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GO3: Kojima on Metal Gear Solid 4

Famed game creator says Metal Gear Solid 4 is about "situation" rather than location; hints at psychological battles in gameplay.


Hideo Kojima at the GO3 conference.
Hideo Kojima at the GO3 conference.

Few games have had as much hype and expectation surrounding them as the PS3's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. So it was no surprise that series creator Hideo Kojima drew the biggest crowd of any speaker at last weekend's GO3 Electronic Entertainment Expo held in Perth, Australia. And while Kojima didn't unveil any new trailers or gameplay specifics, he did speak at length about the main gameplay theme he's introducing into the famed stealth series--playing hide and seek within a certain situation.

It was Kojima's first time Down Under, and he started his speech to the 200-strong crowd (still barely filling two-thirds of the large hall at the Perth Convention Centre) in English. "It took me a while to come down to Australia, and I am surprised that I have not met a single kangaroo yet. Nor have I seen crazy motorcycles like those in Mad Max," he said. After the lighthearted introduction, Kojima returned to his native language of Japanese and spent the majority of the next hour outlining the history and concepts behind his most famous creation, the Metal Gear series.

Kojima started his tale all the way back in 1987 when he first released the 2D Metal Gear for the MSX system. He outlined the evolution of his original game concept--that of hide and seek within a given area or place--through the various versions of Metal Gear in the past 20 years, adding that he worked hard to introduce new elements into each game. For Metal Gear Solid 4, Kojima said he needed to think of an entirely new idea as the concept of place had run its course.

"I went back to the drawing board, back to scratch, and looked at what I did for Metal Gear 1 and 2, and for Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, and 3," he said through a translator. "Now I can't make Snake go into space to do his stealth mission, and we've exhausted the concept of the place, so now I thought why not create a situation rather than a place? And then I thought of a battlezone or warzone as the situation where Snake has to sneak in. So MGS4's game concept is playing hide and seek within a certain situation."

Kojima said MGS4 would place Snake in war locations where there would be two opposing armies--a situation which the ageing stealth agent could use to his advantage.

"To make it very simple, in the past Metal Gears, Snake was going into enemy environments--so everyone apart from Snake was an enemy. This time it's a warzone, so you have country A or country B, so Snake could interfere with either of the countries. It does not necessarily mean that everyone is an enemy to Snake. This creates a new tension in playing this new hide and seek," he said.

Kojima also cryptically hinted that the increased processing grunt of the PS3 would be used not only for better graphics, but for the introduction of "psychological" elements.

"I would also like to challenge the PS3's CPU power for not only what you can see, but also psychological effects, or psychological battles, where it can affect your gameplay," he said.

Kojima closed his speech by saying the evolution of games hardware means developers will need to work closely with professionals in a diverse range of industries to continue making better games.

"As game hardware evolves and more technology appears, you will gradually start to collaborate with other industry professionals. Doctors, psychologists, many artists, plus maybe some scientists--we can perhaps collaborate with these people in the future," he said.

"Game design evolves with technology, and there is no end to technological evolution. Therefore game design will continuously evolve--it will not stop evolving. And at the same time, through the joint effort of many people, games will continue to be a collaborative art. And I believe in this concept."

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