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Interview: An audience with Hideo Kojima

Metal Gear creator talks to press on the day of Rising's release

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The Blade mode in Rising is absolutely wonderful. Precisely cutting objects in bullet time never gets old. Where did you get the inspiration for that from?

The concept came from the fact that Raiden is the main character; he uses a Katana, even in MGS2. My concept was if we had him limited to only using a sword, he could still do many things depending on how you use the Katana. The player could do a limitless number of things if you give them enough control. One sword could be used in hundred of different ways, the equivalent of two or three hundred weapons. That was my concept when we were developing in house, even though eventually some other weapons got introduced.

When we were developing in house, we have great programmers and team, but they're very scientifically minded. When they approach this mechanic of having to cut things freely they did it in an extremely detailed way, almost like an industrial simulation. It was slow, methodical and very precise.

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Back when we were developing it in house you could cut almost anything. You could cut enemies, pieces of the stage, and all those pieces would fall down realistically like a physics simulation. They'd remain in the stage, you could bump into them, kick them around and use them as part of the gameplay. It was very accurate but also extremely intense and demanding on the system, not to mention that gameplay wise it was very hard to balance.

When we handed it off to Platinum Games, they did away with some of that precision but focused on making the cutting feel satisfying. Really the final version of Blade Time is thanks to Platinum and their sensibilities of bringing that balance to the equation.

Metal Gear Rising is a bold new direction for the Metal Gear franchise; how will spin off titles influence the direction of future instalments - what part do they play in the larger legacy?

I think Rising is a special case, making a spin-off game just for him. In the future I may make other games featuring The Boss, that's what I want to do, but as far as a series of spin-off maybe there might be another Rising in the future but it's not something I want to make a habit of.

If Rising is a commercial success, will it have convinced you that the Metal Gear franchise can continue to expand to new genres?

One thing I want to make clear is that Metal Gear Solid, to me, will always be a stealth series. The core gameplay is feeling the excitement and tension you feel as you sneak through an environment and achieve your mission. As far as the numbered titles are concerned they will always feature that type of gameplay.

Rising features Raiden as a cyborg ninja. Rather than sneaking through a stage and trying not to be found the gameplay lends itself to having a situation where even if you are found, you can take out all the people that found you. That's the fun part of the game, it's a different focus.

At what point in Rising's development were you convinced that Platinum Games were the ones to help out with its completion? Also, did you have any other development studios in mind?

We actually worked on it very hard for two years in house. When we ran into problems, usually what would happen at that point is I would have to jump in to take over and start over. But I was already busy with Ground Zeroes, so I was actually trying to cancel the game at that point.

The problem was that we had already shown Metal Gear Solid: Rising at E3 and there were a lot of players really looking forward to the game. So I tried to think of a way to keep the project alive and Platinum Games was really the only studio that I could think of that could take over and do it properly.

"Metal Gear Solid, to me, will always be a stealth series"

In essence, if Platinum had said 'no', Rising wouldn't exist. In the end Platinum took over and did a great job. We have a great product as a result.

I have to say I'm really impressed with what Platinum did; they were really gutsy to take over a project that had fallen apart in the middle of production. They took it on to themselves to take this insanely difficult thing to deal with - the Free Cutting mechanic - not only that but up until that point they'd only developed original titles, so they were taking a Metal Gear title. It was their first time working on such a big project and it had a lot of baggage with it, with hugely, insanely critical fans.

If they did anything wrong it would have reflected badly on them, it took a lot of guts take that challenge on and they pulled through. They're really great, I love those guys.

What were the challenges in maintaining 60 frames per second gameplay in Rising? Were any compromises made?

Back when I was creating Metal Gear Solid 2 I was doing experiment tests with Showscan that showed even though humans can perceive only around 24 frames they can still feel the effect of having the higher frame rate of 40 frames per second. So I immediately wanted to up-res to 60 frames per second.

Now with The Hobbit it is being experimented with and it's moving at 48 frames per second. I think that really is the future of movies, the next step after 3D is higher frame rates.

Metal Gear Solid 3 takes place in a jungle with complicated environments; at that point we couldn't achieve 60 frames per second because we had to put too much detail in the environment. The same thing happened with Metal Gear Solid 4, you have to trade-off between high frame rate and detailed environments.

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When I spoke with Platinum Games about my feelings on frame rate they agreed and felt 60 frames was very important for an action game with fast movements. The artist on the team attempted to resist this as it would mean they'd have to scale back on their art for the backgrounds.

If you look at Rising, yes, maybe the backgrounds aren't as pretty as some of the other games out there, but we are very proud to say we maintain 60 frames per second and the experience is much better as an end result. I think that really is a credit to the designers that they could look beyond the pretty backgrounds and know that this was best for the gameplay.

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