Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima talks with Dave Cook about his collaboration with Platinum Games, and why he fears Ground Zeroes could bomb.
“Videogames as a medium really haven't matured very much in the past 25 years. It's always about killing aliens or zombies – not that I don't like those kind of games – but I think games have a long way to go before they can mature.”
Hideo Kojima is getting serious. Although he was on tour to promote the gleefully immature Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the next few years of his career will focus on pushing every boundary imaginable. It's time for him to grow up.
He's worried that Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes will be a financial failure as a result of breaking new ground. Ever the rebel, he said he'll be less worried when his bosses at Konami start asking difficult questions surrounding the project.
“I'm going to be treading a lot of taboos,” he continued, “and a lot of mature themes that really are quite risky. Honestly, I'm not even sure if I'll be able to release the game. Even if I did release the game, maybe it wouldn't sell because it's all too much.
“But as a creator I want to take that risk. As a producer it's my job to try and sell the game, but I'm approaching this project from the point of view as a creator. I'm prioritising creativity over sales.”
What little we've seen of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes suggests that the imprisonment and indoctrination of kids will play a key role. That's a bold step in an industry that approaches violence towards children at great distance. Whatever issues eventually send alarm bells ringing, Kojima will remain firm.
He said that Rising is selling well worldwide so far, giving him further license to do as he pleases. The man is near-untouchable at the moment, but he remains humble, piling immense praise on Platinum Games' end-product. Should a Rising sequel happen, Kojima wants Platinum back for round two.
It's a real change in tone, because the project was immensely troubled before it ended up at Platinum. He told us that initially, Kojima's younger, relatively inexperienced team felt pressured by the game's 'Metal Gear' mantle. The blade mode was also sluggish, and the destruction mechanic was creating all sorts of performance issues.
Some problems never fully went away after the hand-over. It's no secret that both Kojima Productions and Platinum have always held each other in the highest regard, but they didn't see eye-to-eye on many issues. In the end, the game received a mostly-positive critical reaction in the press.
“I'm really impressed with what Platinum did,” Kojima admitted. “They were very gutsy to take over a project that had fallen apart in the middle of production. They took it on themselves to take this insanely difficult thing to deal with – the free cutting mechanic – and complete the game.
“Not only that, but they weren't taking on just any game. Now they were taking on a Metal Gear title, and it was their first time working on such a big project. It had a lot of baggage with it, and a lot of hugely, insanely critical fans. If they got anything wrong it would have reflected very badly on them.”
The hardest part is behind both studios now, and the potential for a Rising sequel is there. However, Kojima stressed that he doesn't want to start whoring out every element of the series in off-shoots. Much to the shock of everyone in the room, he revealed that he does want to make another, potentially incredible spin-off one day.
“I think Rising was a special case,” he explained. “In the future I may make other games, maybe featuring The Boss as a main character. That's something I want to make personally, but as far as a series of spin-offs – there may be another Rising in the future, but it's not something I want to make a habit of.”
The potential for a game starring The Boss has been mentioned by Kojima in passing before, but to hear it stated so assuredly got the Metal Gear fan in me excited. Kojima was understandably cautious of saying more on the matter, as he's a man who knows how to manage expectations.
Most recently, last year's The Phantom Pain trailer was a masterclass in raising hype and expectations through the roof. Both the clip and Kojima's nodding, winking appearance at the VGAs got people talking. He didn't acknowledge the clip once during our interview.
On the outside Kojima may seem like an unbridled, free-thinking creator, but he had to show real restraint when advising Platinum during Rising's development. The project has already fallen apart once, and he couldn't afford for it to collapse again.
Said Kojima, “Some of the ideas that they proposed I was opposed to originally. For example, there's the scene where Raiden throws the Metal Gear RAY up into the air. I thought, 'No way. This is ridiculous'.
“But, when they actually put it into the game and I had a chance to play it, it felt really good in that context. My job became not necessarily to fight with them – although we did have our disagreements – but I just had to move that line a little bit, and get the best out of Platinum as best as possible.”
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is out now and it's up to the players to decide if it best reflects the strengths of both Kojima Productions and Platinum Games. In Kojima's mind, this collaboration has been a surprising success, and he has already started to thrash out loose ideas for a follow-up.
Raiden's debut In Metal Gear Solid 2 was met with scathing criticism in the West. His return as a hardened, borderline psychotic killer in Metal Gear Solid 4 begged forgiveness, but the transition has also raised many questions.
We know that during those years Raiden saved Sunny from The Patriots, and that he was forcibly transformed into the synthetic Frankenstein's monster we know today. The rest exists in Kojima's imagination, and has yet to be committed to code.
“The original Rising was intended to tell the story between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4,” he continued. “I think there's a lot of possibilities there. It's a real cool story that could be told, and I've given the staff some suggestions.
“That said, I personally will not be making it, but that's perhaps a possibility for the future. The only problem with that however is that I think it'd be very difficult for Platinum to develop the game between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4, because that story exists only in my head.
“Obviously at each step of the way Platinum were coming back to consult with me over what was going to happen, so it would probably be difficult for them to proceed with this game.”
“That's actually why we changed it to after Metal Gear Solid 4 for Rising, because it gave Platinum more freedom with Raiden's future, without having to fit into the middle of the series.
“Honestly, I can't say whether or not a game set between 2 and 4 will actually happen, but that's the background of what happened.”
Should the game happen, would you be willing to come back for more? I know I would.
Disclosure: This interview was held at a Konami event in London. All travel was paid for by VG247. Catering was offered by not accepted.