Joystiq live from Hideo Kojima's GDC 2009 keynote

Well, yet another Konami event without any peep of MGS4 on Xbox 360 and, if you follow Kojima's chart of Metal Gear progression, it doesn't sound like it's ever happening. Next up is a new project -- "the next MGS" -- coupling Western development techniques, with an advance in hardware and game design to hopefully create Kojima's apparently-still-unfulfilled goal of bringing us "the ultimate stealth game." Maybe then, Kojima will be able to finally leave the Metal Gear series behind.

Head past the break for complete coverage of the Kojima keynote (updated from bottom to top).
12:03PM Aaand ... he's waving, walking off-stage. The audience applauds. And that's yet another Konami event without any peep of MGS4 on 360 and, if you follow Kojima's chart of MGS progression, it doesn't sound like it's ever happening.

Next up is a new project, coupling Western development techniques, with an advance in hardware and game design to hopefully create Kojima's apparently-still-unfulfilled goal of bringing us "the ultimate stealth game." Maybe then, Kojima will be able to finally leave the Metal Gear series behind.

11:56AM "This time at GDC, we have a booth headed by our global HR" and they're hiring at GDC.



11:55AM "And in the future of Kojima Productions and how we design games, I want to add both the western and Japanese way of hardware advancement and software advancement, and then add the game design ladder" and the new mission? ... "The next MGS." (Look at that -- is that a picture of Raiden above the wall now?)

11:53AM This is the Kojima-way of designing games ... but there's another way of designing games that's more popular and it involves more software technology; the "recent trend in Western game design." "Technology-based game design" is not just hardware. One example would be running anywhere you want, with no loading screen.

11:50AM "Simply put, Metal Gear was born out of hardware limitations advancing together with hardware to reach new heights."

11:49AM First, there's a wall and you want to move to the other side, and you think this is impossible. Hardware technology rises, you rise as well. Or if the software technology rises, you rise as well. Finally, you add the ladder -- which is game design -- and finally you can go over this wall of impossibility. (Wow, we're really climbing an awfully TALL series of walls.)

11:48AM So, it's review time. "Making the impossible possible in game design."

11:47AM So, they achieved their new goal: with dynamic battlefield alliances, coupled with octo-camo, disguises, or change your Hero Level. Mission Completed! Now the Japanese commercial for MGS4.

11:45AM This new game -- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots -- introduced Snake into a warzone, with warring factions and all! "It's a monstrous machine, so the cutscenes are monstrous as well." The audience laughs at this one. "You're supposed to laugh even more! I'm talkin' 'bout my cutscenes!"

11:43AM Oh snap! The floor was raised beneath Snake ALL THE WAY UP to the level he envisioned thanks to the power of the PS3 ... but then it drops back down, and Snake falls! The audience erupts! Of course, the rumors could never meet up to Kojima's admittedly inflated expectations. So he set a new mission: "Use the actual power of the PS3 to create the ultimate stealth game."

... But wait, they changed the mission yet again: "Use the actual power of the PS3 to create a new infiltration experience."

11:41AM A year later, this rumored machine came to the market -- it was PlayStation 3.

11:40AM The time now was 2005 -- there was a rumor in the industry that a monster machine was coming out soon. And I heard you could do anything. Anything you want! You didn't even have to use a game design! Maybe then I could build the ultimate stealth game."

Mission: "Use the rumored 'amazing power' of the monster gaming platform to create the ultimate stealth game."

11:39AM "Although the series was said to be concluded, the world was eager for a sequel. So there was no escape -- we had to make it!"

"So I came up with a plan: What if I made an ultimate stealth game, then I wouldn't have to work on Metal Gear anymore!"

11:38AM Of course, MGS3 was a worldwide hit.


11:37AM Here's a long version of the Japanese commercial for MGS3 ... Wow, these commercials are amazing!

11:36AM He explains that they shortened the cutscenes from MGS2, making a good compromise. "You're supposed to laugh here guys! I'm talking about my cutscenes!"

11:35AM Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was released in 2004-2005.

11:34AM He introduced a camouflage system and a food system -- it's a "survival" game.

11:33AM So, the setting was moved to a natural environment. "We recreated our engine" to allow for these environments. The hardware didn't push Snake up that far, but software technology pushed Snake up close. So he changed the mission: surpass the predecessor using "a new engine."



11:31AM Now Kojimi's taking us on a tour of the locales featured in the games leading up to MGS3. The goal: "break out of man-made closed spaces."

11:30AM The world was hungry for another sequel. (Man, does this "world" ever get full?) After MGS2, there was a situation similar to MG-MG2 on MSX2; the hardware wasn't changing. "We need to change the software technology and game design, using nothing else."



11:28AM So, MGS2 -- mission complete. Now, the second TV commercial, the Japanese one for MGS2. (Again, YouTube? These are great!)

11:27AM Wow -- does everyone here realize how great MGS2 still looks. Even on these massive screens, it looks better than many games being released today.

11:25AM And that was Metal Gear Solid 2, released in 2001-2002 worldwide. "Now, this is 60 frames per second, and we did motion capture for the first time. So we created more cutscenes, and I think some of you didn't like these cutscenes at this point."

... "You were supposed to laugh at that point."

11:24AM "I wanted to create the whole environment. But now just how it looks -- I want it to effect how you play the game."

11:23AM So, mission changed again! (Getting the hang of this yet?) -- "Create a more immersive stealth game on the PS2."



11:22AM "A huge worldwide hit!" The entire galaxy wants a sequel. A new mission: "Create a more realistic 3D stealth game on PlayStation." But then ... "in the year 2001!" ... something happened. The PS2! And the ground raised beneath him, but not as high as they thought. "Going after realistic looking wasn't good enough."

11:20AM So, create a 3D stealth action game -- mission completed! We're going to take a break, watching a Japanese TV commercial for Metal Gear Solid. Wonder if that's on YouTube ...

11:18AM Alright, nerd time: The codec sound just blasted through the theater, and we nervously thought we 'd left our cell phone ringer on! </nerd>

11:17AM He says the Italian version sounds like, "I want to eat some pasta." The Spanish food analogy? Yup, paella. And French? We're guessing fries ... "It seems a little romantic, doesn't it?" What, no food analogy? If the American voiceover was a steak dinner ...

11:16AM Ha! He's playing audio samples from every language. He says the German sounds like "I want to eat some sausages." We so hoped the Japanese colonel said, "SNAAAKU!"

11:15AM "This was really 3D" -- you could view first-person when in ducts, or sniper-rifle mode. Metal Gear Solid came out in 1998 in Japan and North America; 1999 in Europe, since they did voice work for all six languages.



11:12AM So, the hardware advancement raised the ground beneath Snake and his barrier -- a 3D stealth game -- was a lot easier to climb over. The new mission: Create a 3D stealth game on the PlayStation 1. And cue: Metal Gear Solid.

11:11AM "There really are things at times that really are impossible." A 3D stealth game on MSX2 really was impossible. But four years later, the PlayStation brought 3D graphics home.

11:09AM It was a hit, and people wanted a sequel. So they came up with another mission: "Create a 3D stealth game for the MSX2." "The wall of impossibility this time is really high."



11:08AM But, forgetting that "sequel" -- that was Metal Gear: Solid Snake. Concept was "infiltration into an area" not just a screen -- rules added included vision plus hearing, radar, and 3 new alerts. "Okay, mission completed."

11:07AM He addresses the US sequel: "Snake's Revenge -- that was a little crap game, because I didn't do that game either."

11:06AM In Metal Gear 2, he added an evasion phase -- they still check things out, but the player has to really hide and keep still. He also added hearing, so you have to be careful not only about not being seen, but about avoiding making noise. That was released in Japan, and only Japan, in 1990.

11:05AM (Aaand ... we've got a technical problem with the presentation! Mr. Kojima apologizes, "Please don't post this on YouTube, okay?")

11:04AM He changed the character's vision to a fan, which is much more "human-like." Also he added, a radar so you're thinking about the enemies outside of the screen at the same time – "I thought that was quite a good idea."

11:02AM Unfortunately, there was no advancement in the hardware so he had to change the mission again: Create a deeper stealth game using the same MSX2 hardware.

11:01AM Kojima laments that It wasn't a stealth game really, it was more of a puzzle game. "Metal Gear is a hit! Onto the sequel: Create a stealth game on the next gaming platform that surpasses the previous creation."

10:58AM And that was Metal Gear -- released in Japan and Europe. Not in America unfortunately. "But you may remember the NES version of Metal Gear, but that was a crap game since I wasn't involved in it."



10:55AM That wouldn't work ... next idea: "A combat game about escaping." Next! "A combat game about hiding." "You're sneaking, you're staying still. And I thought this could work. This could be revolutionary." But it wasn't "heroic" -- at this time, heroic games were popular. So he made it "an infiltration game" -- "the stealth game genre is born?"

10:54AM So, he had to change his perspective -- his first thought was a combat game without fighting.

10:53AM He shows us a slow motion example of the ship flickering -- literally disappearing and reappearing rapidly. So, that was on MSX1. For MSX2, they would run out of sprites with just one player, two characters, two bullets, and then you'd run out. The color characters would take two sprites a piece. Kojima thought his mission -- to create a combat game for MSX2 -- was "impossible."



10:51AM So, he broke it down: You'd need a player, about four enemies, a background, and bullets. He provides an example of background with Konami's "Nemesis" -- there were sprite limitations. You could only show so many sprites on screen at any time -- horizontal limitations would introduce flickering if too many were lined up on one line at a time.

10:47AM For now, a history lesson: "The time is 1985." The console is the MSX2. Kojima started at Konami in 1986. His mission: "Create a combat game for MSX2." The model was really Rambo ("First Blood Part 2," he clarifies), which many of the arcade games of the day were modeled after.



10:45AM Now Kojima is applying this barrier metaphor to design, with all sorts of Metal Gear metaphors standing in for game development layers. This is almost as obtuse as his now-famous steak dinner metaphor.

10:42AM But let's change views. "When you change the camera, you see there is an opening on the side of the wall." Snake can walk around the wall – "making the impossible possible I could define as changing visions."



10:41AM For example: Snake would have to think of new ideas, since he can't jump over the wall. He'd have to think of new ways to get over the wall. Maybe a pole vault; a Gatling gun; a balloon; a crate; put a door in the wall; or fill up the area before the wall with water and swim to the top.

10:39AM Kojima is explaining his design process for designing Metal Gear Solid -- starting from Snake walking. Snake walking and being obstructed. He cheekily shows Mario overcoming this obstacle, but for Snake this barrier is "impossible" to cross. He could jump over the barrier, but that's been done before. It's "possible." Inversely, if he hasn't done it before, it's "impossible" but impossibility is only a perception.



10:33AM
Unlike his acceptance speech last night, Kojima-san is giving this keynote in Japanese and not English. "I'd like to thank everyone that supported me for the lifetime achievement award last night."

"I've been in the industry for more than 20 years, but this is the first time I've come to GDC. Traditionally, there was always E3 after that." Since E3 lost some of it's punch the last couple years, and since they said that if he would come they'd give him an award, he decided to come this year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.