Since its surprise reveal at E3 09, Metal Gear Solid: Rising's 'Lightning Bolt Action' has been kept firmly under wraps. We saw a scant few seconds of gameplay at E3 10, but Rising still remains more elusive than the series' famous sneaky protagonist himself. We caught up with Shigenobu Matsuyama, Creative Director at Kojima Productions, at gamescom 2010 to chat about creating video game characters, cutscenes and big man Hideo Kojima himself.
Q: Has there ever been an interview for Metal Gear: Rising where Hideo Kojima wasn't mentioned? Does that frustrate you?
Shigenobu Matsuyama: You know, not at all. We started a very good team with young talent and young staff to make a new Metal Gear Solid. I personally regard that MGS belongs to Hideo Kojima, and all the young staff thought so as well, and we were always referring to him, you know, being a little scared to touch what he had created. But Hideo gave us direct orders saying, "don't think about that, be looser, say things that you want to do - you have to be bold and you have to stand out."
Q: How important is it for Rising to have a development figurehead like Hideo Kojima has with the Metal Gear Solid series?
SM: Well, actually, I'm really not sure about this question because I'm not... well, I was a producer at Konami for the amusement machines in the past and amusement and consumer is really different so it really puzzles me because I realised that the consumer world that you have to kind of go out and, you know, publicise yourself and your product much more than you do for amusement machines. So, I'm having stimulation every day and I'm discovering this kind of everyday so fascinating.
When I was in the amusement development game, I travelled to the UK, France and Italy because that market was quite big, but with Germany, the market for the amusement machines is quite small. Therefore, it was kind of my request that I come to gamescom and meet with the people and also know the country. I think I'm the same way with Metal Gear Solid: Rising.
Q: Do you wish you could use Snake instead of Raiden?
SM: I wish I could use him to some extent - I'm a big fan of Snake himself. However, there were several things happening before starting this game in concept. The first is that we wanted to create something of an MGS franchise which is not just a spin-off - so we wanted to create something that holds up strongly just the same as Metal Gear Solid, and add a new series to it, so that was one of the accomplishments we were trying to make. Also, there was the side where the programmers created a new engine - Cut at Will - and that was there so we were thinking about what we should do with this concept. The third one is that ever since MGS2 there was always a concept team thinking about making Raiden as a main character - so this combined together because the concept for Metal Gear Solid: Rising.
And, when you think about the Katana and blades, you have to think about Raiden. Of course, there's Grey Fox and other characters in the MGS world, but who's more identifiable as a character?
Q: Do you think people would be more disappointed with a Snake cameo than if you just left him out entirely?
SM: Well, I'm quite confident that I could satisfy the Snake fans as well with this game. There's two aspects of MGS: Rising: one, as we explained in the press conference, is the zan-datsu battle. Also, the second is a new stealth action. MGS and Snake was always about stealth, however Snake's stealth is more... we call it a silent stealth, meaning you wait until the soldiers go by, you sneak up and it's very silent. With Rising you're going to control a young Raiden, a much more young character than old Snake and he's very high speed and acrobatic. So, you might ask, where's the stealth? But, using his super abilities, his high speed, we call it in the team hunting stealth. So you're not going to wait for the soldiers to pass by, you're going to aggressively hunt without getting spotted. So it's a new type of stealth, but it's still a stealth game - with the katana, zan-datsu battle and this stealth element, this is what I really wanted to accomplish for Rising, and when players play they will probably go "oh, I can't play this kind of style with Snake" so I'm very confident they'll be satisfied.
One more point about Raiden, you and I know about the fans of Raiden and the anti-Raiden as well. The anti-Raiden fans say he's a little feminine, he's not really man enough as Snake - he's not strong and he's mentally weak. We know that, and therefore what I'm trying to describe in Metal Gear Solid: Rising is that you'll see more strong parts of his mental state and he'll have this strong will of accomplishing something - this very strong will. And don't worry, we're going to try and make him not the weak Raiden, but really strong willed, and physically strong - make it really cool, so that people really will really enjoy controlling him.
Q: Metal Gear Solid is famous for its cutscenes. How will Rising handle story and cutscenes?
SM: Of course, I know that story is important in the MGS franchise and I will, of course, think about the story behind it, but it will not be as in-depth as Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid. That's Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid. There won't be any, you know, heavy themes as much as Hideo's project - I deliberately tried to avoid that, because we have to create a different game. However, the story is always important so a very good quality background story will be in MGS: Rising, but, overall, the experience I want to give with Rising is that it'll be really good to play.
And I know a lot of people might ask "what about the cutscenes?" I will implement some parts, but not as long as the previous series.
Q: Another quality about the series is the self-referential humour. Do you think about putting in a few jokes?
SM: Ever since before I joined Kojima Productions I was a great fan of the Metal Gear series, and I really liked the humour in the Metal Gear series. And, of course, I will try and express my way, but maybe not as good as Hideo Kojima. And I'm also trying deliberately not to, you know, copy, because I feel that it's going to be a kind of not complete copy - even if I copy it completely, I don't think that'll be satisfying. I'm not saying I'm not going to put in humour, I will put in humour as well, but certain things like the cardboard box or the men's magazine - where Hideo put it very nicely right up with the game, and that was a humorous point as well - I'm not going to really copy that, I think there's other things that I could do that would have my kind of humour in there.
Q: Xbox fans are really excited about seeing a Metal Gear game on the Xbox. Do you think it's important for Japanese studios to embrace the Xbox in their game development?
SM: I think it's very important for the future of Japanese publishing. We see publishers - Capcom have started a little bit earlier than us - and I can say most of the Japanese studios have seen the importance of going multi-platform, and our studio as well. I think we're now really ready to go multi-platform at once, I mean development cycle wise. I think this will be a normal trend for Japanese studios in the future.
What surprised me when I came to Germany were also the PC games. Living in Japan, PC games are not really mainstream, but seeing them here I thought that this PC area is also a place that we need to consider more seriously.
Q: If you could design a new game character from scratch, how would he/she look?
SM: Well, I was always thinking and talking with the key team members when we were trying to come up with the Rising concept - of course, we talked about a total new character, and there were some female ideas as well. Personally, I like characters such as Sam Fisher - I mean the old, orthodox guy. I have a tendency to like old guys but, if I did that, I couldn't differentiate so much with Snake.
Metal Gear Solid: Rising is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, but has no release date.