MGSV level designer Jordan Amaro: ‘Kojima wants you to feel close to Snake’

Eurogamer recently sat down with Mike Bithell (designer on the game Volume) and Jordan Amaro, a designer at Kojima Productions who is currently involved with the development of Metal Gear Solid V, to talk about the stealth genre and what they are trying to achieve with the games they’re working on.

Amaro explains that he doesn’t like it if a stealth game is too explicitly laid out for the player, so that it becomes clear what path the designers wanted you to take and what actions to do. For MGSV, the team doesn’t use presets of objects, but rather ‘assembles assets together in an organic way’. Because of this, there is no clear and obvious road to take, and it’s up to the player to observe and decide what to do.

Amaro previously worked at 2K and Crytek, and started creating missions with what he knew, designing the game solely for the player. But it turned out this went against the vision for MGSV.

“If I go to my lead designer and say, I have this really cool mission where you have to listen to a conversation, you’re trailing two guys and have to avoid all these guards that I’ve carefully placed in the village, […] in our studio that wouldn’t work, because we don’t consider just moving the character – at an input level – an interesting interaction. Just moving the character and staying close enough – and what happens if you’re not, do we have to restart the mission? – we don’t consider this low level input experience good enough, so we’re not going to do this.”

“But we will do chase quests, for example. You can still stop them through the game systems and you don’t have to shoot. You will have to figure out a way to stop their car and then get close enough.”

MGSV-GZ-Screen-Game-Informer-18

It’s not just about the player, it’s about the player manipulating this character called Snake, and the focus is on him, and his actions.

“Snake does not want to get on the enemy’s roads. He does not want to intersect their path and risk getting seen. We even dedicate one button to jumping out of sight. So we don’t think in terms of: I’m going to make you crawl here, climb there then use that ability on that enemy. That’s the outside-in. We think about the interesting situations that can occur in our game through the agency acted by Snake. That’s the inside-out.”

Another thing that is important is the world the game takes place in: it has to make sense. For example, a village in Afghanistan (one of the game’s locations) has to be believable.

MGSV-GZ-Screen-Game-Informer-17

“We’ve only created a place that our artists have okayed and hopefully makes sense and poses challenges. And that Snake route will be subtle and organic enough so it won’t jump to your eyes. We hope to reveal Snake’s character through the players’ actions in those spaces that are smart to traverse. That’s pure game storytelling, although it’s still primal because the odds are what they are.”

Amaro also talked a bit about the workflow within the studio for creating environments and levels.

“[…] The artists create the open world. They make it look good and make it make sense in terms of topography and the weather. They’re the first guys to really get the soul of what Afghanistan is, and we come after that and avoid destroying their work, because they’ve already got quite close to the truth. […] When we come in, we wonder, from this point of view, where the player will come for the first time, what’s the route Snake would take? As an experienced agent on the field, where would he go?”

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-E3-2013-Afghanistan-2

Those who’ve played Ground Zeroes will know of the mechanics implemented to aid the player, such as markers and Reflex Mode. According to Amaro, this is a good example of a game that is accessible by default, but can be customized to be more of a hardcore experience. “In Metal Gear Solid you can customize markers and difficulty. When I turned off everything it was difficult for me as a designer to play the game because if I wasn’t careful enough, or if I was sprinting I would be spotted from the tower, and then boom.”

While Metal Gear Solid V provides the possibility for the player to go through a mission guns blazing, this is not the studio’s vision of what it means to be Snake.

“We made a game for you so that you can create or be subjected to havoc, and you may feel like him at that moment but everyone knows that’s not Snake, right? That’s one declination. One version. […] If you want to go out there and shoot everybody, you’re going to feel badass. And you may feel like Snake but in fact you won’t be Snake. From our point of view, Snake is not that guy.”

MGSV-GZ-Screen-Game-Informer-8

The reason they still want to provide the option to the player is because Kojima wants to ‘explore what it means to bring the franchise to an open space’, according to Amaro. “He wants to try to bring the player closer to Snake by leaving all these options and reducing the amount of cut-scenes. He wants you to feel close to him, reduce the friction and see what players make of it. And Snake doesn’t talk as much.” Amaro added, jokingly: “He said, if he talks too much then we have to pay Kiefer Sutherland a lot more!”

To read the full interview, go to Eurogamer’s article.

Source: Eurogamer

  • Sunda

    Amaro added, jokingly: “He said, if he talks too much then we have to pay Kiefer Sutherland a lot more!”

    I think this is more a statement than a joke.

    • Golgari

      Yeah. Maybe it is a joke or not… It’s a reality.
      Big Boss won’t talk a lot in this game.

      • Janeo

        I’m sure big boss will talk lots sure there will be moments where they just want us to see his facial expression but we heard him heaps in the mission briefing tapes in GZ and I’m sure there will be many more of these in TPP. Maybe he won’t talk as much as he use to in cutscenes but we will hear him quite a bit I’m guessing

      • César H. Sandoval

        Yeah, but there’s a saying, behind every joke is a little bit of truth… 😉

        Anyway, it’s kinda obvious that this guy costs a lot more than Hayter did, afordable or not.

    • Patrick Esdam

      I know better than to jump to any conclusions.. Lets just wait and see what the final product has to deliver. 🙂

  • PrinceHeir

    Meh i don’t like his philosophy. It’s obvious it goes against what Metal Gear is.

    “I was making missions crafted for the player’s enjoyment using what I had learned at Ubisoft, work and had experienced in other games that I like. I was designing with the player as my main preoccupation. All I did was for the player, the player was at the centre of the game. And I was getting it all wrong, this goes against the vision for MGS5.”

    He even admits his own philosophy goes wrong with the game. You don’t just bring what you learned from past projects, but rather used it and see if it actually works with your current project. Try to see what made the series in the first place instead of just putting whatever things you “think” will work out to the game. If it doesn’t work, then don’t put it on the game AT ALL.

    So now we have some conflicting ideas and design choices about the game, sound direction seems to be weak in this department.

    I get it, new blood are working on this, but it’s obvious that they still don’t understand or at least have a clear understanding on what made the games they are in the first place.

    And it’s funny how he mentions games like Deus Ex where if you go to a cover, the AI will initiate it’s sequence. For example if you cover near a guard he will automatically turn around giving you the option to take him down. Past MGS games isn’t all that different, all it had was preset moves. The guard will continue to do a circle movement or walk slowly if he past a section. That’s it, it’s behavior doesn’t change as long as you don’t disturb them.

    They need to make an AI that is rogue and more flexible AT ALL TIMES as well randomly generates each time you load a save(which they did say, but i don’t see any improvements tbh).

    MGS2 evasion mode perfectly showcase this. You have guards actually coordinating together, opening locker rooms, doing sweep patrols and such.

    Of course it would probably made the game much harder and will constantly put you on your toes.

    • Golgari

      It goes not against Metal Gear. MGSV is not linear anymore and it require’s something more then just “Missions crafted for the player”. MGSV is the experience where everything is super random. This is hard to do. You need technologies and experts in AI and don’t forget that you need to make a FUN game out of that.
      Jordan is a new designer so don’t read too much in to it but Metal Gear goes in the right direction.

      Cheers.

    • Anonymous X

      All you do is complain recently.

      • PrinceHeir

        All you do is stalk me everywhere. Funny how I always comment, there’s always a clueless person bitching about my comments.

        • psychomantis18

          From your impervious logic, I must be clueless too because I agree with Anonymous X

        • Janeo

          So anyone who disagrees with you is clueless. Look I get that people like to complain even about a game they love but you seem to complain and complain and complain and complain so I’m really not sure how you actually enjoy this or any other game if you have this many complaints

          • PrinceHeir

            Funny he didn’t say he disagree, but rather he complained about my comment.

            Seriously though? Is it really hard to actually give criticism and thoughts in the article instead of being the “yes man” all the time?

            I complain everytime, yet i also praise some of improvements and new additions of the game(like Kojima’s explanation of the series moniker, some new things we learned during the development of MGSV), What about when Kojima mentioned about miller’s personality and how it reflects both west and eastern ideals. I praised him for mixing both ideas.

            Funny i don’t remember anyone calling me out whenever i say something “good” about the series. But the moment you criticize it and provide some feedback, instantly there would be 2-3 people complaining about my “complaining”

            Heck, I can already predict there would be another 2-3 people that will complain to me once again in the next articles.

            If you disagree with me that’s perfectly fine. I’m not forcing anyone since this is MY opinion. Don’t like what i think? Then offer why you think so or if it’s too much work just Ignore me, downvote me, flag me if that’s what you like.

            Notice i don’t reply to anyone anymore aside from those who replies to me? I’ve already decided that no one here is willing to actually to question or at least offer some feedback on what they like or don’t like about the series. So why bother wasting my time writing this or anyone reading this?

            This will be the last time i explain something like this, I’m just gonna mind my own business and hopefully you do yours as well.

          • Janeo

            Well it’s that when your complaining more then your praising something you have to look at whether you are still a fan. Not many people criticize the game because they love it and they trust the developers to make the metal gear we want or at least I do anyway. I have replied to you many times asking why you are upset with certain things hoping to have a nice respectful conversation but you never reply back telling why you don’t like what your talking or you just aren’t interested what others think. Anyway I guess it is your business what you write here and you don’t want people annoying you about what you write but you just always seem to find something to complain about. You don’t like his philosophy because when he first started working on the game he used what he had learnt in the past, he is a young very talented developer I don’t get what you don’t like he just used what he knew then quickly learnt the way they do it around kojima productions so I don’t even know why your complaining. Ok you are allowed to complain all you want so don’t get upset when people complain about you

  • Zven

    are those first two screens new? I don’t remember seeing them before, nice. Thanks for posting this Nyxus.

  • César H. Sandoval

    You know, since he says it’s natural for MGS players to mess with the options to disable the markers, reflex mode and such to make this game closer to the older ones, maybe someone should sugest KojiPro to add some kind of “I’m already an veteran MGS player” option in the very beggining to put all those options in off when someone starts a game.

  • No Place For Hayter

    “If you want to go out there and shoot everybody, you’re going to feel
    badass. And you may feel like Snake but in fact you won’t be Snake. From
    our point of view, Snake is not that guy” Ouch, alienate the gun-ho players why don’t you.

    I’m still confused about the whole bringing Snake closer to the player thing.

    • glitchbomb

      I dunno, maybe by closer they mean they want you to feel/relate to him more?
      lol@gun ho
      Is that someone that carries your cache of firearms or you?

    • psychomantis18

      Agree. He comes across like a condescending douche. I’m all for a stealth Snake but I believe Kojima has a strong grasp of Snakes character presentation regardless of play-style. Not to mention ALL MGS’s feature a Snake that is predominately in STEALTH-SNAKE who occasionally gets caught out and goes in to ACTON-MODE.

  • well, the kiefer thing is indeed a joke, but the statement of BB talking less seems like a sad true

    • Jonny2x4

      I remember reading in one of the recent Kojima interviews (I think it was 4gamer’s), that he deliberately gave Snake less dialogue this time, so that he’ll be more like the silent hero he (or rather, his clone) was in the MSX MG1, since it’s supposed to be more immersive.

  • New screens!
    I love the way they talk about the passion of the designers, I cant wait to sneak my ass all over Afghanistan!

  • Ricardo Oe

    Put snate to speak…

  • Guest

    Great interview. A nice amount of detail behind MGSV’s direction.

  • Pingback: Kojima Productions addresses Metal Gear Solid V concerns and talks cutscenes: ‘They are still kick-ass.’ – Metal Gear Informer()

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