We sat down with the veteran developer at TGS to break down several elements of the upcoming game, and the design philosophy behind it.
Hideo Kojima is one of the most talked-about developers in the industry right now, and rightly so. The mind that brought us the Metal Gear Solid series is known for his creative visions and unique games, and that's without talking about his other projects like the now-canceled Silent Hills, which looked to be a promising venture given the PT teaser we received in 2014.
But now all eyes are turned to Death Stranding, the upcoming title from Kojima Productions that has caught the interest of the gaming world, half of which comes from an interest in what we've seen, while the other half comes from curiosity regarding how all this will play out. Kojima has kept things close to the chest, and that's why we were very curious to hear more about the project from the man himself.
And this is exactly what Gamereactor's own Andreas got to do during our time in Japan for the Tokyo Game Show. Having seen a ton of gameplay at the show (we'd advise you check all of that out as well), we sat down with Death Stranding's creator to break down his latest project, and we've got an extensive Q&A to share with you below.
Gamereactor: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. My first question is related to the enemies at the Sony stage presentation. You finally really showed off the enemies in the game, the BTs, and the huge boss fight. Did it cause a tsunami to take over the whole area?
Hideo Kojima: The world changes real-time in the game. There is a "Gazer" floating around, and when it spots you, a hunter enemy called "catcher" will appear and try to grab you. The water is not a tsunami; it's tar that rises, altering the world. When you defeat the enemy, the tar goes down and the world changes back. So, it's not like a tsunami, it's the changing of the world.
It's kind of like a challenge I did to make a world that really evolves and changes. In the presentation we defeated the catcher, but if he eats you it creates a wide explosion called "void-out" and that void becomes a crater. It's not game over, so you don't have to repeat the encounter. Sam Bridges (the protagonist) will instead go to another other world in order to reclaim his body and come back. When you come back there, a big crater is created.
So again, all the environment changes as a result of your actions. The cities that you saw before disappears because of the "void-out", so you must go around the craters. If you are defeated by/or eaten by the catcher there will be craters all around. It totally changes how you play the game.
GR: You have stated and later shown Death Stranding as this big social experience where other players can go to your hub, private room, and leave stuff for each other etc. In the case of me failing against these catchers repeatedly, would another player be able to enter my world and see them?
Kojima: At first it was, but I didn't want people's mistakes to affect you, I thought. It's a little negative. It's only your world that you affect in your story. If we are playing together, I can see your explosions, but they won't affect my world. The things you carried during an explosion will go into the world, so you will find the packages. It won't affect the story plot of another player.
GR: How many players can come to my aid when fighting a vicious enemy? Like a huge army?
Kojima: It really depends on how you play the game, how many thumbs up you give other players, or how you contribute by creating something - it varies from player to player. Some people don't interact at all and just play the storyline. That way, people don't come and help you. The more you interact with other players indirectly, the more people will come to your aid. There will be a results screen once you complete each mission; you will discover how connected you are to other players. If you are connected, they will be the white Sam support hunters that come and help you during the boss battle. You must play this way, to be connected.
GR: You've stated earlier that Sam is human, but it seems like he really isn't? He has elements that seems rooted in the supernatural or sci-fi - very non-human elements.
Kojima: Well, he's human but what's so special about him is that he has specialties where he can go to the other world and back, re-patch it. He is a re-patcher. You have to play the game to understand him through his past. Basically, he is a special person that can't die. He goes to a beach in between the real world and the world of the dead.
GR: Is that where the first trailer took place?
Kojima: Yes, that was the beach. So, every time you die, you go there, because it's in between worlds. As stated, you must find your body and come back to the real world. So, he is kind of special in that way. Therefore, his body fluid is also useful to battle against the monsters of the other side. He is a little more resistant than other human beings, but he is not a superman.
"There was a need for more explanation on the game due to a high demand."
GR: I am so happy to finally get explained what was going on in the first trailer. Now it all makes sense.
Kojima: (laughs) I want you to write this actually. A lot of people aren't convinced unless I kind of tell everything. I said it's an open world. You can use anything. It's not a spoiler. It is up to the player what you do. It's not a linear game with a track. I don't want to say anything about the storyline, which is why I said you have to use the past to find out about Sam and what he is. There was a need for more explanation on the game due to a high demand.
GR: It seems like all the characters in this game are representations of already existing people? You have Geoff Keighley and Guillermo [del Toro] among others. Is this all cameo appearances and, if so, is there place for me in the game?
Kojima: (laughs) Yes, of course, you can come into the game. Not this one, but the next one, yeah you have a possibility to show up as a cameo.
GR: I will get you my card right away!
Kojima: There are so many rumours already on the internet, who is gonna be on cameo? There is a lot of people.
GR: That's amazing to hear. Much of the conversation on Death Stranding has revolved around what you are doing. It seems like exploring takes a large chunk of time. Is this aspect akin to games like Journey, Flower, or No Man's Sky?
Kojima: Yes, it's a special world game system itself. There is so much information, you have new terminology, you may be puzzled about what it is about? But don't worry, when you play the game, you are driven in very slowly at the start. It's not like Terminator or Star Wars. There is no explanation or anything. It's very easy to do it that way and I can do it, but the story progresses slowly. Especially at the beginning. You will feel lost, but don't worry - you will naturally fit in. The system is explained.
Some people say it's almost like the movie Alien, where you are gradually finding out what the whole world is about, what you can do and not do. Maybe it gets really fun when you have completed 50 percent of the game. The player, like in shooters and other genres, go into the game with a known rule and you think you know what a game is about. I didn't want to have that feeling. Everyone should start from ground zero. Not knowing how to pick up and play the game. What I have shown makes you puzzled, but it all really makes sense when you play the game.
"The player, like in shooters and other genres, go into the game with a known rule and you think you know what a game is about. I didn't want to have that feeling."
GR: You have stated on several occasions that Death Stranding is a new genre called "social strand system". During the Sony event you went into some detail, but how does it differ from games like Dark Souls where you leave clues for other players and can jump into their dimension and help? Here you also start in a world where everything is unknown. You work in juxtaposition with other players even though it's your adventure.
Kojima: I actually don't play so many other games; I am too busy. I don't want to create a new genre. I want to create something different for a game. Everyone says it's an open world, it's a stealth game, what's different? I say no. That's not it. You don't have to define a genre. A lot of people just keeps asking me "is it a mission" or? That's why I just set a temporary name as social strand.
Kojima: So since it's really new and you saw the footage at Tokyo Game Show, you still must play it to really understand and get the feeling. That's what I say to everyone, you have to play it to feel this new feeling. My staff didn't understand or was opposed to the initial concept. Now it's different, they say things like "just walking in this world is so fun" because everything is up to you. As an example, you can choose yourself how to climb a mountain. They say "oh this is the real open world that we wanted to do". It's not like we have an open wprld and show you what you can do. That's not it. It's like I want you to select your path, where to go. Many say "this game is similar to that or this". However, since I said I don't have time to play all games I did not have an opinion on what the game should be and just wanted to create this world. I want you to play to find out.
The last scene in the Sony stage presentation, where you see the port Knox City and go down the mountains, you might not understand by just watching the video, but if you actually play it, you'll get a totally different feeling. Some people cry in that scene while playing it. People watching the video ask "why did you cry in that scene, just climbing down the mountain". If you play it, you will get this feeling.
"I don't want to create a new genre. I want to create something different for a game. Everyone says it's an open world, it's a stealth game, what's different? I say no. That's not it. You don't have to define a genre."
GR: So can I play it?
GR: You answered all my confused thoughts, in regards to the first trailer you released in 2016. This is probably moving into spoiler territory, but you showed Mads Mikkelsen in flashback scenes when leaving the private room. Is the second trailer you released with Guillermo del Toro a flashback or something that takes place during the main story?
Kojima: I can't answer that. Don't worry, you will see exactly what you saw when you play the game. I did not create anything just for PR - it's all from the game. When you piece together the narrative possibilities in the game, then you will understand that part.
GR: Lastly, you showed yesterday that wearing boots is important. Sam's feet get swollen, he gets tired etc. Can you die from being too exhausted?
Kojima: You don't die from fatigue. You kind of die falling from a tall place. But when you die what happens is, you have to find your body in the void and then come back. It's not a game over. That is more a concept from 40 years ago where you had these 25 cents and it kept you playing forever in the arcades or there was a continue system. My game is different. When you die you don't die. You just float in your soul and find your body to dive back in. Of course, if you are unsuccessful in a mission you rewind to do it again in order to progress the story. Other than that, there is no game over. You die, but there is no game over.
Death Stranding is releasing on November 8 for PlayStation 4, so we don't have long to wait to get our hands on the experience, as Kojima advises.