Interview: Platinum men
6th Dec 2012 | 12:36
Platinum Games has rapidly established a critical reputation in keeping with the powerhouse history of its founders. Name a great Japanese game, and the chances are its creator will be one of the Platinum men. With one big exception, of course: Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima, who runs Kojima Productions.
But now MGR: Revengeance is bringing together the combined superpowers of Kojima and Platinum, as the mighty studio handles MGS's Snake-free spin-off...
How did Hideo Kojima first approach you about MGS? We heard a story that you initially thought it was a joke...
Inaba: The first time I approached Mr Kojima was at a party. I asked how Metal Gear Rising was doing, and there was no response from him at the time. The second time was at another party, and Mr Kojima actually asked, "Do you want to develop Rising for us?" And this was very... not business like... It was just instantly, "Do you want to make Rising for us?" So I thought it was a joke!
The third time it was official and at that meeting Mr Kojima asked us if we could make the game. As an independent studio we have to think about the staff members we have available to complete the project, and truthfully there wasn't much opening, but I felt that this was a title we had to do. At that meeting I knew I wanted to do that game.
Have you tried to emulate any particular game in the Metal Gear series for Revengeance?
Saito: We didn't specifically look at a title within Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear Rising is an action game, and even more a cutting game with the sword. The difficulty of including that in the MGS world was something we had to work hard for. We butted heads a lot with Kojima Productions. Since the stealth aspect was pretty much detached from our game, we had to focus more on the timeline and feeling of the world. But when it came to the gameplay, we didn't do too much to match to a certain game.
How has the game changed since you started working on it?
Saito: When Kojima studios were first making Rising, Boris [Volgin] was included in the initial concept. We did of course look at it and refer to it, and there are some characters we reused from the original concept, but ultimately, the most important concept that we needed to stay within is the Metal Gear world.
The boss battles and the bosses in general were completely different in the original concept. There were a lot of stealth concepts that they were doing internally at Kojima studios, so now that it's solely an action game the design and the action sequences are completely different. All of our boss concepts and any kind of art concept that comes out of Platinum Games are supervised by our art director at Kojima studios, Yoji Shinkawa, and I think that reflects positively in the game.
How do the cultures of Kojima Productions and Platinum compare?
Saito: One thing I did realise is that everyone at Kojima Productions voices their opinion. Everyone butts their head and makes sure their voice is heard. That's something that Platinum games does as well, and it has shown in our relationship. And in the end we believe that this creates something better as an idea and I hope it reflects in the game.
Any studio has their specialities. This time around for Revengeance, we have a limited amount of time so we had to sacrifice a few things. But if we were to work with Kojima Productions in the future, we'd like a little bit more time to show both Kojima Productions' and Platinum Games' unique side.
One big difference is that all of our staff believe Kojima Productions are too detailed when it comes to settings! They're so precise when they're looking at each game setting - it's something Platinum Games has never experienced. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and we believe that their keen eye has made our staff a lot better. So that is certainly something that we took away from our relationship.
Inaba: That's definitely not something we're disrespecting Kojima Productions about. That's a good thing!
Would you say that Rising is a mix of Bayonetta and Vanquish?
Saito: We wouldn't necessarily say it's a mix, but of course Bayonetta and Vanquish are past projects, and that experience has led to some of the things we're able to do in Rising. So the experience helps, but Rising isn't necessarily a mix. It's something completely different.
Rising is the first game we've seen with a decent cutting mechanic. Did you have any problems developing it?
Saito: It was very much a challenge to get the mechanic down. The core concept of Rising is the idea that you can freely cut anything from any angle at any time. Of course, the technology is always difficult to implement. But we looked more at the gameplay, and if it was fun or not. And that was the most difficult part for us.
What other weapons will feature in Revengeance, and how have they influenced the game design?
Saito: This time around you'll be able to use your sub-weapons whether they're RPGs or grenades. Also there's going to be customisation for the actual HF Blade, so that's something that players can look forward to. And players will be able to use the boss weapons they've defeated.
Of course, as an action game and a swordplay game, we wanted the player to get very close to the enemies and enjoy the cutting element of the game. But we did add a long distance mechanic too, so we hope that each player will show their own style in defeating enemies.
When it comes to bullets and gunfire this is something that wouldn't defeat a cyborg, so you can use [firearms] to gain leverage and get in close to your enemies, and in the end you have to finish them off with your katana or a blade. That's how we adjusted the game balance to make it work, and this is also adjusted and changed depending on the difficulty level.
Was there any doubt within Platinum about whether Rising would live up to the cutscenes from MGS4?
Saito: We never really felt concerned. Our main vision was to create an action game, so we never thought about, say, replaying that part where Raiden is battling the geckos in MGS4. That was an inspiration that Kojima Productions had at the time so it wasn't specifically related to us. We can make an action game, and fit that into the Metal Gear world - that's what Kojima Productions wanted.
And as development progressed, we started seeing the limitations of what an action game can do. And when that happened we started referring to MGS4 and that scene where Raiden battled the geckos, so there was reference and they didn't try to mimic it in any way, but they used those games as reference as well.
Metal Gear is always a series of iconic moments. How have you incorporated these into Rising?
Saito: When you think of iconic things, you literally think of the icon: the exclamation mark. That's something we definitely wanted to put into Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Past MGs have been focused on the military, and this time around for Rising, it focuses instead on cyborgs and PMCs. How do we include military-esque features into our cyborg design and storytelling? That was very challenging, but we wanted to include it.
How about the famous Metal Gear sense of humour?
Saito: Yes, we believe the jokes and humour of Metal Gear are something that's essential to the Metal Gear world, so with Rising it was a must. You saw the cardboard box in the trailer and the demo as well, but - and this is the first reveal - the AV idol posters are included too, and there's a little bit of something that Platinum Games has also included in there. I'm sure you'll see the humour for yourself when you check out the game.
Platinum has had a lot of critical success in the States and Europe. Why do you think you can achieve this crossover when so many Japanese studios fail?
Inaba: I believe that the first reason is that we specialise in action games. If it feels good, it's a good game, and I think worldwide, everyone feels the same about that. If you touch the controller and it feels good then everyone's going to like it, whether it's Japanese or a western studio.
The second reason is that there was a time when westerners thought that just because a game was Japanese, it was a good game. And at the time a lot of Japanese studios slacked off in development and creativity.
Where we see it now, it's starting to fall off a little bit and the studios are not showing that passion in their design. But we kept up the motivation and the technology. We didn't want to be classed as a Japanese studio. We think of ourselves as a global studio, and that's how we want to be represented.
So moving forward we have to be cautious. We definitely don't want to slack off. We want to keep our spirits high and always excel - that's something we believe in as a studio, and if we don't, we feel we'll fall off too.
Saito: I believe the same thing as Inaba - that action games just feel good, and that's something we strive for. Additionally, the character designs and bosses included in our games are very unique and stand out from the rest of the titles from Japan and from the west. We believe that's been well respected and well-received in the United States and Europe.
Does Platinum have a specific design philosophy that gives you an advantage over your Japanese rivals?
Inaba: When it comes to philosophy, we don't feel like it's something we hold to heart - it's something that just comes naturally to the staff at Platinum. Everyone just creates what they like and works hard to get the things they like into the game. We show the passion, and we believe that what we like will sell and will be great as a game. That love is something we believe correlates to confidence.
Saito: Of course, in our development there are stages where some people may be concerned about some of the things that are included in the game. That's normal, but if you don't believe in your game and concept, if you don't believe it's fun, you might as well just stop putting it out.
In the end, the people who feel that lack of passion are the players. Of course the environment changes when you're working on a new genre, the generation changes - there may be a lot of things that cause concerns, but we have to adjust and based on those adjustments, believe in ourselves. That belief in our studio and ourselves as developers I think also creates that confidence we have at Platinum.
How do you reassure fans who have doubts about a Metal Gear game that isn't developed entirely by Kojima Productions?
Saito: We have to convince them through playing Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. And Platinum Games believes that our passion and the Metal Gear world we create within Rising will match exactly what the past Metal Gears have created. Based on the gameplay, it's not a gamble. If you buy it and play the game you will see that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is part of the saga and the Metal Gear world.
What is your favourite Hideo Kojima game, and do they know if Kojima has a favourite Platinum game?
Inaba: I like the first Metal Gear Solid. I don't know if Kojima has a favourite Platinum game, but I have heard before, when I was at Clover and created Okami, that Kojima really liked that game.
Saito: I really like the first Metal Gear Solid too, and I loved the cyborg ninja. It was one of the first games that really used guns at the time I got into videogames. And within that, I really liked the PSG1 sniper rifle.
One big thing about Metal Gear Solid is that it's really lifelike and it was the first game to use guns really well. When you're holding the gun it moves, depending on whether you're healthy or not, winded or not; but when you take medicine you stand still and have a controlled aim. I really liked the original Metal Gear Solid.
Hideo Kojima has said that he needs a Japanese studio for Metal Gear Rising because only a Japanese studio can understand the katana. What do you think about that comment?
Inaba: I think what he means is that the katana symbolises our partnership, where we wanted to cut into a new age together. I mean, two Japanese studios to rock this world. It wasn't necessarily just because the katana comes from Japanese culture, it was more about the collaboration, and he used this sword, this katana, as a weapon for our collaboration to cut into something new. I think that's what he was saying, and I strongly believe that too.