Despite what you may have heard, it is no longer disputable that the Big Shell chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2‘s story was a computer simulation from beginning to end. The whole scenario of Raiden on the Big Shell was a VR mission. This isn’t a theory, but a fact. It has been a fact since 2002 when Hideo Kojima directly stated in this interview:Continue reading
I’ve been lucky to have Alexander Sylazhov as a guest contributor multiple times on this site. His writing reveals a facet of the Metal Gear community otherwise hidden from me, and shows me how other cultures and peoples can approach the subject matter in Metal Gear with a drastically different perspective. Recently I decided to ask Alexander for an interview, so that his fans and the general readership of this site can get to know the man behind these daunting essays a little more personally.
Check out the interview below and learn a bit about this mysterious character.
This was a fun discussion of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the legacy it has today. OJA and I agreed to do a podcast about MGS4 some time in the future, and the release of the “In Defense of MGS4” video I posted a link to recently sparked the timing to come back and have a chat. A lot of things about MGS4 have been forgotten since the game was released, and I wanted to remind people about what made the game’s release complicated.
It’s a pretty casual conversation, we didn’t do a bunch of research or preparation before getting into the talk. Check it out:
In the nerdy cloisters of the Metal Gear community there’s always been debate over which of the games in the series are considered “canon”, “main series”, “spinoff”, and so on. Like religious texts, the games have been given various tiers of dogmatic importance, citing interviews, timelines, box sets, and everything else that might hint at what we’re officially allowed to enjoy. Or something. It certainly affected my score of Rising.
Kojima has always been evasive about this, because it’s bad for business to drop a game from the official mythology of the series. It instantly goes from being gospel doctrine to apocryphal stories, so-to-speak. But now Kojima is finally being clear, in an interview with IGN:
“I always say ‘this will be my last Metal Gear,'” Kojima said, “but the games in the series that I’ve personally designed and produced — Metal Gear on MSX, MG2, MGS1, 2, 3, 4, Peace Walker, and now MGSV — are what constitute a single ‘Metal Gear Saga.’ With MGSV, I’m finally closing the loop on that saga. In that sense, this will be the final ‘Metal Gear Solid,'” Kojima continued. “Even if the ‘Metal Gear’ franchise continues, this is the last ‘Metal Gear.'””
Is it arguable that games like Ghost Babel, Portable Ops or Metal Gear Rising don’t have to be part of what Kojima calls “a single ‘Metal Gear Saga'” for them to still be considered “canon”? He doesn’t use the word canon in the interview, but if you really listen to what he’s saying, if MGSV is going to be “the last Metal Gear” simply because Kojima won’t be designing and producing future games, then by definition this makes any non-Kojima game a non-Metal Gear game.
The debates will surely rage on, but with a specific list of 8 games named by Kojima that constitute the definitive Metal Gear Saga, that debate is pointless.
This morning The Guardian has posted an interview with Kojima, in which he discusses the themes of MGSV in some new ways. Some of it is cool, and some of it makes me disappointed.
“I develop the design and construction of the environments and I set the theme and topic from the game and work to ensure that it fits with the game systems. That all has to come from me as the vision holder.”
I didn’t realize Kojima was designing levels still. Actually, I thought he specifically said that they allowed the artists to create things according to realistic photographs and maps, and then adjusted it and designed things accordingly.
“I love movies but if I was to create a film I’d use different methods,” he says. “I make games. That’s what I do. So I think about ways that I can use the game systems to reinforce my story, or do things that simply aren’t possible in other media.”
So the story isn’t designed to serve the game systems, but the other way around. This is important if you want to analyze the gameplay or the story, because they should reinforce each other, right? (Ahem…)
“The player is able to flesh out the detail and background of the game by discovering and listening to cassette tapes,” he says. “It’s a different way to develop story but one that is arguably, more impactful: the player puts it all together in their mind.”
Damn it. I don’t like collecting cassette tapes, Kojima. It’s one of the worst aspects of Ground Zeroes, even though I love what Peace Walker did with its Briefing tapes. You shouldn’t have to collect the story in bits and pieces. Let me guess, you’ll find a snippet of a private conversation between Dr. Emmerich and Dr. Strangelove before the Ground Zeroes mission sitting in a pile of horse shit in a back alley in Afghanistan? And the other tape will be miles away during a different mission, in the back pocket of a POW. What’s the point? Is this how we’re going to end up with 400+ hours of “gameplay” and a massive online hunt for data?
Honestly, it’s clever of Kojima to force us to discover the story, since games like Dark Souls have proven that people actually try to understand things when you don’t spoon feed it to them (and thus become “preachy”). But cassette tapes still feels like an uncreative and sloppy way of handling it.
I suggest you read the full interview.
In a new interview with TIME, Kojima answers questions about the psychology of his game design, what motivates him to continue making Metal Gear, and how to make players empathize with the moral questions his characters are in.
For example, when asked about technology allowing increasing realism of violence on screen, Kojima shifts the focus away from the visuals, and back to the meaning behind the violence:
There are so many games where you fight aliens or zombies, and they have very high-fidelity graphics, but they don’t ask the question of why the events are happening. In Metal Gear, I’m trying to get at why all these violent things happened in the first place. My intention is to get the player to question why these things are happening.
He’s been answering this next question in many interviews recently, but once again we see the real motivation for continuing the Metal Gear series includes the fact that he gets a huge budget to work with:
Originally I wanted to hand the series off to younger staff and let them carry on with it. And so we did, and that resulted in the game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. But after Rising, we found that for my younger staff, the numbered games were just too heavy for them. So that’s why I decided to come back and work on them myself. Ideally I’d want them to handle this, and for myself to be focused on creating a different IP. That said, Metal Gear is a huge title, it usually has a massive budget, and that wouldn’t happen for any game.
However, that doesn’t stop him from promising that this is truly the last Metal Gear game that he’ll be working on:
And this time — I’ll say it again — this is the last one. Not the last Metal Gear, but the last one I’ll work on. This is my focus when I go into working on a game. Every game I make, I create thinking it’s really, really going to be the last game I create. So I put as much as I can in and make sure I have no regrets.
Perhaps one of the most pointed answers Kojima gives is on the things that “haven’t changed” since the old days of gaming:
And the content of the game, what is really the essence of the game, hasn’t moved much beyond Space Invaders. It’s the same old thing, that the bad guy comes and without further ado the player has to defeat him. The content hasn’t changed — it’s kind of a void.
It’s interesting how Kojima doesn’t recognize the moral depth of big hits like The Last of Us, or even the latest Grand Theft Auto, when giving this answer. Either he hasn’t been playing a lot of new games, or he isn’t satisfied with how far they go in dealing with the themes and moral situations presented to players.
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.