"Metal Gear" creator cool under pressure

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The pressure on Hideo Kojima could hardly be greater, but the creator of the “Metal Gear Solid” video game series is cool as a cucumber.

Video game enthusiasts line up behind fences with barbed wire at the Konami booth to play the new game "Metal Gear Solid 4" at the E for All video game expo in Los Angeles, California October 19, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Kojima’s “Metal Gear Solid 4” makes its debut next month in one of the most highly anticipated game releases of 2008.

Not only will the military stealth-action game wrap up the decade-long adventures of mustachioed protagonist Solid Snake, it is expected to boost sales of Sony’s PlayStation 3 console and to help close the gap with Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

Kojima’s flair for exquisite detail and intricate stories have gained him a reputation as one of the top game developers in the world, on par with “The Sims” creator Will Wright or even Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Nintendo’s Mario.

Published by Japan’s Konami, the previous three games in the series have sold a total of more than 17 million copies worldwide.

Kojima talked to Reuters about the positive side of pressure and why he is ready to say goodbye to his signature game series.

Q: There is a lot of expectation that “Metal Gear Solid 4” will help Sony sell more PS3s. Did that create more pressure for you?

A: “Indeed, there is pressure. There is always pressure. But I’m not talking pressure in a negative way. I can use it to push up the bar for what I’m creating. In that sense there’s a positive pressure.”

Q: Sum up two or three things about the game that make it different from not only past ones in the series but other games out there. What makes it unique?

A: “The MGS series has always been about action, or actually they call it stealth-action. This time the setting is a war zone or a battlefield, which is a unique experience. It’s a war zone, so there is shooting as side A fights side B, but there’s a lot of freedom so you can take advantage of being in a war zone and find various ways to play.”

Q: What did you do with the story? How important was it to the game and does it wrap up the series?

A: “Yes, it wraps up all the stories of the past MGS games. I’m not a genius like George Lucas, I didn’t have this story planned out. I always tried to finish the story in each game. But by some miracle in MGS4 I was able to resolve the mysteries left behind in past games and resolve the side stories from past games.”

Q: What was your creative inspiration for “Metal Gear Solid”, either the series as a whole or MGS4 specifically?

A: “Actually, I can tell you one incident that was not so much inspiration but that influenced the game design. We have a great military adviser and we take lessons and go to training camps. This was a great experience in designing the game. It wasn’t just about how to handle guns or weapons, it was more mental or psychological, like how to blend in with the environment, how to disappear into a forest.”

Q: You’ve indicated that this will be your last “Metal Gear Solid” game. Are you looking forward to other projects or will you continue to be involved in the series?

A: “MGS will always be around. I feel a responsibility to continue this series as long as users demand it. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to sit in completely. I’ll probably take a different role in the next game. Maybe I’ll sit in as producer and let the young staff take control of the new series. I really want to go on to new things.”

Q: Games are gaining a status on par with Hollywood blockbusters. Are developers getting more recognition for the art they create?

A: “Yes, I totally agree. When entertainment becomes digital, there can be a great collaboration between games and other kinds of entertainment like movies or even novels. All these things might form together to form a coherent medium.

“I can’t really predict precisely that this will happen in two or three years or whatever. But the trend is there, things are happening and I believe that convergence will happen sooner or later.

Reporting by Scott Hillis; editing by Patricia Reaney