eu.playstation.com continues its exploration through the halls of Guerrilla Games, developer behind the spectacular Killzone 2 - and finds out why this title is a sure shot for videogame greatness.
As a first person shooter, it may seem obvious to keep Killzone 2's action in first person. However, with the addition of systems that allow you to take cover, operate machinery and even jump into lumbering mech vehicles (complete with machine guns and rocket launchers), there was initially a temptation to temporarily switch viewpoints like many FPS titles. After experimentation, it was swiftly decided that the player would remain in first person as long as Guerrilla Games could keep it intuitive and immersive.
"In Killzone: Liberation [on PSP] we started to explore a cover system and make the game more tactical, which we expanded into a first person cover system in Killzone 2," says Mathijs de Jonge, Game Director. "At first we tried to do it in third person, but it was quite jarring for the player to constantly switch viewpoints and it ruined the immersion as well. It was actually an idea of one of the designers who was using his home camera capturing what it would look like to go into cover mode through a first person perspective and suggested we do it.
"Originally we pulled the camera back into third person when the player died, but some people thought 'who's that character falling down and collapsing on my screen?" laughs de Jonge. "So we decided to make the camera fall over. We also had a voice for Sev [the main player character] but it felt a bit like an out of body experience - a bit like 'who is this guy talking in my ear' [laughs]. We don't want to give the player any distractions, just make the player feel like the hero."
From first to third... and back again
Just because the world around you is in first person, doesn't mean the game is cheating you of anything that you may not be able to see. Development Director Arjan Brussee makes a point of this by taking a scene which shows a battle on top of a speeding train. It's a beautiful display, with billowing flags, dust and various lighting effects as the transport rips along numerous landscapes and tunnels - while in a gameplay sense the wind slows you down and can even force thrown grenades to bounce back at you.
Brussee proceeds to dismantle this scene to show how much technical wizardry PlayStation 3 is doing just on a visual level, by taking the camera from first person into third and flying it around the whole scenario, proving that everything you see - and even stuff that you don't - exists in the here and now, there's no visual smoke or mirrors. He then switches off the lighting, reflections and other visual effects and turns the scene into a sparse wireframe to display how each element plays its part in the creation of Killzone 2's convincing world, before reshaping it all again to show the striking graphical display you're now familiar with.
As to the question of any intrusive loading while playing detailed scenarios, Brussee smiles. "A lot of the loading is done in the background," he says. "We only have the loading screen when you start up a level, but that's the only loading screen you see - while you're going through a level everything is streamed in the background."
"The Helghast aren't really that bad..."
Even in the hugely comprehensive multiplayer (which allows a level of customisation rarely seen in a FPS), a high level of visual fidelity was always the aim, with the desire to create something that would be as equally pretty as its single player counterpart. "All the systems were developed with that in the back of our minds," says Angie Smets, Senior Producer. "It was very difficult. It's a balancing act in getting the most out of the hardware and making sure it runs smoothly, and we're very happy with the result."
There's still plenty of secrecy in the halls of Guerrilla Games, despite the game's completion and its friendly and open staff. Plenty of surprises are planned, and given the air of joviality at the studio it could well be anything. After all, this is the place where one of the life-sized Helghast models went mysteriously missing from its post, later found standing menacingly in the cubicle of the female bathrooms, much to Smets' surprise. Although given there's also a rather bizarre picture of her dancing with a member of Helghan's elite created by Guerrilla's Lead Concept Artist, she clearly got over the fright. "I was pointing out to them the Helghast aren't really that bad, so they saw me singing and dancing with one which looks way less scary than when they're with weapons," laughs Smets.
"Killzone 2 really is who we are"
Killzone 2 means a lot to Guerrilla - and not just in the sense of the game's size. That much is evident, none more so than when talking to Managing Director Herman Hulst, who hopes the title really shows what the developer is capable of and stands for. "Killzone 2 really is who we are here at Guerrilla," he says. "I'm quite proud of the accomplishment of the team. Killzone 2 is very much a gauge of where we are as a studio.
"The core ethos behind the studio is definitely quality. Everything we do has to be a little over the top. We've set benchmarks not just on the graphics side, but also the amount of destructibility and the quality of the animation... we want gameplay to push the bar a little bit. I think that defines Guerrilla - we don't want to just do a sequel based on whatever we've got. Ambition is the keyword that binds us here.
"We do everything just a little bit different, a little bit more intense and hopefully... a little bit better."
Abandoned cities reclaimed by nature. A population decimated by a modern plague.
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