The Killzone 2 demo wasn’t the only thing Guerrilla sent to Los Angeles for Sony’s E3 press event. Managing Director Hermen Hulst, Game Director Mathijs de Jonge, and Producer Steven ter Heide all went along to present the game. Upon returning, Mr. Ter Heide sat down with the Killzone.com editors for a quick recap of the trio’s E3 adventures.
On the Saturday prior to E3, the Guerrillas geared up for their trip to L.A.: they packed their bags, charged their PSPs, and steeled their minds against another boring flight from the Netherlands to the United States. Fate, however, had slightly more exciting plans – particularly for Mathijs.
“It seems customs officials and drug-sniffing hounds become nervous around our mild-mannered, soft-spoken game director,” Steven explains. “So while Hermen and I were fingerprinted by a friendly US customs lady, Mathijs was hauled off to a side room by armed guards. Eventually, they realized that the word ‘Guerrilla’ on his business card didn’t refer to his job title, and Mathijs was released.”
Tired, sweaty and more than a little annoyed, the trio arrived at their hotel in Santa Monica, where Steven immediately set off in search of the hotel pool. “That’s when I found out our hotel didn’t have a pool,” Steven recalls. “Or, as the hotel manager put it: ‘Why would we have a pool when there’s an entire ocean within walking distance?’”
Next morning, the Guerrillas visited the Santa Monica Studios, where they performed their first play through in front of the assembled marketing and PR crews.
“The reactions were great, ranging from ‘Awesome!’ to ‘Holy s–, look at all that blood!’”, Steven says proudly. “We had to repeat the play through three more times to satisfy our audience.” They used the opportunity to fine-tune their presentation somewhat, adjusting their timings and lines where necessary. Hermen also did a short interview for PlayStation.Blog, which was slated to go live simultaneously with the presentation.
On Monday morning, rehearsals started in earnest. The Guerrillas visited Sushi Roku and the Ocean Avenue Screening Room, where the Killzone 2 press event was going to take place. The publicity agency in charge of Sony’s E3 events planned to herd the journalists together at the famous sushi restaurant, tag them with colored bracelets, and then release them into the adjoining theater in groups of fifty.
Rehearsing the play through for the Killzone 2 E3 press event
Coordinating the presentation’s timings with the Screening Room control booth turned out to be rather tricky, however. “I was issued a clicker to indicate when the show director should switch to a different segment,” Steven recalls. “But it was a rather primitive device that could only transmit one type of click back to the booth. So we had to work out a Morse-like code, to communicate whether the director should switch to the PlayStation 3 devkit, the laptop containing the presentation slides, or a different video source.”
After getting the presentation to run smoothly, the Guerrillas left for studio 15 on the Sony Film Studios lot in Culver City, where the Sony E3 press event was going to be held. “They were shooting an episode of ‘Las Vegas’ on the lot, but sadly, there was no sign of Nikki Cox,” Steven sighs. “I did notice Josh Duhamel chatting with the crew, but the absence of female costars and/or giant transforming robots kept me from approaching him.”
Studio 15 itself proved to be a surreal experience: “We reached studio 15 and heard the low, deep sound of thunder rumbling nearby – which seemed weird, since the skies were perfectly clear. As it turns out, the sound guys were testing the effects for the Killzone 2 announcement.”
Continues Steven: “Once we got inside, I noticed that the stage for the Sony E3 event wasn’t anywhere near finished. Less than two days to go and the construction crews were only just getting started… I immediately panicked, but Hermen and Mathijs couldn’t muster up the energy to care anymore. They were so tired from rehearsing they decided to doze off in a nearby lounge.”
Then Phil Harrison arrived, and the infamous ‘fake ending’ was rehearsed. “The idea was that the Sony E3 press event would finish – without any mention of Killzone 2 – and then suddenly the familiar Helghast goggles would appear on four large projection screens, accompanied by the thunder-like crashes we’d heard earlier,” Steven explains. “Mathijs was supposed to walk in as soon as the fourth screen lit up to start his presentation. That required exact timing and a lot of practice.”
Rehearsals continued on Tuesday morning, with the Guerrillas driving back and forth between Culver City and Santa Monica to get the presentations in both venues to run perfectly. “We felt like rock stars,” Steven smiles. “A couple of times, Mathijs walked straight from the car onto the stage, where Phil was finishing up his speech and ready to hand over the microphone.”
Rehearsing Killzone 2’s introduction at the Sony E3 press event
Somewhere along the way they also met Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, whom Phil Harrison had talked into attending a private screening of Killzone 2. Unfortunately, fate decided to lash out at Mathijs again. “Because Mr. Kojima’s screening would take place right before the main Killzone 2 press event, we returned to Santa Monica early for a quick bite to eat and a change of clothes,” Steven recalls. “Naturally, Mathijs’ electric razor stopped working on that particular moment. He had to swing by the drugstore for new shaving supplies half-bearded, with exactly one half of his face covered in fuzz and the other shaved clean.”
The Guerrillas eventually arrived at Sushi Roku, ready to give Mr. Kojima his private screening. “The screening went very well, and Kojima-san literally sat on the edge of his seat when the Heavy came into view,” Steven says.
After the private screening, the real Killzone 2 press event got underway. The first batch of journalists allowed into the Screening Room consisted mostly of Germans and Japanese groups, neither of which applauded at the end of the presentation. “That had us worried for a second, but it turned out to be a cultural preference,” Steven laughs. “Other groups nearly tore the roof off, and the overall vibe we got from the event was extremely positive.”
Wednesday was the day of the Sony E3 press event, which started in Culver City at ten in the morning. When the Guerrillas arrived, still buzzing from the night before, they were astonished to find that the entire stage was now near completion, with only a handful of decorators left to apply final touches. But fate had one final surprise in store for poor Mathijs.
“We discovered that the distance between the PlayStation 3 devkit and Mathijs’ spot on the stage was now too wide to maintain a stable Bluetooth connection,” Steven sighs. “But we’d come too far to be thwarted by something as silly as a Bluetooth connection. So, we opted for the simplest solution possible: we chucked the Bluetooth receiver over one of the panels and duct-taped it in place. You can even see it in the videos taken at the event: it’s the squarish, boxlike thing partially obscuring the edge of one of the projection screens.”
And the presentation itself? “Well, it even gave me goose bumps, and I’d been rehearsing that thing for 72 hours straight,” Steven laughs. “The videos of the event don’t even do it justice. The sense of excitement in the air was palpable; the volume of the demo was turned way up, but in the semi-darkness you could still see people going wide eyed and slack-jawed at what they were seeing.”
“When the event was over, Phil Harrison came over and told us we’d really made good on the expectations set by our 2005 trailer,” Steven continues. “That felt pretty darn good.” They weren’t allowed to kick back and relax just yet, though. “Newsweek and Game Informer had been promised hands-on demos, so we had to race back to Santa Monica to meet with the journalists. Then we could sleep.”
The Guerrillas slept in late on Thursday, not just because they were brutally exhausted, but because it was also their day off. And, just like you would expect from a bunch of game fanatics, they chose to spend their day off at E3. Anyone who has visited previous E3s no doubt remembers the excessively loud stands, the endless lines, the overcrowded booths, and the barely dressed spokes models.
According to Steven, this year’s exposition was a little different: “We arrived at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar, and the only indication that an exposition was taking place there was a little piece of notepad paper next to the entrance, on which someone had drawn an arrow and the word ‘E3’. The whole thing was very sober, but it did allow us to get a good look at a lot of cool games.”
That night, the Guerrillas were invited to two different parties: the World Wide Studios developer drink, and a separate but near-simultaneous press-oriented event by Sony Europe. At the WWS party, Kazunori Yamauchi invited them to have a sneak peak at Gran Turismo 5, which they gladly accepted. “We couldn’t stay for long, though,” adds Steven. “Sony Europe’s representatives called us up at eight thirty to remind us there was a second party we were being expected at.” So they went there as well, and ended up touring a number of bars with the PR people.
Hung-over but intensely satisfied, the Guerrillas returned to LAX on Friday. “The mood on the flight back was ecstatic: we’d set out to prove that we could attain a level of visual detail similar to the 2005 E3 demo, and judging by early internet reports, the spectators felt we’d succeeded,” Steven says. “And best of all, Mathijs wasn’t held up at any of the customs gates during the return flight!”