Tactical espionage: How Kojima planted clues for Metal Gear Solid 5
21st Jun 2012 | 13:30
Solid Snake will star in Metal Gear Solid 5, claims French games magazine IG, based on potentially off-the-record quotes from a recent interview with Hideo Kojima.
But PSM3's Metal Gear expert Daniel Dawkins (@DanDawkins) research into the MGS plot canon, as well as a year of messages from Kojima himself, point to a complex web of details relating to his next project.
The likely setting is Africa in the '70s. All clues point to Metal Gear Solid 5 being set in this time at this place, outlining the philosophical dispute between Big Boss and Major Zero (that inspired the plot of MGS4), giving rise to The Les Enfants Terrible project - leading to the birth of 'twin snakes' clones Liquid and Solid Snake, plus 'perfect' clone Solidus.
The plot might even extend to the establishment of Outer Heaven, and its infiltration by a 23-year-old Solid Snake, a rookie soldier on a first mission - trying to take down Big Boss, his 'father'. This event occurs in 1995, so MGS5 could span over 20 years (from early 70s to 90s, covering the childhood of Solid Snake), or be split across a new series of MGS games.
While the 'Next Metal Gear' isn't certain to be MGS5 - it could be a Peace Walker-style spin-off on Vita, for example - commerce would dictate that 'Metal Gear Solid 5' is the preferred name, a 'proper' MGS, sure to delight Konami's shareholders, as much as series' fans.
It's almost certain to run on Fox Engine, and - just possibly - could be a next-generation game, given that FoxEngine works across both current formats (PS3, 360 etc), plus high end PCs.
"Another area where Fox Engine excels is that it can be used to develop the same game on multiple platforms at once", Kojima said.
We quizzed Kojima about MGS5 in our exclusive E3 interview, and while we wouldn't name it explicitly, he did say his next game might be about 'something more on a human level, something like the concept of love or rearing a family'.
Our anticipated 1970s Africa storyline would allow for such a tale within the MGS universe: Big Boss as 'father' to the young Solid Snake, and how he deals with him growing up in such a troubled climate, while keeping his identity secret. Think Darth Vader and Luke.
According to the MGS wikia, following Solid Snake's birth, he 'was given the name "David" and spent his early life being raised and taught by a variety of foster parents. Making his way into the military, David was inducted into the Green Berets as a teen'.
Snake's first mission for FOXHOUND came in 1995. He was tasked with infiltrating Outer Heaven; a military nation deep within South Africa, led by a feared and legendary mercenary - Big Boss, his 'father'. The events are chronicled in Metal Gear, an MSX2 title released in 1987. If MGS5 was to retell these events, it'd allow Solid Snake to 'star', while retaining Kojima's focus on 'love and family'.
A game about 'love and family' is potentially consistent with previous research, allowing both Big Boss and Solid Snake to take leading roles as father and son.
"I don't really pay too much attention to the theories out there", Kojima told us at E3, "What I can say though is that I do love to tread that line and give something extra to the fans - but I do get yelled at by the company!".
PSM3's Daniel Dawkins has analysed what he believes are nine secret details, already disclosed in secret, that frame the next Metal Gear Solid game...
1. Big Boss will star
Big Boss wants you! The "next" MGS!' is the fairly obvious clue in the Kojima Productions job ad used to recruit staff at the recent Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. A 'classified' file on its website reveals more Big Boss art with a 'Diamond Dogs' logo on his arm, stood next to a dog. Commercial logic dictates that you'll play as a Snake/Big Boss look-a-like (note how little Ezio/Altair/Connor has evolved in Assassin's Creed - people are too invested in the character and it'd be mad to break the brand identification), but there's a wider plot justification.
2. The 'next MGS' is set between 1974 & 1980
The 'Diamond Dogs' logo on Big Boss' shoulder leads to several potential inferences (more later), but one is its direct reference to David Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs' album, released in 1974. Kojima is a confirmed Bowie fan, and during the prologue of PS2's MGS3: Snake Eater, Big Boss' commanding officer, Major Zero, refers to himself as 'Major Tom' (taken from the lyric 'ground control to Major Tom' from Bowie's Space Oddity single).
Trivia: Kojima originally intended to play 'Space Oddity' and 'Ashes to Ashes' in MGS3's end credits. Major Zero's adoption of a Bowie lyric has a deeper implication for the 'next MGS' plot, as we'll explain.
So, not only does 1974 directly follow the plot of MGS Peace Walker, but it coincides with a neat 'hole' in the absurdly rich MGS timeline during the mid 70s to late 1980s where relatively little is set in the story's lore.
At the end of Peace Walker, Master Miller reveals he's sending some of MSF's soldiers (Militaire Sans Frontiers, Big Boss' unit in MGS: PW) to Angola. "It's a non-state army to use however they want. They've probably decided there's no sense in wiping them out just yet. Better to make... use of them. Indeed they have... There's a site near Angola..."
It sounds a bit spurious, but Angola is the location of Africa's biggest diamond mines, implying more than a 'Diamond Dogs' Bowie reference. Dig deeper, and the continent of Africa develops even greater significance for the MGS canon...
3. It'll all be set in Africa
The dog next to Big Boss looks like a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a breed developed in South Africa, used to hunt lions and known for its bravery. Rhodesia, according to MGS lore, is where Frank Jaeger (aka Cyborg Ninja from MGS on PS1, or Gray Fox from Metal Gear on MSX, or Null from MGS Portable Ops on PSP - look, no one said this was going to be easy) murders the parents of a small girl during the Rhodesian Civil War (1979).
Overcome with immense guilt, Frank adopts the girl and cares for her as his 'younger sister' - the girl turns out to be Naomi Hunter, the geneticist who invents the FOXDIE virus in Metal Gear Solid 4. The Rhodesian/African links extend back to 1977, where Frank Jaeger is in Mozambique fighting for the RENAMO (Rhodesian/South African-funded Mozambique Resistance Movement). He's captured by the Front for Liberation of Mozambique FRELIMO, but rescued from a prison camp by none other than... Big Boss. During captivity, Frank's nose and ears are cut off - the significance of which we'll explain later.
In the late 1980s, Big Boss uses the funds he amasses from his mercenary career (the events you'll play out in the 'next Metal Gear'?) to fund the real Outer Heaven (not the Mount Rushmore tanker version from MGS4), a huge fortress for disillusioned soldiers. Location? It's 200km north of Galzburg, South Africa. Outer Heaven is the setting for Metal Gear on MSX where a rookie named Solid Snake undertakes his first mission in 1995.
4. Gray Fox, aka Ninja, is set to return
In 2 February 2011, Hideo Kojima tweeted "I brought back a character I killed before. Kind of cool." - leading to an immediate flurry of speculation about his/her identity. Popular theories centred on the return of Cyborg Ninja (killed by Liquid Snake in Metal Gear Solid), and whose suit inspires the design of Cyborg Raiden (soon to be seen in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance). And that theory might prove to be more than wishful thinking.
As established, Frank Jaeger (Cyborg Ninja) is in his mid/late 20s during the late '70s. In August last year, Kojima tweeted a series of images of a man of a similar age with a scarred face, presumably to show off the Fox Engine graphics technology. The second image says, "Who are you? Me? I'm the killed character", and the third image adds, "I'm not Volgin! Then who? Haven't got a name since I am a killed character! Can you put me in any game?!" Interesting bit? His face is contorted in rage/pain and - although it might be the angle of his head - his ear appears to be missing. It could be Frank Jaeger having his ear cut off in captivity in Mozambique.
Aside from the neat symmetry of explaining Cyborg Ninja's past, at the same time as Metal Gear Rising explains his 'successor' Ninja Raiden's future, there are other hints, however coincidental. On 9 February 2012 he tweeted an image of a 'Cyborg Ninja, Frank' replica model. On 23 February 2012 Kojima tweeted about 'Cyborg Ninja' wine that had been sent in from a fan It could just be coincidence, but given the multi-layered density of Kojima's games, you couldn't rule out a deliberate, masked tease. Frank Jaeger's rich backstory plays out between the mid-1970s and late 1980s, which ties in with our potential timeline.
5. Kojima Productions is opening a new studio in Los Angeles
Well, duh. The GDC recruitment lists locations as 'Japan/California USA'. The Brand Manager role seeks someone 'native' in English, but with good oral and written Japanese. The slogan 'Development Without Borders' is self-explanatory.
Hideo Kojima is famously one of the most progressive Japanese developers, obsessed with Western culture and the East's biggest exponent of Hollywood-style production bombast. Kenichiro Imaizumi, who worked on Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker, was educated in LA - and it was his contact at the LA-based iPod ad agency that led to the creation of the oddball 'fake' TV ads at the start of MGS4. Are Kojima Productions opening an LA office? It seems likely, and only last year Kojima set up a formal link with University of Southern California (USC).
6. It'll examine the foundation of Outer Heaven and Big Boss' war against Major Zero and the Patriots
The entire MGS series timeline, as 'resolved' in MGS4, revolves around a philosophical dispute between Big Boss, and Major Zero (from MGS3). The point of contention is their differing interpretations of The Boss' (the female defector/villain/hero who sacrifices all for her beliefs in MGS3) will, and the best way to achieve 'peace'. Zero and Big Boss started the Patriots together in 1970, but Big Boss split away after the 'Les Enfants Terrible' project in 1972.
The what project? When Big Boss' was injured and fell into a coma in 1972, Zero panicked about his potential symbolic loss to the world, and hatched the 'Les Enfants Terribles' project that gave birth to Big Boss clones Solid, Liquid and Solidus. This proved the final straw for (a now recovered) Big Boss, who set up the MSF, and in turn the concept of Outer Heaven after the events of MGS Peace Walker in 1974. Phew.
Outer Heaven philosophy was of absolute freedom and anarchy, as the best means to establish a soldier's haven and maintain global equilibrium. Zero's Patriots, however, believed the only route to peace and stability was control and manipulation (as featured heavily in MGS2 and MGS4). Broadly, it's freedom vs control in the battle to become the dominant mechanism to run the world, with neat modern day echoes of Friedman free market views (right wing) vs Keynesian intervention (left wing) as ways to approach a global economy. Or it's democracy vs totalitarian control - another contentious global issue.
It builds to a potentially major clue in the GDC ad, and the words 'Development without borders'. The Patriot's philosophy was to use ultimate control to provide the illusion of peace and a 'world without borders'. Big Boss' Miltaire Sans Frontieres operates under the principles of 'Soldiers without borders', hinting that the 'next MG' will focus on the philosophical dispute brewing in the '70s.
Note the fan responses to the ads Kojima chose to retweet (RT):
"RT Just finished the HD trilogy... but to play as Big Boss again is AWESOME!"
"RT Big Boss begins his war on Zero's Patriots? Outer Heaven begins? I request Ocelot in his prime..."
"RT Does it mean MGS5 with Big Boss or young Solid Snake?" They're only fan's wishes, but Kojima retweeted them, not 100s of others - that's not an accident.
In gameplay terms, this could create a dynamic where Big Boss' mercs pick up missions facing off against Zero's Patriots. It's possible that Diamond Dogs is Big Boss' version of Foxhound (a unit he started, before defecting to start MSF and later regaining control of Foxhound in the '80s... ARGH!), and the two lock horns. Picking up mercenary missions across Africa might suit Skyrim-style, open-world gameplay, which is where things get really complex...
7. The next Metal gear is open world, and built for next generation games consoles
Hideo Kojima often tweets of working on a game called 'Project Ogre'. What isn't clear is whether it's a Metal Gear game - it seems more likely that they're separate projects (more later). What is clear, is that 'Project Ogre' uses Kojima's new Fox Engine graphics technology, as debuted in a pre-E3 2011 teaser video; featuring an MGS3-style jungle scene with a small boy and a horse.
Speaking to CNN in November 2011, Kojima said "(Ogre) is some game that has a very wide entrance, a very open entrance", hinting at an open world. "Rather than make something cinematic, (I plan to) make something very free," he added. Kojima explained that players should be able to find new sights and adventures after having played for as much as 100 hours. Talking to OPM magazine, Kojima described Project Ogre's feel as 'subdued', and only similar to his past projects on the surface; underneath it would be different.
While Project Ogre probably isn't the 'Next MGS', an open world would be ideal for picking up missions across a huge African setting. One Fox Engine test image shows a MG-style figure sneaking past a tank in a dusty setting, with mountain ranges. It could be an Angolan diamond range, or somewhere in Africa. It's described as "New title run by FoxEngine" not as 'Project Ogre', perhaps reinforcing their separate status.
21st century Fox
While such an ambitious project might be possible on current consoles using Fox Engine, it'd clearly benefit from more power. Test images from the recruitment ad of, er, a boardroom full of weird objects (and a horse, like the one seen in the FoxEngine demo at E3 2011), show off its potential. At a glance, you can't tell the real-life photos from the FoxEngine renders, with lighting that looks beyond existing console technology.
The GDC advert seeks engineers for 'the latest MGS targeted for high end consoles and PC', plus 'next- gen game engine technology for use with FOX Engine'. Given that the 'next MGS' or 'Project Ogre' are yet to be confirmed, the sensible bet would be on an E3 unveiling for one (or both). Note: E3 might play host to a new console debut, be it Microsoft's 'Project Durango', or PS4. With PS4 being tipped to be like a PC in terms of specs, Kojima's job ads are even more tantalising.
8. Project Ogre is the 'next MGS' aka MGS5?
s stated, Kojima has referred to 'Ogre' as subdued and only similar to his other projects on the surface. One recent tweet adds, "As for my Oni project, it's not "a game, that's as amazing as a demon", nor "a game whose production requires that we assume the heart of a demon", but "a game that involves a demon".
Our Japanese correspondent confirms that Oni can be translated as demon or ogre (among other ways), so it's likely Kojima's tweets describe 'Project Ogre'. Our correspondent's interpretation is that one of the characters in the game is a demon. Whether this is a literal, or figurative demon, is less clear. Kojima did tweet an image of a demonic figure with robot legs, which some websites claimed was 'Project Ogre's' protagonist, but this was debunked. The demon was a customized plastic model on the desk of one of the KJP production team, with Jehuty (the mech from Zone Of The Ender's) legs crafted on.
It's possible to link 'demons' to existing MGS characters. Vulcan Raven describes Solid Snake as battling 'as if possessed by a demon' in MGS on PS1. Raiden (aka Jack) fought as a child soldier in the Liberian civil war in 1989, earning the name 'White Devil'.
What is Ogre? Truth told, we don't know, but it's likely to be separate from the next MGS (Our bet? MGS5 on next-gen), and could be anything from a Metal Gear spin-off (or Peace Walker Vita sequel), to a massively multiplayer dating sim, to a demonic beat-'em-up. Koj adds Ogre will cover 'taboo' topics and link to real world issues.
9. Is it possible we could we see solid snake as a child?
The Les Enfants Terribles project that gives birth to Solid Snake (and brothers Liquid and Solidus) occurs in 1972, two years before the events of Peace Walker; when we expect the new game to begin. One plot strand might involve the smuggling/development of 'baby' Snake - but if the 'next MGS' extends to the development of Outer Heaven in the late 1980s, it creates the tantalising prospect of playing as teenage Snake. It's a nice duality with MGS4, so you'd see Solid at the start, and 'end' his life. Big Boss is Snake's 'dad', so it'd create a touching father/son inversion of the final scenes of MGS4 - all a bit Darth Vader/Skywalker twins.
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