The Metal Gear Solid series has been well-known for its intricate plot and memorable characters. The series has also been notorious for using lengthy 30 to 40 minute cutscenes to flesh out its cast and story. Metal Gear Solid Creator Hideo Kojima hinted at spicing up his storytelling for his upcoming PS4 exclusive, Death Stranding, and there’s possibly several ways this might be done.
Kojima said at the Tribeca Gaming Festival 2017 that he’s interested in exploring more forms of storytelling outside of long cutscenes, dialogue, and monologues. While it’s surprising to hear Kojima’s change of heart about storytelling in video games, there’s some plausible reasons why Kojima is breaking away from what he has done in game development for nearly two decades. It’s possible these factors also give us an idea on how Kojima will approach storytelling in Death Stranding.
First-party studio developers from Sony have been vocal about sharing their notes among their colleagues in order to produce a better game. Kojima is seemingly now part of this culture after Kojima Productions decided to use the Decima game engine from Horizon Zero Dawn developer Guerilla Games. One of Guerilla Games’ conditions in lending the Decima engine is for them to collaborate on refining the engine to suit Kojima’s new IP.
Aside from working on the engine, it’s possible the team has also influenced Kojima in other aspects, particularly storytelling. A few posts on social media shows both Kojima and Guerilla Games managing director Hermen Hulst spending time together. It’s possible Kojima has also heard about some essential storytelling techniques from Hulst, the man who directed Horizon Zero Dawn.
One of the reasons Horizon Zero Dawn was praised by critics is because it made exploring its open world feel worthwhile. The game has varied side quests that allows players to appreciate the different people that inhabit the game whilst introducing some interesting action segments and enemy encounters. Collectibles are also scattered throughout the map and while some of them are just for completionist’s sake, there are substantial audio dialogues and text logs that allows players to get a more rounded appreciation of the game’s lore. While these features from Horizon Zero Dawn are nothing new, it was well integrated and didn’t unnecessarily add pointless content.
Meanwhile, the first Metal Gear Solid game that went open world, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, failed to make use of its open world areas. Not only was the map solely populated by foes, there were also little to no story-based side missions. Even collectibles are purely for gameplay-wise rewards or interesting Easter Eggs.
The linear Metal Gear Games also lacked collectibles that help flesh out the story. In place of such plot device items, the series fleshed its character development and told intriguing lore info through codec conversations. This means of storytelling puts players in an inactive experience as it makes them passively listen to several minutes of dialogue, which Kojima said he is planning to break away from.
Kojima has previously confirmed that Death Stranding is an open world game. It’s possible he has taken some cues from Horizon Zero Dawn to create a better and livelier open world experience. Additionally, Kojima toured various Sony first-party studios in his search for a game engine and it’s possible he learned something for his game from each development studio.
Kojima announced back at Tokyo Game Show 2016 that Death Stranding will have an online element that seeks to bring in “a new type of action” that simply doesn’t involve multiplayer battles. Kojima explained the game’s online aspect further in an interview with PS Blog, saying he wants to focus more on creating strands or links between players.
Most games with online aspects – as pointed out by Kojima— have game modes with single-player matches against the AI, Player vs Player bouts, and online co-op modes against AI enemies. While the game has traditional combat elements, it will not follow the same structure as most online games.
Based on Kojima’s statements, it’s fairly safe to say that Death Stranding’s online functionality will be felt in its single-player experience. Potentially, Kojima could also be straying away from narrative-driven storytelling and focusing on player-driven stories instead – or a healthy balance of both.
Blank Slate Main Character?
One Death Stranding fan theory hinges on the idea that the blinking handcuffs Norman Reedus was wearing in the game’s first trailer means that a real-life player is opening his/her controller to activate a character. This is primarily due to how the blinking light on the handcuffs and the Dualshock4 are in-sync. The theory states that both Reedus and Del Toro are player controlled.
One supplemental source of the theory is Norman Reedus’ statement at Comic-Con. According to Reedus, Kojima told him that players won’t play as Reedus, but they’ll become Reedus themselves. This theory sounds plausible as Kojima hinted a form of character customization during his panel at the Tribeca Gaming Festival.
“For the teaser where you see Norman naked, that’s something that I very specifically had in mind that I wanted people to see first,” Kojima said. “A naked Norman, and then from there you’ll be able to see him in different costumes, different hairstyles, different equipment.”
Due to the game possibly implementing character customization features, it’s possible Kojima wants players to feel they themselves are the main character. Games that went in this direction either make the character in a blank slate or there’s little to no dialogue from them. This is usually done to let players project themselves onto the main character. Games that have done these include Mass Effect, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and the Persona series.
All of these information are speculative at best. We’ll have to wait for Kojima to reveal more details before jumping to conclusions. With E3 2017 starting in June, we might not have to wait long for some new tidbits.
Death Stranding is exclusively launching on the PS4 sometime before the Tokyo Olympics and the new Akira movie. For more gaming news, keep it right here on The BitBag.