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Metal Gear Predicted A New Type Of Fuel. Here's How

Legendary game developer Hideo Kojima looks mighty prescient these days, thanks to the surprising ways in which he predicted the future in some of his most popular games. 1990's Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was no exception, with its use of an algae-based fuel called OILIX. While the fuel source was not referenced again in later games, it provided a prominent plot point that drove the action in this one. 

OILIX was developed through genetic modification of a microalgae species, which produced a by-product that acted much like petroleum but was much less expensive. Fan lore notes that a kilogram of the algae yielded 800 grams of crude oil, 70 percent of which could be converted to gasoline with an octane rating of 96. As 85 kg of OILIX could be produced per day, it made a reasonable substitute for oils missing in the Metal Gear world. In the story, Zanzibar Land agents kidnap the man with the OILIX formula, Dr. Kio Marv. Snake's mission is to thwart Zanzibar Land and retrieve the information.

As it turns out, this plot point was not just based on reality, it predicted it.

In 2012, algae-based fuel was sold to the public for the first time

The microalgae in the game is based on a real species which has been widely studied because its accumulation of long-chain hydrocarbon and lipids, which are similar to crude oil. At the time Metal Gear 2 was being developed, programs looking into Botryococcus braunii's effectiveness as a fuel source were taking place, including one from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fuels Development. 

In 2012, the companies Propel Fuel and Solazyme, Inc. even sold algae-based fuel to the public, making the world seen in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake seem that much more real and attainable. The first retail sales took place as a 30-day pilot program in the San Francisco area in California. Numerous startups have followed, ushering in awareness by governments that have started regulating the use of such fuels. There's now even the Best Microalgae Awards, given for innovation in the field. 

In 2017, Zion Market Research estimated the algae biofuel market to be worth $4.7 billion, and said the industry was expected to generate 9.88 billion by the end of 2024. Zion noted that the high manufacturing cost of algae-based biofuels might hinder the market, but that future research and development could reduce that cost.

This prediction still has legs

Eventually, many the investors and others who were once all-in on the idea of algae-based biofuels became less excited. It became clear that algae biofuel was too expensive. Years of research had shown the plants needed to produce fuel were difficult to maintain and had a low yield. 

Even so, the interest in algae-based fuel has not completely died out. In 2017, researchers announced they had completed DNA sequencing of the Botryococcus braunii genome, which will help scientists understand how it produces oil and how it might adapted to produce one fatty acid over another. 

To this day, research continues on making algae a safe, effective, and economical fuel source. This research has been carried out by educational institutions, small energy-conscious companies, and even big corporations like Exxon-Mobil. OILIX may not be quite as widespread in reality as it was in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake's world, but it's getting there. Kojima's full prediction for widespread use of algal biofuel could still come to pass.