Could you first of all explain how Integral came into being?
Kojima: After we'd finished the Japanese version [of MGS], we then moved on to the American version. We had all the dialogue translated and re-recorded into English, then once the American version had been completed, we gave an internal presentation on it here at the company. Everyone really liked hearing Snake talking in English. I wrote the game in Japanese, of course, but seeing the game matched up with English dialogue sort of resonated within me, you know? That's partly an influence from all the foreign movies and TV shows I've watched over the years, but it was just really cool having a Metal Gear in English like that.
Then in addition, a number of hardcore players imported the American version after it was released, and they would talk online about all the extras that were added to it, as well as other little differences between the two. That generated a lot of interest among players here in Japan, and we received a number of emails and letters from fans saying they wanted to play the American version. Under normal circumstances, we would've broken the team up after the game was finished and everyone would move on to new projects, but with MGS, we also had the European versions to work on after the American version. This was actually an industry first, but what we did was make separate English, French, Italian, German and Spanish PAL versions. We took the 8 hours or so of dialogue and translated that into each language, then hired voice actors for each version and re-edited that back into the game. We also had to fix the timing for the dialogue, though, as in certain languages the speech will take more or less time to run through a scene. With all that to do, we found it hard to get away from the game. Ports like these definitely are a lot of work, but the staff still had more free time during this process than they did while making the original game, so we ended up fixing all the parts of it we didn't like. But we weren't happy with just that, so we played around with various new extras to the game as well, like more VR stages. The final version of the original game had 30, but there were originally more, weren't there?
Negishi: Yeah, there were around 50 to 60, but during the debugging process we discovered we couldn't fit all of them in, so in the end we narrowed it down to 30. We had a lot of free time when we were working on the European versions, so we spent half our time just playing around with the game.
K: I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but we didn't originally plan on releasing the tweaks as an updated game. Like Negishi-san said, we just messed around with the original game while working on the other versions (laughs). We eventually started making new VR stages during our spare time, and before we knew it, we had a whole new set of them. We'd say, "Why don't we make this kind of stage?" or "What about if we tried this?" and we'd go and make them. So we had this expanded VR Mode, and of course we had the requests from players to play the American version, so we thought, "Why don't we release everything together as a sort of 'integral version' here in Japan?" So I gave a presentation about it to my superiors, where I said to them, "I have a confession to make. This is what we've been doing all this time" (laughs). They didn't look too happy about that, but they admitted it wasn't such a bad idea, and they then asked us to make it into a proper game.
Did you encounter any problems while translating the game?
K: When you're translating a game from Japanese into another group of languages, you first translate the text into English as a base and from there translate it into the other languages. In this case we made additional French, Italian, German and Spanish language versions of the game, which were all checked by native speakers. When we were playing the games ourselves while debugging them, we didn't have a clue what the characters were saying (laughs). We'd know it was German or whatever, but that was it (laughs). We wanted people to check the language for us, so we sent the games to our European office and had staff members there as well as videogame journalists check the translations.
Did you have trouble translating Mei Ling's proverbs?
K: Yeah, about them... Allow me to apologize (laughs). They're quite different in the overseas versions (laughs). In the Japanese version she gives you the proverb in Chinese, then proceeds to explain it in Japanese, but in English she'd be giving you the proverb in English, then when Snake asks her what it means, she'd be basically repeating the same thing in English. That wouldn't have worked so well, so we kept the ones we could keep, but changed the rest. Then the European versions are based on the English version, so they're changed as well. It was a little disappointing (laughs). Just one of those things (laughs).
There are a lot of other extras besides the VR Disc, such as First-person View Mode and Photography Mode. At what stage of the development process did those come about?
K: Well, the First-person View Mode was something players said they'd like to see in the game while we were still working on the Japanese version. Their argument was that sneaking around is most realistic when you're looking through the character's eyes. Then you have the fact that First-person games are popular in America and Europe as well. Now, I understood what people were saying, but since I suffer from 3D motion sickness, I didn't think I could handle it (laughs). So that's why most of the game is shown from a top-down view. We'd experimented with the concept several times in the past, though, so technically it wasn't a difficult thing to do. Then when we got the go-ahead for Integral, the idea came up of adding it in as an extra. But since we created the game around the top-down view, some parts of it can be a little strange while playing in first-person view mode (laughs).
Photography Mode was also something players said they'd like to see. We really listen to the players, don't we (laughs)? At the beginning of the game, Naomi says to Snake, "Well, if you make it back in one piece, maybe I'll let you do a strip search on me," right? But players complained that she didn't keep her promise after you beat the game (laughs). So we thought it might be a good idea to add something like that. At the time, we also wanted to experiment with higher character polygon counts, facial animation and finger movement for next-generation hardware. Before we decided to include Photography Mode, we carried out those experiments while working on the European versions. We'd made quite a bit of progress with them by the time we were told to make the game into a product, so we included them in Photography Mode. [Also, the intro to the VR Disc, where Snake is sneaking around, is a movie of a real-time demo made on the PS2. This area can be seen in The Document of MGS2. –Marc] Nearly all the other extras were things the staff came up with while experimenting with the game during the development of the European versions. All that started to take shape right around when people in Japan said they wanted to play the American version, and the end result of those two facets coming together is Integral. A lot of people think that all Konami does is make a game, play around with it and add certain extras, then repackage it as a separate product just to make more money. But in this case, everything really did come about that way naturally. We actually spent a lot of time on it, from when we were just playing around at the start to now having a separate VR Disc for it.
There are 300 stages on the VR Disc. Did you originally plan on making that many?
K: We originally talked about 3,000 (laughs). In the final game they're divided into categories like Sneaking, Advanced, and so on, but before, they were all just grouped together. How many was it we ended up making? Including the ones we cut.
N: About 500, I believe.
K: We had so many that we decided to break them up into categories. After that we got rid of all the repetitive ones, which left us with the 300 you see in the game. Of course, we wouldn't have been able to include them on the two original game discs, so we put them on their own separate disc.
How do you actually make the VR stages? Do you first determine the type of mission then devise a map? Or do you plan a mission around a certain map in your head?
N: It all depends on the stage, but for the basic training stages, we first think about what type of action the player is going to be doing, then we draw up the map. Others require a completely different approach, however, when it involves not an action the player learns but, for instance, ones where you have to knock enemies off platforms to areas below.
It seems like there was the potential for a lot of problems to arise. Was development stressful in any way?
N: None of it was stressful, really. It was pretty laid back. We had a lot of fun making it. We'd make a stage, then others would say it isn't any good, so we'd change it or get rid of it. That happened a lot.
K: What we did was come up with a tool for creating VR stages, so anyone, be it a programmer or a designer, could create their own stages. So everyone would be off on their own working on their own stages (laughs). When they'd finished one, they'd have other staff members play it and evaluate it. Then they'd try to expand on the ideas they'd incorporated into it, so they'd end up making another stage. Whenever I'd go pay the VR Unit a visit, I'd tell them to try out certain things, which meant making more stages. I'm not very popular over there (laughs).
There are default times given for each stage in VR Mode's Time Attack. Getting first place in some of them would appear to be quite difficult. Are those the top times achieved by the development team?
K: No, they aren't. Getting first place your first time through a stage wouldn't be very fun, so what we'd do is set third place as the average time it would take to complete the stage, then set first place as the time players would achieve by replaying the stage and experimenting with it. There are a few stages where the strategy for the fastest time isn't so easy to figure out and getting first might take a while, but if you just know the strategy then getting first shouldn't be difficult. There are some stages where we intentionally made first pretty hard to get, though.
Do you plan to do an online player ranking system?
K: We'd like to do that on our homepage, yes.
There is a series of stages on the VR Disc called Mystery Mode. These are decidedly different from the other VR stages. Where did that idea originate?
K: Whenever I pay the VR Unit a visit (laughs), I'm always stimulated by everything I see and end up thinking up new ideas. Around when we had completed a large chunk of the training stages, I began to think it might be good to have stages where you have to solve some sort of mystery instead, so I told each member of the team in secret to make one such stage. But no one took me seriously at first, so it took a while before things got anywhere (laughs). Once they did, though, we began to come up with a lot of ideas for them, and after I went back to see them again later on, they'd made more than I'd told them to. Ultimately we only kept the ones that aren't too hard to figure out. We also made an original map just for the last stage's murder mystery (laughs). There were also other stages where each one was a sort of homage to a film director.
What's great about the whole VR thing is everything can stand alone from the game world. And once you finish designing a series of stages, you then come up with more ideas, so you end up creating even more stages. A stage I wanted the VR Unit to create was a "long jump event" where you control a Genome Soldier with C4 attached to his back. You run toward the jump line and detonate the C4, seeing how far you can make him fly. No one ever made the stage, though (laughs).
There are also stages where you play as the Ninja. Was that another thing players wanted?
K: That's right. So many people said they wanted to play as the Ninja, so we came up with these 3 stages where you get to control him. MGS is in many ways still a sort of 2D game without true vertical dimensions, but in those stages you're able to jump.
Are there any VR stages in particular you would like players to play?
N: I'd like for them to play all of them, to get 100%. And the more time you spend with Time Attack, the more fun it becomes. A lot of the staff like to compete against each other for the fastest times these days while we're still finishing up bug checks. I'd like for players to try and get first place in all the stages.
Are there any stages you think are particularly difficult?
K: There's one Mystery Stage about halfway through that only hardcore players will get. The VR Mission is also quite difficult.
N: Some of the staff can beat it in under 4 minutes.
K: There are actually several shortcuts placed throughout the VR Mission for players to discover.
In closing, what would you like to say to players?
K: This game was a tribute to everyone who bought MGS and loves the Metal Gear series. It's a director's cut, an international cut, and an "integral cut" packed with a whole load of extras, not least of all 300 VR stages. First and foremost, we'd like players who played the original to play it. A number of concepts that don't align with the main story can be found in the VR Disc as well. Also, to players who didn't play the original game for whatever reason – either they found it too difficult, or they didn't have the money for it – we added the choice of different difficulty settings in addition to bringing it out at a budget price, so I hope they'll pick it up this time. People who are playing it for the first time, I hope they start with the main game, then play through the VR Disc and see all the ways we've tried to bring innovation to the original's gameplay. You can play a little bit each day after getting home from work or school, without having to devote hours at a time to it. I hope it'll also get players to interact with their peers through the PocketStation aspect of it.
Thank you both for your time today.