TOKYO--2006 has been a big year for Konami director Hideo Kojima, who's celebrating his 20th year in the video game industry and the 10th anniversary of his production team. But rather than to look back in the past, Kojima had a lot to say about the future of his Metal Gear Solid series, and he spoke almost nonstop about it for well over two hours at Konami's event stage.
"I've been making games for the past 20 years, but the first 10 years [up until Metal Gear Solid] were pretty dark. I wasn't thought of so highly in my company. It was the fans and their letters that kept me going," started off Kojima, who quickly went on to talk about the upcoming games from his production team.
Kojima began his presentation with a trailer of Metal Gear Solid BD for the PlayStation Portable, a game based on Ashley Wood's comic book series by IDW Publishing. The end of the trailer showed a glimpse of Metal Gear Ray, and while it's already been reported in the latest issue of Famitsu, Kojima reconfirmed that a sequel based on Metal Gear Solid 2's storyline will be released in the future.
"The second series in the comic is currently at around volume 8, and it should run to about issue 12. We're planning to also make it into a Bande Dessinee [BD]. The original game [on the PS2] was all about Raiden, but the comic has a lot more Snake," Kojima said.
Kojima then went on to show a trailer of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, which showed various new characters, as well as some intriguing illustrated scenes, with one scene showing Big Boss' first encounter with a young Roy Campbell, Solid Snake's commanding officer. While Snake has always worked solo in previous MGS installments, this time he's recruiting soldiers and making a team in Portable Ops. Kojima revealed that the soldiers can't be brought back to life if they're killed, so the game will feature a "White Flag" system to compensate for the severity of this.
"You can use your unimportant soldiers like a bunch of Pachinko balls [meaning they'll go off without much of a chance of coming back], but when it comes to your important characters, you don't want to get them killed," explained Kojima.
Portable Ops will be the first time that Kojima Productions is releasing a "real" Metal Gear Solid on the PSP that's not a card game, and they're doing so with a bang. Kojima unveiled that not just one, but two limited edition PSP packages will be released for Portable Ops. Both editions come with a premium PSP pouch, but the one that's more impressive will be released from Konami's Japanese online shopping site, and it will apparently be made of real python skin. We expect to hear a price on both editions soon, as Portable Ops is scheduled for a December release in Japan. Konami's online shop is also offering an official Portable Ops T-shirt for fans that want to get in the mood before the game comes out.
Before going on to talk about Metal Gear Solid 4, Kojima also took a short moment to announce that a budget-price reprint of Metal Gear Acid 2 will be released in Japan on November 16. The game will be offered at the new low price of 2,800 yen ($24), but it will still come with the constructible eyewear that allows for the game to be played in 3D.
Moving on, Kojima took the second half of his presentation to talk about Metal Gear Solid 4. By this time, Konami's booth was crowded by fans like "penguins during spawning period," as Kojima put it. Showing off the new TGS 2006 trailer, Kojima confirmed that all the scenes were created with real-time rendering, similarly to the trailer from last year's TGS. He also mentioned that the Electronic Entertainment Expo trailer from May (also done in real time) will be used as a part of the game's opening sequence when the game is completed.
"We've finally started to figure out the PS3, and we've decided on [MGS4's] game systems," said Kojima. "Back with last year's TGS trailer, we were still trying to learn the PS3's potentials. Now that we've figured out what we want to do, all we have to do now is to create it."
Pointing to the trailer, Kojima talked about the new high-tech camouflage suit that Snake is now wearing, which changes its colors in real time and blends Snake into his environment. The suit is called an "octo-cam," which derives from the words "octopus" and "camouflage." Kojima explained that, while it's very little known, the octopus is one of the sneakiest creatures in nature, and it even beats chameleons when it comes to disguise. While a chameleon can only change its color to match its environment, an octopus can not only mimic its environment color, but also change its shape accordingly.
"The real skill in hiding is to avoid the most obvious places like lockers or underneath tables, because that's the kind of place that people would search first. It's best to hide in places that are already visible, because nobody would care to notice it. For example, people would search a locker that's closed, but they wouldn't check a locker that's already halfway opened. You can just hide in a dead angle of it," said Kojima.
"Up until now in the MGS series, your body was completely hidden [in places like lockers and desks]. But in MGS4, you'll be hiding in a new way. In previous MGS games, you would've hid behind pillars so that enemies couldn't see you. But in MGS4, you'd be standing in front of the pillars and using the octo-cam to blend into it."
Kojima then presented a number of slides and showed how the developers have been traveling all over the world to gather research material for MGS4, including the Middle East, South America, and Eastern Europe. "Snake is going to be going all around the world like Hitchcock or 007 [James Bond]...We've visited normal homes [in villages] as well as various locations like an iron foundry, underground passageways, warships, and military facilities."
The developers are also making sure that the battle tactics in MGS4 are as good as and even better than previous installments. Once again, the developers went under a training course with former SWAT instructor Motosada Mouri, who's been the military adviser for the MGS series and helped out in creating the Close Quarter Combat system (CQC) in MGS3. Visitors to the Konami booth got to see some video of Kojima and other staffs infiltrating a house and putting on camouflage makeup to challenge Mouri on a survival mission.
"I've kept shooting at him, but it was like he's invincible. He caught us all. I think he wears an infinite bandana," Kojima joked to his fans.
There's no question that MGS4 has more detailed graphics than its predecessors, especially due to its shift to high definition on the PS3. But Kojima is adding detail to Snake's movement as much as he is to the game's overall graphics. For example, if a bullet comes flying at Snake's face, he'll automatically sway his head and dodge it. Kojima assured the crowd that it won't be anything that would affect the game's difficulty level.
In terms of realism, Kojima is also taking on a new challenge in MGS4. Up until now, characters in the MGS series were all fictional, and while Snake might've been inspired by John Carpenter's Escape From New York, his look was still original. That's about to take a shift in MGS4. For the first time in the series, the game will feature a group of characters that are all based on real-life people. Kojima avoided giving too much information since the reason behind it is going to be a huge surprise, but he showed off a model sample of actress Yumi Kikuchi, who will be in the game as the "Japanese representative." Kikuchi was hosting Kojima's stage presentation at TGS, and she also plays Kojima's partner role in his Internet radio drama series, "Idea Spy: Operation 2.5."
In terms of music, Kojima confirmed that MGS4's scores will once again be created by Harry Gregson-Williams, who provided the excellent soundtracks for the previous two MGS titles. The TGS 2006 trailer music (titled "Old Snake") was one of his works.
"Gregory-san had a lot of movie projects like The Chronicles of Narnia, so we thought it wouldn't be possible for him [to take on MGS4]. But he's watched the E3 trailer like 50 times, and he said he wanted to do it," said Kojima.
The stage event also gave Kojima the opportunity to show off Metal Gear Solid 4's official logo, which was created by Logan, a production studio famous for its works on TV spots including iPod, Volkswagen, and Xbox.
Logan's Alex Tylevich appeared on stage and commented that Kojima wanted a classic taste to MGS4's logo but with a touch of modernism. Kojima added that he wanted a new look to the logo since he considered this to be the new beginning of the MGS series, as the previous stories have already concluded as a trilogy.
Kojima also revealed that the intro sequence for MGS4 will be done by Logan, replacing Kyle Cooper who worked on the previous two installments. The intro sequence of MGS3 let users control the screen, but according to Kojima, MGS4 is going to be even better and startling. "The customer-service phone line is going to be flooded with calls, and I'm going to get fired," joked Kojima.
Whatever the intro will be like, Kojima's idea behind it was big enough to even get developers jumping out of their seats. According to MGS4 codirector Shuyou Murata, "I totally flipped out when I heard about it. It's going to be like a promotional video, but there's going to be more to it."
Logan's Alex Tylevich was tight about releasing any details, but he gave some first hints, commenting, "It's going to be highly unusual for a video game opening. It's going to be very futuristic."
Metal Gear Solid 4 is slated for a 2007 release, so there's still plenty of time before gamers will get their hands on it. Meanwhile, fans can start preregistering to Konami's new Metal Gear community site that's tentatively named "Metal Gear My Page," scheduled to launch in December. Fans can create their own blogs, communicate with each other, upload contributions, and also collect "Kojima Fan Points" to expand the services they can use.
Kojima also mentioned that MGS4 merchandise is already underway. As one of the products, he introduced an "Old Snake" action figure with moveable parts, which will be released by Medicom Toy. The figure is created under direct supervision of MGS series graphic designer Yoji Shinkawa.