Hideo Kojima hopes that the Metal Gear series will continue beyond his lifetime, the series mastermind told Kotaku during an interview mostly about his new game and a little bit about the times he has hid in cardboard boxes.
During a half-hour backroom chat with Kotaku and Kotaku Japan at the Tokyo Game Show on Friday, sitting beside Metal Gear character designer Yoji Shinakawa and a publicist cos-playing his next game's female characters, one of gaming's most celebrated creators amiably discussed his latest works, a curious detail of his past and his hopes for the future. Much of the conversation, covering all three eras, involved Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear series, of course, a series the Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will continue but not complete.
"I think the Metal Gear story will not end until I pass away," Kojima said. "But, even then, young people of the next generation will continue the story as they would a classic. It's basically the story of a master and an apprentice."
Kojima's latest Metal Gear is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a portable adventure that supports multiple players and tells the pivotal story of the master, Big Boss, who would become the nemesis for the hero of the next generation, Solid Snake.
"In Metal Gear Solid 3, Naked Snake became Big Boss, but, in reality, he's not really the Big Boss yet," Kojima explained. "Eventually he's going to become the enemy of Solid Snake. I want to tell the story of how Big Boss began and what changed him."
Peace Walker is the game that will tell that story, a PSP experiment that finally puts Kojima in direct charge of one of these portable adventures of his Metal Gear heroes. It's also an early test of a theory he has. "I basically think that the future of gaming is less about platforms and more about cloud-computing, with a super-computer and people connecting to that," he said. "We wanted to experiment with the idea early on with Peace Walker and have a portable game."
(Yes, Kojima believes that cloud computing, the technique of users engaging with digital content that is stored and processed far away, is on the rise, "more of a long-term thing before cloud computing is the mainstream of games". But, no, said Kojima, who has seen his words turned into hyperbolic headlines, "That's not the main part of this article. That's just my idea on the future of gaming.")
We moved to discuss the importance of cardboard boxes as they relate to Peace Walker and his own past.
In Peace Walker, up to four players can participate in missions co-operatively. Among the co-op manoeuvres available, two players can hide together under the series' signature cardboard box. "I think the cardboard box is what represents Metal Gear in a way, of stealth," he said. "This time I wanted to emphasise the co-op part through the cardboard box by having two people in it."
The cardboard box has been an unlikely device for Kojima to utilise to think about things differently. Long before Solid Snake or Big Boss ever hid under a box in a Metal Gear game or trailer, their creator did. He was young. "There was a story in Japanese literature called the Box Man, and, kind of an as an homage to that story, I used to hide under cardboard boxes when I was little. That Box Man book is basically about hiding under a box and looking at the world through that box and having a different point of view. I wanted to experience that, though I'm not sure if it worked."
Few who have followed Kojima's work would say he has failed to see the world a different way. He is a fan of a different stripe of video games, saying the only games that interest him at TGS are the non-Japanese ones: Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2 and Assassin's Creed II. (Well, he admitted, he liked Konami dating game Love Plus, too.) He is the designer of a different kind of game, maintaining a standard of dramatic storytelling and quirky gameplay unique to the Metal Gear series.
And, with Peace Walker, he's hopeful to promote a different kind of multiplayer emotion.
Multiplayer games was originally cut-throat, the developer explained. "In multiplayer gaming, especially in online gaming, first it was about competition with each other. Then the next level was co-op. But it wasn't really about friendship. It was about benefiting from your teammates, a give and take kind of thing. But, this, time I want to take it to the next level and to give a feeling of sharing.
"I want players to feel the joy of helping each other out. For example, there's the game's life bar. When players are close to each other, it becomes one. Even if one player is dying or weaker, they can help each other. We want to express the strength of friendship through that."
Huddling under the box might bring the players closer too. But the box can't fit all four players supported by Peace Walker. Blame PSP memory restrictions, Kojima quipped. "I wanted to have it fit four," he said before naming a non-programming justification for fitting only two. "In reality, there is not a cardboard box that fits four people. Maybe if it's a next-gen console I can do four or five or 10 people. And then it probably doesn't need to be a cardboard box."
A Kojima mention of the next-gen platforms might stir memories of his other Metal Gear announcement of this year, the development for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 of Metal Gear Solid: Rising. While Kojima was happy to speak about Peace Walker, he chose to reveal little here at TGS about Rising. He referred to it simply as a "next-gen Metal Gear", a game he said is designed to apply his team's Metal Gear know-how to a revamped engine and new development system. He said the game is "far from completion".
One of Kotaku Japan's bloggers asked Kojima to react to some Japanese gamers' concerns that the developer's announcement of Rising at an Xbox 360 press conference was a betrayal of the PlayStation 3. "I don't make games for platforms," Kojima said. "I make games for players, and it's because of the players that I'm able to be here."
Kojima has a full plate of Metal Gear projects ahead of him to ensure he's busy. But I noted to him that some of our readers have clamoured for Kojima to work on something other than Metal Gear. He gets the message.
"Not only the Kotaku readers but I myself am interested in doing something besides Metal Gear," he said. "But, right now, I am working on Peace Walker. Eventually, after the project is done, I might think about it."
He joked: "If you write that 'Kojima-san doesn't have to make Metal Gear any more' every day on Kotaku, and write to the CEO of Konami and tell him that, then it might be easier for me to make non-Metal Gear games."
That could free him from the Metal Gear box, perhaps. But from within it, for now, he will continue to see the world differently. With Peace Walker, he's got room for more.