Threespeech: They are incredibly detailed…
STH: The genre is getting a lot broader, people are trying different things – you have the ‘run ‘n’ gun’ games where players just want to pull out a shotgun and blast bad guys as they run around corners, there are more tactical games. There are lots of new flavours coming through and a lot to explore, its still possible to bolt on new things and do something unique. Specifically, what were aiming for is to capture that real intense feeling that youre part of this big invasion – or theatre of war as we like to call it, youre in the midst of everything. And then we have all these mechanics aimed at helping you the player get through this world, buddy assists, being really interactive with the world itself – its a very intense and dramatic FPS experience.
We want to ensure everything we do has really high production values – so if we do vehicles, the vehicles are absolutely top notch. If we do a vehicle only game, we want to make sure we hit that mark. But thats just part of the package for us, we want to sample all of these different experiences.
Threespeech: Have you been inspired or affected in anyway by Call of Duty IV, which has been this huge critical and commercial success?
STH: Youve got some great tools to work with on PS3, some great libraries available, so the kind of differences that people have traditionally talked about between Xbox and PS3… perhaps that Xbox has all of these development environments – weve got that on PS3 now. The differences in that area are fading away. The machine itself is a lot more futureproof, theres a lot more to it – the whole idea of SPUs and the cell processor, I think theyre a lot more enticing, because theres just that much more power under the hood that people want to explore – I think the techheads will look at the specs and say, well, lets try and unlock all of that power…
STH: Theres a lot of anticipation – we want to make sure we live up to it. People say, well, this doesnt look like the original trailer – I actually think were pretty damn close! But in peoples minds it becomes something other-worldly. If you put them frame by frame right next to each other, I think that were right there.
STH: You should see the stuff were not getting in.
STH: I think a lot of the tricks were doing are down to the hardware – all the post-processing effects. There are a huge number of SPUs in there so we can just offload a lot of things. All the physics is handled by the SPUs, all the post-processing we can really push the SPUs so we have a lot of processing power to make the image look the way it looks. You want to have particle effects, you want physics going on – all that takes a lot of processing. Also in terms of storage capacity – to bring this kind of detail to life it takes a lot of data. Weve mentioned this before but you really need Blu-ray to pull off this kind of thing, because of the sheer amount of data were chewing through to create these levels. The one you just played through is 2.5GB worth of data.
Threespeech: Not only do the guns feel real, but the reactions of the Helghast to being shot are pretty convincing. Is this something you’ve spent a lot of time on, too?
But there are also some curiously old-fashioned elements. In one section, you’re in a burned out building, facing a multistory edifice on the other side of a canal way. Here, you can man a sentry gun and blast Helghast fighters as they sporadically appear in the windows opposite – a strange moment of Virtua Cop or even Whack-a-Mole-style nostalgia amid the next-gen pyrotechnics.
Threespeech: Back to the hardware – a few developers have complained about the difficulties of working with PS3, especially utilizing the SPUs. You don’t seem to be having that trouble…
Threespeech: Does that mean there will be lots of different downloadable content further down the line?
Threespeech: Any hints?
STH: If you shoot them in the shoulder, their arm flails back, depending on the type of weapon and your position. If you shoot their legs out from under them, they’ll fall but they’ll stumble to get back up and try and shoot you. So depending on where you hit them you trigger these different responses. You can get a sort of spinning plates situation where there are three enemies, you shoot one, he goes down, then you try and shoot the next before the first gets up (laughs)! It’s really important to convey that sense of power when the player is shooting a weapon.
Steven Ter Heide: We wanted to make sure we got the basics right and with a first-person shooter, that means shooting. It’s got to be fun. We put a lot of effort into making sure the weapons feel weighty, that the animations are just right – that all of the guns have a specific function and are unique. These are the basics of the FPS genre.
So to find out the development philosophies behind the game, we spoke to producer Steven Ter Heide. We wanted to know what is Killzone 2 really all about – and how PS3 has helped shape that vision. Here’s what he had to say…
Threespeech: How does Killzone 2 fit into the current pantheon of first-person shooters?
From that E3 2005 demo to controversies over delays and alleged screenshot ‘enhancement’, Killzone 2 has been one of PS3’s most talked about games. But is it still a cutting edge proposition? Since the title’s infamous unveiling three years ago, Call of Duty 4 has re-written the FPS rulebook, leaving other much-hyped hopes floundering (that’ll be you, Haze).
Threespeech: Killzone 2 has a very ‘raw’ feel – the action is quite harsh and bloody. What was your aim when designing the game?
Threespeech: You mentioned the trailer – has the publicity that surrounded it been a curse or a blessing?
Threespeech: There also seems to be a concern with continually maintaining the pace and atmosphere of the game…
One thing is certain, Killzone 2 looks astonishing. I played through the entirety of Mission Two last month for an Official PlayStation 3 feature, and the frenzied, crowded battlefield action hinted at in that first trailer is there in abundance. The stage is book-ended by huge face-offs between Helghast and ISA troops, with dozens of soldiers running at each other, diving for cover and dying messily amid a bounty of particle-rich explosions. Between these arena-based skirmishes there are tense chases through warehouses and industrial complexes, with the player seeking to defend a major attack force as it winds its way toward the Helghast capital city.
STH: Our inspiration comes from a lot of games, not just CoD. We love CoD, we play it a lot, but we have the original Killzone, which did a couple of things really well; a couple we felt could do with improvement, so were working on that – we implemented a lot of those improvements on Killzone Liberation on PSP. So obviously weve set a certain direction for ourselves – we then presented our vision with the trailer. Were trying to stay true to that heritage and build on the strengths of our own franchise.
STH: Everything in the game is first-person – we want to keep the player at the centre of the action. So the ‘lean and peak’ [the game’s covering system, which lets you aim and shoot from a covered position] is in first-person, we dont snap back to a third-person camera, all the buddy assists are in first person, the tactile sensation of grabbing and using in-game objects – all of that empowers the player; you feel like youre doing all of these things in the game world – its you blowing up the bridge, its you destroying the building
Threespeech: How are you getting on with the PS3 hardware?