A couple of days ago a crazy rumor came out of the internet backed up by a ton of evidence. Evidence like... Hideo Kojima's name being removed from the boxart, and other boxarts, the fact that Kojima Productions no longer even has a website, their twitter was being replaced, and that Kojima was no longer listed as an executive at Konami effective April 1st.
|"If we take Kojima's name off, maybe they'll forget he did any work and praise us instead!?"|
|"Genius, Roberts! Genius!"|
There are some other rumors out there, one mentioning that Konami and Kojima were locked in a power struggle for MGS so they decided to remove him from the picture, but personally I don't believe that. After all, Konami have always supported Kojima's vision when it came to Metal Gear, plus it meant more Metal Gear for them to profit off of. And also the cold hard fact that they own the Metal Gear IP. How can there even be a power struggle?
But there's more, what of the fates of Silent Hills? Kojima was globetrotting a few months ago and people were speculating that it was research for Silent Hills. When he said he was done with MGS, we all assumed he'd still be at Konami, still be at Kojima Productions making Silent Hills, but now we know he's just staying on as a contractor to finish MGS and he's out the door. That doesn't leave Silent Hills in a good light. Then you take into account Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro. Are these guys even going to stay on the project now that Kojima is gone?
|Fuck bitches make video games!?!!??!|
The question I have is: How did we even get here? First, some backstory. Which you could probably skip if you know anything about his history or have taken a gander at Wikipedia.
The rise of Hideo Kojima
Talking with G4's show Icons, Kojima says that he grew up watching movies with his parents. And while in University, Kojima found himself playing games on the Famicom in his free time. Later, he would surprise his friends and colleagues by announcing his intention on joining the video game industry, as it would be more satisfying, despite previously wanting to be a filmmaker. His friends immediately flaked the fuck out and was like yo Kojima that shit is crazy what even is a video game? Kojima's mother on the other hand supported her son and gave him the confidence he needed.
|A goddamn boss from the year 1983!|
Hideo Kojima joined Konami in 1986 after having some difficulty trying to join the video game industry and was assigned to Konami's MSX division as a designer, which he was unhappy with as he felt the MSX was too restrictive. His ideas were overlooked and was often snubbed due to his unfamiliarity with game programming. He actually considered leaving the company at one point, but decided against it.
The first game he worked on was Penguin Adventure as an assistant director. The game offered improved gameplay features over Antarctic Adventure, whom Penguin Adventure is a sequel to, such as more levels, RPG and action elements. The first game he actually developed was Lost Warld, a platformer for the MSX. Though, the game ended up being canceled.
After that, as fate would have it, Kojima was asked to take over a project from an associate. The project's name: Metal Gear. Restricted by the hardware of the MSX2, Kojima was unable to make a more action oriented game and after being inspired by The Great Escape, the game ended up featuring mechanics based around not being caught and not fighting enemies. Thus, Metal Gear ended up being on of the first games to emphasize stealth over direct action.
His next project was Snatcher, a post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure game inspired by other works of science fiction like Blade Runner, The Terminator, and Bubblegum Crisis. The game is about a detective with amnesia who must fight a race of cyborgs, the Snatchers, who kill their victims, steal their bodies and take on their appearance while also taking their place in society.
Due to the popularity of Metal Gear, Konami began development on a sequel, titled Metal Gear 2: Snake's Revenge. But Snake's Revenge was fucking stupid so someone asked Kojima if he could be the one to make a true sequel, and he agreed. Also he likes money or something.
That's where Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake comes in. The sequel, this time with Hideo Kojima at the helm, brought in a swathe of improvements to the original game's mechanics, with Snake now being able to crouch, crawl, knock on surfaces to distract guards and also crawl through vents. It would be easy to describe this game as Metal Gear Solid-Lite as it would implement a lot of similar mechanics. For some reason or another, Metal Gear 2 never came overseas until Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
After that, in 1994, Hideo Kojima created Policenauts, a first person point and click adventure game. This time set around a film noir hard science fiction theme... in space. Like Metal Gear 2, this game never saw release outside of Japan, but it did eventually get a fan translation into English.
His early games definitely weren't shy to critical acclaim. Metal Gear 2 was well received for surpassing the mechanics of the original Metal Gear and hailed for it's rich characterizations and well written story, as well as being hailed as one of the best 8 bit games ever made. (Source here)
Snatcher was celebrated for pushing the boundaries of video games at the time, featuring cinematic cutscenes with mature content as well as being praised for the quality of the voice acting and soundtrack, alongside writing comparable to a novel.
I can't find anything on Policenauts, but judging from the reaction I've seen from fans across the internet, I believe I can accurately summarize it as "pretty fucking cool".
Then came the big one, in 1998. Metal Gear Solid. Written, directed, produced and designed by Hideo Kojima, the game was praised for the game design, fully voiced cinematic cutscenes, a soundtrack reminiscent of a feature film, and a story that touched on complex issues such as genetic engineering, nuclear proliferation and the consequence of war. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how well received that game was. (Spoiler alert, like, super good)
Metal Gear Solid launched the Metal Gear series into a completely new level, as well as the popularity of Hideo Kojima. Now known throughout the world for being the mastermind behind MGS, all eyes were on him, ready and excited to see what comes next.
Before we got Metal Gear Solid 2, Kojima began working on a new IP, as producer and designer, featuring mechanized hack-n-slash combat called Zone of the Enders, or, Z.O.E. It released in 2001 to generally good reviews, with praise on the combat system and options at the players disposal, but also criticized for the lack of difficulty and also length of the game. Personally, I was completely underwhelmed by the game. When you aren't watching a cutscene, you are listening to a cutscene play out while sitting in your Orbital Frame cockpit, wondering when the this kid will stop crying about having to kill dudes and get back to killing dudes.
|Also known as "You will spend more time crying about killing dudes than actually killing dudes"|
Playing the game for the first time made me realize what people who hate MGS feel like. I was often wondering if was completely necessary for the cutscenes to be as long as they were, especially considering they often retreaded old water, and when I beat the game I realized that most of my play time was sitting around and waiting to get back to the action. To say I disliked this game would be an understatement, but people were a lot more positive of it I than I was, and because of this, it eventually spawned a much more well received sequel.
But before that sequel, we've got another sequel on the list. Another big one.
|aw fuck yea i was just waitn to talk about this shit ya dig|
Hideo Kojima, again, writer, director, producer, designer of Metal Gear Solid 2, blew the doors off of the video gaming world of 2001 and turned Metal Gear Solid into a massive commercial success. Selling over 7 million copies worldwide and sitting on a Metacritic score of 96, the game is the fourth highest rated Playstation 2 game and the thirty-seventh highest rated game of all time.
The game was again praised for its gameplay, though now featuring new mechanics like first person aiming and a cover system. As well as a much more advanced A.I. system that made running-and-gunning much more difficult, further emphasizing the importance of stealth and espionage to get through the levels. The story also received praise for tackling such mature and complex themes as government conspiracies, censorship, genetic control, information control, nuclear proliferation(it's a fan favorite), as well as sexual orientation, sociology, artificial intelligence, even taboo subjects like incest and much, much more. In fact, too much more. I can't even begin to cover them all here, but the impact of them are still being felt today.
After MGS2 was over and done with, we got a sequel to Zone of the Enders.
Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner was released in 2003, this time with Kojima on as a producer and Shuyo Murata as director.
The game received more favorable reviews from the critics than the first game, citing faster combat, more abilities for Jehuty, higher enemy count, and better graphics. In fact, Zone of the Enders was said to be one of the best looking games on the PS2, with IGN placing The Second Runner on it's Top 10 Best Looking PS2 Games Of All Time list.
Despite the praise, the game was criticized for the voice acting and the script, often featuring "atrocious" delivery and repeating words too often.
Unfortunately for fans of the series, the Zone of the Enders fate seemed doom and gloom as The Second Runner failed to preform on the market, selling only 97,296 copies in 2003. And then again in 2012 when the Zone of the Enders HD Collection was released in a poor state featuring a less-than-stellar frame rate that made the game look and play worse than even the PS2 version. Eurogamer writes:
So what went wrong with the original HD release? Performance is by far and away the most significant issue with the frame-rate averaging around 30fps while dips below 20fps appear regularly. V-sync is fully engaged, but the lack of frame skipping results in the game operating at 50 per cent speed (or less) the vast majority of the time. .
In addition, image quality is limited by a resolution of just 1280x720 with no anti-aliasing, while alpha effects were rendered at a low resolution, textures suffered from in-surface colour banding, depth of field was mostly removed, shading was often inaccurate, and HUD elements were stretched. Remarkably, High Voltage not only failed to enhance the game, it also failed to match the original PlayStation 2 version. .
In fact, because of the glaring issues present in the HD Collection, Hideo Kojima ended all plans to do a Zone of the Enders 3 all together.
Next up, another personal favorite.
Taking place during the Cold War, Snake's gotta sneak some more shit and fight more giant robots because it's still fucking Metal Gear. I means seriously we barely had electricity back then and he's fighting giant robots? Regardless, the game *surprise* critically acclaimed by all, save for some who thought MGS2 was superior but they are clearly wrong so no one took them seriously.
Featuring a Bond-esque theme song and enough attitude to silence Mr. T in an... attitude... fight...? I don't know where I was going with that, but the point is, Snake Eater is great. By August of 2005, it sold 3.6 million copies and sits on a 91 rating on Metacritic. It would have probably been higher but fucking Detroit had to go and try to be super cool and hate on Rambo 3 like anyone gave a fuck what Detroit had to say.
MGS3 progressed the series into a whole new generation of stealth, as MGS1 and 2 was more akin to a corridor-stealth system that usually had players hiding around corners, in lockers, behind objects or under them, but MGS3 went into a whole new generation of stealth. Now, players were tasked with hiding in plain sight using camouflage and tactical espionage action.
A year later, the game was re-released as Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. A newer version of the game that featured a brand new camera that brings the action closer to the ground, a cutscene viewer, Metal Gear 1 and for the first time in North America, Metal Gear 2, as well as a whole load of other features. But, and probably most importantly, it came with a new studio.
The creation of Kojima Productions
Kojima Productions was formed on April 1st, 2005 in an effort to reduce the overall workload from the business side of things and allow Kojima to work on the creative side 100%. In an interview with Gamespot, Hideo Kojima explained:
Well, for about 10 years, we had a kind of smaller company called Konami Japan, and in that there was the Kojima team, and we had, we were a publicly listed company, so we had responsibility, a different responsibility, and we had the feed on our own.
Well, in that era, we had a small team, which enabled us to maneuver very quickly, and that was quite good. But at the same time, I was burdened with management work and creative work 50/50. I had to split my time on both management and creativity.
Well, and then back in April, Konami Japan and all the other independent studios merged together by Konami HQ, and we formed Konami Group. And underneath that, we decided to start on Kojima Productions. .
Before the release of his next big project, Kojima had worked on a number of spin-off titles as producer, such as Metal Gear AC!D 1 and 2, as well as Portable Ops, the on-again-off-again canon-noncanon sequel to Snake Eater about Naked Snake going back in time and fighting Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, except it was all a metaphor for nuclear proliferation. The game was criticized for the historical inaccuracy of featuring Metal Gear's in the garden of Eden. Kojima simply apologized and swore it would never happen again.
Originally announced after Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima would be stepping down as director for the series. Shuyo Murata, co-writer of Snake Eater and director of Z.O.E: The Second Runner, was tasked to be the director for Guns of the Patriots, but had to reconsider after intensely negative fan reactions, like death threats. It was then decided that he would co-direct the game alongside Shuyo Murata.
Released to universal critical acclaim, Guns of the Patriots was highly revered not only as the best PS3 title of it's time, but also one of the best games ever made.
The game was far from perfect, however. The story was criticized heavily for being confusing at times and also poorly executed, often summing up complicated concepts to "nanomachines" to such an extent that everything pretty much boiled down to nanomachines, even a convenient cure for cancer.
Ultimately, years later, as I look back on MGS4, I realize just how stupid the story was. Everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow and all complicated narrative threads tied into the one and only, nanomachines. It was extremely disappointing, as this was the game meant to dramatic conclusion to the series, but I was given the impression it just wanted to be over and done with.
Given, some of the cutscenes are still so incredible I can't help but watch them every time, like the microwave hallway, the graveyard scene at the end of the game
Or the fact that Snake is old. Despite being in his early 40's, he's aged to look like a 60 year old man. It's symbolic of Kojima's exhausted mental state of constantly having to force out Metal Gear after Metal Gear, unable to do new and original IP's until the big stuff was off the table(Read: More Metal Gear's).
After that, we got a game that would end up being a template for the future of the franchise.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was originally going to be left entirely in the hands of Kojima's staff, but he ended up joining the project as Director while he was developing Guns of the Patriots. Later, he decided to join on and develop it, working now as director, writer, producer and designer.
Released in June 8th 2010 and offering the biggest changes in the series, Peace Walker takes on a more RPG game design focused around co-op play. More so, players can now recruit an army of soldiers from the battlefield, watch as their Mother Base grows right in front of their very eyes and even build their own Metal Gear. Peace Walker is definitely the biggest Metal Gear game to date, which is ironic because it launched on the PSP.
Peace Walker was to be the final link in the Metal Gear Solid series, connecting MGS3's timeline to MG1 by showing you characters and events leading up to those events.
While the game was released to critical acclaim, it did not fare well in sales. Despite Konami's hopes of having an international hit, it sold 574,957 after two weeks in Japan.
A year after this, in 2011, Hideo Kojima would be promoted to Vice President of Konami.
Peace Walker would go on to become the template for the next, biggest, and seemingly last canon entry in the Metal Gear Solid saga.
|YOU SURE ARE KEEPING ME WAITING|
The gameplay is to be a massive open world game set around a similar mission and gameplay structure found in Peace Walker. So massive, in fact, Kojima is worried people won't be able to finish the game. From IGN:
"The Phantom Pain has the risk that people won’t be able to finish the story as it will be "more than 200x bigger than Ground Zeroes."
I cannot disclose the amount of missions [in The Phantom Pain]," said Kojima, "but we’ll have a lot of missions in there." .
The story of Big Boss, but not Big Boss, because they keep retconning his goddamn name after the ending of the last game to come before it. The story of Snake, who wakes up from a 9 year coma after the destruction of Mother Base, the deaths of his entire private military corporation, and the assumed theft of his Metal Gear, ZEKE.
Now faced by Kiefer Sutherland, Snake vows a mission of revenge to take back what was lost, under any circumstances. This includes building the penultimate army, Diamond Dogs, ran by Kazuhira Miller and Ocelot.
The game began in development some time after Metal Gear Solid 4 was finished, with the development of the brand new in-house engine for Kojima Productions, dubbed the FOX Engine. The so called "next generation engine" was created with the aim to be the best engine in the world.
The goal of the engine was to shorten multiplatform development time considerably in an effort to move away from developing games for only one console, for all future projects from Kojima Productions.
With a custom made and incredible engine behind him, Hideo Kojima began full steam ahead onto Metal Gear Solid V. Speaking about Ground Zeroes, he said that
“Honestly, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to release the game. Even if I did release the game, maybe it wouldn’t sell because it’s all too much. But as a creator I want to take that risk. As a producer it’s my job to try and sell the game, but I’m approaching this project from the point of view as a creator. I’m prioritising creativity over sales.” .
And indeed, Ground Zeroes was incredibly dark! The rape of Chico and Paz made that game's narrative a tough pill to swallow, especially being darker and more graphic than any Metal Gear so far, by a long shot.
With The Phantom Pain, Kojima says that he must "make players accept that Big Boss has become a demon", elaborating:
I used such metaphor like Gillian in Snatcher had an amnesia, so as in Policenauts. But I must say MGS users are special. They have vicarious experiences of Snake’s suffering journey for 27 real years. Players who’ve played few MGS, aged with the Snakes and share the memories & emotions. That’s the strong point of long-lived series. For fans who really love the heroic Snakes, I must make them accept the Snakes fallen into the demon in TPP. We have to head off while the end of story is already fixed. This is the hardest part, but not depicting villain, hero fallen into demon. .
In fact, Hideo Kojima has described the downfall of Big Boss from hero to villain as similar to Walter White from Breaking Bad.
“I don’t want people to play as ‘Snake the Bad Guy’.” Kojima said. Instead, he wants people to go along with Snake, who had no choice of becoming who he became.
You go along with Snake, experiencing what he experiences, but once you take a step back, you see it’s morally wrong.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is shaping up to be quite an ambitious game. Like Peace Walker and the theme of peace, and deterrence, MGSV's dark twist allows the player to be international targets, having to acquire Nuclear Weapons to deter possible attacks.
The message is anti-nuclear weapons. But it’s not just about shouting that message at the player. Through the game, the player is motivated to make a base and build up their military centre. But at some point, when it reaches a certain size, the world begins to take notice and, in that sense, you become the threat. Countries begin to attack you.
At this point I give the player the option to think about acquiring a nuclear weapon, in order to deter these attacks, a kind of threat. It illustrates the cycle of nuclear weapons, what inspires people and nations to enter into that system. It’s something that you can only really do in video games.
Giving players nuclear weapons? Sure they aren't real, but the message behind something that hardcore is really something to behold. As I say above, Peace Walker's theme was peace and deterrence, but it was an aspect of the story and not something you can do yourself, manually.
The story is going down a different path than before, where we will not be playing a heroic character, but rather a tragic character who must make decisions, good or bad. In a game whose prequel featured child rape and torture, you may be able to draw a conclusion that Hideo Kojima has been given quite a bit of freedom at Konami. I mean, fuck, child rape. Come on. That guy can't be restricted, right?
Like, for example: Kojima Productions has been completely rebranded. Kojima Productions L.A as well. Kojima is only staying with the company until MGS5 is over and done with, at which point he and presumably most of his usual suspects will leave with him. And Konami has put up job listings for an entire new Metal Gear game.
It's sad to come to an end, but it looks like this is really it. Kojima's leaving, he's(hopefully) taking his buddies with him, and he'll be free to do whatever he wants.
The plus side to this is we'll finally get to see an independent Kojima. A Kojima that can do whatever he can think of, this time without Snake's and Bosses. The only limit he will know is his imagination, which, if any of the games he's done can prove anything, it'd be that he's super imaginative.
The downside? Well, quite sad actually.
His name is being wiped off of MGS's boxarts. It's an "effort to embrace rebranding blah blah blah" bullshit, bias or none. Hideo Kojima has been the brains behind these games for 25 years - sure, you could make a rational case for getting rid of Kojima Productions as an identity to strengthen your overall name - but Hideo Kojima's not distracting anyone from the fact that Konami has published his games for the past 25 years. It's a partnership. A symbiosis almost. They've existed together longer than they've existed apart. Even if it was a mutual agreement, it's a shitty one.
Looks like all of his 5 years creating the FOX Engine will benefit only Konami in the end, as he most likely won't be able to take it with him. It's incredibly sad and disappointing to think about putting so much time of your life into something and not being able to use it to the fullest extent. After all of the talk about the FOX Engine being their engine of choice for all future games, I can only hope that Konami gets their use out of it and Kojima and Co. can come up with something even better.
Then, of course, there's still Silent Hills. Kojima's imaginative(There's that word again) reboot/sequel/ thing that utilized the FOX Engine to take a scary game and make it borderline fucked-in-the-head inducing. When Kojima leaves, then that puts Silent Hills in someone else's hands. It's a bad situation all around, hence "Clusterfuck". The only positive to come out of this situation is Kojima finally being able to do what he wants to do, but you can't help but feel bad for those poor Silent Hill fans who got excited at the idea of seeing Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima create good ol' horror magic.
It's still up in the air, but the question remains: Where does Kojima even go? He's been at Konami for so long, for so many years. At the Metal Gear Solid 25th Anniversary event in Japan a while back Kojima spoke that he's disappointed in the many ways Japanese game developers treat their industry. He felt that Japan was on top of the video games industry for a long time but lost touch, and nobody is trying to get it back on track. And he vowed that with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, he will prove that Japan is still capable of delivering incredible video games.
Bittersweet to think on it now of all times, especially since the 10th Anniversary of Kojima Productions is only a few days away on April 1st.
Will his friends join with him and forge new experiences, will they stay at Konami to continue working on the future of the Metal Gear franchise, or will they go their own, separate way? Like anything in life, that is uncertain. What is certain is that Kojima is still working on MGSV. He's not gone yet. He's going to deliver the best game that he can, and that fanboy fire still burns in my heart for when it's time to pre-order and get that giant fucking metal arm statue thing that I have absolutely no room for.
As for Kojima? Well, in his own words...