First things first, I’m retconning myself a little bit and awarding last week’s post about Metal Gear designs a Review of the Month status. The name has been changed to reflect this. The reason for this change was that I need to do some additional work.
Then, to the actual post at hand. The now just released trailer for Metal Gear Solid V by Hideo Kojima confirms that the Metal Gear we see in the book photo is indeed in the game. Kojima even makes sure to emphasize that it is also the definitive, ultimate Metal Gear to the point of referencing 2001; Space Odyssey when it whips its sword out.
Whatever the author’s intent Kojima had for the series is rather blatant in the trailer; only Solid series and the entries he worked on matter and are canon in his eyes. Let’s emphasize that; in Kojima’s eyes. Currently, he is no longer associated with Konami or the Metal Gear franchise. Whatever he states and thinks is no longer relevant to the franchise, much like whatever Inafune had through for Mega Man.
For both Mega Man and Metal Gear franchises, the person most famous for them has never been the only person working on them. This is not like with literature, where you often have one author writing these works with the help of the editor, or like with more popular and successful authors, without any editor. There’s a good reason why Tom Clancy’s books became so bloated and fell in quality.
Inafune had less control over Mega Man than Kojima had over Metal Gear. This is mostly because of two things. First, CAPCOM recognized Inafune’s skills when partnering him with people who could fill in whatever Inafune lacked. Look at Mighty Number 9 to see how the game ended up being much less than initially promised when he was all on his own. Minakuchi Engineering did a lot to the franchise, and most fans don’t even realize this.
Secondly, Konami recognised Kojima’s superstar status after Metal Gear Solid. He had been a relative hit after the first Metal Gear and with games that followed, but nothing could really beat the original Metal Gear for whatever reason. This applies to the NES port, especially in the West where absolutely nobody had a MSX. I won’t deny that Kojima’s games have been popular, and that MGSV will most likely be a huge success despite many fans swearing by their mothers’ graves never to touch Konami game after all the drama that has been going down behind the scenes.
There’s basically three different ways to approach any product out there; ignore everything surrounding it and concentrate on the product itself, concentrate on the provider and follow his products ignoring their overall quality, and concentrate on the owner of the product and whatever they may be doing.
The first is most beneficial to the consumer. After all, the product is what the consumer enjoys and it needs to deliver without any excuses. If it doesn’t, it’s not the individual who is responsible but provider as a whole. A problem with this approach may be that it ignores whatever the company does to produce the products. For example, the question of child labour and inadequate working environments with H&M’s factories may turn people to go alternatives.
The second approach is the classic rockstar approach. Whatever they do is like the word of God, they can do no harm to you. This idolising is extremely harmful, because the product doesn’t really matter, just the person bringing it.
More often than not, these two are more or less combined when it comes to general consumers. However, the third one enters here with companies that do not have a face as their representatives. Coca-Cola is one, and another could be car companies. Of course, if you’re really deep into the car design scene, you may know the teams and individual designers who have headed some of the most popular cars or the most expensive ones. Then again, it wasn’t too uncommon to see people rooting for a game company simply because they deemed their products the best things out there.
Company and brand loyalties play a big part in all these, thou rockstar loyalty is a thing. An informed consumer usually is aware of all three and wages if the product is worth their money and time based on these matters. However, human subjectivity is a bitch and we all knowingly practice double thinking. While we preach to others about proper treatment of animals or people, we are willingly ignoring or downplaying the negative effects they have.
I’m not saying that we are awful people. I’m saying that we act human. We wilfully ignore certain things, but if we can be honest to ourselves, even if it comes into such things as buying things, we could find certain kind of peace. Accepting that, perhaps we all could more informed on multiple views and arguments, and then base our decisions on those while still giving chances for those things we don’t agree on.
But that would require effort, and you know how hard effort is.
[Update, 25.08.2015] This post has been awarded a Review of the Month status. It’s original title was Metal Gear; where old designs are more advanced than new ones
With Metal Gear Solid V coming to our way sometime in few weeks, I’m taking a topic from the backburner that I haven’t been doing even if I have planned this for some time. Let’s give a look at the designs and the design progression Metal Gear franchise has.
Let’s straight about this; the design flow in Metal Gear is screwed up. This is due to two things; Kojima’s own lack of desire to follow his established continuity and Shinkawa’s REX becoming a fetish that permeated the whole franchise, essentially making it stagnate to one design and its variants.
If you were to play the franchise’s main series in production order, the design progression would be valid and make sense. However, the moment you take into notion the canon order of events, things just sink into a black hole. This is due to apparent weird technological progression, where the 70’s and 80’s have better technology than in the 90’s. In-universe, that is.
An argument that has been thrown around to explain this weird technological schizophrenic schism is that all this tech has been for black ops, and thus never seen in the daylight. This is more or less bullshit, as black ops technology has always seeped into real world, especially those that have made world a much easier place to live or have made incredible leaps in sciences. Like creating wormholes that are safe to travel for a human being without extra gear, or perfect holographic projectors, or batteries that can power aforementioned piece for immense amounts of time. These examples would not just vanish as they are beneficial not only to the people, but to governments everywhere. An example of this can be seen in-universe as well, with cyborgs becoming an everyday thing around MGS4 and further in MG Rising.
Speaking of cyborgs, it’s comedy gold in retrospect that Snake’s Revenge got panned by Solid fans because it turned Big Boss into a cyborg, a thing Kojima just went with Gray Fox anyway and other characters in the series. An example of duality, if nothing else.
In order to properly showcase how screwed the whole design deal is, we’ll use the production order of the games rather than the canon order of the story.
As Kojima based Metal Gear on western movies, so does the first Metal Gear reflect the American sensibilities when it comes to mecha. Without a doubt there’s a strong hint of Ed-209 from Robocop, just with less gasoline guzzling elements. As it was designed by the Japanese who had more or less no technical knowledge, the first Metal Gear looks like it could topple over if somebody shoved it. Top heaviness is nothing new to Japanese designs thou, and the more industrial look they were going with doesn’t make it more realistic.
Some do argue that Metal Gears are one of the more realistic mechas out there, but the best you can do to this is to laugh. This was the first of its kind, and everything that would come down the line would base themselves on it. Things that would carry over would be the placement of the main weapon on its right shoulder, the basic tri-pointed feet design where you have one toe back, two forwards, additional weaponry near the groin and armless design.
Metal Gear D is a perfect successor in terms of visuals. It takes what was iconic to the first one and gives it a wholly new flavour. It’s not a unique departure, but that’s fine for a direct sequel. Similar bi-pedal positioning, weapon placement is roughly the same and the overall silhouette is similar enough to be recognized to be in the same line. It’s a more refined, a more detailed design that, most importantly, gives an idea of progression.
Metal Gear D does have a stronger Japanese flavour to it, but it’s a bit more downplayed quite a lot thanks to the attention to the realism the wanted to have with it. It still looks top heavy, and the scrawny chicken legs don’t seem too trustworthy.
There was a mass-produced model in Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear G, but it never appeared in-game so we’re going to skip that.
Metal Gear REX was designed around the limitations of the PlayStation. It’s far blockier than either of the previous ones because of this, with more sleeker flats all around. While it shares bi-pedal similarities with the two previous Metal Gears, REX is a departure. The familiar silhouette is gone and replaced with a more bestial visage. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, and the design does carry certain recognizable elements. REX is a departure from some of the ideas of how Metal Gear should look like, and shows that it doesn’t need to look the same as long as its gets the job done. Which is funny, as no Metal Gear has ever done their intended job properly.
Unlike the predecessors, REX’s body is more balanced. The large, wide and low key legs carry the two-segment main body in a far more ideal fashion. The feet change the toes a little bit, where it has two spikes in the front to give traction to said legs. This can be regarded as a solution to how the predecessors were a more rigid in design. Indeed, the way REX has been animated in the games makes it act and function like an animal to the extent on having it open and close its ‘mouth’ for roaring. It’s stupid really, and a sign how certain sentimentalities from Japanese pop-culture had already seeped in. Otacon’s line about things looking like his Japanese animes does apply the rest of the designs in the franchise.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that Metal Gear Solid was the first Metal Gear game many people played, not either version of Metal Gear.
Metal Gear RAY’s design was to reflects that what a Metal Gear is became a fluid thing in Kojima’s head. The thing Metal Gear was supposed to be was a bi-pedal tank with nuclear capabilities, but authors can’t twist and give excuses to name anything however they want. As such, RAY lacks all of the established qualities it takes to be a Metal Gear, a thing that you can over analyse to fit Kojima’s intention for the narrative Metal Gear Solid 2 carries.
RAY’s organic and sleek nature reflects it amphibious nature, and is an antithesis to REX’s blocky and sleek design, further playing into its whole anti-Metal Gear nature. It’s a bit over-designed, with the whole four-jointed legs and circles everywhere on its red-brown parts. It has much more relation to Zone of the Enders in this sense, and it wouldn’t take much to convert RAY into an Orbital Frame. The organic elements still had their function, as RAY had more nanotech in form of nanopaste that would fix its artificial muscles it used. There is a mass-produced model for the US Navy with complete reddish brown colour, dull point knees and far smaller tail. Otherwise the overall design is the same.
There’s Arsenal Gear too, which has nuclear capabilities, but it’s a goddamn underwater battleship and not a bi-ped. It doesn’t play in the frame what a Metal Gear is, however author intent tries to force the idea of changing warfare in with it. However, we will touch upon the Shagohod, because its design does play in how Metal Gears and their approximate mechanical designs formed.
The Shagohod, in many sense, fits as the first step towards what would become the basics of a Metal Gear. While Big Boss MGS games are basically just big retcons, the Shagohod’s existence doesn’t break anything in the design line as such. It’s a bit more traditional tank than a Metal Gear despite it being a screw propelled. Screw-propelled tanks were a thing, but overall their usage is relatively limited, but they can make decent amphibious vehicles that should be able to traverse difficult terrain.
Despite Shagohod not being a Metal Gear, it the same base elements that the first one established, as well as showing the first signs of REX fetishism. You can find the nuclear launcher on the right shoulder as usual, secondary weapons between legs, or screws in this case, with the radar dome placement on the left, which is a carryover from REX’s design. That’s not the only thing that Shagohod carries over REX thou. The two-segment design makes a return, and for whatever reason Shagohod can sort of stand up so that the tip of the screws are digging in to the ground , raising the level of the first segment. While the overall design looks neat, you are able to see how the first segment also resembles REX’s head segment.
Whether or not the Shagohod’s design represents the mid-1960’s is a good question. The angularity the first segment represents wouldn’t be widely seen until T-55 in real world tanks, but the second segment is almost too bulbous and shapely to fit any tank overall. Outside these the Shagohod almost could fit the era very well, if we take these very loose definitions and terms of general military science fiction into consideration. I would almost say that the Shagohod is almost the most sensible design that has come from the Metal Gear franchise.
With Metal Gear jumping to PSP, a mainline game would come down the line sooner or later. Like it or not MGS Portable Ops is a valid entry in the series. Metal Gear RAXA was a prototype for Intercontinental Ballistic Metal Gear, which we never see in action in the game itself, but we can assume the two look essentially the same. You would think RAXA would be free of influence from REX, but if you look close enough towards its middle section, you see the same T-shape head from REX repeated. At this point one thing is clear; the design progression in Metal Gear is not valid in its own universe. It only makes sense on a meta-level like this.
RAXA is once again a weird thing for a Metal Gear. The ICBMG is capable of nuclear strike for sure, but both of them move on four legs. Or rather, float in the air and fly. It’s better just to ignore what a Metal Gear is supposed to be and just go whatever is named as one. Then again, we could also ask why were all the powers so keen in developing a Metal Gear when every single one had failed before. Anyway, there’s not much to be said about RAXA, outside that outside its wings, it does follow a sensible continuation from Shagahod, outside the whole REX elements. There’s few bits that are a bit too advanced for its time even, but this being SF story, we’ll let that slide.
The Gekkou isn’t a Metal Gear, but as it follows the same design continuity as REX and RAY, we’ll handle it relatively shortly. The idea for Gekkous was to take REX’s head and modify it with RAY’s leg parts. MGS2 was the moment where Metal Gear as a franchise took itself towards more 2000’s science fiction with nanotechnology and semi-biological components as opposed to hard hardware machinery based ideas, and Gekkou juxtaposes the two into one being.
While there are few variations of them, like suicide Gekkou, the above example is as simple as it gets. It still carries some elements standard elements, like the radar dome on its right shoulder, thou it is far more in the centre than previously. There is also a sensor unit between its legs. Speaking of legs, there’s like six joints in there, which Kojima put in relatively heavy use on how the Gekkou’s move. Three toes also make a return here, just in different order than usual. Unlike the Shagodog, the elements from REX and RAY are very prominent, but that can be coined to normal technological progression. However, even then something more unique could’ve come from Gekkou’s than recycle and mash REX and RAY together like this. There is an idea in there, thou it’s up to individuals if Gekkou’s should’ve been more distinctively unique.
Metal Gear MkII and MkIII will be omitted because they can be summed as Metal Gear’s head as body, screen as launcher.
While the AI Weapons are not counted as a Metal Gear, they are a design step. However, they all run on a relatively sophisticated Artificial intelligence, breaking whatever illusion you had about the design and technological continuity the series had. Still, they carry certain elements from past designs that make more or less sense, outside Cocoon. Cocoon’s just a big damn dumb tank with absolutely no redeeming value in itself. Its design is messy, overblown and something a five year old would like to see. It’s all around awful and they should’ve disregard this from the get go. Pupa, however, is basically a jacked up Shagohod. Now that makes sense, as it’s more mass produced version with a bit more streamlined with tracks rather than screw-drives. Extra weapons and the stupid boosters fir the overall design just fine.
Chrysalis can be seen as an evolution of RAXA, but it makes little sense how it flies. It also carries a rail gun, something that was supposed to be completely new and ground breaking for REX. At least this time they went away with the REX elements with both of these, resorting to a far more basic industrial look. It works and sets itself apart among the AI Weapons, and not just because it can fly. It may be a small thing, but switching the rail gun’s and radar’s placements is a change that gives it slightly more characters. Well, as long as you disregard that both of them are lifted almost directly from REX.
And oh, they all have Hatsune Miku singing as their voice. I don’t have anything against Miku, but vocaloid has no place in Metal Gear. Then again, the franchise has gone more or less full anime since MGS, so it’s easy to explain. Plus Miku was at the height of popularity at the time, and it seems Peace Walker was developed to cater to Kojima’s son. Metal Gear had gone from being a view of western action movies to a view of western action movies filtered heavily through Japanese pop-culture.
Peace Walker on the other hand is just weird. Carrying what essentially is Shagahod’s launcher on four legs that are resemble strongly armourless REX legs. The other box is a more traditional missile launcher. Initially it was supposed to look like REX and have a similar hangar, but that was reserved for ZEKE. Peace Walker is a strange mixed of bags. On one hand it’s pretty neat, but on the other hand it’s absolutely retarded. The big ball there is basically its head and the AI pod seen on other AI Weapons reside next to it. The overall design is a lanky transformer, as the four-legged mode had to act like some dog or similar mammal, whereas the two legged mode acts like a theropod dinosaur, again making a connection to REX.
REX’s elements had been popping up everywhere after its initial appearance in MGS. Metal Gear ZEKE is basically where Kojima tells that games before that doesn’t matter, as ZEKE’s design was to look like on of the future Metal Gears, but older and rougher on the edges. ZEKE ended up being essentially a stripped REX. The design differences in details are plenty, but the silhouette could be mistaken by an unrehearsed eye. Weaponry placements, radar, the flat head minus the leg of the normal T-shape, legs, they’re all from REX. In meta this makes sense, but in continuity it makes zero sense. This Metal Gear we have here is essentially at the same level as REX in overall technological status, with more or less functioning AI and a goddamn rail gun. While the player has to destroy AI weapons over and over again in order to produce ZEKE. As such, some parts can be switched around to make it look less like REX, but the basic frame will always be the same. While that basic frame is balanced, it should just tip over because of that rail gun.
With The Phantom Pain being released soonish, I’m not going to pretend this variant of REX doesn’t exist. This isn’t even funny, just sad. Much like ZEKE before it, this Metal Gear ST-84 is technologically more advanced that its two successors will be. It’s even got more technical design than REX had with vents on the sides of its head and relatively smaller silhouette, thou the changes make it more frontal heavy. Unlike REX, the ST-84 is unbalanced, but it will be animated to look like an animal again. Perhaps those two elements on either side of the frontal section are arms, so it can be four-legged again. Then again, perhaps those are arms for its humanoid mode. I’ll be leaving that image linked rather than outright posted if this turns out to be true, but I have my doubts. Why would you have a upright standing Metal Gear? The sheer amount of technology to make it more feasible without artificial muscles as with RAY and Gekkou is immense. It’s a much larger target as it is now with incredibly high profile and useless scraps around its body. If Metal Gear as a franchise tried to take itself seriously before, The Phantom Pain has made itself very schizophrenic with the harsh themes it goes for and… a goddamn humanoid Metal Gear.
With that, the mainline Metal Gear games come to a full circle, as Metal Gear V leads into Metal Gear. I’ve been saying since Metal Gear Solid 2 that there needs to be a remake of Metal Gear 1 & 2 because of how the narrative has changed, new events and technologies have been introduced that do not mesh well with the previously established continuity. Big Boss’ games are essentially big retcons in themselves, and despite MGS3 and MGSPW being pretty decent games, one can’t ignore how laughably bad the continuity is between the older and newer titles. It would have taken a lot from Kojima to stay restricted with what he had done in the past, but as we’ve seen along the years, he is a man who does whatever hell wants without caring one bit how that affects anything else, even if it is a franchise he became famous for.
There are Metal Gears in the franchise that use elements from all the ones seen above. Some are more unique, some are just convoluted. We’ll most likely return to those some other day, starting with Metal Gear 2 from Snake’s Revenge.
Every hundred posts we take a different stance on customers and industry. Except something different from the usual.
One thing that is absolutely stupid with customers is their inability to realize who owns rights nowadays. It is the person who pays for them. In the creative industries, more often than not the company owns what the people produce. This is largely a standard in the creative industries. Movie companies own the rights to the movies they produce as they pay for the writers and directors to make them these products. This applies especially to video game companies, where they employ people to create these games. It’s their damn job. It has always been about money and it will always be about the money. You own what you pay for. Except Steam users.
People are saying Konami is taking Kojima’s baby away. That is nothing short of horse shit. Kojima may have been the creator behind Metal Gear and yet you need to remember that it has been a job for him. He did it because he was employed by a company to make games for them to sell to the customer, not for himself. If you want to own what you do, you make it yourself. Now Kojima has all the possibilities to exercise his freedom to put a new company and have free hands to do whatever he ever wishes. Of course, it may end up being absolute shit, as any and every creative person needs to be reined in to cut the excess far and rot off from the product and fry it to perfection.
The whole recent thing about Konami’s and Hideo Kojima’s downfall is an example where there is an idol worshipping cult following one man and his wish to make money on the expense of these cultists. These people have been sucking Kojima’s dick to the extent that Kojima has been waging a power struggle with Konami, that much is evident from the recent events. It’s easy to see how Metal Gear games have been eating most of the budget Konami has been able to sustain, and seeing how Konami almost became Kojima the Company, it’s no wonder either one would’ve fallen.
Do Kojima’s fans even know what he does? He has been mainly the idea guy behind the products that carry his name, the guy who directs and writes them. He has been in the role that is essentially a project leader and less the person who sits down and makes the game, i.e. programmer most of his life. Don’t be mistaken, his contribution is important and vital, but he would never had the products without the people who actually got their hands dirty with the games. Then of course you can question his writing, as it is cliché as hell and extremely derivative from Hollywood movies. Of course, you can even question if the Solid series is even all that good when you have hours upon hours of FMV, a prime example being Metal Gear Solid 4 with its laughably small gameplay time compared to the insanely long movies. It’s no wonder his ego has grown across the years with the fanboys backing him up every time, while other projects have been killed in order to save money for Kojima’s next brain art. Konami could release that ready Bomberman game and make good money, but it seems that at the time they didn’t care about that franchise.
What is even more stupid is that the fans seem to think nobody else could do a Metal Gear game, which is absolutely laughable idea. There are four examples of Metal Gear games that have little to none to do with Kojima and all have been taken in with great acceptance. Snake’s Revenge was first sequel to the MSX Metal Gear and was met with high praise. Fans have done pretty good job by rewriting history with the Internet, but they don’t stand a chance against people with memory, much like how Zelda fans want to rewrite Zelda II as some sort of awful game and a black sheep of the series, despite it being a huge success. It’s only the younger fans in both series who are pushing this kind propaganda, because that doesn’t fit their world view. The AC!D games had nothing to do with Kojima, and despite their different gameplay nature they sold relatively well considering they were on PSP. Portable OPS was the first Metal Gear game that was met with incredible hatred from the fans because Kojima’s name wasn’t attached to it, showing that they are easily swayed if one person isn’t associated with it. The game tried to shove home console Metal Gear on handheld and suffered from it, and its follow-up Peace Walker is actually less a Metal Gear game than its own thing. This brings is to Rising and how the series has changed with the time. Every game series, outside certain exceptions, have changed significantly throughout the years and will continue to change. There are times when new franchises are made under the same overall brand name, much like how Solid is different from base Metal Gear, so is Rising from Solid.
If you want to talk about game series that have sucked after the original creator has left them, consider the following; game industry sees constant staff changes. A creator may be programmer early on, but later kicked up to become a producer, thus having less to do with the actual production of the games than their overall visage. Miyamoto is a prime example of this. We know of his interviews that he made some coding in Super Mario Bros., but after the he most likely never has touched a line of cone, but has been directing them. Nevertheless, Mario games without Miyamoto’s involvement have been more or less big successes, especially the Game Boy Mario games.
Metroid is a series where you had the original creator killed by a car accident and was given to a whole different company to produce a 3D Metroid. We can argue whether or not the Metroid Prime series is better or worse, but we can’t dispute that at least the first game managed to deliver top notch 3D Metroid experience.
Then you have Mega Man, a series that had its original creator not even being involved after the initial design phase. Inafune has stated that Mega Man as a concept and design was ready before he was brought in to take it to the end. Inafune has been the person working longest with the series, and yet the most important changes to the series and its success should go to those who have worked under him. Then you of course have Minakuchi Engineering and Inti-Creates, completely different companies from CAPCOM, making excellent Mega Man games with Inafune in the producer’s seat. Minakuchi Engineering did better job with Mega Man IV and V on the GameBoy than CAPCOM’s own staff with Mega Man 5-8, or Inti-Creates with 9&10. Of course, people love Inafune and were willing to give thousands for his totally original piece of work that would have been produced anyway, and it ends up looking like crap.
Devil May Cry is an example, where the high staff changed after the first game, and then proceeded to make the best games in the franchise. DmC by Ninja Theory is the exact opposite, where people who didn’t give two cents about the customers or about the franchise got free hands to butcher it. You can mostly put that on Inafune and his wanting to have Western developers to make CAPCOM games. Thank God that Irregular Hunter X FPS game never came to be.
But of course, consumers want to idolise those people and think they are their friends. Of course they act like they’re the customers’ best buddies, because that’s good PR. They don’t care about you, they never had. They only care that they can keep their work and get your money. It’s business, it’s work. You have to make a living. It’s easier to become superstar developer with immense amount of fans looking up to you, as this give you leverage over the company you work for. A cleaver customer would be able to see through all this and look at the product itself rather than the clown marketing it to you. Fan boys are willing to dish their money into anything these clowns slab their name on, even if the product is laughably poor and that’s just sad. Of course, you are completely free to enjoy poorly made products, nobody is taking that away from you.
It’s a common kind of psychological phenomena, where the customer thinks a company or an individual is their friend because they make speeches or advertisement that promote a product in a way that hits the spot with them. It’s a well planned show, a rehearsed one. The words are chosen carefully as are the expressions and movements. It’s a show. All they care is to make a product good enough to make that living.
But of course, the customer rarely can even make a difference between a designer and a designer. Ask them what design is, and the chances are they’re either making shit up or call it art. Of course you can ask them to define something more specific, like what is product design, visual design, production design, service design and so on. Design is a mess, so it’s no wonder only those who work in the industries can get what design in itself encompasses. This of course has the trouble of customers and companies making shit up like responsible design, which is more or less a mindset that should be included in any design than its own field.
Outside graphic and visual designers, it’s more or less uncommon to see the designer to do the actual work himself. In production, like with games or movies, you have loads of people working on the product and you should never underestimate the amount of work these people do. It’s a collaborative effort through and through, and it is a travesty to see one person getting all the credit. But hey, why should the customer care? All they want their product and to have nice clown to love.
I’ll be honest; it feels a bit weird to “celebrate” 500th post like this, but it’s already a tradition. Next time; Nintendo NX and how Nintendo is doing on the rights tracks again.