well, in that era, we had a small team, which enabled us to maneuver very quickly, and that was quite good. But at the same time, I was burdened with management work and creative work 50/50. I had to split my time on both management and creativity.
Well, and then back in April, Konami Japan and all the other independent studios merged together by Konami HQ, and we formed Konami Group. And underneath that, we decided to start on Kojima Productions.
Well, since we're now under the Konami Group umbrella, that means we have lots of backup in terms of resources like human resources, or budgeting, costs, and development costs. Therefore, you know, I could totally concentrate on creating good things, or the things, the titles, that could be a hit.
So the main purpose actually going further down is that I will not, therefore, concentrate so much on the business side or the management side. Now I can concentrate totally on the creativity side to create good games, to create high-quality games.
So what, you know, for Kojima Productions, where I would like to aim is not just personally my name, Kojima Hideo by itself, but I decided to name it Kojima Productions because I have the staff working. So think of it like Pixar or maybe DreamWorks. We would like to be recognized in the very near future so that anything that comes out of Kojima Productions will be received as high-level, high-quality titles.
GS: So do you see Kojima Productions as being more of a Pixar, which is more known for a certain style, or DreamWorks, which is broader?
HK: Well, basically, in the past era of the initial game-creating era, there was an era where good games sold and were the hits and were not driven by license or marketing or PR. Of course, it's a hit business market we're in, so I could understand. However, I'm with a team, and most of them worked together for about 10 or so years. So what our goal is, is to maybe revive those good old days to prove that if you create a good game, it will sell. So in that sense, I think it's not for a broad audience maybe; it's maybe more known to more deeper, a very high-quality...we would like to be known as a deep, high-quality production staff.
GS: Once they decided to do Kojima Productions, how did you settle on the logo?
HK: So first when we set up Kojima Productions, you know, we were known worldwide with Metal Gear and Snake, so just like the, you know, the ET logo that they have, we thought of using the Snake as our identification logo.
And we actually thought about creating Snake with a gun silhouette, that kind of logo type, but it really didn't hit the bell to any of our staff. So that's when we thought, "OK, why not take the step a little bit backwards. Where does the Snake belong? Oh yeah, he belongs to [Foxhound], the fox group, so we should try to create a logo based on the fox."
Well a fox, the animal itself, probably has the same reputation worldwide. It's kind of like sneaky or deceiving to people or some animals. So we wanted to put that message in--in good terms actually. We wanted to surprise the people. We wanted to surprise the user, not to deceive but to surprise. So we had that meaning in the fox as well.
GS: How do you see Kojima Productions evolving?
HK: Well, Kojima Productions will keep on creating as many lines as possible. You saw the MGS series, like MGS4, MGS3, Subsistence. Also the [Acid] on the PSP platform. Also another line--that's called the MGS Series. And another series that Kojima Productions creates is the Bok-Tai series, which we will continue creating. And once MGS4 gets rolling, I would really like to start an original title, a totally original new concept title, and steadily I would like to stack up this series lineup in Kojima Productions with innovative and good games and new features.
Well, I don't want to go into a mass production line like, you know, the Hollywood movies these days. I really would like to prioritize the creativity of my staff and myself, including myself, so once we have crazy ideas, we'll see the market, and we'll find out if it fits, if it has room for that, and then we would like to pursue it, meaning we're not going to go after just the sales in creating a title. We would like to really, really prioritize creativity as number one.
If it was titled "Company," we're not allowed to do this, but since it's "Productions," now we're able to do it in this way.
GS: Speaking of Boktai, how do you see the series evolving to fit either the DS or PSP?
HK: We are not thinking about PSP actually, but for DS, yes we already have this in the plan, and we have surprises that you can never imagine. And I can't tell you right now what the surprise is, but we do have a big trick up our sleeve, and you are sure to be surprised.
GS: Will we be surprised at TGS then?
HK: Probably so.
GS: How would you describe Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence? Is it a director's cut? Is it now everything that you ever wanted to put in the game, or is there still more?
HK: Well, actually, originally there was no plan to release Subsistence in the first place. The main purpose of Subsistence is two aspects: the camera (we are going to change the camera completely to 3D camera); and the second is the online aspect, meaning if we did not release Subsistence, that means we were going to put it in 4 anyways. We were experimenting both aspects even when we were creating MGS3, so because we had this Europe launch tour back in March for MGS3 and we heard from many European press and users that they want a game like Metal Gear 2: Substance.
Then, only after then, I decided to bring this Metal Gear 3: Subsistence out, and I thought it was the best timing to have the final touches of the experiment in terms of camera and in terms of online. So once we release this on Subsistence, we will be able to gather feedback from both issues from the users and then brush it up so that it evolves into MGSIV, and that is the main purpose actually.
GS: Well, that all sounds very easy, but was it?
HK: Well, quite frankly--yes. It sounds very simple when we say it like this, but actually it is quite difficult; however, online is a very, it's a normal thing these days, and the gaming on online is not in the near future, it is right there--meaning we were doing experiments and research on online in the first place because we thought this future would come. But on a business aspect, the online did not have a good business model. Therefore, we were reluctant to release it, so it stayed as an experiment.
On the 3D view aspect, the new camera aspect, this is a trend these days, and many users are now used to this 3D camera. Therefore, we thought both of them are perfect timing to fit in MGS3, but the main purpose is actually to get real feedback from MGS3: Subsistence.
Well, frankly speaking, when we were thinking about testing online, we of course thought about Xbox Live. They have a better infrastructure. However, we have to start from the conversion stage from the PS2 MGS3 to converting to Xbox, meaning it will take up more time and it might cause a delay for MGS4. Therefore, I did not want to do that. Although I know that the PS2 online users are not so much Xbox Live users, I am still confident that I can get good feedback on the online aspect.
GS: Can you give us some insight into the sense of humor displayed in the Metal Gear trailers and the actual games?
HK: Well first of all, MGS is a stealth combat technician-type game where you have to sneak in on a mission, so the tension is really high, and when you get spotted, really the users are really surprised.
Well, since it is a game, you cannot keep from start to end It is going to take like tens and twenties of hours to clear the game, and you cannot keep this tension to the users from start to end, it will not last. I mean people can lapse with this tension.
So there needs to be a location where a laughter or "ease" stage were to come--ease from the tension needs to be there in order to actually ease the people on continuing to play the game. At the same time, start from scratch to bring up the tension level again. This is the same way that Hitchcock does it in the Hitchcock movies. So in scary movies, there is a scene of laughter so that everyone mellows down and then start to rise, the tension bar will start to rise again, and this is how we try to keep the gamers hooked to our game for 10 and 20 hours.
And also, all of my titles that I create, I really want people to feel something. I want people that play to feel sorrow, feel laughter, feel happy, feel fear--all of these real personal emotions I want the people to feel through my game, and that is one of the reasons.
GS: Now, obviously I don't think you can say much about 4, but maybe we can talk a little bit generally about what excites you about the new hardware and gameplay potential of the new system?
HK: I said in the Sony conference I would like to concentrate on what we cannot see.
Well up to the days of today of game creating, if you...if I give an example of movie creation, it's like everyone was trying to raise...to make a better, prettier set. If you compete to make that set bigger or maybe prettier, it still doesn't make a difference. A set is a set. Meaning, you know, the back side is hollow, or it's all fake. For instance, if you were to create a fake jungle, the trees necessarily don't have to be trees. They could be plastic.
And with the next gen coming up, I think that most of the creators are thinking, oh, why don't we expand the size of the set or make the set prettier or concentrate on the things that the players can see. This direction will probably be the trend even in the next-gen console. And I think that no one can win or no one can make a breakthrough doing this. Therefore I would like to take a different approach, and that's why I said I want to concentrate on the things we cannot see.
So an example is, I do not want to create a set anymore. I want to create the environment from scratch. So if I were to continue the example of a jungle, I don't want to create fake jungles anymore. I would like to plant a tree, put a life-form in there, life program in there, so that in the game, when you water the plant, it will grow. If you don't water the plant, it will die. What I would like to present to the user is now play our hide-and-seek game in this real world, not the set jungle that everyone competes on.
It's also up to the user's decision on the next-gen games, meaning they have a decision to make, if the creators create something, a larger set, a larger jungle, but only it looks like a jungle, it looks like the real thing with the visual graphics enhanced. The users can select that "yes, I would like to play in the fake world or the set." Or, it could be smaller since we put the machine specs on concentrating on what we cannot see, the whole playground itself might get smaller, but we will create the world, and you can play in this real world. It will be a decision to use this, which you like to play.
So that is kind of the key concept to MGS for the hide and seek in the real world, which I think probably answers most of your questions.
GS: A piece of the larger puzzle?
HK: Yeah. Of course I'm not saying that I'm going to create jungles again. But I can say, if I created this real world, and it happens to be--so small garden or so--it looks so bad, even badder than a PS2 platform, then I might throw away this idea.
GS: Looking forward, do you think this next generation of consoles are going to be revolutionary or evolutionary?
HK: Well, maybe a revolution will not occur. The biggest shock these days, well back in the past, was going from 2D to 3D because of the hardware. So, PS2, Xbox came, and then there was a breakthrough about network, or everyone connecting. And then right now there's nothing new planned. I mean, there's not going to be any new smell or anything.
I still think, even so, the hardware doesn't provide us at this stage a new revolutionary idea. I still think that game design, by game design, we can make a revolution here.
Well, example is a PC Half-Life 2. The hardware didn't make a revolution itself; the software did, because Half-Life 2 introduced us with the physics of explosion or the people trembling, or they put in the physics calculation there for the first time in the game, meaning they upgraded or hired the boss, so to say. It was a revolutionary thing, idea. I think from this example we game designers could do a similar thing, not dependent on the hardware specs to make the revolution, but the game design idea could make a revolution.
I think, well I personally say the theme of the next platform in terms of creating games is not real, but go to natural in terms of...not upgrading the graphics to make it look superreal, but more...maybe natural movement or natural things there. Digital to analog. Everything was digital in the past up until today, but maybe this analog aspect should be more recognized, much more. Also as I explained earlier, not the set, not the fake thing anymore, the real world. If we think in that way, I think we could see the next step in games.
But of course I am thankful for the new technology, the CPU, the RAM, the vast power that the new hardware provides, because I cannot do what I just said, create the set to the real thing. So in that sense, yes I am thankful for the next-gen hardware.
But because of this hardware, and everyone does the same way, creates the same way, upgrades the same way, it will not cause any revolution from the hardware.
We're not in an era where we just create 2D to 3D and it's an automatic hit. That's not the era we're in today. We have to really concentrate, or to let the users decide who will be the winner, and we have to decide what we create.
So I think overall the person who gives thought about the most, or has great ideas the most, will be the winner in the next-gen war.
GS: Thanks for your time.