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Feb 23

Feb 23

The Hideo Kojima Death Stranding interview: Strands, Decima and Guerrilla Games

Adam Renardson's Avatar Posted by Content Services Manager, PlayStation Australia

It’s been particularly hard to avoid being swept-up in the wave of Death Stranding, ever since Hideo Kojima appeared on stage at last year’s Sony E3 conference and triumphantly declared to the cheering crowd – “I’m back”.

And with a bang, it seemed. The reveal trailer for Death Stranding was one of the most talked-about segments from a busy E3 show, and the follow-up teaser at TGA has resulted in even more questions and rumours circulating around Kojima Productions’ first independent project.

Kojima-san was in Australia for RTX Sydney and we were privileged to have the opportunity to sit down with him during his busy schedule to find out more about the ‘Strands’ gameplay, the reason behind using the Decima Engine, and how development was going on the project.

Hideo Kojima

Has the idea for Death Stranding always been there, or is it something that has blossomed very quickly and developed based on the new collaboration with Sony Interactive Entertainment?

This is a question I get asked a lot. When we started our new studio, I came up with several ideas, but we chose to do Death Stranding because it answered the questions – “What game do I need to make now? What type of game does the market want now? What kind of game can we make? We really wanted to make something that was different. That was out-of-the-box, and Death Stranding was the answer to this.

Sometimes people have an idea from when they were a child, and they’ll turn that into a game when they’re an adult, but I don’t think that’s the way to approach the subject because every day our lives change. Society changes every day, and we need to make something that is topical and something that is in-line with the world that we live in now.

What type of game will Death Stranding be?

You can think of Death Stranding as an action game. Many people play games in the shooting genre and I want to make a game that is very intuitive for them so they can get into the experience very easily, but when they play it for a bit they will realise there is a certain new type of depth to it, something that they might not have seen before.

Can you tell us more about the gameplay?

I can’t really speak on that right now but in a word, it’s an action game – an open world game, with a lot of freedom. You have a lot of freedom of choice to do what you want to do and you can get in vehicles and so on. If you are a fighter, there’s plenty of opportunity for that. If you’re not that type of player, there are other ways to play this game. I can’t really say much more, but it’s an open-world, action game that’s very intuitive to play. Once you get into the world and start to explore more, we’re hoping there’s something there you’ve never seen before.

Death Stranding

We have heard about the ‘Strands’ concept that is being introduced for this game, what does this mean, exactly?

Concerning the ‘Strands’, this is my 31st year in the games industry and I’ve been deep in action games across that time. In action games, generally, the player has a gun and plays against enemies in a single player environment – or they take it online and play against other players in a competitive environment. They join in together with guns – [laughs] it’s almost always with guns – to take down a stronger opponent. In this game you can do that but I wanted to go a little deeper beyond that with something that doesn’t focus on a weapon like a gun and that’s what has a connection to the strand concept.

It has also been said that Death Stranding will feature a new type of online play, differing from the traditional. Can you tell us more about this type of gameplay?

Again, this is something that we can’t say a lot about at the moment but if you want to play the game stand-alone, without an online component, that’s perfectly fine. We do have an online component and, again, it’s different as there will be something different versus what most people expect from an online game. A lot of games have a ‘campaign mode’ and once you’re done with that you take it to the online mode. This game is not that kind of structure.

During your studio tour with Mark Cerny, did you have a vision of what you were looking for in a game engine already?

We visited 15 studios around the world with Mark Cerny, and after this we spent another 6 months visiting other studios of people that I know. In total we visited 30 studios looking for the engine. I had a vision for the type of engine that we needed because I knew the type of game that I wanted to create.

So, first, I knew that I wanted to create an open world game, so the engine had to support an open world game structure. As far as the visuals were concerned, I was looking for very photo-realistic presentation, so the engine had to be able to support those types of visuals.

Also, the tool-set had to be easy to use. With some engines, the tools are behind a ‘black-box’ and for our purposes we needed to be able to optimize and edit the tools. These were the conditions we had when looking for the engine. As you know there are some commercially available engines and these are the ones with the ‘black-box’ type structure.


“They handed over what was basically the crystallisation of their efforts over many years.”

And what specifically led to the adoption of Guerrilla Games’ Engine?

I visited many studios all around the world, meeting many great people. Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam: their technology was just a league ahead of everywhere else. Even though they have an open world they are able to render very rich scenes with many objects. As you know their upcoming game Horizon Zero Dawn, which is coming out in February, has an artistic sensibility, particularly with regards to the use of color, whereas we’re looking for a very photo-realistic sensibility.

Their engine is built for their purposes, for the game that they wanted to create, and as I said we wanted to create a game that even at the very base levels looks very different from that, so we needed to test it to see how far we could tune their engine to fit our purposes.

Usually when you go to use, buy or borrow an engine, someone will say, “Lend us your name,” or of course ask for payment. We had no contract with Guerrilla Games, but when we met them they suddenly gave us a box, a very pretty box. When we opened the box, there was a USB dongle inside that had the source code for the engine.

Hideo Kojima

Keep in mind we had no contract or anything at this stage, yet still they handed over what was basically the crystallisation of their efforts over many years. They simply said, “Mr. Kojima please use this engine,” and we thought these people are incredible.

There was one condition though, that Kojima Productions doesn’t just use the engine, but that we develop the engine together with Guerrilla Games, that it should be a collaborative effort. So we were really blown away by their stance on this and being so open with the engine and we thought “Wow, these are the people we have to work with.”

How has this collaboration with Guerrilla Games grown since first adopting the engine?

We were looking for a realistic presentation (for TGA), so we had to make changes to the tools and other adjustments to the engine. Over the course of 6 months we passed the code back and forth between Guerrilla Games and Kojima Productions, working off the same code base. At this point our code had completely merged together.

It was different from the engine they originally gave us, so we decided we should give this new engine a name. That’s when we came up with the ‘Decima’ name (derived from Dejima – an artificial island in Japan where The Netherlands and Japan would trade during the Edo period). I really feel that with both of us working on this engine we are accomplishing the work at twice the speed and building something really fantastic.

Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen are working on this project, so can we expect more Hollywood stars to be revealed on the project in the future?

Unfortunately, we can’t really say anything with regards to Death Stranding at the moment, but I feel like this type of method (working with Hollywood stars and actors) in games is going to become the norm in the future. Creating movies and creating games like this, the process is very similar.

Death Stranding

Was the part of the protagonist written with Reedus in mind?

When I went independent and I was thinking about my first game in my head, I did see Norman playing this character. The visuals of this character were based on using Norman Reedus as the precedent.

Finally, can you tell us how development is going so far?

As you know, we have a new office in Tokyo and we’re still hiring additional staff to work with us. We’re still running tests on the game, but we have made it to the stage where we have the framework worked out. This year is all about hardcore production and development, so please look forward to the fruits of our labor further down the road.

We certainly will, Kojima-san.

Add Your Own

leomessi047 said:

February 23rd, 5:27 am

I can’t wait to see more from death stranding

    septic--girl said:

    March 1st, 4:42 pm

    woohoo my fav walking dead actor in a game

omegazio said:

February 23rd, 5:35 am

This Game is gonna be amazing and the Decima Engine is a combination of Western Developer Guerrilla Games and Eastern Developer Kojima Productions where both are sharing each other Knowledge of Game Development & Engine Technologies know how and philosophies that’s epic.

    ShadoSpawn said:

    February 23rd, 11:25 am

    @ omegazio,

    Truly epic! I agree.

    BigDaddyof2 said:

    February 23rd, 11:21 pm

    How is a gurillia games a western based company? Last time I checked they were on the same side of the planet as Japan. Now I am assuming you are not from a place on earth close to Japan and east of Germany.

    XxKyubi_kunxX said:

    February 24th, 1:51 am

    @BigDaddyof2

    You uh

    realize that when people say “Western” they’re typically talking about the Western Hemisphere, right?

    That kinda includes places like the Americas AND Europe.

    Which

    you know

    The Netherlands is?

    Which is where Guerrilla Games is based?

    And thus makes them a western based company?

    CardboardJase said:

    February 25th, 5:29 am

    @XxKyubi_kunxX

    Netherlands is not in the Western Hemisphere.

    @Bigdaddyof2

    Usually a country is considered as part of the Western-World if its people and cultures originate from Europe, amongst other things. The geographical location is of little relevance. Australia and New Zealand are considered as part of the Western-World, for example.

    So geographically, yeah – they’re not a Western developer. Except, they are a developer which exists in the Western-World. So, they are a Western developer.

    Disemboweler said:

    March 2nd, 11:17 am

    @BigDaddyof2 – I feel bad for your 2 children if you haven’t yet grasped what “Western” means in the cultural sense, which is by far the most commonly used term for describing culture in the most general sense.

Vizigoth04 said:

February 23rd, 5:48 am

Take your time fellas. I could see this being a late 2018 early 2019 release but it’ll come at the right time.

IwillKILLurGOD said:

February 23rd, 6:12 am

Good interview. Kojima is one of those devs who, no matter how long the wait or type of game, I fully expect it to deliver in one way or another. Im sure Death Stranding will be no different, and from what little we know about it, I do not want to wait.

BrianDanger91 said:

February 23rd, 6:21 am

Can you tell us more about the gameplay?

“I can’t really speak on that right now but in a word, it’s an action game – an open world game, with a lot of freedom.”

What’s the point of interviewing Kojima? We all know he’s going to be very vague until release day. And screw open work games…

    Disemboweler said:

    March 2nd, 10:52 am

    @BrianDanger91 – Well, I guess you’ll be stuck playing indies and telltale games from now on! Because, everyone is going open world at this point for action/FPS/RPG/Racing/Etc games – and if they don’t, they often don’t sell well (see CoD lately or Titanfall 2 – great linear campaign but would have been better if it was way longer and had an open world aspect with similar story and missions)!

    You’re missing out – MGS4 & 5, Souls series & Bloodborne, Far Cry 3/4 (and even Primal was fun, but seemed more like a big expansion for FC 3 or 4), the new Zelda… all “open-world”. And why couldn’t you create a game that was as good or better in storytelling, gameplay, etc with an open world? All you do when you won’t make or play an open world game is restrict yourself, really.

    Maybe you really do just enjoy JRPGs and “pixel art” Indie games or whatever, but refusing to play open-world games because you don’t like options is restricting yourself unnecessarily…

Thwip said:

February 23rd, 9:18 am

Please take care to temper expectations. Based on pedigree, I have every faith in Mr. Kojima, and expect nothing less than an amazing game. However, I would hate for overreaching suggestions to be made (“…never seen before”, …something different”, etc.), and we run into a similarly overhyped anticipation; like No Man’s Sky.

EverythingOnFire said:

February 23rd, 9:50 am

Very cool that Guerrilla Games just handed the engine over. A real sign of trust and respect. Obviously there’s more to it than that. Like, both Guerrilla and Kojima are both really benefiting from all this (business is ALWAYS business), but it was still nice to read.

Can’t wait for Death Stranding, and I can’t believe Horizon: Zero Dawn will be in our PS4’s in less than a week!

boxmyth said:

February 23rd, 10:06 am

Great interview. I’m even more excited for the end product now.

BathoryBlaze said:

February 23rd, 10:37 am

Kojima and Guerilla is a match made in heaven for me. I can’t wait.

ShadoSpawn said:

February 23rd, 11:29 am

You can’t help but admire a studio that goes out of their way to assist a legendary developer in this manner. Such a blessing! It makes me even more excited to sink my teeth into Horizon Zero Dawn on the 28th. I wish Guerrilla and Kojima Production all the best success.

saiyanknight87 said:

February 23rd, 12:27 pm

hyyyyped to the 10th power

KeyboardKi11ah said:

February 23rd, 3:08 pm

Wow, seeing this man in action in his own makes me wish he left Konami decades ago. The perfect time would have been after he finished MGS3 when he started the Konami owned Kojima Productions who’s 1st work was the original MGO and MGS3: Subsistence. Imagine all the original IPS we would have had by now, they also would have got to keep The Fox Engine and Kojima Productions LA because they wouldn’t have been owned by Konami.

    ERGOPROXY-DECAY said:

    February 23rd, 11:30 pm

    MGS was his baby, you cant’t just leave your baby behind! Konami just went too far and there was no choice. I to wish he had left Konami long time ago and started his own. Hopefully we will see a bit more amazing games out of this man. He is going to be 54 this Aug!

PSYCHOv1 said:

February 24th, 11:36 am

Great interview! I am sooo very much looking forward to this game. I have strong faith in Kojima’s direction that I will love this game. Can’t wait!

GameBaronInc said:

February 24th, 7:53 pm

I’m very interested in the technology and am exited to hear more about the Decima Engine.

Oyomar18 said:

February 24th, 10:58 pm

This collaboration is going to bring something amazing! OMG!

KarmaTwelve said:

February 28th, 1:07 am

I can’t wait for this game to come out. So excited!

Disemboweler said:

March 2nd, 1:34 pm

I think this game has great potential. I’m also hopeful that Kojima is basically making his own company, team, engine-choice, etc that he’ll be able to do things far better than ever.

I also highly doubt that Konami was “keeping him restrained” from making whacky choices on when a game was finished or not, too much perfectionism, etc – like some people seem to think. He’ll be much freer to make a great game, and the culture at Konami was never one of sanity or good decision-making in general, so I think he’ll thrive better than ever without them holding him back.

Even if this first game is lackluster for some reason (assuming it’d be due to unexpected variables that he has to deal with now “on his own” that he wouldn’t have to worry about before because they would’ve been handled by Konami), I’d bet my bitcoins that, at the very least, his NEXT game after that will be his best ever.

What I mean is, keep your hopes and dreams restrained a bit, and certainly give him a chance to learn how to operate on his own, even if this game doesn’t end up being as cool as it seems to be!

Reverseshift said:

March 3rd, 5:32 pm

The story for this game WILL be stupid.

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