Inside Kojima Productions' new U.S. studio
Kojima Productions, a development studio built out from Konami by Metal Gear
lead Hideo Kojima, announced it would be opening a second office in Los Angeles during this year's Game Developers Conference. Six months on and a cracked-open sake cask later, the studio officially opened itself for business last night.
Gamasutra was in attendance at the studio's first open house, to see what all the fuss was about.
"Personally, I've liked Los Angeles since I was a little kid," Kojima tells his visitors. "Everything is top-notch here. [Renting out] the LA studio isn't about branching out the franchise or having an advantage in localization."
Later, of course, Kojima will tell us that the possibility of expanding into transmedia was
one of the reasons for the location. A TV series or movie adaptation is still on the studio head's mind. But as for now, as a Japanese developer working with Western talent for motion capture and voice acting, an office on this side of the Pacific simply makes sense.
Approaching the studio from the North, the building comes into view first as a wan lit Konami logo. Kojima's iconic FOX brand appears only once inside, frosted onto double glass doors. From there, the central workspace is a wall-free main office built to seat one hundred employees -- though the headcount currently stands at 35.
"Konami's had this building for about six months," explains senior PR manager Brandon Cox. "But they [Kojima Productions] only moved in about a week and a half ago. It's all very new."
Image source: Konami
Off to the sides are a series of meeting rooms named for characters from Kojima's Metal Gear
franchise: Solid Room (which bears a doodle of Solid Snake by series artist Yoji Shinkawa), Liquid Room, and -- locked up and seemingly forgotten in a corner -- a closet-sized Solidus Room, named for the least memorable of Solid Snake's relatives.
Across a cement courtyard from the main building lies Kojima Productions Los Angeles's secondary unit, which houses a theater, a playtesting office set up with eight workstations and another office dubbed the "observation room," where wall-to-wall flatscreens project live feeds of QA testers' play performance... and facial expressions.
It's around here one notices that, the more one looks around the KojiPro Los Angeles campus, the more the panopticon aesthetic of its cyberpunk flagship franchise has begun to surface. In addition to mounted cameras, omnidirectional mics drop down from the QA room's ceiling. Keypads with thumbprint scanners guard all entrances, while in one corridor we found a suspiciously large air duct.
It would be strangely in keeping with Kojima's well-known sense of humor to deliberately draw out these touches. But the possibility that they all simply came with the place -- or, more likely, have grown into an accepted part of tech industry office design -- is a bit more bemusing and unsettling all at once.
"I don't see this and the Japan office as two different studios," Kojima says at one point in the Q&A. "They are one studio. They aren't rivals. I don't want them to compete with one another -- well, maybe a little. But in a productive sense. I want the two studios to work together to create the true form of Kojima Productions."
"But how will you manage that?" someone asks.
"I expect that [Yoji Shinkawa] and I will be traveling between studios a lot," Kojima answers frankly. Later, he tweets a picture
of his new office door -- the "Hideo Office."
Following the tour, a small mixer is held out on the patio beside a carefully curated oblong of grass. Konami U.S. president Tomoyuki Tsuboi makes a brief appearance, marking the opening of the studio and indicating that the Los Angeles office would be working on other as-yet-unannounced titles in addition to the Metal Gear
franchise. His English delivery is actually quite good, but the speech is unprepared. He reads the address off an iPad, then vanishes as quickly as he appeared.
After the speech and a toast by Kojima, series artist Yoji Shinkawa appears on the patio's small stage to unveil a new, original canvas to commemorate the studio. Done in India ink, the canvas stands nearly six feet in height and depicts Solid Snake and Meryl Silverburg as they appeared in the first Metal Gear Solid
, the first entry of the franchise to which Shinkawa was attached.
Image source: Kotaku
"I wanted the portrait to reflect the deep relationship between the Los Angeles and Tokyo studios," Shinkawa explains. He adds, in a moment that befits the Metal Gear
franchise's idiosyncratic ear for poetry:
"Just as these two are watching each other's backs, so too I hope our studios will help and support each other."