TGS and the craziness (MGSV + Silent Hills)

It doesn’t really get any better than this.  Kojima has given us lots of new information and video, including the African jungle location, an AI buddy system, a pet wolf, and the return of the most iconic outfit in the Metal Gear series.  It’s glorious.

 

We learned that Quiet has ridiculous abilities, including the ability to turn invisible, move at supersonic speeds, and perhaps phase out of existence altogether judging by the way she simply shed those handcuffs back at Mother Base.  Whatever her powers, the most shocking revelation of all was that depending on how you play, you might not meet her at all!  What kind of game is The Phantom Pain going to be, if the main female character is optional content?

Nothing could surpass the introduction of a new character, however, in the form of “D.D.” — an adopted wolf-dog who eventually grows into a badass companion for war.

 

The gameplay itself is what fascinated me, however.  Big Boss can equip different prosthetic arms, which allow him to electroshock enemies, smash the ground for wide-radius sonar tracking of creatures, and the ability to climb cracks in walls.  He rides into the jungle on a helicopter, and apparently can jump out whenever he wants, which is dangerously close to my fantasy of being able to parachute down to locations as Big Boss freely.

The buddy system is designed to give players a strong incentive to maintain relationships with his comrades (in order to unlock better powers), find new characters to befriend, and basically not become a brooding lone psychopath in the middle of nowhere.  The fact that these are optional means that players will have to be vigilant, and get even more attached to characters whose fates are extremely unknown (ie. they don’t appear in future titles!)

 

Silent Hills

 

We also got a new Silent Hills concept video, which is disturbing.  Apparently its what Kojima and Del Toro discussed for the direction of the game, and it was made by just a small handful of artists at Konami using the Fox Engine.  There’s been a lot of positive reaction to it, but I’ve also noticed some complaints that it’s not very moody or eerie, but more of a parade of insanity.  It’s kind of interesting how big of a difference there is between a playable experience like P.T. and simply watching a video of something scary.  When you’re playing, turning a corner is a terrifying risk.  You almost don’t want to proceed, because you don’t know if you can handle what’s there.  It’s stressful.  A video like this simply can’t deliver that gruesome tension, where you control the pace.

It’s good to see that they are running with the series’ themes of sexualized horror, mingled with childlike innocence, and dark filth.

Big Boss, 70s, Africa and more: MGS5 speculation from CVG

CVG, reporting on the upcoming PSM3 issue, is predicting that Metal Gear Solid 5 will follow Big Boss in Africa during the 1970’s, and that Solid Snake will be seen as a baby.  That’s not hard to believe, considering the Fox Engine screenshots of jungle environments, the artwork of Big Boss with the “Diamond Dogs” arm patch, and the way Peace Walker ended.  Here’s an excerpt of their analysis:

The Kojima Productions site itself ‘hides’ another image of Big Boss with a ‘Diamond Dogs’ logo on his shoulder, which Dawkins claims is a reference to both the 1974 David Bowie album Diamond Dogs (Kojima being a confirmed Bowie fan), but, more importantly, the diamond mines of Angola, against which some of the action could be set.

It adds up.  There’s still plenty of material left to explore in the career of Big Boss, and we know that there will be a real Metal Gear Solid 5.  Solid Snake’s saga is finished and Raiden has his own wacky spinoff, which leaves only Big Boss left.

Character creation test in FOX Engine

This was posted on December 21st on Kojima’s Twitter:

“FOX engine news Vol.3”. Experimenting original system where user chooses the parts to create realistic “avatar” easily. Here’s Lionel, very clever programmer in Kojima Production. This was done in an hr by referring the pic

Obviously this is pretty good, but a naked person with no facial expression and short hair doesn’t show off much.

When combined with the facial animation system, hair and cloth rendering, and foliage, there’s no doubt that the FOX Engine will be a powerful engine most likely on par with DICE’s Frostbyte 2 engine or better.  Customizing your character in that engine sounds fun, but as with all character creation tools, it ultimately depends on the interface, menu system, and options available.  (Personally I always test whether I can choose 3D facial hair, and the ability to make really ugly, old, and yet still correct-looking people.  By this standard, most character creation engines totally fail.)

Kojima showed us some very impressive things apparently on the Xbox 360, and talked about how scalable it is, but considering he talked about making it the best in the world, scalable to fit any platform, it’s something to keep looking forward to as the months go by and the question of the next generation looms larger.  And since he repeatedly refers to the “new game” he’s working on, we can no doubt look forward to the “Devil Project”/”Ogre Project” utilizing this engine, possibly with a character creation tool built in.

Now I’m interested: FOX Engine hints at wet T-shirt game?

fox engine white shirt underwear

Wow!

Ever the salesman, Kojima relates:

One of the key features about “FOX Engine”, here’s the transparent technique. See-thru underwear.

I must say, the potential is very interesting!  Also, notice how soft that hair looks?  I like soft hair.

More Peace Walker models seen on FOX Engine

Via Kojima’s Twitter

This doesn’t mean they’re working on a Metal Gear game, just testing the old models in the new engine.  We saw this before with Big Boss, and had confirmation that it was just a tech demonstration.  Nothing to get excited about, but it does remind me that they’re getting ready for a new generation of hardware, which is cool.

KojiPro not stealing any spotlights at this TGS

Raiden wears a new hat

There was a time when any news surrounding Hideo Kojima and his production company would stir up excitement and flood gaming communities with speculation, but this year they’ve taken been pushed to the back thanks to lukewarm announcements about HD ports, a non-butchered aspect ratio, and the fact that Rising hasn’t been cancelled yet.

This is an incredible year for gaming, with major franchise titles dropping left and right — Portal 2, Witcher 2, Deus Ex 3, Battlefield 3, Elder Scrolls V to name a few — with the PS Vita offering something exciting on the hardware side of things.  A ton of interesting digital download content has been popping up (Magicka and Skullgirls come to mind, although I know there’s a lot more I haven’t gotten around to).  Established games like Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft continue to evolve and update, proving how effective patching and updating can be in a community.  So what is Kojima Productions doing to keep pace?

Kojima Productions can’t afford to be shuffled to the back, but it seems that they’re not worried.  Maybe they can afford to sit on their laurels and capitalize on old nostalgia for a few years, but considering how aggressive the market has become, I just don’t feel like they’re doing anything special.  “Transfarring” seemed to be a great idea before people heard about “Continuous Play”, but now it seems to be irrelevant.

The new FOX Engine could turn out to be a smash-hit, but Ugly Face Man (my own pet name for the poor guy) doesn’t look any better than current-generation models being shown off elsewhere.  Personally I trust that Kojima will have something great up his sleeve with the “taboo game” he’s hinted at for ages.  My hope is that he’ll make a triumphant return in good time.

Until then, we’ll have a ton of other great games to keep us occupied, I suppose.

Kojima on needing lots of money, knowing how to market

Hideo KojimaIn a new interview with PlayStation Blog, Hideo Kojima compares being a game designer to producing a movie, saying:

Kojima: Right now, it’s very similar to movies: You need a lot of money. So rather than doing what you want, doing what you like, you must have a clear idea of marketing and sales. That’s what’s happening to us with FOX Engine; you do not need be an expert in programming to develop a game, but if you have a question, you still need an expert on-hand to provide an answer.

As for expression, that has reached a high level. Video games are trying to reach the peak of entertainment, so game makers should be clear that things like emotion and sound are among the many things that have to be involved. [source] [emphasis mine]

It doesn’t seem as if Kojima is complaining here, but he certainly has no illusions about being able to simply do “what he likes” and “what he wants”.  It’s all about marketing and sales.  It’s interesting that he would bring up the new FOX Engine as an example of this; does this mean he couldn’t do what he wanted with it, or is it just an example of requiring marketing savvy to get what you want?