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 Metal Gear Rising  walks tightrope between story sequences, over-the-top action

Metal Gear Rising walks tightrope between story sequences, over-the-top action Exclusive

June 7, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander

June 7, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Programming, Art, Design, Exclusive, E3

Metal Gear Rising is in an interesting position, in that it it's a proper story sequel to Kojima Productions' Metal Gear Solid 4, yet is a departure in many ways: It centers on cyborg ninja Raiden, and its gameplay and tech is in the custody of Platinum Games, known for its wild action games like Vanquish and Bayonetta.

"Metal Gear fans can look forward to the story that continues after MGS4, what happens to the world after Snake toppled the Patriots," says creative producer Yuji Korekado on the Kojima side.

"As far as characters are concerned, we look forward to seeing Raiden's growth - in past Metal Gears, Raiden was always secondary to Snake, and now we want to see how he controls as a character," he adds.

One thing it was important for the studios to enforce about Rising is that it is a continuation of the MGS storyline. "It wasn't our goal from the outset to say, 'let's make a spinoff of the MGS series'. It just came about naturally by looking at the series and saying Raiden is very cool, very flashy, and we thought it would be great if you could play out the scenes you've seen in past [games]," Korekado says.

MGS4's dramatic battle sequences, shown in cutscenes, of Raiden coming to Snake's rescue in acrobatic combat were the inspiration for this new direction for the series: The teams wanted to give players the opportunity to actually inhabit the character, rather than just thinking he looks cool.

There's a potential to take that approach for other favorite characters, too: "This time we're focused on Raiden, but in the future if there's another character that might be interesting to make a game about them," explains Korekado.

As for Platinum, its approach to action combat is popular among fans for feeling equal parts fluid and absurd: "I think it's very important the user not feel stressed, not feel any kind of frustration as they're playing the game," says Platinum executive director Atsushi Inaba, who joined Korekado to answer roundtable questions during E3.

"There has to be a very direct connection between what they're inputting and what they're seeing, and all the elements have to work together... animations must be smooth, satisfying and very immediate," he continues on the studio's approach.

"It's one of the hardest things to get right in action games," Inaba adds. "Even though it may seem simple on the surface, details are very important."

Although the studio has created a number of individual properties in succession, like Bayonetta and Vanquish, it's not a departure from its philosophy to take custody of another company's brand. "Platinum is very proud of being able to do original things and we'll continue to do original properties on our own," says Inaba. "As far as making a game based on another company's IP, though, we don't have any particular resistance to that."

"There are difficulties, and it's not our story or our character - but it's exciting," Inaba says of working with Kojima Productions.

According to the pair, Kojima Productions' side handles the story elements while Platinum handles the gameplay, but the Metal Gear Solid series in particular has a history of reinforcing the themes of its gameplay through its story - for example, the franchise tasks players with complex stealth gameplay alongside thematic messages about patience, resourcefulness and pacifism.

Although according to Korekado, Platinum "was free to change things as they saw fit," both teams feel preserving the relationship between story and gameplay is important.

"The director often comes to us with requests for story elements that he thinks would work, and on our end we help come up with an integrated experience that works hand in hand with the gameplay," Korekado explains.

The shift to an action game doesn't mean a diminishing interest in complex storytelling, the pair say - just a new approach. For example, MGS series' notoriously-long expository cutscenes might have been acceptable to fans in the context of stealth gameplay, which is often incredibly tense, and where occasional breaks for passive storytelling often felt like a palate -cleanser. Telling story through lengthy cutscnes is less likely to work in an action game that relies on timing and quick pacing, though.

"In comparison to past Metal Gears, the cutscenes are much shorter," Korekado says. "But we do want to make clear we're not sacrificing story, just telling a story in different ways. The cutscenes will be shorter so they don't break up the tempo of the game, and you'll still get the story as you play."

Rising appeals on the E3 show floor this year where the prevailing structure of action games tends to favor first-person and gunplay, not swordplay. Platinum's titles usually feel different, though. Inaba says the studio always aims to create something different, and specifically seeks opportunities to develop things that aren't currently present in the market.

"Even with our own titles we try to surpass what we've done before," Inaba explains. "Also, there's a competitive element - we play other action games and feel like, 'these guys did this, so we have to do better'... the end result ends up being something surprising and new."

For more reports from E3 2012, be sure to check out Gamasutra's live coverage.

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