Interview With Metal Gear Solid (1998) Motion Director – So Toyota

From the interview section of the Metal Gear Solid: Official Mission Handbook comes this revealing interview with motion director So Toyota, who’s credits include all the mainline games in the series from 1-4.

Could you briefly introduce yourself, please? I was a freelance animator for over eight years concentrating mainly on robot animation before I started at Konami. One day I just happened to be talking to Mr. Shinkawa, who’s been a friend of mine since high school, and he told me that Mr. Kojima was searching for someone who could do animation. Anyway, I decided to apply and I started at Konami Japan on the same day it was founded, May 1996.

What areas of MGS use motion? Other than the tank and Hind D when they are being controlled by a boss, everything is done by motion. We didn’t use any motion capture at all – it’s all done by hand. I heard that they discussed the possibility of using motion capture before I joined but that they gave up. After all, It’s not likely that anyone exists who can move like a ninja. Anyway, Mr. Kojima liked the animation that I did for him and he decided to do it all by hand using the Soft Image animation package. It took about a year to do all the animation and then another six months to do the demos. In total there are over 3000 pieces of animated motion in the game.

Explain the process behind creating the motion? For the  game, all the essential objects that need animated were pretty much fixed in advance. We did these one by one and then Iinked them together with the program. As for demos, I received the scenario from Mr. Kojima, which I used to produce a complete story board. We then created the demo from this. There are five animators plus myself. For the game we all have different things to animate, but for the demo each of us has one complete scene to do.

What reference materials did you use to produce the motion? As for Snake, Mr. Mori provided a lot of information about his actions. We also watched a lot of videos about tanks and helicopters, etc., as well. For the ninja, I just used my own imagination to create it. I didn’t use any materials. This was one piece of motion that I really wanted to do. During the development, somebody who had worked on the Gundam animation joined the team and they helped with the animation for REX. We all used our previous animation experience to a great extent.

What about the animal animation? We have a female animator who loves animals. She did most of the animal motion. She took a lot of videos of animals as well. All the animals use motion except the mice. which are controlled by a program. The crow was the most difficult animal to animate. and I was worried at first whether or not we’d be able to do it. I’d already seen the crows in Biohazard and they were really well done. However, in the end we did a good job on their motion. The most difficult thing about animating animals is to make them not look like machines. It’s important to be able to express the emotions of the animal through their actions.

What was the biggest difficulty of animating on the PlayStation? Online movie or anime animation, we’re limited to what we can do by the PlayStation memory. For example, in the beginning, Snake had a different pose for each different weapon he was carrying. We couldn’t load in each pose from the CD each lime he changed weapon, so we had to load all the poses in simultaneously. However, this took up too much memory, so in the end we had to considerably reduce the number of pose animations that he had.

In total there are over 3000 pieces of animated motion in the game.

Which was the most difficult thing to animate? It’s really small, but the hardest motion to do was a piece of cloth flapping in the wind. It is only used in two scenes, right at the end of the game. Even though it’s not really that important it still took a whole week to do. But Mr Kojima was very particular to details.

Which scene of the game has the most objects being animated at the same time? When Rex, the ninja and Snake all appear together, that’s where we have the greatest amount of on-screen motion. Rex alone has about three times the number of Joints that a normal person has, so this scene is equivalent to having five people animated.

Were you limited by the programmers to how much animation you could do at any one time? Every scene was done completely on a trial and error basis. If the motion froze up, then we would have to keep reducing the animation until we got it working. Luckily, because the whole system was put together really well we had a lot of freedom with what we could do. With the game we sometimes change the amount of animation patterns we use for an object, but for the demos the level of animation never changes. If the demo starts to slow down, then we reduce the number of visual special effects instead.

Which part of MGS are you most proud of? The final battle area is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, it’s right at the end, so I can’t say much about it. But the action is really great. If you see it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.We really pushed the PlayStation to the limit.