At the time when Metal Gear Solid first came out, I didn't think that ultimately a military game out of Japan is, in a sense, almost weird. As a genre -- as much as it is a genre -- these days it's totally dominated by western developers. And online games are as well, for that matter. So what's it like trying to work in that space? To work in Japan and keep it satisfying for all the audiences?
RP: It's tough, because on the one hand we have so many military nuts in the studio, that with every Metal Gear, they get a little bit more freedom to do what they've always dreamt of doing. Which is what they're doing with MGS4 -- more guns, more realism, more references to real military tactics. They love all that stuff, and they want to have as much free rein as possible. But we also have to try to bring it back to making it fun, and making it a game. For example, we're having an issue right now with the Stryker.
The large, eight-wheeled tank?
RP: Yeah, it's a very mobile
tank, and it's pretty fast. So we've got a turret on top of that Stryker,
and a lot of gamers at TGS were throwing grenades at the turret, trying
to take out that and the Stryker with grenades. And it doesn't faze
the Stryker, no matter how many grenades you throw at it.
But later on, if you get the RPG7, or use the Javelin, you can launch an RPG at it and it'll blow up. So there's this issue -- that's actual military realism. The guys on the team say, "No, of course you can't take out a Stryker with a grenade, dummy! Everybody knows that!" But really, not everybody knows that; that's military knowledge that we either have to teach to the player, or shift the game to go in line with what players expect, as far as what you can be able to blow up and what you can't.
You've talked about the influence that Gears of War has had, a little bit, and the fact that you're there. What do you bring to the table, as a Westerner, to help develop this game in Japan?
RP: Definitely it's a different perspective. It's a very Western perspective that I don't shy away from, and as I've gotten older I have realized... well, maybe it doesn't have to do with age. As time has gone on, I've come to appreciate Western game design more and more. And I find myself, now that I'm living in Japan, I'm playing more and more western games than I'd played before. Whereas before, when I was living in the States, in high school and college, I was playing only Japanese games.
So it's been kind of a weird
change and transformation, into really appreciating western game design.
And then integrating some of these things into Metal Gear has
become an onus on my shoulders because that's something that Mr. Kojima
expects to bring this game more to an international audience.
I don't really feel the pressure! I'm pretty confident in my abilities, and Portable Ops was a really great proving ground. Not only for gameplay, but for presentation, for localization, for voiceover directing -- it was a really good experience. And I'm really lucky that I had that game to work on before I jumped into MGS4. Things would've been totally different.
It can't be overstated how important this game is for PlayStation 3, I think, and it's like a proof-of-concept for the system, almost.
RP: Yeah. I'm not sure what else I can say about it... I think it's a proof-of-concept not only for PlayStation 3, but for "next-gen" gaming as a whole. I don't think I'm the only one who's disappointed in the sales of next-gen consoles --
Even the 360 sales, you're disappointed in?
RP: Absolutely. I think overall they had loftier expectations for the 360. And so I think Metal Gear Solid 4 could really be a big turning point for next-gen gaming as a whole. Of course we have the next-gen sound, we have the next-gen graphics, but it really is about the next-gen gameplay that's going get people excited. And get them to throw down 300, 400, 500 dollars for a new console. So yeah, that's a big burden, because a lot of games aren't pushing that. They're putting in the next-gen graphics, next-gen sound, but the gameplay's staying the same. And that's a problem.