Killzone 3 Interview with Steven ter Heide
While at PAX I got a chance to talk with Steven about Killzone 3, if they're borrowing snow from Naughty Dog, and what it's like designing a control scheme with Move.
CS: What have you guys learned from or since Killzone 2?
StH: Where to start? [laughs] There’s a lot of things becuase, as I’ve mentioned, we’ve got a very vocal fanbase so they’ve thrown suggestions our way of things we need to improve. Obviously, one of the key things that we wanted to improve is controller lag. A lot of people were commenting on the fact that you press a button and there’s no instant action on the screen, that’s something that we wanted to fix. So this game, Killzone 3, that’s exactly what we’re fixing.
At the same time they’re talking about variety. Killzone 2, most of the variety was in the latter half of the game, not so much in the beginning. It all felt like urban settings, there wasn’t that much variety, so in terms of environments we’re adding a lot more variety to the environments this time around. Most of the stuff that you do from minute to minute that’s going to be changing. The level that we’re showing here today has got you flying on an Intruder firing down, it’s got regular on-foot combat, it’s got you fighting against jet pack troopers, you get to put on a jet pack yourself, there’s a big rocket launcher, there’s all these things in the span of one level and we’ll be doing that throughout the game. So variety is one of the key words, we wanted to make sure we get a lot of variety in the game this time around.
Multiplayer, I mean, there’s a very hardcore fanbase playing our multiplayer and we want to cater to those guys as well. So we’ve got multiplayer right now on the stand which apparently is quite popular, and that’s a very good sign. We’re going to introduce new game modes. One of the game modes people have been asking for is Team Deathmatch, because if you look at Killzone 2 the amount of rooms that were created for just Body Count, which is our Team Deathmatch mode, is phenomenal. Everybody wanted to play Body Count, Team Deathmatch, so that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re giving them a new game mode called Guerrilla Warfare which is Team Deathmatch every day, all day.
That’s one of the key points, another one is adding to the scope of the game. A lot of people have commented on the games that have come after us. As soon as you finish a game, we’re always saying, “We got the most out of the PlayStation 3, we’re firing on all cylinders, all the SPUs are being used, we’re maxing out the memory”, all that kind of stuff - and then as soon as you ship it you’re going, "Well I think there’s still a little bit of room left". Then games come out after you, Uncharted 2, or God of War 3, and they raise the bar yet again, and you’re kind of like “Okay”.
We really like those guys, and we’re good friends with them, and we talk a lot with the other studios but at the same time there’s a bit of friendly competition going on where we really want to outdo them. We take a couple of cues from those guys, where Uncharted 2 really upped the level in terms of storytelling, that was one of the weaker points for Killzone 2, so we said, “Well let’s see what they did really well and see if we can use a couple of those things in Killzone as well."
God of War, obviously scope - bosses on top of bosses on top of bosses on top of bosses, that kind of thing. Let’s try and see if we can get that kind of feeling of scope into Killzone as well. So the levels you’ll see are much more spatious, there will be big vistas, you’ll be able to explore different routes, there will be bigger boss fights, all those kinds of things.
CS: So with that kind of competition between studios, any closely guarded secrets?
StH: I mean everybody’s got their own tricks up their sleeve, obviously, but the thing is they’re all different games. We’re in the first person world, so the tricks that Uncharted does they can do because they’re third person. So some of the things just don’t translate well. At the same time their engine was built for different things, our engine was built for different things, so it’s more about sharing design ideas or inspiration or those kinds of things, or how did they solve this specific problem. I noticed all the fans have been saying, “Oh, they’ve got snow! I’ve seen the snow level from Killzone! They must be using the Uncharted snow!” That’s not exactly how it works. We do not go over to Naughty Dog and say, “Okay, we’d like a barrel of snow please!”, it doesn’t work that way.
CS: Lend me a cup of snow?
StH: Exactly. [gesturing to screen] This is an example of the bigger vistas that we wanted to do.
CS: The water is really nice, you get that snow from Uncharted?
StH: [laughs] Yeah, we borrowed this from Uncharted. The next Uncharted will have that water.
CS: Why were you comparing yourselves to God of War, to Uncharted, since they are such different games?
StH: Well, obviously, they’re games that raise the bar in terms of what is possible on PlayStation. With us being a first party studio also that’s kind of our mission, to say “Okay, we want to show off what the hardware is capable of.”, so we always look to other titles that are leaders in their genre and God of War obviously is a leader in their genre, Uncharted is a leader in their genre but at the same time we’re looking at other games as well. Red Dead Redemption is doing fantastic things as well, so there’s all these games and we look at what we can learn from those games and try and see if we can adopt/adapt some of these things from them.
Of course we’re taking advantage of new technology, Move, 3D. We announced at E3 that we’ll be supporting Move, but the thing is we want to make sure that as soon as we launch and we put it in people’s hands that it feels good. It’s a new controller, whereas with the DualShock there’s kind of a set of rules out there, X is jump in every game, because that’s been established over the course of years. This being a new controller you have to kind of redefine how things work, and that takes a lot of play testing, because I was born and raised on a DualShock and now all of a sudden I have to make a transition, have to figure out where the buttons are, and what works and what doesn’t work. So we have had to do a lot of experimentation before we finally settled on the right control scheme, and the experimentation is still ongoing. We’re still doing a lot of play testing, tweaking all the variables, because there’s so many things we find that people just play it differently.
CS: And vehicles in the game, we’ve got the jet pack, we saw the Intruder -
StH: Yes, you’ll be flying on an Intruder at the very beginning of this level, it’s a fan request basically because a lot of time in Killzone 2 you would be flying in on those Intruders and you get off and then the gameplay started. Everybody was like, “Well, when I’m on these things, I can see the enemies down there, can I take pot shots at them? Can I start the war right there?” and in Killzone 3 you can. We give you a big weapon, and you get to take out rigs as you fly past them, it’s a lot of fun.
CS: Can you talk about any other vehicles, drivable vehicles, that are going to be in the game?
StH: Unfortunately I can only talk about what we’ve got on show here, but I can talk about the vehicles we’ve got in multiplayer as well. We’ve got the Exoskeleton that we had in Killzone 2, the big mech that you could walk around with, that’s going to be a playable vehicle in multiplayer. We’ll have the jet packs also, in multiplayer, and that’s a game changer when all of a sudden death comes from above.
CS: We have an N4G member that wants to know if he can play the whole game with a jet pack?
StH: [laughs] No, that’s not going to be possible. We’re going to introduce a lot of different gameplay experiences, and the jet pack works in certain environments. So in this environment where there’s oil rigs and you can jump on the different levels and those kind of things, it’s contained. A jet pack in the desert with flat terrain wouldn’t make a lot of sense because you would just be hopping along, why would you do that?
CS:What about multiplayer co-op?
StH: No co-op yet.
CS: Can't talk about co-op yet? Got it. There’s a lot of story to catch up on by the third installment, how do you tackle that?
StH: Obviously, we’ve always had these kinds of intros where we explain what has happened before, where you are, we want to make it as accessible as possible. So for people that haven’t played the original Killzone on PlayStation 2, most people have gotten a PlayStation 3 now, my PlayStation 2 is gathering dust. Same with Killzone Liberation on the PSP, we can’t expect people to have played every single installment so at the beginning of Killzone 3 there will be a little bit of catch up, where are we in the story, what are we doing. The setup, the premise of Killzone 3, is really simple. You’re on this hostile planet, your invasion has failed, basically. The Helghast, the enemy, have come in and they’ve wiped out your invasion fleet. You’re now stranded on the planet, you have to get out. Simple story, I’m on a hostile planet, I want to get out.
CS: And you guys toned down the language for the game, right?
StH: Absolutely, it’s one of the things that came from looking at Uncharted 2, and saying, “Okay, what did they do in the storytelling that worked so well?” They kind of took a lighthearted approach to it, it’s not so much comedy as obviously that’s not something that for Killzone would work very well because it’s kind of a serious business that’s happening onscreen, but at the same time we don’t have to take it all so seriously. We can be a little bit more lighthearted about it and it doesn’t have to be full on swearing.
Thanks to Steven (Senior Producer at Guerrilla Games) and the rest of the team at Guerrilla for this N4G exclusive!