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The Decisions: A look at Metal Gear Solid 2’s Design

To analyze a game’s design is to embark on a journey alongside the developer, one that shows what decisions were made as they decided to create their game. As I analyze a game’s design, I take a look at 1.) their philosophy and concepts 2.)mechanics and systems 3.)narrative, and 4.) aesthetics. In this four-part journey to explore the world of game design, I’ll try my best to avoid talking about if the game is “fun” or not, because “fun” is subjective in regards to talking about how a game’s design came to be.  In this introductory piece, we’ll be discussing the “Philosophy and Concept” regarding Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’s design, what a sequel to “Metal Gear Solid” could bring to the table and the decisions that were made as the game under-went development.

I chose to play and analyze Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The version of MGS2 that I will be playing was re-released as apart of a HD compilation titled“Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection”, this was a compilation of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. I’ve ultimately decided to play MGS2 due to its initial release date: November 12th, 2001. This was a turning of age in terms of gaming as a medium, due to the launch of the Playstation 2. MGS2 served as a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid, building upon MGS’ foundation as a stealth game; allowing veterans to the series and new players alike to get on board and enjoy a mutual experience.
(Cover art from MGS2 and MGS, respectively.) 

 

 

Due to being a sequel to MGS, director Hideo Kojima was placed into a position in which he needed to find a way to form the bridge between the veteran players and potential players of the game. To do this, Kojima split the game into two segments: The Tanker and The Big Shell Incident.  The Tanker was played through the perspective of “Solid Snake”, the hero of Metal Gear Solid, and a fan loved character. However, The Big Shell Incident was played through the perspective of “Raiden”, a newly introduced character to the franchise that was meant to be relatable to new-comers. To refrain from talking about plot too much, I felt as though this was needed to be stated in the paper because it directly ties in with the intended audiences of the game.

According to the Game Design Document that was proposed and edited by Hideo Kojima, the audience was intended to be “middle school students, independent adults, and mostly males(MGS’ core player base)”(02/08/2010) Retrieved from “Document of Metal Gear Solid 2”. In the “Document of Metal Gear Solid 2”, Hideo Kojima released the entire script of the game, and revealed multiple aspects of the design process that was required for MGS2 to be made into a full-fledged game.  With an intended audience being determined by the director, this allowed the development team to focus on what they wanted to do in regards to the characters and the plot. Raiden, the male protagonist lead, was allegedly allowed to appear feminine in an attempt to “increase the number of female players”(Grand Game Plan, Document of Metal Gear Solid 2.)

 

(The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2, released September 2nd, 2002.)

 

Stepping away from the audience, I’ll begin to discuss the premise of the game and what I believe the developers were hoping to accomplish with the develop of MGS2.  The premise of MGS2 was to serve as a direct sequel to MGS, allowing the continuation of the story along with the gameplay that would become iconic for the “Metal Gear” I.P.  Ever since Metal Gear’s inception, it was all about being tactical and using stealth to prevent a bad situation from occurring. Using the advancement in technology between the leap between the Playstation and the PS2, Kojima Productions began to develop MGS2 with the intention of showcasing the power of the PS2. From the guard’s A.I, to how the player moves and feels, they intended to improve the foundation that was set with MGS. An example of this would be the guard’s A.I, as I started MGS2, I found that I’ve accidentally caused too much noise underneath the staircase in which a guard was posted; I thought I was fine, but it turned out that the guard was programmed to find the quickest way down the stairs to find that noise.  This showed me that I was truly in for an experience for a stealth game, as the developers made it clear that the simplest thing you do can be the cause of your detection.  Using this example, I’d like to believe that Kojima Productions created MGS2 with the intention of furthering the MGS storyline and creating an enjoyable and tense stealth-action video game.

Secondary protagonist in MGS2, and returning character, Solid Snake avoiding detection.

In every video game, I seek to find an experience with that game. With MGS2, I got to feel as though I was truly Raiden in this scenario. Losing control of Solid Snake, and playing as someone who has never been on a legitimate mission before, was an interesting design. Solid Snake shows up multiple times in the story from what I’ve played, and seeing him as a NPC makes me feel nostalgic. I believe that this is due to how his character is written, but this is for the story piece. In regards to how it feels to play MGS2, it feels like I’m a chess piece who was thrown onto a board that has existed for a decade. The constant threat of being detected, getting detected and evading, it was a thrill to play and experience it as a player. I’ve found that as I played MGS2, I would have an emotional response to the scenes that would play in terms of sorrow, and a response to the game-play; the thrill. With AI that was as good as the AI I’ve encountered so far, I couldn’t tell if I was genuinely dumb or was just getting outplayed. This experience is one for the records, as I don’t recall the last time I played a game that I genuinely wanted to keep going through like this. There is definitely a blend between exposition scenes and game-play that makes it a unique experience to play-through and be a part of.

I’ve ultimately decided that I would play and analyze MGS2 simply because of when it was released and the motto that the developers had behind the significance of “Solid” in the title. The word “Solid” refers to how the game series went from a 2D isometric experience in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake to 3D in Metal Gear Solid, which was demonstrating what they could’ve done with the I.P when the technology was advanced and easier to use. This caught my curiosity in regards to what they could’ve done to create a better experience for the player; as I walked around in the game’s world, my character slipped on bird poop and it almost caused me to get detected. The minor details that are in the game makes the experience unique, as I wonder what else can I find in the game.  I often found myself detouring from the game’s main scenario because you can hang from a bar and do pull-ups to increase your oxygen. These little details and hearing of all of the potential technology that you can find in the game, makes me want to see what else a game from the year 2001 has to offered.

To play a game is one thing, but to actively uncover what occurred during it’s development and see what decisions were made is another. Ultimately, I believe that MGS2 will be an analysis heavy game, as there is a lot of substance to talk about in regards to what the game had to offer upon it’s initial release back in 2001.

 

Bryant Henly
Pursuing an undergraduate degree, lover of JRPGs and all games alike.

2 comments

  1. Barry Cantes says:

    Definitely not

  2. Charles Kaiser says:

    This guy definitely seems to know what he’s talking about. Well written article, +1.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Decisions: A look at Metal Gear Solid 2’s Design"
  1. […] analyzing the design behind Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty, you can read part one and two here:The Decisions Part 1 and The Decisions Part […]

  2. […] the design behind Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty, you can read the first three parts here:The Decisions Part 1: Philosophy, The Decisions Part 2: Systems and Mechanics, The Decisions Part 3: […]

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