There seems to be two discussions going on about Metal Gear Solid 4. One is about the game's actual reviews, and the other is about actually reviewing the game. Rumors swirled that reviewers weren't able to talk about MGS4 cutscenes and installs — rumors that were later confirmed in IGN UK's MGS4 review and by EGM's decision not to review the game. Konami and Kojima Productions were taken to task for this highly unusual NDA. But what was in this NDA? Kojima Productions' Assistant Producer Ryan Payton contacted Kotaku in hopes of setting the record straight and coming clean.
About those review limitations, Payton says the NDA covered: Install times, length of cutscenes (the ending in particular), number of environments, opening "movie", product placement and a half dozen story-specific items. Payton gets down to specifics, stating, "The game requires an eight minute install, as well as a number of two to three-minute installs between acts." But what about the cutscenes? The rationale, according to Payton, was that they wanted reviewers to refrain from describing which cutscenes were long as it would "ruin" the experience if players knew when a cutscene was unfolding. What's more, Payton adds, "I want to make it clear that, from today, reviewers are welcome to discuss the length of the cutscenes and install times, but we ask that they not get too specific about the cinematic times and what happens in later install sequences..." Hit the jump for Payton's email in full.
Believe it or not, I've been so busy working on a special surprise for MGS4 buyers (that not even those who have leaked copies of the game can spoil! Haha!), that I haven't had time to catch up on most of the pre-launch excitement.
Scanning the net today, I came across that 90-minute cutscene rumor, and a red-faced Adam Sessler, who was obviously very upset about the restrictions placed on MGS4 reviews.
Adam asks at the end of his Soapbox clip if he was rambling. On the contrary, I think he voiced some really important concerns about the restrictions placed on MGS4 reviewers.
In light of this, I took a look at the list of restrictions and found that some items are outdated and require more explanation.
We asked reviewers to avoid the following topics:
-Length of cutscenes (the ending in particular)
-Number of environments
-(Plus a half dozen story-specific items)
The game requires an eight minute install, as well as a number of two to three-minute installs between acts.
As for the cutscenes, reviewers are more than happy to comment on whether they're too long or short. We simply want reviewers to refrain from describing which scenes are long, thus spoiling some of the experience because players will know what to expect when a scene is unfolding.
I want to make it clear that, from today, reviewers are welcome to discuss the length of the cutscenes and install times, but we ask that they not get too specific about the cinematic times and what happens in later install sequences...
But as for the next three items, we are still asking reviewers to avoid these topics. We want the opening to be a huge surprise for gamers, and knowing how many environments there are in the game, obviously, is a spoiler. These restrictions will remain in place.
Finally, we've asked reviewers to not write about some of the product placement because of some contractual agreements we have with third parties.
I hope this helps clear up some of the controversy.
As a former writer, I'm proud of the discussion this topic has sparked. I hope Adam, Patrick Klepek, and everybody else who covered this issue continue to be diligent about restrictions placed on media outlets. (That's honestly why I'm such a fan of Kotaku — it keeps publishers on their toes.)
I do, however, hope gamers can appreciate the efforts we go through to keep them protected from reviewers that could spoil some of the MGS4 experience.
Eds Note: Adam Sessler has responded, stating: "I'm very pleased this has a resolution in time for the reviews on the game to come out. I haven't talked to Ryan Payton yet, who I consider a friend and colleague, but I greatly appreciate his and Kojima production's reconsideration of these restrictions. Our ability to speak openly and honestly to our viewers has always been of the utmost importance, and I know Kojima productions and Konami feel the same way."
"I thought the term '90 minutes' was just a shorthand way of saying 'long' from the beginning. Anyway, I'm glad this all settled, because I really want to play this game."