When you entered Kojima Productions, you started off as interpreter, and perhaps Kojima's helper, but you've definitely moved into a more prominent role in game development. Can you talk about why you think that is? Do you think that they needed somebody like that, or did you have to fight your way in?
RP: I think a lot of it was luck and timing, in how I got into production in the first place. I expressed interest, and I bumped into Mr. Kojima right around the time that they needed somebody to do some kind of PR work, and be that liaison between the studio and Konami U.S. And so, at the time, that's what I was doing -- I was doing PR work, I was helping them with interviews, translations.
And then my division was going
through some changes. I was in a division called "Global Strategy",
and that team was transferred into a larger whole within Konami. So
it wasn't a Kojima Productions-only division; it was melded into a bigger
Global Strategy group within all of Konami Japan. So it was at that
point that I had to decide, am I going to go to this Global Strategy
group within all of Konami Japan, or am I going to stay within Kojima
Productions and work on Metal Gear as a developer? And, obviously,
it was decided that I'm going to be a developer, and I'm going to be
on the creative side. I've expressed interest. I've thrown a lot of
game pitches to Mr. Kojima when I had some free time.
first worked on the DS title Lunar Knights, right?
RP: And I worked on Lunar
Knights, right. Helping them localize that, and [working on] some
of the gameplay, too. But really, my first big project was [Metal
Gear Solid] Portable Ops. There is a lot of Ryan Payton in
Portable Ops, as far as game design is concerned. Changing up the
Metal Gear formula to make it seem a little more fresh.
Even before you were involved, Metal Gear was popular in the West -- it's one of the few Japanese series that really has that sort of appeal -- but I think that people expect more now. Is that why you've been working on the controls and stuff?
RP: Yeah, and it's not just me who's really adamant about making the game a little bit more international, it's also my boss, who is a producer of MGS4. His name is Ken Imaizumi, and he spent over a decade in the U.S. -- going to art school, and he was also at Konami U.S. as a developer and as a producer.
he came on to the Metal Gear Solid 3
team just to help out, and now he's the executive producer of MGS4.
He and I really have this idea that it's time to bring this series to
the next level, and I think that's what we're doing with MGS4.
Between MGS2 and MGS3, the popularity of the series fell off in the U.S. Why do you think that is?
RP: I think it's a couple reasons. I think it's hard to deny that MGS2 came out at the perfect time. That it came out a year after the PlayStation 2 had launched, there were systems on the store shelves that you could buy, there was a lot of interest in the system, and at it was still lacking a killer app that you could use to show off to your friends. "Look what my new PlayStation 2 can do!"
By the time [Metal Gear Solid 3:] Snake Eater had rolled around, there were all these rumors about PlayStation 3, and I think it was around the time the Xbox 360 was being announced. I think "next-gen" was kind of in the air at that time, and Snake Eater kind-of got lost in the shuffle. Especially at that Christmas season, where we were competing against Half-Life 2, San Andreas, Metroid Prime 3, Halo 2... That was a tough Christmas. Especially for a game like Snake Eater, that really requires the player to invest about three or four hours of time before you get to the real meat of the game. That's a hard bargain when you've got a really instant-action game like Half-Life 2, or GTA, or Halo 2 waiting for you.
Speaking of which...
we didn't see the very beginning of
the game in this demo. Is that something that you've addressed?
RP: Oh, the long cinematics?
RP: Yeah, that was the plan at the very beginning. Mr. Kojima understands that fans -- well, not fans, since fans probably enjoy the long cinematics -- but people criticized the game for having long cinematics. The original plan for MGS4 was to shorten those, but as the story got bigger and bigger, and as we had to fill in more and more information -- because this really is the last story of Solid Snake -- the cutscenes are pretty much what you expect from a Metal Gear game now.
But not the initial load-in? Not the four hours...
RP: [laughs] Yeah, I think the opening of Snake Eater is a little excessive, and I think we've addressed that. In Snake Eater, it has a great beginning: you jump out of a plane into a HALO dive, into the jungles of Russia. That's very cool; it's got this great opening. But then they throw you into the middle of a jungle with no weapon, with absolutely nothing, and then your first objective is to find your backpack hanging up in a tree. That's not something that's really going to get your casual gamer excited. So for MGS4, we've got a great opening, and when you first start to play there is going to be a lot more action. It's going to get people right into the heat of things.