TGS 2005: Kojima shows real-time demo of MGS4
Impressive PS3-dev-kit demo proves trailer's in-game authenticity; director reveals weapon customization system, game location, and more.
TOKYO--When it debuted at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show a few days ago, the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer got a similar reception to the Killzone trailer at E3--almost universal awe. But when the initial shock wore off, the same question was raised by skeptics--was it a real-time demonstration of the PlayStation 3's in-game graphical power or a prerendered trailer?
To dispel any doubt, series director Hideo Kojima and artist Yoji Shinkawa held a stage event at Konami's TGS booth to prove that the visuals are indeed running in real time on the next-generation console. "This trailer isn't a CG or something that we've rendered on a high-spec PC," said Kojima "This is the real thing on a PlayStation 3 development kit."
After showing the full eight-minute MGS4 trailer, director Kojima and an assistant began a real-time demonstration on a PS3 development kit featuring scenes from the preview. The first sequence was from early in the trailer, when Snake peeked through the broken walls of a building. There, he paused the game and moved the camera around to show that the real-time rendering was authentic. "He's a bit pigeon-toed because he's being cautious," joked Kojima, while the camera rotated to show Snake's feet, which weren't visible in the original trailer.
To further show off the PS3's capabilities, Kojima zoomed in to a detailed close-up of Snake's costume. Clearly visible was a detailed "Ota-Damacy" (Otacon-Soul) patch on his chest, the logo for which can be seen on MGS4's official Web site. "All the equipment created by Otacon have this mark on them," added Kojima.
Kojima's development team has been concentrating on MGS4's shadow and lighting effects. "We can change the shadows in MGS4 in real time. We can also place shadows on Snake himself, using [the PS3's] self-shadow effects. This is the first time that we've been able to do it in the series. We always wanted to use self-shadowing effects, and it's finally become a reality," said Kojima. "We're using high-dynamic range rendering this time and creating extremely natural visuals as a result," added Kojima's assistant.
Kojima then showed another effect with the PS3 dev kit. As he focused in on the tip of Snake's gun as he held it in front of the screen, Snake and the rest of the background became blurry, as they would if shot by a real camera. "We can give focus to specific things on the screen," said Kojima, and he demonstrated how he can focus in on other objects, like the trailer's landscape and Snake's nose.
Interestingly, Kojima said he doesn't want to give MGS4 a totally realistic look. "With the shift to high definition [resolution], we can give a very realistic look to the game, like an actual movie," he said. "But we purposely added filtering to give it the look that makes it Metal Gear Solid." He then showed how he can change the color balance, glare, and add other effects in real-time through the PS3 dev kit debug menu.
Switching to a scence where Snake is having a conversation with Otacon through the small Metal Gear MK-II robot's LCD screen, Kojima joked about the screen. He then zoomed in to the image on the screen, revealing that Otacon and his room environment on the LCD screen are actually rendered in real time, just like the rest of the trailer. To prove it, Kojima played around with the light source for Otacon's shadow. "We've added a grid on top of it to give it the look of a realistic LCD screen," he said. "Otacon will come out as a full [polygon] model in the game. It's not like we've only created his upper body."
After Kojima finished off his technical demonstration, Kojima explained why he decided to age his characters. "Old characters are better because their wrinkles can be used to show the rendering capabilities of the PS3," he said. "Young characters have silky skin, so it's not as challenging."
Kojima repeated that the concept behind MGS4 is "no place to hide." He also confirmed that the game takes place in the war zone, but he didn't name any specific locale where the game takes place. "MGS4 will take place in a 'situation' rather than a 'location,' and the situation is the war zone," he said, revealing that there will be other locales in the game. "Aside from the war zone that we've just shown [in the trailer], Snake will infiltrate other war zones throughout the world."
Like past installments in the MGS series, MGS4 will have a specific theme it will focus on. "We've gone through 'Gene,' 'Memory,' and 'Scene' as the main themes for the past releases [of MGS]. This time, it's going to be 'Sense.' We're going to try and depict the essence of people, like their heart, mind, and psyche," commented Kojima. He added that his objective with MGS4 on the PS3 is to create things that can't be seen by the naked eye. For example, he said he aims to make soldiers' mental states an element in the war zone.
Series designer Shinkawa revealed that one of the new features in MGS4 will be a modular weapon system. "As you could see in the trailer, MGS4 allows different weapons attachments to be swapped in and out. We made it so players can customize [their weapons]," said Shinkawa. "This is going to be a game for equipment lovers. We've paid special attention to the metals used in the weapons so that they have different textures. They're all metal, but their colors and other elements will slightly vary."
Kojima gave some information on MGS4's enemies as well. The mechs that are seen walking together with soldiers and tanks in the trailer are a new type of Metal Gear called gekkou, which means "moonlight" in Japanese. They're a mixture of mech and creature; the upper half of the body is mechanical, but the legs are organic. "They're extremely fast, but they'll bleed and fall down if Snake shoots their legs--though of course, it's difficult to actually hit them," revealed Kojima. "There's nobody on board that's controlling them, since they move with AI."
Given the shift to the PS3, the soldiers in MGS4 have new characteristics as well. Unlike soldiers from past installments, the soldiers in MGS4 will have individual appearances, including individualized clothing. Kojima referred to them as "Mr. Solider" rather than enemies, since they are neutral toward Snake unless he attacks them. "There are no friendly soldiers or enemy soldiers this time," he said. "It's a war zone, so whether they'll become allies or foes is all up to the player."
So when will MGS4 come out? Not for at least another year, according to Kojima, who said the game will be shown again at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show. "This is our first time, so we focused on presenting the visual aspects of MGS4," he said. "At next year's show, we plan to show more of the game's aspects that can't be seen by the naked eye."
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