Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has discussed the genesis and development of the Metal Gear series in his GDC 09 keynote.
Kojima said that, in 1985, he was tasked to create a ‘combat action game’ – similar to those popular in the arcades at the time – for the MSX2 home console.
Due to a limitation with the hardware, if more than nine sprites were placed on a horizontal line the final one would disappear, and four-colour sprites had to be ’emulated’ by placing two sprites on top of each other. As such, with two enemies, the player, and a bullet or two on-screen, the display would flicker and make it difficult to play.
It was at this time that Kojima started to develop the skill on which he based his talk – ‘making the impossible possible’. He instead looked at the situation in a different way, and came up with a combat game without fighting.
"I realised that this idea wouldn’t sell, though, so I continued to think about it," he said. "The next thought was a combat game just about escaping, running away. But then I thought, ‘this is totally uncool.’
"Next was about hiding; sneaking and staying still. I realised that this could work, but it wasn’t very heroic; it may still prove a difficult sell. So it needed a final layer: infiltration, having to sneak into somewhere. To add extra tension, I added the story – and the stealth game genre was born."
"So, Metal Gear was born from hardware limitations. It came from having an impossible mission; if I’d given up then Metal Gear Solid wouldn’t exist." Cheekily, he added: "And maybe Splinter Cell too."