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In this video we look at the history behind the world's most celebrated stealth video game franchise Metal Gear. Next Episode: Metal Gear Solid.
In 1,985 the MSX2 computer was released and was fairly popular at the time. In 1,986 Hideo Kojima joined Konami to work on games for the MSX2. Kojima had problems creating games due to his lack of familarity in programming. One day his bosses told him to create a combat game for the system.
In 1,986 combat games where very popular in the arcades due to the influence of films like Rambo First Blood part 2.
In that same year the game Nemesis, also known as Gradius was ported from the arcade to the original MSX computer.
In that game due to hardware limitations you could only place 32 sprites on the screen at one time. Also horizontally you could only place 8 sprites. The 9th sprite would simply disappear. These restrictions where the standard for games of the time.
For the MSX2 it would take one sprite to create a character and a second sprite to colour that character. Basically one character would cost you two sprites. If you wanted to show a bullet that would take up an additional sprite. And every 9th sprite placed on the screen would disappear.
Kojima had some serious limitations to tackle if he was going to create a combat game for the MSX2. The first idea he came up with to try and counter this problem was that he would make a combat game without any fighting.
The second idea he had was to make a combat game that was just about escaping. His third idea was to have a combat game about hiding from enemies.
This would mean it was no longer a combat game but a stealth game. However this would not mean it would be the worlds first stealth game. The origins of the genre go back at least as far as 1,981 with the video game Castle Wolfenstein from Muse Software.
However what Kojima would do differently is that he would have a game that was not about escaping but instead about infiltration. Once he had this idea in place he began writing the characters and story to flesh out the game concept.
The character of Snake was inspired by John Carpenter's 1,981 film 'Escape from New York' starring Kurt Russel as the anti-hero Snake Plissken. Kojima even wrote a letter to John Carpenter asking for his blessing to use such a similar character in the game metal gear. Carpenter happily agreed.
Kojima then decided to add a game mechanic that meant the player had to avoid enemies in order to stay hidden and once the enemy spotted you their algorithim would change. Simply put as soon as they saw you, the enemies where programmed to chase you. They where given dynamic artificial intelligence.
Metal Gear was released in July of 1,987 in Japan, and September of 1,987 in Europe. It was not released in the US.
A reprogrammed version of Metal Gear was released on the Famicon in Japan in December of 1,987. In June of 1,988 the game was also ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and released in North America.
The port of Metal Gear for the NES was not designed by Hideo Kojima and was not as good as the original. Kojima said the NES version of Metal Gear was
'A crap game'.
However thanks to these ports Metal Gear was successful enough to warrant a sequel.
When development on Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake began Kojima ran into another problem. He wanted to create a deeper stealth game but it still had to run on the MSX2 system which was quickly becoming outdated.
The first thing Kojima did was to improve the enemies line of sight by giving them a wider field of vision. This would make the game seem more realistic.
Kojima also allowed enemies to follow Snake from one screen to another. But the MSX2 did not have the ability to scroll. To solve this Kojima decided to place a radar in the upper right of the screen so that the player could track enemy movements off screen.
In Metal Gear, Kojima had added an alert phase when the player was spotted by an enemy. In Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake Kojima added an evasion phase after the alert phase ran down. Kojima also gave enemies the abilty to hear, for instance if Snake walked on a particular surface he would give off a sound that would draw attention.
The game also had more focus on story where as the original Metal Gear had very short screens of text when other characters spoke to you on your codec, Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake had much longer conversations and more developed characters.
All these changes added more depth, strategy and tension to the game.
Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake released on July 1,990 on the MSX2 in Japan and did not see a release elsewhere.
There was a game called Snakes Revenge released to North America in April of 1,990 on the NES.