E3 2016 interviews: Kojima talks about Death Stranding, its themes and the studio’s goals

During a full day of media interviews at E3 2016, Hideo Kojima talked about his studio and his plans for its first title, Death Stranding.

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Speaking to IGN, Kojima said he wanted his new game to be something different just like the first Metal Gear was back in the day: “Metal Gear was an action game. But it was an action game where you happened to be hiding. There was no genre for that back then, and now it’s classified as a stealth game. In that regard, Death Stranding will also be an action game, but I want to make something new, something different.”

Kojima explained that one of the key things in the trailer is ‘the idea of life and death being connected to each other’. “In the teaser, you can see crabs, whales, dolphins, handcuffs, and a baby with an umbilical cord. Those are connections. Connection is the theme of the whole game.” he told Game Informer.

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His personal assistant Ayako Terashima elaborated on Twitter (translating from interviews held with Japanese outlets):

“The phenomenon that groups of Whales/Dolphins being beached is called mass stranding. It says LIVE STRANDING if they are beached alive whereas it calls DEATH STRANDING when they are dead. In this title’s case, it means SOMETHING has been stranded from SOME WORLD.”

“However, “strand” has other meaning, it’s “thread” in psychological terminology. The process of adapting one’s characteristics/sociality is represented as the process of twisting thinner thread becoming thicker rope. It can also mean chain or bonds. The title of this game has those 2 meanings, stranded and rope.”

Kojima talked about this ‘rope’ idea some more in the various interviews.

“There is this author that I’m a huge fan of named Kōbō Abe. One of his stories is called The Box Man. He wrote a short novel called Rope.” he told Game Informer. “In this story, he states that the first tool mankind invented was the stick. The stick was invented to keep away bad and unpleasant things as a weapon. And the next thing mankind invented was the rope.” Unlike the stick, the rope has the potential to tie things together instead of keeping them away. In this way, this tool is used to secure things that are important to you.

"The short story "NAWA: The Rope" is included in AN IRRELEVANT DEATH THE CLIFF OF TIME." - Hideo Kojima
“The short story “NAWA: The Rope” is included in AN IRRELEVANT DEATH THE CLIFF OF TIME.” – Hideo Kojima

“Games nowadays are based mainly on sticks.” Kojima said to Game Informer. “You communicate and interact based on sticks punching or shooting or being used as weapons. Through cooperative and multiplayer you connect with other players through sticks. Now, in this game, you will be able to use sticks, but I also want people to use ropes to connect somehow.”

He told Digital Spy: “I want the story and the world and the gameplay, as well as the characters in the game and the the player – the life and death elements – all to be tied together. That’s the strong theme that is in this stranding concept.”

The umbilical-like cords hanging from the titles reflect this theme as well.

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The song used for the trailer, I’ll Keep Coming, is also a reference to the waves, that keep coming and coming infinitely. Kojima added: “I’ll also keep coming myself, my games, and what I want to do. And I want you to enjoy this, along with the players.”

The studio still has to make a final decision on the game engine they’re going to use for this game. The teaser was made in one engine and represents the kind of visuals Kojima wants to achieve, while another one is used to test game mechanics. Once they’ve made the final decision, they will shift to full development. “As far as the imagery and the concept of what the world will look like, it’s already settled.”

When the studio was created in December of 2015, it consisted of only four people (Kojima, Terashima, Imaizumi, Shinkawa – probably) in a temporary office, each having just a desk with a computer. But things have been moving forward since then. Kojima has gone through a lot of applications from people in the last few months, and he’s hoping some more will apply now that they’ve put out this teaser. “Now we have our own facilities, a location and we finally have enough manpower enough to put out the teaser and do these experiments, these tests I want to do.”

Kojima also said that he isn’t planning to create a huge Western studio like they did for Kojima Productions in 2013, when it opened another branch in Los Angeles. “We want to put out something as handmade as possible. We’re not thinking about [product] lines so much; I’m thinking about our team. I’m not thinking about doing a huge Western studio.”

The Death Stranding teaser has left many people confused as it brings up more questions than answers, while being filled with hints and references for the users to find. This is something Kojima enjoys doing.

“I want to continue this back and forth for the users.” he told Polygon. “I enjoy putting out these teasers and bits of information here and there, even before the game is released, and have [fans] imagining things and enjoying this process. I believe that the game medium is something that allows this to happen. These gimmicks are intentional and I enjoy this.”

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Update: the official Kojima Productions Twitter account provided us with a ‘recap’ of the interviews:

In our teaser we featured both the “connecting strands” of handcuffs/umbilical cords and also stranding of whales. Of course, there are also other hints in there. The “dog tags” being one of these. Our game is still far from being released but the “game” has already begun. What are you able to spot?
In the short time after starting KojiPro, we’ve been able to find people, build an environment to work, looked into tech, started up a project and finish this teaser. After making games for 30 years, I’m not worried at all. And to back us up we’ve had both Mark (Cerny), Kyle (Cooper) and the people of Sony’s “strand”.
Of course, a “strand” also connects us to Norman Reedus. Thanks to this, we were able to finish this teaser in just 2.5 months. He was kind enough to help us out and be part of this strenuous process.
From the days of coin operated games have had a continue option of you were to fail at your mission. Failing would mean the death of your game character. In making a game, both in story and in game system you depict death. However, “death” is about to have a new meaning.
Still, the main parts of playing will not change. Comparing it to driving; driving a car you’re familiar with will have the same familiar feeling when accelerating or braking. It’s when driving this “familiar” car without stress for a while that you’ll first notice the difference. That’s the kind of game it needs to be.
Kōbō Abe, one of my favorite writers, wrote a novella called Rope which I read in high school. This book talks about the first inventions of the human race; the “stick” and the “rope”.
The stick helped man to keep distance from threats. The stick helped ape evolve into man. On the other hand, the rope helps us capture and bind important things to us. Most online games will have you fight with a “stick”, this might also be said about social networks.
Stick and Rope are two very important keywords. You will be using the “stick” in our new game but that is not all; how will you be able to use the rope to connect people worldwide? Will you be able to use both tools? The game will have you playing with tools and think about these points.
With technology advancing as far as it has; dividing games into genres like “Action” or “RPG” doesn’t sound too forward thinking but, DEATH STRANDING should be a new “genre”.

Source: Game Informer, IGN, Polygon, 2, Ayako Twitter, Digital Spy, Kojima Productions Twitter

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