Hideo Kojima is best known for his work on the Metal Gear Solid franchise. A landmark series that became a staple of gaming for decades.
Now Kojima Productions has partnered with Sony on his newest game Death Stranding.
To symbolize the new era for Kojima a mascot was created not only itself being a representation of Kojima’s vision but sharing many design cues that can be seen within Death Stranding.
While we don’t expect to see Ludens in Death Stranding there is some interesting history behind the character.
Yoji Shinkawa was the principal designer behind the mascot. He was responsible for conceptualizing the overall design and motif of the character. About 20 years before the development of Death Stranding Kojima discussed with Shinkawa the idea of an astronaut exploring a digital space. This idea festered for some time until the opportunity presented itself to unleash Ludens onto the world.
Ludens bears a striking resemblance to something of a high – tech knight. While his glossy technically infused armor is technically called an EVA suit, the resemblance to an astronaut and medieval knight are forthright. Especially in the helmet that has a striking resemblance to a helm worn by knights.
Under the retractable visor is a skull mask. Said to be a digital scan of Hideo’s Kojima face this very same mask can be seen on some of the characters in the Death Stranding game.
When questioned about the origin of the mask and face Kojima responded by saying “That’s everyone, that’s us, that’s the users, that’s each one of us wearing that skull mask.”
Clearly, Ludens wasn't meant to denote a specific character but rather pay homage to the players themselves. The overall feel becomes poetic when the digital astronaut touts the flag bearing the Kojima Productions logo.
The mascot does more than set a design motif that will permeate through Kojima’s creations, it makes a statement of his intentions on how he wants people to feel when they play his games.
Officially Ludens is not a character from Death Stranding simply a mascot that denotes a very important statement of intent from Kojima productions.
Like many of the characters, players take control of in Kojima's games, even though they have a personality he has a specific motivation to design the game to make the player feel like they inhabit the part of that character. Now with Ludens, Kojima makes a personal promise to the players that they will be the first thing he considers when he makes a game.
The mystique surrounded Ludens armor bears a resemblance to the way Kojima portrays many of his characters. We are often never told how a specific technology may work, but rather shown. This adds to the mystery and immerses the player in the strange but familiar universes his games often take place in.
Ludens was initially revealed alongside the announcement of Kojima productions and is the main part of their logo. Originally shown with white armor there was also an alternative vision of the character wearing black.
The figure presented today is the 1/6th scale Ludens however instead of his signature white armor a glossy black styling takes the stage here.
It is a departure from the white look but is given a distinct shine that makes the armor really stand out.
Other than that, the same suit details permeate the piece. Instead of white straps extending across the chest, the straps are now black. The cylindrical caps along the armor are still gold and set itself apart nicely against the glossy finish. The tubes are also the same yellow used on the white version so there are some similarities between the two.
This Ludens helmet has a blue hue to the plastic and with the LED activated refracts that light very well.
The articulation is also fantastic. With fully posable arms and legs, the armor shifts appropriately depending on the position of the figure making this a very high-quality piece.
You can even discern ripples in the cloth material that is exposed at the joints and the flexing leather on the arms.
In between the armor, it seems real fabric was used to accent the figure giving a striking contrast to the armor. A very nice detail that collectors will appreciate.
The figure comes with 3 pairs of hands that can be changed to grasp the beam flag and lance that come with the figure. The beam flag is of note due to the translucent material that the Kojima Productions logo is imposed over. Leading one to assume that the flag itself is made from a beam rather than cloth.
Another interesting feature for posing is the way the eyes can be moved so you can give this figure a unique look when displayed.
The helmet itself can be removed in sections so you can display the figure in a variety of ways.
The quality of this piece is outstanding. Down to the cloth material between the armor no detail was overlooked in the translation of Ludens from white to black.
Who is Hideo Kojima?
The mind behind Kojima Productions?
Hideo Kojima was born in Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan. When he was a child his family would watch a lot of movies together, with the rule being that you could not go to bed until you finished the movie. This surely would have an impact on his passion for cinema later in life.
At the age of 13 his father passed away, and he often mentions how he had to deal with death at an early age. This may have influenced his work when he began to design video games.
Hideo would often have to look after himself growing up, with his father had passed and his mother being busy with work. He has said the television became a comfort to deal with the loneliness.
Kojima aspired to be an artist or a filmmaker. However, he felt condemned to a conventional life due to the pressures of Japanese society, which often permeates the idea of becoming a "salaryman."
When he reached university Kojima would go on to study economics, it was there he began writing short stories but having found little success he would use his friends 8mm camera to film things. During this time was when Kojima discovered video games. Playing mainly on the Nintendo Famicom he suddenly had an urge to make games. His was strongly discouraged by his friends and family, mainly because at this time video games were in their infantile stages and had yet to gain mainstream success and respect. Shortly before the release of the Famicom, Nintendo themselves were a card game company.
The only person who encouraged him, however, was his mother who wanted to see him achieve his dreams rather than secure the vision of success that had become hardwired into many Japanese young men.
Leaving behind his education in economics, Kojima would come to meet many likeminded individuals. While trying to break into the gaming industry. He met many other idealists who had too sacrificed their presumed futures for the sake of making games.
However, it was not so easy for Kojima. For a while, he struggled to break out into the industry. In 1986 he managed to join Konami’s MSX home computer division as a designer.
Kojima was at first disappointed, relenting on the systems poor color palette and how he had desired to work for Nintendo on the original NES.
Not only was he upset with the company he had joined, but during his early career, his lack of programming knowledge and experience meant many of his ideas were ignored. This caused him great dismay and even at one point considered leaving the company.
However, Kojima would press on and eventually get the chance to work as an assistant director on Penguin Adventure and its sequel Antarctic Adventure.
He took the opportunity to provide as much vision as he could with the titles, helping forge great progression between the two games.
While the gameplay seems simple to today's standards, Kojima applied all his ability to this work hoping for forge a name for himself at Konami.
After pitching his own game, Konami rejected him and instead asked him to take over production of a project with a little name you may have heard of.
" Metal Gear "
Not taking this opportunity for granted Hideo began to understand the hardware limitations of the MSX2 and tried to envision something that would work on the platform. Inspired by the movie The Great Escape, his initial design philosophy centered around the concept of a prisoner escaping an enemy camp.
The result was a game where the player was encouraged to avoid combat with enemies rather than engage them directly. This was a relatively new concept at the time, and Metal Gear’s execution is famously known.
Metal Gear released in 1987 and centered around the main character Solid Snake, breaking into the fortified military state known as Outer Heaven to locate and destroy a nuclear-armed walking tank named Metal Gear.
Metal Gear would go on to be named one of the best-selling games for the MSX console, peaking as the top 3rd selling game for the system. With what few reviewers there were, Metal Gear garnered praise saying the game did a fantastic job with its stealth combat system and sense of progression. It was often mentioned as a game that would encourage people to purchase an MSX system.
Cinematic influence would continue to permeate Kojima's works through the years, sourcing influences like Blade Runner, Akira, and Terminator for a game called Snatcher. The game was ambitious with its narrative and received praise for pushing the boundaries of in-game storytelling with its cinematic cutscenes and mature content.
In between Metal Gear and it’s Kojima led sequel. Konami would go on to create a non-Kojima led game called Snakes Revenge that would release on the NES system. This push was partly due to the NES port of Metal Gear finding success on the system a game in which Kojima did not like due to the poor porting process it underwent, even going as far to forgo the final boss fight.
Metal Gear 2 : Solid Snake would finally make a release in 1990 and took the MSX magazines number 1 spot for the bestselling game for six months.
The game would receive great critical acclaim many of which referenced the spectacular storytelling that gripped the player through the entire experience.
The codec found itself to be one of the parts of this storytelling. The way the player could communicate with characters served to allow Snake and his allies develop throughout the game. Then within an instant, the player could return to the game world where it felt as if you truly were a special operations soldier by himself in the battlefield.
Then in 1998, the Metal Gear series would evolve.
Metal Gear Solid would release on the original Playstation with full 3D graphics and highly progress gameplay systems.
This game becomes critically renown and still, today is given great praise for being not only innovative but highly effective in its storytelling goals.
Many will still reference the boss fight with Psycho Mantis and how he could shift the controller with his mind. As well as appearing to switch the video inputs on your TV. In fact, in order to defeat Mantis, the player would have to change controller ports, as the boss was able to control your character if it was left in port 1. He would also read the players memory card, mentioning games from Konami that had saves present on it.
With the Metal Gear Solid franchise now a cornerstone of gaming Kojima would solidify himself as one of the great video games creators of all time.
Konami would go on to publish Kojima's Metal Gear Solid 2 : Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 4 : Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid V : The Phantom Pain.
Kojima and Konami would soon after the release of MGS V clash. Shattering their relationship and removing the Metal Gear Solid franchise from Kojima.
However, just as Ludens represents. Kojima is not done yet. He has clear intentions for gamers and the industry at large and we can’t wait to see what they are like in Death Stranding.
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