THE GAME REVIEWS: So, I am speaking with Ryan Payton with Konami, right?
Ryan: Konami Kojima Productions. It is a studio within Konami.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you got here, and involved in all this.
Ryan: I joined the industry about three years ago. Just by chance, I met up with Hideo Kojima, who is the head of Kojima Productions in Tokyo. I was a writer at the time, just doing freelance writing for magazines like Wired or EGM some feature publications, the Japan Times, so I was pretty busy as a writer, but I was able to be introduced to Hideo Kojima, and he was looking for a guy like me who could speak Japanese and who could write, and new a lot about Metalgear, so three years later, here I am as one of the producers on Metalgearsolid4.
THE GAME REVIEWS What is your job like as a producer?
Ryan: Well, everyday is different. You know, it is kind of a joke around the family because they ask me, you know, what do you do exactly? So, well, I am doing voice over direction. The next week they ask me, I am tweaking the game play. So, everyday you are wearing different hats. You know, it is a process, you know, when you are making a game that takes four years to create. There is motion capture, there is script editing, there is translation, overseeing the translation of the script making sure it doesn’t sound like bad animay. Again, that is where we had six months of voice recording in Los Angeles that I supervised. So, now, as we move forward with the launch, you know, we are aiming for an early 2008 release for the game. Now it is really getting to crunch where we have to make some final decision about the game. How the game is going to play, the game balance, the AI, controls. So, all that stuff when I get back to Japan next week is going to be pretty hard core making sure that everything is smooth and we are ready for that retail launch.
THE GAME REVIEWS:what do you think about the whole franchise itself?
Ryan: I have always been a huge fan of the franchise ever since I played the unofficial Metalgear title on NES. But, I really started to appreciate the series with Metalgear Solid, the first one, the original Playstation, I think that was a watershed moment for video games, you know, for the stealth genre obviously. It is hard to believe that was almost 10 years ago. I remember playing that in my parent’s basement. I mean, totally blown away by what can be done with voiceover work, capture, with game designers that are not only concerned about making like great games like game play wise, but a very cinematic experiences because I always had this belief that a story is not something to shy away from, but to embrace and it actually improves the game play experience. One last thing about what I think about the series, I have always appreciated the fact that with every single Metalgear title, starting from Metalgearsolid, is that you can go through the game from start to finish without killing anybody. You get rewarded for it. That has always been the pacifistic approach to video games has always been something that I have admired and now that I am involved MGS4, I hope to continue that tradition. You know, video games aren’t always about violence. We give players a choice, and for those players who choose to go to the game without killing anybody, I think they should be rewarded. And we do reward them.
THE GAME REVIEWS: That is interesting. So, it almost makes you take a look at yourself when you are playing the game.
Ryan: Totally. I mean I don’t know if you are like me, but you know I play dozens of games a year, just trying out different experiences. And for somebody like say, your girlfriend or a friend who just doesn’t know great games very well, they just watch you play every once in a while. From an outside perspective it looks like pretty much almost every game you are doing you are basically killing people. You are killing things. And that is a misconception that people can get just by watching from the periphery and they are not involved. Hey, look, there are bad guys. There are good guys. So, in that sense, when people complain about a game like Metalgear, we can point to the tangible fact that hey, we do reward players for not killing everybody in the games.
THE GAME REVIEWS: What is an example of a reward?
Ryan: Well, in previous titles we would give you a bandana that would give you infinite ammo the next time you played to the game or stealth camouflage. So, we are thinking about cool ways to reward players when they beat MGS4 without killing anybody.
THE GAME REVIEWS: How about rewarding during game play?
Ryan: Actually, the system we introduced in MGS3 was rewarding players with different rewards at the end, like different ranks based on how long it took them to play it. We also have different kind of funny ranks too. They get rewards for having the longest time and being, you know, who found the most, and also kind of devious awards as well, but, you know, we have fun with it.
THE GAME REVIEWS: You have to have fun with it.
Ryan: We have a sense of humor about things even though we tackle very serious subjects as well.
THE GAME REVIEWS: And, you know, it was a fun experience, and actually in playing it with surround sound headphones on, man, you get spotted it is like “oh crap!”
Ryan: People focus on the graphics when they first play the game or when they see it, let say the trailers obviously. But, the sound is really what I think is killer. We have no rival as far as sound is concerned. It is pure audio. It is surround sound, Dolby digital 5.1. We’ve got whole sounds and huge sound that we have been working on from day to day. And, it is like, the devil in the details about sound and with this team, if you are watching certain cut scenes, even in the game, there is a certain area where you can crawl down. In front, you are going to watch a local rebel get killed by a PMC soldier, and some of the bullets miss and they ricochet off of like a building, and that is stuff that is all picked up on these headphones. It is a really incredible experience if you have the proper audio equipment.
THE GAME REVIEWS: You have got the whole threat ring basically, which is around snake, which looks like a new thing. And there were a couple of other features. Why don’t you go over some of the other features that you think make the title really next gen.
Ryan: lets start with a threat ring. That is an example of us really taking a step back and looking at what Metalgear represents and look at how people play Metalgearsolid. We had a joke in the studio over the past few years about how, you know, in MGS4, if we are going to continue having a radar, let just swamp the radar screen with the 3D game play because people usually just watch the radar. You know, why don’t we just enlarge that, put the 3D game play up in the top right hand corner and just call it a day. So, that is why we totally have gotten rid of the radar. We have added this threat ring. It is a kind of milky white ring that exists around a snake and it has different waves that represent where nearby enemies are so you can watch that and it give you a 360 degree idea or perspective of what kind of threats are around the snake. That is a cool new feature. That is something that I am surprised that a lot of game makers have not actually implemented into their games recently.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Is that supposed to be like Snakes sense of his surroundings?
Ryan: Was that mentioned at the briefing? Because that is the exact idea. That threat ring only appears if you are kneeling down or laying down on the ground and you pause. Basically, the snake is getting a sense for the battle field. And that is exactly what that means.
Ryan: Nice observation there.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Thank you. So, what about the other things that kind of make it next gen? What do you think? We talked a little bit about the sound, of course.
Ryan: Sound. We have the threat ring. The octocamo. That is something we want to do for awhile, but we could only do it with the next gen graphics engine. That suit allows you to basically press up against any texture, a wall or the ground. And then, that suit is going to pick up that texture and it is going to manifest itself onto the octocamo suit. That is a really cool way to conceal yourself from enemies. You can save that texture and recall it later. It is all done in real time so you can push through menus. It is a really cool system.
THE GAME REVIEWS: I did not see the ability to recall.
Ryan: You see, we did not include that in the demo. It was in the very early build of the demo we were preparing, but we took that out. So, you can go to the menu, save that camo texture. You can recall it at any point later on in the game if you so choose.
THE GAME REVIEWS: But, technically though, does it reduce your threat level basically with other soldiers?
Ryan: What we do is if you look at the top right hand corner of the screen we have a camo index we call it. It is a percentage that is always changing basically as you are moving throughout the environment. It is basically letting you know how well concealed you are. So, if you have 100 percent camo that means you are pressed up against the wall. Your octocamo represents that texture and you are completely concealed from the enemy.
Now, if you are wearing, lets say for example, you have a white camo on your octocamo. And then you are in a really dark area. That thing is going to show up as like –30 percent of the camo index.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay. So, it does have a noticeable effect.
THE GAME REVIEWS: And you can see it expressed as a percent?
Ryan: In real time.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Right. So, what is the stress percentage? Talk a little bit about that.
Ryan: That is something that a lot of people notice that is a new addition to the Metalgear series that we have a stress meter, or more of like a stress indicator. It has a certain percentage. It goes up to 80 percent currently. That stress is going to keep building for snake as he continue fighting enemies and as he continues to be on the battle field without a break or without basically taking a rest and getting a sense for that battle field. And getting a sense of that situation he is in. As that stress meter continues to build. It is going to affect your stamina gauge. It is going to affect your health. It is going to affect your accuracy. You are going to loose some accuracy. So, we have a number of portions in the game that explain some real life situations about how the U.S. military is going through measures to lessen the stress to soldiers because it does have a negative impact on the way they think and perform as soldiers. So, we are implementing that into the game where we have a lot of funny and cool ways to get that stress down, but we are not really revealing right now, but that is something to look forward to.
THE GAME REVIEWS: That makes a lot of sense. Also, it is kind of rewarding the player for being able to take in the scenery and take in what is going on. And like you said, take a little break. That is so important.
Ryan: That is one thing I have not told anybody, but yeah, if you are viewing that scenery, if you are viewing beautiful scenery that stress meter will start going down and we have certain triggers in the game that allows us to know if you are watching a certain beautiful scene, that stress meter will start going down. It is pretty cool.
THE GAME REVIEWS: It makes a lot of sense. It sounds like a lot of care was taken.
Ryan: We have been busy for the past three years.
THE GAME REVIEWS: I would hope so. So, I am sure the fans would hope so too.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. I have high expectations.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Is there anything else you would like to kind of say about the title.
Ryan: That just I think we have had a great show here at E for all. We have had literally 1000 people line up so far to check out the game. We really appreciate people waiting in line for two or three hours. You know, that means a lot to us because we know that your time is valuable. At that end, I think we have had a great success that people are excited about the title, but now the pressure is on to finish the title and get it out as early as possible in 2008.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.