Geoff Keighley takes you behind the scenes in this exclusive feature about the last days of the development of 2001's biggest game.
Editor's note: This story was originally posted on November 22, 2001.
Nothing Is Impossible
Growing up in Kobe, Japan, Hideo Kojima, 38 (Editor's note: When story was originally published, now 48) in 2012, was just like any young boy looking for fun in an era when video games didn't yet exist. "When I was a young boy, I enjoyed games like cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, kick the can, and hide-and-go-seek," Kojima says as he sits in his 6th-floor office at Konami Computer Entertainment Japan in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. "When I would play hide-and-go-seek, I remember flattening myself against the wall and looking around the corner to see if anyone was there," he admits with a laugh, followed by a light cough.
The mix of Kojima's laughter and coughing is a telling juxtaposition that represents both the joy and hardship he has been through these past three years--a thousand days of work that will hopefully culminate tonight, September 28, 2001, with the production of a final version of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the most anticipated PlayStation 2 game of the year and the follow-up to his much-revered 1998 PlayStation game, Metal Gear Solid.
Kojima admits that at its core Metal Gear Solid is really the childhood game of hide-and-seek brought to life on a TV screen. "When Snake flattens himself against the wall to avoid enemies, I always think back to the days when I was a boy playing with my friends," he says as his eyes glance down at a bug sheet listing the remaining problems with the game.
While looking at the list, Kojima begins to slowly shake his head and sigh. His body language says what he doesn't speak aloud: Unfortunately, building a game the size and scope of Metal Gear Solid 2 is a lot tougher than calling up some friends to arrange a game of hide-and-seek. "You see this callus on my finger?" Kojima asks. "Well, that's from me using so many highlighters to go through all the bugs. I use up at least two highlighter pens a day."
Today, if there's any type of hide-and-seek going on, it's among the programmers who are furiously trying to hunt down the final bugs in the game. In the main development area, a war-room-like space no larger than a high school gymnasium, 70 programmers, designers, musicians, and artists are part of the blandly named "Production Department #1" responsible for Metal Gear Solid 2. In one corner of the room Scott Dolph, international affairs manager, walks by and pulls out his cell phone--it has the Metal Gear Solid 2 theme programmed as a ring tone. The phone begins to play the theme; you get the sense everyone has heard it just a few times before.
At the other side of the room a programmer looks perplexed, his head in his hands as he tries to solve a problem in the game's code. A minute later, his head pops up; he has an idea, and you half expect an exclamation point to appear above his head, as they do in the game when an enemy discovers Snake's presence. If everything goes according to plan, a few more "Aha!" moments among the programmers will be all that is needed to bring a three-year-long journey to an end. Metal Gear Solid 2 is that close to being done.