Metal Gear Solid legend Hideo Kojima might be in charge of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and he might have announced the game's development during Konami's E3 2009 press conference, but it's producer and overall big Konami cheese David Cox, along with Spanish developer MercurySteam, who are charged with the nitty gritty of making the rebirth work. At gamescom last month we sat down with the man himself to get more on the game, the truth about Kojima's role on the project, and discovered there's another classic Konami game he'd love to give the modern treatment too.
VideoGamer.com: Mr Kojima is executive producing the game. What does that mean in terms of his role on the project?
David Cox: He's basically overall in charge of the project. I report to him. He's not involved in the day to day development of the game. That's my role. I'm working with MercurySteam very closely. I'm in Spain pretty much all of the time these days. But he's lending support, advice, not just technical advice, but advice on story elements - maybe you want to try doing this, maybe you want to move it in this direction. At the same time he's being quite hands off. He's allowing us the creativity and freedom to do what we want, but he feels that the game needs to be at a certain level, a certain quality. Putting the Kojima Productions name to it means we have to achieve that. So he's helping us, and his team are helping us. Some of his team guys are at MercurySteam working on the project as well. So it's more like Del Toro comes along every now and then, works with a young Spanish director, he wants to give him a leg up, wants to help him. He might help him with advice, might help him with some of the story direction, but essentially he's the top guy. I have to send him builds, I have to keep him up to date on what's going on. He comes to visit the developer every now and then and sees what we're doing, but generally he's pretty hands off.
VideoGamer.com: When he comes to town to see what you're doing, is it scary?
DC: Yeah we're shitting ourselves! You got to make sure that the quality of what you deliver is very very high. You're constantly saying to yourself, is that really good enough? Is that really going to be good enough? It's funny, because sometimes you think, no, he's not going to like that and he loves it, and then other times you think, check this out, it's amazing, and he'll go, hmm don't know. It's shit. So it's swings and roundabouts. I think there's a cultural thing there as well, with the Japanese company, western development, there are cultural things. He had a thing about Gabriel's face. You know I don't like Gabriel's face. What's wrong with his face? You know I can't really put my finger on it. And we're like... But it made us redesign him as a character. One of the things we wanted with Gabriel, we wanted a real person, not some one dimensional action hero. The story we're going to tell is quite sophisticated, quite emotional. We needed to have that kind of character, who was believable, nuanced, not just a good person, not just a bad person, but a real person with good and bad in him. And I think we pulled that off.
We sent the script to Robert Carlyle thinking there's no way this guy's going to get involved and he loved it. He absolutely loved the script and wanted to do it. And he did an amazing performance. I think when the game comes out people are going to be very surprised. The voice acting is amazing, really really good. We haven't really showed anything yet in terms of the story. I think hopefully it will surprise a few people.
VideoGamer.com: Has Kojima put his foot down regarding the length of the cutscenes?
DC: [Laughs] He hasn't been involved in story at all, or the cutscenes at all. He might have said, you know that camera angle would work better like this.
VideoGamer.com: Not, it should be longer?
DC: No. I think the cutscenes in the game are going to be about an hour, an hour and a half, maximum.
VideoGamer.com: In total, not each one?
DC: No no no! Jesus no! I think the longest one is 14 minutes and that's right at the end. The game's not going to be on 15 discs or anything like that. It's a Castlevania game. It's about action. It's about progressing the story. Story is important but it's not the most important element in the game. The most important element in the game is the combat, the exploration, the platforming, the puzzle solving, all those kinds of things, the atmosphere, that kind of stuff. That's more important.
VideoGamer.com: Is Lords of Shadow a rebirth, or does it follow on from a previous Castlevania game?
DC: It's not part of the so-called timeline. This is an original, standalone product. We didn't want to follow the timeline because we felt it would put us in a bit of a box in terms of what we could do creatively. We didn't want to be in that box. A lot of people don't understand the timeline. Even the fans - a lot of them don't really understand it. And we want to bring in new people to the game, to the series, to make it more mainstream. People perhaps who have never picked up a Castlevania before might actually seriously take a look at this game. We thought if we've got this storyline which has been evolving, evolving and evolving over all this time with all these characters etc, they're not really going to get into it. They might not be able to step into it.
At the same time, we didn't want to alienate everyone who's played Castlevania before. So we have to have the feelings and fit some tie-ins to the series, so the fans are going to go, oh my God I remember that. Oh my God they're doing this. But at the same time the new people aren't going go, eh? That's the approach we took. It's a bit like Casino Royale. It's very similar. There's lots of James Bond-ey things in there, little nods and winks. You think, ah that's cool the way they've done that. But at the same time it's its own film. It's its own standalone film. So this is a rebirth, definitely. It doesn't follow a timeline. It's not, people use the word canon, it's not canon. It's an original game. Very much a love letter to the original classic 'Vanias. That's the kind of games I grew up with and I loved. We use that as our inspiration for this title. So you're going to see a lot of things you see in the classic 'Vanias in this game.
VideoGamer.com: Is the idea for this to spark a new franchise?
DC: No. We felt the series had gone as far as it was going to go in its current style and current iteration. But for some things to continue to evolve, you've got to change it. You've got to make change. Change is sometimes hard. Especially the initial shock of change can be really really oh my God I don't like that. But I think as long as you've got familiar things that people can pick up on, and you can attract people with what you're doing because it's interesting stories, interesting characters, it's got cool gameplay, it's got really nice visuals - I think the change won't seem so bad once the game comes out. I think people will feel familiar with it, but at the same time it will be new. I want to show you more. I want to tell you more. But until you see the whole thing you won't get it. For the time being you're going to have to trust me, I suppose [laughs].