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30 in 30: Kojima Productions

One of Japan's most exciting development teams...

Located in Tokyo's Roppongi Hills, Kojima Productions is a studio that - despite its best efforts - is and always will be most well-known for the Metal Gear series.

And rightly so, since its initial inception Hideo Kojima and company have taken the espionage franchise from its humble beginnings as an under-the-radar MSX action game and established it as arguably the premiere stealth franchise of all time.

Much of its works have been produced as a body of developers indistinguishable from the rest of Konami but since being given its own flag to fly Kojima Productions has released over a dozen of the finest games of the last few years, which - in our books - cements the splinter studio as one of the industry's finest.

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OVERVIEW

Founded: 2005
Location: Roppongi, Japan
Killer Quote:: "Ninety percent of what is considered impossible is in fact possible."

KEY PEOPLE

Hideo Kojima

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As a child Kojima was raised on a healthy diet of video games and movies, despite being a student of economics with aspirations of becoming a movie director,Kojima eventually decided that his place was in the video game industry. A decision he made in part thanks to Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros. and Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken, a lesser known title from Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii.

After a turbulent period trying to get his foot in the door Kojima eventually found himself on Konami's books as a designer working on the MSX. Much of his early days at Konami were by his own account rather unspectacular, that is until he was tasked with taking over a little project called Metal Gear...

At its helm Kojima, inspired by The Great Escape, shifted the focus from being another run-of-the-mill action affair to a game about escaping the enemy instead of engaging them, thus giving birth to the stealth action genre.

Since then the Metal Gear franchise has formed the majority of Kojima's body of work, but when Konami decided to create a spin-off studio helmed by the Metal Gear man he extended his reach, lending his skills to teams such as MercurySteam, the developers of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and even creating a few non-MGS games such as Boktai for the GameBoy Advance.

Kojima is currently toiling away on a 3D version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for Nintendo's 3DS, as well lending his guiding hand to a junior team at the studio working on Metal Gear Solid: Rising. All the while the world patiently awaits for news of Metal Gear Solid 5.

RYAN PAYTON
Before joining Kojima Productions, Vancouver born Ryan Payton walked the mean streets of video game journalism freelance, his words gracing well-known publications such as Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1UP, Wired, Official Xbox Magazine and Japan Times. Eventually Payton was given a position at Kojima's studio and found himself working on Metal Gear Solid 4.

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While his celebrity may have been overshadowed by Kojima, whose enigma and charm had by then made him a hot property in the industry, he is well known - and loved - amongst Metal Gear Solid fans for providing unprecedented insight and access to the development of Metal Gear Solid 5 through the Kojima Productions Report podcast.

But Payton's legacy reaches far deeper than just the podcast. As well as pitching, directing and producing Metal Gear Solid Saga, a documentary designed to unravel and lay bare the convoluted Metal Gear Solid storyline, in his role as assistant producer, he boldly applied his western design sense to Metal Gear Solid 4's control scheme, a facet of the series that had attracted much criticism until he stepped in, and changed it to be far more user-friendly.

Payton left Kojima Productions and Japan in 2008 to be closer to his family, he went on to become creative director at 343 Industries, a Microsoft studio that serves as caretakers of the Halo franchise, but left earlier this year to form his own studio.

YOJI SHINKAWA

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Yoji Shinkawa's art is as much a defining characteristic of the Metal Gear Solid franchise as Hideo Kojima himself. Since joining the team during the production of the first Metal Gear Solid his distinct east meets west styled artwork has adorned the covers of almost every Metal Gear Solid game.

Shinkawa's unqiue style is born from the influences of Japanese peers such as Yoshitaka Amano, Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D illustrator, as well western legends such as Frank Millar, Aubrey Beardsley and Willy Pogany.

KOJIMA PRODUCTIONS GAMES WE LOVE

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Technically not a Kojima Productions game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the last title to be released before the formation of the studio, but few would argue the technicality disqualifies it from the Kojima Productions legacy.

"It refines the formula more than it pushes boundaries, but does it so well that this in itself feels kind of revolutionary." CVG

Snake Eater was a perfect blend of innovative gameplay, blockbuster quality cinematics and beautiful aesthetics, all of which was wrapped up in a interesting World War II era spy story that had a genuinely moving ending.

The greatest testament to Snake Eater's quality is the fact that the original PlayStation 2 release stands the test of time. Those who haven't played it should keep an eye out for either the HD Collection being released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 or the 3DS re-imagination of it.

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