Kyle Cooper Interview

EG: How were you contacted to do the opening sequence to MGS2?

KC: Hideo Kojima called me to set up a meeting in Los Angeles.

EG: Was it the same for MGS3?

KC: Yes it was.

EG: During the Konami Press Conference yesterday, you showed the work-in-progress of the title sequence to MGS3. What motivates you to create these breathtaking images?

KC: The challenge was Hideo's desire to create an interactive opening sequence. That really motivated me. I'm not really a gamer, but I am being converted into being one. I really like to watch Hideo play! He's really good! I am slowly learning to be a gamer. My personality is very frenetic. I enjoy ripping and breaking things. It requires a lot of patience to be a gamer and my personality is quite the opposite. In college, I used to play "Donkey Kong", so I have a slight history of playing games. I have some younger friends and colleagues that show me gameplay tactics and so on. It's a slow process, but I'm learning.

EG: What is an aspect of working with Hideo Kojima that is different from what you are used to?

KC: Hideo and Scott Dolph like to put in jokes and references to past Metal Gear games and that makes it personal to them. Hideo wants the title sequence to reflect his past games. The trick is finding out what kinds of images to show for 3 1/2 minutes. In the finished opening scene, we plan on having a high level of interactivity; from shooting animals during the intro, to switching from planes to bees to snakes swimming in a certain trajectory by pressing a button, things like that. It is a new thing for me to do this kind of an opening sequence. I really hope that the fans will like it.

EG: I know we will. It looked amazing, even at the early state you showed us yesterday! I was in awe!

KC: Thank you!

EG: As far as the homage to Maurice Binder [Title designer for most of the James Bond films], are you a fan of his work?

KC: Hideo's idea was the 1960s and to improve the James Bond introductory sequences. The Bond movie opening titles are timeless -- the type of film quality, the images Maurice Binder used and the way he blends all those elements together. I like simplicity and realistic footage. Take "Goldfinger" for example. Robert Brownjohn projected film footage onto the women's bodies. I suggested mushroom-clouds to Hideo for the MGS3 opening sequence done using real footage as opposed to computer graphics. I did this by shooting clouds in a water tank in my studio, the fluid clouding into the tank produced a nice mushroom-cloud effect. The main challenge involves mixing live action with computer graphics. I am very excited about doing this! Hideo really wants to capture the essence of the 1960s, the times, the setting and the gritty, realistic combat. This will be the first interactive title sequence and I hope that the Metal Gear fans will like it!

EG: That's a definite. We are going to love it. What influences and inspires you in your work?

KC: Filmmakers really inspire me. Maurice Binder, Robert Brownjohn -- classic films and their directors. Also, classic graphic designers like Piet Zwart. I am also very inspired by nature. "The Island Of Doctor Moreu" has animal eyes in it. "Seven" has a lot of bodily functions in it. "Mimic" has insects in it. "Dawn Of The Dead" has a lot of blood in it. For my work on "Spiderman 2" we have this scene of a Spider fighting an Octopus, representing Spiderman and his battle against Doc Oc.

EG: How long have you and your team been working on the opening sequence to MGS3 and when do you think that you will be finished with it?

KC: Well, I've known about it since we finished the one for MGS2. This one's about 3 years in the making, on and off. We talked about it for a couple years and worked on it in spurts. We still have a bit more to do, but it should be finished soon.

EG: Has this experience opened you to doing more videogame related properties?

KC: I consider Hideo Kojima a friend. I would gladly do this again if he asked me to. In fact, in Japan they are making a new "Godzilla" movie and Hideo is on the project. He asked me to do the opening title sequence and I was more than happy to do so. I collect action figures and Hideo sends me Japanese action figures from time to time. I prefer not to do anything that competes with Metal Gear, so I opted not to take part in the creation of the "Splinter Cell" opening sequence. I prefer to work with people that I am close to -- friends. I consider Hideo Kojima a very close friend. Did you play "Splinter Cell"?

EG: Yes, but it's not even close to the level of excellence that a Metal Gear game gives the player. It lacked the style and fun-factor that all Metal Gear games possess. It was a poor attempt at copying greatness.

KC: [Laughs]

EG: What do you feel makes an exciting and entertaining opening sequence?

KC: Something that engages you emotionally. Putting the cast list across the screen is only one aspect of it. Getting a reaction is the other. The opening sequence we did for "Mission Impossible" really got fans excited about the movie. I think that an entertaining or moving opening sequence really gets people into the right mind-set to see the movie or to be psyched about the game they are about to play. I hope that my opening sequence for MGS3 gets fans emotionally prepared to play the game, making them snap to attention. Sometimes making people laugh or even making them scared can be accomplished by a good opening sequence.

EG: In your opinion, is doing the title sequence for MGS2 and MGS3 any different from creating the title sequence for a feature film?

KC: It's the same thing to me. It really has to be done the same. I have the highest respect for the directors of the projects that I work on and Hideo's Metal Gear is no different. I approached the title sequences for both MGS2 and MGS3 the same way I would have for a feature film. I first try to find a metaphor for the sequence. For the titles to MGS3, we have the skeleton of a snake. This metaphor has several meanings. First, it's what is left of a snake after it's dead, since in the game, "Snake" can eat snakes and what you have left after it's eaten, is a skeleton.

Also, "Snake" moves through a landscape surrounded by death. The other meanings involve the snake in the Bible being the first spy -- people can say that the snake is already dead, you know, man's hope that it can't hurt him anymore. But then, the snake is resurrected and the skeleton is still on it's mission, still very deadly. This is also a way of saying that what "Snake" thinks is right in the beginning, is now wrong. What he thought he was doing right, later on it's not. The snake's skeleton is very chilling and it shows us all of these things.

EG: What do you hope that fans take away from your opening sequence to MGS3?

KC: I would mainly like them to be satisfied, to take their Metal Gear experience to the next level. I want it to live up to the promise of how great the game is. This game is not a mercenary undertaking. Watching Hideo play this game, you can see that he wants to give fans more than just a shooting game -- he wants to take players on a journey by giving them a great story. He wants to give players their money's worth. His sincerity is apparent and he hopes that Metal Gear fans will enjoy the story. I agree with this and I hope that my opening sequence touches fans and gets them psyched and excited about what the game has in store for them.

EG: Of the opening sequences you have done, which one is your favorite and why?

KC: Probably "Donnie Brasco." There were a lot of obstacles that had to be overcome during the making of it, so that is probably one of my favorites. Honestly, it's hard to say, really -- to name just one favorite. I also really like "Seven." It fits the theme of the movie perfectly. I think that I will say that the opening sequence to MGS3 will be one of my favorites when we're finished with it. I really like where it's going and I am very fond of the subject matter. It's going to be great.

EG: Thank you so much for taking this time to answer our questions.

-- Interview by Matthew McCarty for epicentergames.com, 21.05.2004

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