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Interviews

Interview: An audience with Hideo Kojima

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

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Grey Fox was originally meant to be the star of Rising. If that had happened, would the finished game be significantly different: not just in terms of story, but combat?

I want to clarify the confusion on how this concept came about. The reason Rising came about was because the younger staff at Kojima Productions were going to make the next Metal Gear title. But tackling a numbered title in the main series was too much pressure for them, so they proposed a spin-off featuring Raiden as the main character.

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Personally, I thought that if they were going to a title based on Raiden, they should just do Frank Jaeger, I prefer him. But the team preferred Raiden so I allowed them to proceed with that.

Honestly, I think that if we're going to make a sequel to Rising it should feature Frank Jaeger as the main character, versus zombies. (Laughs) Nanomachine-powered zombies. That's what I'm proposing to the producer at Platinum but I think they're ignoring me.

I said I'll even write the story for it, but the story writer said it's ok.

The inclusion of Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2 now looks very smart - how eager had you been to bring him back in his own game?

Raiden was in Metal Gear Solid 2 is because at the end of Metal Gear Solid Snake had become this legendary hero, it didn't make sense to have this legendary hero start from scratch in the game, and players playing for the first time having these codec calls telling the legendary hero having these codec calls coming in telling him how to do basic actions. It didn't sit well with me.

So I decided it would make more sense to have a new guy come in, a newbie in the form of Raiden. He could grow with the player and look at Snake from the third-person point of view as this great hero.

That was the concept for Metal Gear Solid 2. That was his role. Perhaps we didn't do a good enough job in conveying that to the user and people reacted negatively as a result, but that was his purpose. In MGS4 we brought him back as a cool character, partially in response to fan reaction but also as a role reversal. In MGS4 Snake is an old man, he's barely able to survive the game and Raiden is here to help him, you're seeing Raiden from the third-person point of view as a kick ass, cool character.

At that point users then wanted to play as Raiden, so it came full circle. This time Rising has him as the main character. That's the true meaning of the title 'Revengeance', it's Raiden's vengeance one more time, he's coming back to take revenge on his unpopularity.

We've heard that the original Metal Gear Rising bosses were scrapped. Korekado-san has since said that they were on-par with other bosses in the series. Can you shed some light on what they were like?

I will say that those characters that were created remain as characters, but they're very different from the final version of the bosses you see in Rising. They were very much similar to the bosses you see in the Metal Gear Solid series. They're more realistic, not quite as flamboyant as Monsoon or Sundowner where they come out with these really strong personalities.

Honestly, they probably wouldn't have fit in Metal Gear Rising.

"A sequel to Rising it should feature Frank Jaeger as the main character, versus zombies. (Laughs) Nanomachine-powered zombies"

Raiden has come on quite a journey since his divisive introduction in MGS2 - now he's the star of the show. Is there any intention to explore his story - or perhaps even his back-story - any further?

I will say that the original Rising product was intended to tell the story in between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4, I think there are a lot of possibilities there and cool stories can be told there. I've given the staff a lot of suggestions on cool things that can be done, but I personally will not be making it. Perhaps that's a possibility for the future.

The only problem with that is that I think it would be difficult for Platinum to develop the game if they were to set it between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4. That story exists only in my head, at each step of the way Platinum would probably have to come and consult with me at each step of the way. It would be difficult for them to proceed with the game.

That's why we changed Rising to after Metal Gear Solid 4, that gave Platinum more freedom and they could move forward with Raiden's future without having to worry about how it fits into the middle of the series.

Honestly, I can't say whether that a game set between MGS2 and MGS4 will ever happen, but that's the background on it.

How do you feel about Raiden's judgement and ethics throughout the game? Would you consider him a positive role model protagonist?

There's a fundamental difference between Snake and Raiden. Snake is a trained military specialist; he does his mission and focuses on his job. Raiden's story is one of tragedy, he was born into warfare, he's a child soldier, and then he's turned into a cyborg killing machine. Even though he wants to be happy, it doesn't really work out for him. He tries to live a normal life, he marries Rose, but he always gets dragged back to the battlefield. He's a little twisted inside because of his history so he goes back with his sword and starts wreaking havoc.

He's not a hero in the traditional sense, he's someone who wants to find peace but can't. In that sense he's similar to Rambo in First Blood. He's someone who is just so war-torn that he can't live a normal life.

We often question the place of video games in the media; the industry still wrestles with the correct way to approach modern themes and issues. Within your forthcoming work, what themes and issues do you feel are important to explore and discuss?

Video games as a medium really hasn't matured very much in the past 25 years, it's always about killing aliens and zombies - not that I don't like those games, they're fun - but I think games have a long way to go before they can mature.

Over the past 25 years I've tried to work with the Metal Gear series to introduce mature themes, but really it hasn't got there yet compared to movies or books. It still has a long way to go and that's precisely what I want to try and tackle with my next project, Ground Zeroes.

Honestly, I'm going to be targeting a lot of taboos, a lot mature themes that really are risky. Honestly, I'm not even sure if I'll be able to release the game, and even if I did release the game maybe it wouldn't sell because it's just too much.

But as a creator I want to take that risk. As a producer it's my job to sell that game, but I'm approaching this project from the point of view of a creator. I'm prioritising creativity over sales.

It's very possible that some day in the future, after Ground Zeroes is out, I may be called up by management, who say 'Kojima, what are you doing? Ground Zeroes isn't selling, what have you done?'. At that point I'll be able to say 'don't worry, Rising is selling well'.

If Rising does well will it mark the start of a new franchise? If so, would you like Platinum to carry on development duties?

Platinum's team is great at creating action games better than anyone else. I love them personally as individuals, and now they're able to do things on schedule as well. That's very important.

The one thing that I think they could still improve on is their technological level. Their technology isn't quite up to par. For the next project, if we did something with them, maybe we'd have them use FOX Engine. Or maybe use their next-generation engine. I'm not sure, but that's the point that I'd improve.

If they did manage to get their technology up to par they'd really be a world class studio.

As far as Rising 2 is concerned, I really do have that in my mind. I want to make it, and if we do make it, it would definitely be Platinum. No one else could do it.

Of course, my ulterior motive is if Rising 2 came out, guaranteed it would sell. Which means I wouldn't have to worry about that with Ground Zeroes, I could just do whatever I want.

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You're seen in the industry as someone who pushes the boundaries of gaming by thinking outside the box - with next-gen consoles on the way do you think you'll get the opportunity to keep doing that? If yes, what about the next-gen consoles gets you particularly excited?

The simple answer is 'yes'. I still think it's possible. A funny fact is that the Psycho Mantis battle is very famous now and respected for doing something outside of the box. Back in the day, when it was originally released, people thought it was a bug. People complained like hell about it and I got a lot of flack for that. It's not until about ten years later when people like you played the game that it came to an age when people could vocalise their respect for it, and it became respected.

The next-generation will have opportunity to do new things, but it will be met by resistance in the beginning.

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