Hideo Kojima is one of the biggest names in Japanese game design. He's the man behind every Metal Gear game, each of which has been beautiful but divisive. He's an auteur, a rarity in AAA game design, managing business, design, and programming for Kojima Productions. Last week he made a rare public appearance at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which contains the school's video game programs, and gave a 90-minute talk about his career, influences, and the specifics of his new Fox game design/graphics engine, which could radically change game design.
Kojima showed a 10-minute demo of the engine in action, which the audience was prohibited from capturing. Kojima's goal is to make an engine that will allow game designers to create great looking, complex levels without the help of a programmer. AI design, collision detection, scaling, and other normally challenging programming tasks are all automated, and according to people who were in attendance, they all look pretty solid despite the engine build used to make the video being from 2010.
Something like this would be a great boon to game design students who don't have access to experienced programmers. And if Kojima was speaking truthfully, USC students will one day have access to the engine and be able to use it to make DLC for future Kojima Productions games as part of a Konami (parent company of Kojima Studios) sponsored course in the school's game design curriculum.
USC has long been a darling in the video game development community. It was the 2nd accredited university in the US (after Carnegie Mellon) to offer video game design degrees. Electronic Arts has long made its presence felt in the program by providing teachers like Tom Frisina and funds to the fledgling undergraduate and graduate programs. Talent from Disney and other companies have contributed as well.
Students from the program, in turn, have already influenced game design studios around the world—including Kojima Productions, where the one USC alum on staff seems to have thoroughly impressed the company. Kojima said during his talk that part of the reason he was so keen to make Fox Engine available to USC students was to give back to them for what the employee had given him. High praise indeed.
This story doesn't end with Kojima's visit to USC, however. According to Kojima, when he was going through security at LAX on his way to San Francisco after the talk, a Homeland Security official recognized him at the security checkpoint. The official said, "Hey, Hideo?! I'm looking forward to the new title that uses the Fox Engine." It takes a pretty savvy gamer to recognize a developer. But to call him out on his new engine that was only announced for the first time at E3? Well done, Homeland Security. Hopefully they didn't recognize him because he's on the terrorist watchlist.