Kojima interviewed by Oji Hiroi. Translated by SamIAm

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Kojima interviewed by Oji Hiroi. Translated by SamIAm

Post by Artemio »

This is a repost made with permission from the original author. The original post is located at: https://www.pcenginefx.com/forums/index ... ic=22061.0 and was made by SamIAm.

The interview is from 2003, the year Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner would be released, and one year before the reelase of Metal Gear Solid 3.

I only changed the interview source to the Internet Archive backup, it is otherwise a copy paste from this line on.

Oji Hiroi wrote the Tengai Makyo games, along with Gulliver Boy, then later went on to create Sakura Taisen.

This is from 2003, give or take a year. I translated about half of it. The English is a bit raw, but if you think it's interesting, let me know, and I'll take a crack at the other half later.

https://web.archive.org/web/20151106181 ... hiroi.html


Hiroi: Ah, the PC Engine. Those times were tough.

Kojima: They were? They were fun for me. (laughs) Let's hear about Tengai Makyo.

Hiroi: Sure. We decided this is what we would do, didn't we? (laughs)

Kojima: For me, Tengai Makyo was this really big presence. There was that first one on the PC Engine...I had just made Snatcher on PC88 at that time. I remember thinking "They got Ryuichi Sakamoto!! What the hell!?" I was just a director at the time, and I couldn't deal with money-matters. I tried to show people how much you were doing [so I could do the same], and they just thought I was an idiot. Then along came Tengai 2. That had amazing music.

Hiroi: Joe Hisaishi.

Kojima: You must have had a heck of a time, what with all the actors you used. They even broadcast that TV docu-drama "The Men Who Made Tengai Makyo".

Hiroi: I remember. Home console games on CD-ROM was a big topic at the time.

Kojima: The PC Engine CD system sold, what, a million units? And Tengai Makyo [2?] sold about 500,000?

Hiroi: No no, it wasn't that much. It was about 200,000.

Kojima: Oh, really? Well, I know it sold like crazy. Snatcher CD-ROMantic sold 100,000, and it was the #2 selling game.

Hiroi: Well, there were only a million units of hardware. 100,000 is great. That's a ten-percent share.
[Note: other sources say that by the end, there were almost two million CD-capable systems sold in Japan]

Kojima: That was the first time I ever received an award. I had never gotten a bonus before, and even though all I got was [$1000], I was really happy about it.

Hiroi: Yeah, when Tengai sold really well, Hudson gave me the red-carpet treatment. "Oh, Mr. Hiroi! Welcome!" I couldn't believe these were the same guys. I had been working freelance, and all I got per month was [$2000]. Then along came my contract royalties, and Hudson suddenly started granting my every wish. It was like the world changed. I felt like Cinderella. (laughs)

Kojima: Tengai had such long play-time, too. Mr. Iwasaki was programming it.
[Note: He also ported Ys.]

Hiroi: Ah, Iwasaki the Genius.

Kojima: He and I got along great. I got him to come on during the interview portion of the Policenauts trial version.

Hiroi: He was the one who kept the whole enterprise afloat. You'd ask someone else, and they'd say they couldn't do it, and then you'd ask him, and he'd say "Sure!" and get it done for you somehow. In those days, even with the CD-ROM, we had data-limit problems. We were trying to trying to do live data streaming, you see. We'd whip up some animations, but then realize that it wouldn't fit. Everything had to be broken down into 16 colors. So many things were difficult. We really wondered how the heck we were supposed to get it in those colors...that's what it was like back then.

Kojima: Well, Tengai did wind up with proper animation, didn't it? We were all so surprised. We felt like losers in comparison, too. It was sad. (laughs)

Hiroi: In those days, you developed the foundation along with the game. What I mean is, you developed the tools. You'd say what you want to do in front of a gathering of programmers and higher-ups, then talk about how to do it, and they'd say "We better make some tools."

Kojima: Tengai was the first game with talking characters, right?

Hiroi: Yes. For the most part, nobody had ever used a voice actor in a game before.

Kojima: That's right. And you got Ryuichi Sakamoto...I felt like you were on the cutting-edge of production. For me, it's you, Shigeru Miyamoto and Kenji Eno who loom largest. That's my big-three (laughs). People say this and that about Eno, but I like him as a person. Even setting aside the things he made, he really changed the gaming world. That's why he's in there for me.

Hiroi: It was a lot of fun, wasn't it? Mr. Eno and the rest of us, we all had so much energy. (laughs)

Kojima: You were involved in manga and toys, like Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru, right? You were able to launch from games into other spheres. I've always wanted to do that.

Hiroi: I did a lot of things, but I strongly feel that it was the gaming industry that saved me in the end. I used to wonder what in the world I was going to do with my life. That was when the gaming industry came in and said "We need weirdos just like you." I had never made a game before, but it was how I ate for three years. They gave me those royalties, too, saying I would get however much for however many sales. I came into this big chunk of money, and I started thinking, I'm actually worth this. I'm grateful to the game industry. Everyone was so young then. (laughs) Hudson was being led by a 28 year old, and they were all foolish. They'd throw this technology at us and tell us to do something cool with it. When I first came to Hudson, I asked them what 8-bit even meant. (laughs) They told me not to worry about learning all that junk, to leave it to them, and to focus on giving them a good story. They told me that they didn't want to rely on old manga, but rather make something new. Time isn't always kind to things that use cutting-edge technology. This is true for movies, too. But in those days, we felt like we were the cutting-edge. We thought we were interesting, and it gave us a lot of energy.

Kojima: It was fun, wasn't it? Everyone had these broken dreams...I know I had unfulfilled dreams about being in movies, or being in a band. Manga, too. Everyone was like that. We wanted to make names for ourselves. We were ready to show everyone what we could do. We had nothing to lose.

Hiroi: Yep. I really felt like, if this doesn't work, that's it for me. I had tried my hand at anime, too, but it just wasn't for me. It was the gaming industry that felt like where I was supposed to be. I liked text-adventures. We used to translate D&D from English together. If you brought up the Lord of the Rings, people knew what you were talking about. I was so happy about that. We used to get all excited about simulations and things together.

Kojima: I had wanted to be in movies. I got into games in the 8-bit era, when the Famicom was big. Games had text, and the pictures didn't move. When things moved into the CD-ROM era, we could use human voices and [CD audio]. With the 3DO, we could play movies and show more motion. It was great.

Hiroi: It goes to show why they picked you for "10 people paving the way to the future"!

Kojima: Getting chosen for that put a lot of pressure on me, you know.

Hiroi: But it's amazing! I wish that kind of thing would get more press in Japan. People still think of games as toys here.

Kojima: Being chosen really changed my life. (laughs) At first, it was just written-about on the internet, and nobody really cared, but then these weekly magazines picked up the story and I suddenly saw it in ads inside of trains. The media kept asking "Who is Hideo Kojima?" (laughs) A bunch of my old friends got in touch with me, too. "You've been up to something, haven't you!" they said. People talked to me differently at the company, too. (laughs) But anyway, the reason why I think you're such an impressive person is because you're the only one who managed to break out of the gaming industry. You've got manga and stage-plays going for you now. That kind of thing doesn't happen very often. The gaming industry pins you down. Not to mention, when you're successful here, a lot of others want nothing to do with you. (laughs)

Hiroi: Indeed. These last three years in gaming have been among the worst, from my perspective. I feel like things will get better, though.

Kojima: I went to E3 this year. People have been saying it a lot, but the improvements in technological strength they're making outside of Japan are astonishing. There was no denying it this year. It made me depressed. Three years from now, I might not be in Japan. Mr. Hiroi, would you like to come with me to America? (laughs)

Hiroi: Again? Why do you keep asking me that?

Kojima: Seriously, at E3 this year, Japan just didn't have any vigor. The difference was as if...it was as if they had the technology and the vision that could launch rockets into space. We can't launch anything. This kind of difference is huge. We're just good at making people feel like they've flown to space. That's all we've ever been doing. But those guys, they're actually starting to launch rockets. When you're in Japan, you really feel that difference. It's tough. I've been feeling it for the last two or three years, but this year's E3 was especially so.

Hiroi: Hmm. What I think is that we're ready to move into another generation. There will come a time when making games has nothing to do with nationality. The director will be the director, the producer will be the producer, and in every position, there will just be the best person for the job. In Japan, producers are in a very high position. It's like how people think of company presidents as "great", but that's not quite right. Being president is just his job. I think awareness of this has been slow to come to Japan. Eventually, the norm will be for things to be "denationalized", and you'll see Japanese, Americans, Chinese, and whoever else coming together from around the world. A lot of us will wonder if we'll be able to do anything then. It could be that Japanese people won't be very involved, or that we'll only provide some of the capital. I do think our engineers are superior to American engineers on a cost-basis. With Americans, you've got rich people who do amazing things, and then you've got ordinary people who only do ordinary things. Regular Americans aren't even interested in travelling abroad. Meanwhile, Japan is the only place where you see waitresses walking around with Louis Vuitton bags. In that way, I think that Japan has realized a society of perfect socialism. But can the next generation compete? I have my doubts.

Kojima: Japanese people are of a "service mindset". When you go abroad, and you walk into an eatery, it's just terrible. The whole notion of tipping is terrible, too. I think that our disposition, this "service mindset" of Japanese people, once really helped us when it came to game development. You could strain your eyes looking at all the detail we put into things. Older Japanese games had that. But these days, the hardware is just too advanced. It can do anything. I think the challenge of "what can we fit inside this box" is much more suited to Japanese people. This is the crossroads where I felt like we were standing when I was at E3 this year.

Hiroi: I know what you mean.

Kojima: I've got a lot of respect for Shigeru Miyamoto, and I've believed [as he said?] that "game design is about making rules". I've found it interesting to make those rules, asking myself how to get a good idea into a system and get people to play and enjoy it. However, when the hardware got so good that we could start doing anything, the paradigm shifted from "making rules" to "simulation". GTA is a simulation of being a hoodlum. You can kill anyone, you can ride any car; that's the trend things are quickly turning toward, and it's generating big sales. Although to me, there's something different about it. Anyway, at this year's E3 in particular, those were the games that were strongest, and by far. The trends being what they are, those games are the most interesting. All I can do is to use my own sense of game design, and I really worry about what I should do going forward.

Hiroi: But doesn't this all depend on what you're focusing on? As a director, what should your perspective be? I think this is important, and that nothing else really matters. As creators, if we have faith in what we're focused on, then there is really no problem. Simply put, that's the challenge of making something.

Kojima: But in these ten, twenty years, Japanese companies have had a degree of success as corporations. I don't know if that's the cause, but there has been a "salarymanification" of creators. This was one of the most painful things about E3 for me personally. I've been working as a creator, but then also as a manager - as a vice-president. The reason why I do that is because I don't want the younger folks entering the industry to go through the same dilemmas that we did. I want to make an environment where I'll be able to guarantee a minimum degree of livelihood, and where talented people will be able to rise.

Hiroi: The game industry has grown very healthily compared to other industries. I think the worries you have are what comes when you reach the top. That you're thinking the way you are is proof of how healthy things are. It's probably a lot rougher in the anime world.

Kojima: It's because people there just want to make something. Sure, it's important not work yourself into the ground, but I remember that people just wanted to see their names in the credits. That made them happy enough to draw. In the game industry, you've got lots of young people who want to drive a nice car, who want a nice salary. They didn't get into the industry to make something, they got in so they could buy stuff. I had to edit this year's E3 footage myself (laughs). My family is sick of me. I squandered all of Golden Week on this.
[Note: Golden Week is a period in the beginning of May that most people have off work in Japan.]

Hiroi: It's hard to be a creator.

Kojima: By the way, who is going to make the next Tengai Makyo?

Hiroi: Hudson is. When the PC-FX was around, we said "Let's do it!" but then the FX didn't sell. They refused to invest the money in development, and after that, Tengai went into the freezer. Last year, when I was being set up to do it again, I told them I didn't want to do it. The big reason was that I wasn't keen on forcibly thawing this thing. I told them there was no way it would go well. Sure enough, I had a look, and it was a mess. (laughs) I've naturally been adjusting things. The scenario had been mostly finished before, so I've been trying to use as much of that as possible. I had written the script and created a couple of the characters, but it was an almost ten-year-old script. Thing have changed a lot in that time. Tengai always sold itself on being a little sordid. Now it's getting tangled in the present-day code of ethics. It's very worrying.

Kojima: Yeah, I'm big on killing people in my games. I'm of the Dario Argento generation. (laughs)

Hiroi: That makes sense. But there's one more thing: the next one is set in Kyushu, and it's going to touch on Korean culture, too. But today, there's all this nationalism on the rise, and I'm afraid there may be some difficulty there. Anyway, what I've wanted to do hasn't changed. Japan is the last stop on the silk road, so it's got these various cultures mixed into it. I'm going to dig up some interesting episodes there and make a patchwork. The process of falsifying history is good fun (laughs). That's the interesting part of Tengai that connects to Sakura Taisen. We show these different pieces and how they are connected historically, keeping things entertaining as we go. We turn everything into nonsense, and we also give it some sort of modern relevance. Oh, and there is a museum-system we've been dying to use, and we're going to do it properly this time.

Kojima: What is that?

Hiroi: It's something we wanted to do back on the PC Engine, but as a system it was too difficult, and we just couldn't. There's a guy who makes money off of you - as you become a hero, he sells goods modeled after you. He approaches you and asks if you'll let him, and if you say yes, you get royalties from him. Clink clink, the money rolls in. And then [redacted] happens.

Kojima: And this is in Tengai Makyo III?

Hiroi: Yes.

Kojima: By the way, when does III go on sale?

Hiroi: Hmmm...

Kojima: Oh man, I really don't want us to overlap! (laughs) I really enjoy spending two or three years on a production. Policenauts and Snatcher were like that. These days, I get on people's cases about things, then when they finish it, I say "What the hell is this?"

Hiroi: I'm an expert at prolonging things (laughs). I apologize right to the customers, too: "Sorry, guys!" (laughs). Back when Tengai was on PC Engine and the launch date got pushed back, we made an advertisement to apologize. We'd say we got snowed in (laughs). Back then, there weren't any cases of creators getting pilloried over delays.
[Note: Hudson was based on the northernmost main island of Japan, where winters are quite harsh.]

Kojima: There was a period there when it looked like that was going to be the norm in the games industry. They'd tell you how in for it you'd be if the launch date got put off.

Hiroi: There was one time that I really wanted to apologize to everyone. It was near the end of the PC Engine's run. I honestly wasn't feeling very needed. I thought, maybe I ought to head back into anime. It was then that I got an invite from [Sega executive] Shoichiro Irimajiri. I was still essentially freelance, but Hudson had employed me for so long. I was afraid things were going to get complicated, and I told him so. Mr. Irimajiri told me "I'll take care of everything." and he dealt with Hudson for me. For manga authors, it is really hard to leave the publishing house where you came up and go to another one, and this proved true for the gaming industry as well. Mr. Irimajiri picked me up, and I went on to make Sakura Taisen.

Kojima: Mr. Hiroi, will you be my father?

Hiroi: Wh-What? Why this all of a sudden?

Kojima: My own father died during my second year of junior high school. He was a pharmacist, and to me, he was really selfish. He used to make me watch movies I didn't want to watch, and he wouldn't let me sleep until they were over. But it's because he was like that that I became the person I am. Growing up without a father gave me a complex, though. This is why I kill fathers in my games. My stuff could basically be described as parent-killing games.

Hiroi: We're alike, you know. These things lurk inside of us. My father worked in black-markets and red-light districts, and he wanted me to land more respectable work. When I told him I wanted to be in movies, he kicked me out. I never went back once before he died. Of course, I went home when I got a call saying he died, but I regretted that I hadn't been a better son to him. When Tengai came out, I visited his grave, and I cried. I wish I could have shown the game to him.

Kojima: If my father had lived, I think he would have smacked me upside the head for getting into games. But maybe if I met him now, he'd be proud of me, or so I like to think sometimes. My mother tells me he'd have been proud, but I'm skeptical. I think he'd say "And you're happy with this 'Metal Gear'?" (laughs) So, Mr. Hiroi, that's why I want you to be my father.

Hiroi: Well...(laughs)...No (laughs). Besides, I'm more like your big brother, right?

Kojima: OK, then come be producer on my games!

Hiroi: I might have to take you up on that. Boy, today is a good day. People offer me work all the time, but it makes me really happy that the great Hideo Kojima wants me to come make him lunch every day (laughs).

Kojima: I'm turning 40 this year, and my father died at 45. Dying early seems to run in my family, too: the others all died even younger. This makes me hurry. I wonder how many more games am I going to be able to make, and it makes me nuts. I'm producing Boktai because I want to make something that's overflowing with this feeling of a live event. Remember in Kamen Rider when Takeshi Hongo got in that big motorcycle accident and it led to Kamen Rider 2's appearance? I want to make a game that feels like that did, that has a kind of "wild show" feeling.
[Note: Kamen Rider is an old kids-show in Japan, vaguely similar to Power Rangers. Takeshi Hongo was the main character, Kamen Rider 1.]

Hiroi: I'm looking forward to it!

Kojima: Hey, make sure you bring me on your radio program someday. Whenever I'm on the radio, I get faxes from my staff saying that I said too much. I'm actually banned from doing anything live (laughs). I've been in Tokyo for seven years...sometimes I think about making a secret association of game creators. You should help me!

Hiroi: Sounds like fun. We'll meet up at Maruten!
[Note: Maruten is a cheap noodle chain restaurant.]
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Re: Kojima interviewed by Oji Hiroi. Translated by SamIAm

Post by nickdaring »

Great interview!
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