Kojima used my idea to promote “Silent Hills”

You’re welcome Kojima, I’m glad you pay attention!

The idea of releasing a demo/preview/promotional game which contains a big surprise reveal trailer after you beat it, is literally the exact strategy I suggested in my Ground Zeroes commentary back in March of this year:

A better strategy (and perhaps one KONAMI would never have indulged) might have been to keep The Phantom Pain a complete surprise until after you beat Ground Zeroes, at which point it unlocks a trailer that you can watch.

Judging by the delightful surprise that has spread across the internet, I feel pretty damn validated in my argument!  Because I also said this:

Forget the “Moby Dick Studios” bluff and the “Joakim Mogren” nonsense, and just let Metal Gear Solid V be an awesome surprise at the end of the seemingly straightforward extra epilogue mission to Peace Walker, designed for consoles and to show off the Fox Engine.  Hell, sell the thing for $10 so people can be blown away by how generous and appreciative Kojima Productions is.  Goodwill goes a long way.  Make sure every gamer worth his salt feels obligated to check out this amazing little game, with its amazing surprise ending, and its amazing new gameplay direction.  Get people on board, cast a wide net, and make your money with love from the community, not gouging those who try to support you most.

Could this “P.T.” game be any more similar to what I suggested?  If they had hyped up “Silent Hills” for a year ahead of time, and then released this “important story chapter” at retail for $20 with all sorts of little “extras” to drag out the playtime (like they did with Ground Zeroes,) nobody would be delighted about the game, because we’d be obsessing over crap like whether it’s a good value.  Instead, they took my advice and released an understated and generous little demonstration of what they can do, and included the big surprise trailer at the end.  “Brilliant”, as the British Twitch girl said.

If only they had done this with Ground Zeroes, people would be much less confused, much more intrigued by it, much more appreciative of their marketing, and nobody would be complaining about it being a “2 hour game”, or costing too much!  Bah…

Kojima: “I think about ways that I can use the game systems to reinforce my story”

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.

E3 2014 trailer on par with Crime & Punishment? Why not.

Was not expecting this.

Look at the special page on the Konami website featuring famous people kissing Kojima’s ass because somebody showed them the first serious story videogame trailer they’ve ever seen, and asked them what they’d like to publicly state about it.

Among the quotes is the director of the movie Drive, who thinks the Kojima is possessed by a 19th Century Russian writer, a 16th Century Italian painter, and American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick rolled into one.  Yes, truly, this one trailer is proof enough that Kojima is on par with revolutionary creators whose grand creations have stood the test of decades and centuries.  He goes on to call the trailer “A daring and bold move from one of the founders of the future of technology,”  which I’m assuming refers to… videogames?  I guess he doesn’t realize violence is the opposite of daring when you’re talking about game trailers, but oh well.

One of my favorite filmmakers, Park Chan-wook, has a more reasonable and intellectually honest comment, stating that Kojima “…has actually been making films in his own way already.  Metal Gear Solid games are already films, the films of the future.”  Which is a really nice compliment, I think.

Then again, this is literally just a trailer they’re talking about.  Isn’t this crazy?  Captain Ahab really wants to hunt down that white whale.

Kojima TIME interview: Motive and motivation

 

Hideo KojimaIn 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.

Kojima: E3 Trailer won’t be a blank screen

Kojima TwitterHere’s an exciting update from the master of social media marketing, Hideo Kojima:

“As got feedback from people played GZ that they wanna revenge in TPP, I’m adding hints of what happens to Snake & his team in E3 trailer.”

They wanna revenge, huh?  So you’re going to give them hints?  Clever guy!

Considering you released a $40 multiplatform prologue game that has a cliffhanger ending, I have to say it’s pretty brilliant to use the world’s biggest videogame presentation stage to make some follow up hints!  Much better than simply showing a blank screen for 8 minutes.

Once again we can see Kojima “reacting” to “feedback”, but this feels like a hollow marketing campaign to me, at least compared to past Metal Gear announcements which had genuine hype.  Sure, we always want to know more information about the next Metal Gear game, but shoehorning in this rhetoric about fans wanting “revenge” (HINT: That’s the theme of MGSV) is a little bit contrived.  Lying about being involved with The Phantom Pain, creating Moby Dick Studios, and releasing Ground Zeroes as a separate game have all generated more confusion and resentment than true hype.

This E3 trailer has a lot riding on it.  It needs to finally get the average gamer to understand what the hell is supposed to be happening, both in terms of the story and the product itself.  If it’s more chopped up cassette tape recordings, I’m going to roll my eyes so hard.

Only For Revenge: Kojima’s Secrecy And Obsession With Misunderstanding

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Only For Revenge

 As the strange tale of Kojima’s meta-narrative becomes more complex and epic, when can we expect to see him tip his hand and explain everything?  Why hasn’t he done this yet?  Why does he keep his genius secret?

Continue reading

Ground Zeroes @ TGS 2013

Ground Zeroes was shown off at TGS this year, with a night and day demonstration.  Now we’re getting a much more clear idea of how the game will work, and even how its mission selection screen will look.

The amount of negative reaction is surprising to me, but I think it has a lot to do with the way Kojima has been showing us the game.  For some reason, Kojima must think we don’t understand the concept of an open-world MGS game, or he thinks the world will be stunned by the innovation happening, so he wants to play through scenarios and do commentary the whole time.  Unfortunately, this breaks the “story immersion” that makes Metal Gear games feel so damn intriguing, and thus it feels like just another stealth game.  Maybe that’s the real reason people are comparing it to Splinter Cell.

Confusion is another issue.  The Ground Zeroes demo is looking more and more like a standalone prologue that will be released independently from MGSV.  It’s frustrating that Kojima isn’t making it clear, and also doesn’t seem characteristic of his marketing style.  The gameplay is nice, but it would be a lot better if we knew we could pay $15 for it in two months, or $30 in five months, or something!  Maybe it’ll be free to play, who knows.

Anyway, equally interesting is the performance of Kiefer Sutherland, reading the same lines we saw in the original trailer.  I’ve always liked Kiefer Sutherland and I believe he should be an amazing fit for this role, but I don’t care for his performance here at all.  This is bad news.  I can only hope that its not indicative of what the rest of the game and The Phantom Pain will be like.  I have to wonder if Sutherland was uncomfortable with his working environment, and if the other “on-screen” actors will have similar issues: no doubt staring at a strange camera while wearing little dots on his face, self-conscious of his expression being captured and trying to match the timing demanded by the cutscenes, while delivering lines written as quick banter between old friends, but no doubt acting by himself.  Or maybe the doubters were right and he simply doesn’t care.  That would be a crying shame.

The gameplay itself looks very fast and responsive, with flexible options at every turn.  Diving to the dirt, swiveling, hopping, sprinting, climbing, it’s all very sharp and immediate.  Clearly this is not your slow, plodding, wait-for-animation-to-finish type of Metal Gear, which means that a skilled player should be able to deal with threats and get out of messy situations if they can prioritize and think on their feet.

The anti-air guns, armored personal vehicle, and rocket launchers all spoke to the need for this increased agility.  Big Boss is going to have to kick some serious ass in this game, as well as doing some serious running.  It makes me wonder about some things.  Like having a limited numbers of enemies in a base, and the option to kill all of them and run around freely.  The question of how different enemy groups in different parts of the world react to alarms, too.  Will the African rebels have a different strategy than the Russian mercenaries?  Variety is the spice of life.

Questions abound, and I’ll admit there’s a lot of key details missing, but I am optimistic.  No doubt the camp we’ve been shown is the most “basic” example of an enemy base in the game, with some of the most straightforward solutions for dealing with it too.  Who knows what kind of madness awaits in the full MGSV.  Let’s not forget who we’re dealing with here.