Interview: Sharing Snake with Hideo Kojima

The mastermind behind Metal Gear talks candidly about grabbing back the reins on Snake Eater, stepping back from MGS 4, and why the US might not get number four at all

While the movie industry is still motivated by big name directors - think Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron - the games industry has never quite managed to elevate the notion of the 'auteur' to such heights.

Sure, everyone looks forward to the next Miyamoto or Inafune game, but with development teams expanding all the time the sense of the single creative driving force behind a videogame is becoming increasingly rare.

Except for Hideo Kojima. A true creative force and director of videogames, Kojima-san has built a series in Metal Gear that inspires as much loyalty and obsession among fans as the work of any of Hollywood's bigwigs.

This is a man that cares so much about his vision that he snatched back the developmental reins on Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater when he saw the process wasn't running smoothly. As he looks forward to the next Metal Gear title, expected to be a next-gen proposition, he's planning to step back from the project.

Speaking to Kojima-san, it's hard to believe that he will. Such is his enthusiasm, passion and excitement for his creative vision it's difficult to imagine him watching from an Ivory Tower when there's work to be done.

As the solid-gold soundbites rolled off Kojima-san's tongue we discussed Snake Eater's reception around the world, the controversial decision to dump the radar, the prospect of a next-gen Metal Gear and his irreplaceable sense of humour.

One thing is clear: Kojima-san is a true videogame director.

Congratulations on Snake Eater, it's already a big hit across the globe both with critics and fans. How does the positive reaction make you feel?

Hideo Kojima: I'm really happy with everything. In the United States I think because Halo 2 and GTA: San Andreas came out at the same time the title hasn't done as well as expected, it's still done moderately well, but it's been doing really well in Japan and Europe so we're very relieved. Maybe I won't even sell the next game in the United States.

You said you wouldn't direct another Metal Gear game after the release of Sons of Liberty, so what convinced you to make Snake Eater?

Hideo Kojima: After Sons of Liberty I said I wouldn't do it, but I came up with the game plan and the script and I gave it to my younger team. I thought I'd leave it there. However, it wasn't going well and I couldn't just sit there, so I had to get involved and after a while I found myself totally involved in the project and so I decided on doing most of it myself.

Were you worried about getting rid of the radar in Snake Eater and getting players to rely more on their senses?

Hideo Kojima: I had initial concerns. It was a split decision even within the team. The thing about the radar is when I originally came up with the game Metal Gear in 1987 and then Metal Gear 2 in 1990, the hardware didn't allow games to scroll. That's why we originally created the radar, so that the player could see the positions of enemies who are outside the screen. I guess the radar in Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty are residuals of that.

With Snake Eater I decided to go back to basics and the original plan of not having the radar. We discussed it within the team and decided that not having the radar would increase the level of tension in the game. Of course, there are radar-esque items in the game, but they're not the same as in the previous Metal Gears. We've heard from many fans that they wanted the radar, but judging from most reactions I think not having the radar makes for a scarier, more frightening and thrilling game, so I think the decision was a good one.

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