Metal Gear Solid 4's Ryan Payton Speaks

mini_ryan_payton.jpgAt this past week's E For All expo, Konami was well represented with games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Silent Hill Origins and Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. Also on hand were a number of developers, including Kojima Productions producer Ryan Payton who was nice enough to give the Kotaku Tokyo Game Show team a thorough hands-on walkthrough of the group's PlayStation 3 game, Metal Gear Solid 4. We talked about where MGS4 currently stands, who the hell Ryan Payton is and what he brings to Kojima Productions, and what could be the most expensive opening cinematic ever.

We also chat briefly about the current Blackwater controversy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the Metal Gear Solid 20th Anniversary Collection boxed set's status. Hit the jump for the full interview.McWhertor: What do you think of E For All so far?

Payton: I wish I could see more of it. I been holed up in the MGS4 booth. It would be nice to play some Smash Bros. and some Super Mario Galaxy. I'm curious to see what happens on Saturday and Sunday.

Yeah, it's pretty light right now.

It's still the weekday. It's a consumer show, so we hope that more people show up on Saturday and Sunday. It's easy to look around and see that it's not crowded like Tokyo Game Show or previous E3s. With that said, there's a lot of press coming out of Nintendo, Konami, THQ and EA. If they feel satisfied with it and consumers keep talking about it, I don't see any reason why E For All won't be back until next year.

Well you've had pretty good lines for Metal Gear Solid 4 so far.

When we opened up the doors, there were a hundred people waiting. It was like that yesterday and today. We will not have an empty seat for the whole show. It's been wall to wall.

Are you getting any feedback from people who have played the game?

I've been trying to watch people play, but I've been doing a lot of interviews and presentations. TGS was a good experience for me because I made about five pages of notes. I was watching people like you play the game and watching other press play it, listening to what complaints they had or whenever they smiled to a make note about what was successful and what wasn't. But at E For All, I'm hoping to get a little more time to watch people play because there is a little more time to make some tweaks to make the gameplay a little more accessible to Western gamers. So far, response has been awesome. They've been saying "this doesn't feel like a Metal Gear game" but in a good way.

What did you notice as time went on? Can you talk about any of those recent tweaks?

It's mostly minute stuff. For example, the over the shoulder aiming system, I think it's a little bit too sensitive right now. With the PS3 controller, the left analogue stick, if you just barely press it, it moves a little bit too fast for my tastes. And for a lot of people's tastes. I've noticed if you try to do a precision shot, it still moves around a little too much. So we're tweaking that, a lot of the stuff that's really kind of under the hood.

As far as other things are concerned, game balance and kind of educating the gamer that it's still a stealth game. It's an issue that I've noticed we had at TGS and here at E For All that, because we give you so many cool guns, because we give the over the shoulder aim, and because the game actually feels good with rumble and everything, people are killing PMC soldiers left and right. We want to make sure that people understand that there's a balance. Some sections are going to require traditional stealth game play and that you can't just go in guns blazing. It's still Metal Gear. There were some players who would just shoot every PMC they saw, without realizing that you can have alliances with groups like the Werewolves.

Yeah, how does that work? Will the four Beasts be in control of the individual PMC groups?

No, not really, although they do have similar names, like the Werewolves and Crying Wolf, and there's one that's called [Eight Arms of the Octopus in French] , but they aren't under their direct control. They be played against each other, but you'll see how it plays in the game.

Speaking of PMCs, I was wondering if the Kojima Productions team has been paying attention to the current situation with private military contractor Blackwater and the surrounding controversy.

Sure, we've been following it pretty closely, but we've been following the PMC business for a long time now. The team at Kojima Productions is filled with military otaku, so we're well aware of the history of PMCs and the Blackwater situation in particular.

It feels like a bit of good and bad timing for you, as it will probably receive some attention from mainstream media but it could be spun the wrong way. Has this worried the team or does it feel like a boon to the game's focus?

We're not particularly worried about it. Mr. Kojima and the team have been working on the game for over three years now, so it's not something new for us. It was part of the vision from the very beginning so any attention it gets from current events isn't something that concerns us.

I suppose you could say that any publicity is good publicity. At least you're going to be lightening up the heavy themes with monkeys in diapers addicted to soda.

Yeah, having a shaved monkey should divert attention away from something like that.

When we posted that Justify Your Game, a lot of people were like, "Who's Ryan Payton?" So, just to clear that up, what is it that you're doing on a regular basis. I know that you're bringing some Western tastes to Kojima Productions, but what does that involve for you?

Everyday I'm doing something different as a producer. It's funny, it's been a running joke in my family because everybody's been asking me what it is exactly that I do. They'll ask me "Are you designing the game?" No, I'm not. "Oh. So did you write the story?" No, I didn't. But I am in charge of the English script, the voice over direction and involved with the motion capture as well. I'm in charge of the international version of the game, not just as far as the master submissions are concerned, but gameplay as well. We're going to have different game balance, different controls, different difficulty levels, different gaming styles for the international versions. It will be a different game from the Japanese version. That's a lot of tweaking, going through the game and making suggestions, changing the gameplay based on what American gamers demand from their games. Japanese gamers, they haven't gotten to that point yet. Their experience with 3D games is usually with fixed cameras like Onimusha, Resident Evil games, Siren. We have huge expectations coming out of America, but for the Japanese they want to keep it more simple. We decided just recently that I'm going to be in charge of making sure the game lives up to those expectations, trying to exceed those expectations coming out of the West.

I'm in charge of the movie, which we're working on with Logan, which is one of the top design companies in the world. They invented the whole iPod silhouette ad campaign. Not just print, but the TV ads and the billboards. They design all those and they're a really hot design company. They're designing and producing our opening movie which is something that's never been attempted before in games. It's going to be the talk of the town when the game comes out.

What are they doing with it that's going to be so dramatic?

It's not just something you sit there and watch, hit the start button and then play the game. There's actually no gameplay involved. It's somewhere in the middle of those two. It's something that nobody has ever attempted before in games. It's a different take on video games.

This is something that my boss, Kenichiro Imaizumi, the head producer on the title, something that he's really talented at, combining two different forces that you would think wouldn't make sense. It's Metal Gear, a military game, combined with Logan, which is really great with cutting edge pop culture advertising. Melding those two together, we've created something that's really cool. They've also designed our logo which is a pretty big departure from our previous logo which have all been just Helvetica, so this is something that's really encouraging for us. Next week we'll be doing production work on it in Hollywood. It's a massive project. I can't give out number figures, but I know of some games that have as big a budget as we have on just this opening movie.

That's not going to win too many friends. Well, speaking of Western gamers, you had the Metal Gear 20th Anniversary collection in Japan and when I talked to Anthony Crouts at Comic Con about it, he said it was a possibility. The end of the year is creeping up and there hasn't been anything announced. Is that going to happen? Are you guys going to bring it stateside?

Yeah, we're working on it pretty much every day, trying to make it happen. There are a lot of issues. American gamers and European gamers are always very vocal, wondering "Why don't we get this?" The truth of the matter is, people like me, like at Konami US and Konami Europe actually want to make it happen. But there are a lot of issues that the average gamer doesn't know about.

It's easy to launch something in Japan. There are only a number of retailers that are going to carry a product and they're more liberal with their shelf space. They allow different size packaging, whereas in the United States, if it's not a DVD-sized package, they're not going to carry it. There are issues, for example, in Quebec where it seems, like now, you might not only have to have your manual, but your entire game in French if you want to release it in Canada. So there are a lot of issues that we have to face, and with that said, we also have to ship Metal Gear Solid 4! So, is the boxed set coming out this year? It's tough to say. At some point next year, I want to have a boxed set on store shelves to give people a chance to play Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 before they jump into MGS4.

I know you said that a lot of the work that was going into four was that you were trying to make the game more approachable to someone who had never played a Metal Gear game before and it would be nice to have that back catalog for people if they fell in love with the series at this point.

Yeah. Ideally, it would be great to have it out before MGS4, but let's say it's sixty or seventy dollars, which is a lot to have people put down to get familiar with the story. One of the things we're doing with MGS4 is that we're putting in a digital encyclopedia that people can access from the main menu, so they can cross reference different characters and find out what happened in previous games. In that sense, we're backing ourselves up in MGS4 itself. We also have flashback sequences in the game that refer to Metal Gear Rex, Shadow Moses, the Big Shell and what happens in Portable Ops, where players can push the X button and you're going to presented with a flashback sequence that will play back what happened in previous games to re-familiarize people with what happened previously.

I think we're covering our bases, but it would be nice to have that boxed set out before then.

Speaking of Shadow Moses, we just got our first look at it in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in Shadow Moses Island. Have you played Smash Bros. yet?

No! I haven't.

You haven't played Smash Bros. yet?! You guys don't have an early copy in the office?

No, it's all over at Sakurai's office.

So you're not involved at all?

No, for various reasons, this is something that's between Mr. Sakurai and Mr. Kojima. There was a decision made early on that we weren't going to involve our team with the production, because Mr. Sakurai's got a very capable team, we feel very confident about letting them handle it. We don't have to involve ourselves in giving them direction, because not only does he know Metal Gear, he has a very talented team in Tokyo. It would be nice to play Smash Bros., but I've got enough things to worry about.

It's just that the Snake dialogue was just absolutely hilarious. I didn't know if you were writing that dialogue.

It's really funny. Yeah, I had a chance to look at it, to offer suggestions before we recorded it and I also made sure that Chris Zimmerman, who's our voice over director for all of our Metal Gear titles, it was my only request that she directs the dialogue sequences for Smash Bros. because if she's involved, I know it's gonna be good.

Well, I should let you go. I've gotta go talk to IGA and you've got some Smash Bros. to play. Thanks for talking to us.

No worries. It's always fun to talk to you guys.


Be the first to comment on this story!

Trending Stories Right Now