VG24/7 conducted an interview with Yoji Shinkawa, concept artist at Kojima Productions. He talked about his history at the company, his method for creating characters, and working together with Hideo Kojima.
Shinkawa had been interested in art and painting since an early age. Initially he wanted to become a painter or draw manga.
“However, to become a Manga artist, the skill needed for that is quite different from the skills needed to paint, so I had to kind of give up on that. But I always liked games, and back then when I was young all the game characters were simple, like Manga characters. So I sought to create bigger, realer, more hard-boiled characters and environments for the games industry, and that’s when I decided to apply to work at Konami.”
As part of the entrance test Shinkawa submitted his portfolio and was interviewed by Kojima.
“Once I entered the company and after my training period, I had another interview where I was asked what department I wanted to work for.”
“The first interview was for an arcade shooting game that used modeled monsters. I was good at making models so I thought I might be interested.”
“But the second interview was with Mr. Kojima again, and he told me he was thinking about starting Metal Gear, and I said I was very interested in it. So that was the beginning of how we started working together. But if that didn’t happen I might have been making something very different right now.”
About his creations:
“What I do isn’t exactly like creating artwork. I think my main job is to create game characters, so what I think is most important is how characters move and react in front of the users. I draw a lot of sketches and I normally select the best ones, or sometimes it happens that I just draw what I like in the first instance. Normally I create characters gradually.”
“There are two patterns. One is that I assume and think about a character’s functionality from the beginning and incorporate that into the design, or sometimes I give feedback to the game designers, and we think about what functions are missing, then I incorporate that into the design.”
“When Raiden was first introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2, Japan loved the new character, because he matches the stereotype of the Manga hero. But outside of Japan it was understood that he wasn’t well-received and perhaps had a weak image. I decided for Metal Gear Solid 4 to create Raiden as a more dark heroic character.”
“In the first Metal Gear Solid there was a character called Cyborg Ninja, and he is one of my favorite characters. So I was already thinking about using some of the elements of that character in the new version of Raiden.”
“As technology advances, the reality we can show is getting more precise. When illustrating the question I always ask in my mind is ‘What is reality?’ That is the foundation of any piece of art I create.”
About Kojima’s perfectionism:
“He looks at every single wrinkle of each character. He looks into details, but the first phase starts with my sketch, then modeling, then it considers a character’s actions before becoming a final piece.”
About creating the original Metal Gear Solid:
“I don’t think we expected anything, because back then there weren’t many stealth action games using guns, so we were just making what we believed was good. We thought, ‘OK if there’s just one person who understands what we’re passionate about then that’s fine’, so we never thought the series would come this far.”
“Being in Japan it’s hard to feel when we’re being received well by so many people. But when I come abroad to a launch party I just meet so many passionate fans, and they love shaking hands with me. When I see that It makes me very happy. I’m really glad.”