The epic Killzone 3 dropped last week and Irish gamers wasted no time in slaying a Helghan or two, helping Guerrilla’s latest effort shoot straight to the top of the Irish charts in it’s first week of release. TGL caught up with Mathijis de Jonge, game director at Guerrilla Games to talk about the reaction to KZ3′s release, Playstation Move, NGP and accessibility in shooters. Here we go………
TGL: Now that Killzone 3 has been released and has been greeted with unanimous praise by gamers and critics alike, is there a sense of relief among the team at Guerrilla that your latest KZ installment has lived up to the huge hype that surrounded it’s release?
MdJ: Absolutely. It was quite a ride to get the game out on time with all the features polished to the quality that we were happy with but when you see how well it’s generally received it makes it all worth it.
TGL: Given how well Killzone 2 performed, did this give you the motivation to move almost immediately into development of Killzone 3?
MdJ: Killzone 2 was indeed very well received but once we got it out of the door we realized there was still some room for improvement. So we started scanning through numerous reviews, and forum posts, as soon as they became available to get a good understanding of how our target audience saw the game. With this data we prioritized our wishlists for Killzone 3 and kicked off its development.
TGL: Was the implementation of motion control with Playstation Move something the team envisaged for Killzone 3 from the outset or was it an opportunity that arose further down the development cycle?
MdJ: Very early during development of Killzone 3 the first prototype for Move became available and we managed to hook it up to the game reasonably quickly. After that we just kept iterating, testing and improving our implementation while new Move prototypes kept coming in. And although it took just 1 Designer and 1 Programmer (not even full time) to get it to the quality we were happy with, both are developers that obviously know what they are doing.
TGL: What was the goal when deciding to implement Playstation Move? What does Move bring to the Killzone experience that you cannot get with the traditional Dual Shock 3?
MdJ: We wanted to make Killzone 3 an FPS that would appeal to hardcore gamers but also to a wider audience. To accomplish that goal the Move is a great device. The interesting thing is that for experienced DualShock players it might take some time to adapt to the Move controls. The same has always been the case for PC (mouse and keyboard) FPS players who had some difficulties with adapting to a stick controller like the DualShock. Now we have the Move, which is an excellent alternative to play FPS on the PS3. Apart from this appeal, the cool thing with playing with Move is that it is very accurate and can feel more immersive than the traditional controller, and I have to admit this is something I didn’t expect to happen when we first started experimenting with it.
TGL: Just how important is accessibility of controls when it comes to Killzone 3 and first person shooters in general? The weighty heavy feel that defined KZ2 has been reinterpreted significantly for KZ3. Why is this?
MdJ: Having accessible controls is key to any FPS but how they are implemented is very defining to the overall feel. Personally, I don’t like every game to have the exact same button layout and the exact same sense of weight and responsiveness – at some point you wonder which game you’re really playing. For the Killzone games we always tried to give the player the feeling that he’s there, a real soldier in a real battlefield, and putting some weight behind the controls helps achieving that. Unfortunately in KZ2 we had a bit too much of that due to lag in the controller input code. For KZ3, that has been fixed, which has resulted in much more responsive controls. But the heavy kind of animations for actions like movement, jumping, reloading, have all been retained so it still feels very much like a Killzone game, it just plays a lot better.
TGL: It’s really great to see Guerrilla continuing to support Sixaxis functionality with KZ3. Do you think that Sixaxis was ever actually given the chance to show what it could do?
MdJ: I think that the way we use it, it helps the player to feel more immersed and more connected to the world as he’s almost directly interacting with it. In a lot of games the environment is just a backdrop but I always felt it was important to let the player interact with it. Throughout KZ3 production there have been suggestions to remove it from the game but my response has always been that I would only consider that if anyone came up with something better. Looking at games in general I think it’s a bit of a shame that support for it has faded out.
TGL: KZ3’s environments and locals are defined by the introduction of some really striking bright colours; with red, blue and of course snow white leading the way. Was widening the colour palette and enhancing colour schemes a deliberate decision when it came to KZ3?
MdJ: Absolutely. Apart from making the game more accessible, we wanted to focus on variety in the broadest sense. Every mission/setting needed to have its own enemies, weapons, structures, atmosphere and of course colors as well. In an 8 hour action-movie game like Killzone 3, you have to keep revealing new stuff to players to keep their attention and to wet their appetites to play through the game till the credits rolls. And like KZ2, KZ3 takes place on the hostile planet Helghan, and we thought that even though it’s a very hostile place it doesn’t have to be all brown and gray, even with color it still feels very hostile and alien.
TGL: There’s much more of a confluence between the narrative and the actual gameplay in KZ3 by comparison to previous installments in the KZ franchise. Did the team at Guerrilla know where the story was going to pick up from after KZ2 or was KZ3’s story more of an organic writing process?
MdJ: It was more of an organic process but we did have strong ideas about the general direction and our ambitions with the story. Making it connect better to the gameplay was one thing, but we also wanted to show a lot more of the Helghast. They are such interesting characters and until Killzone 3 their perspective was somewhat ignored.
TGL: What kind of opportunities does Sony’s newest portable, the ‘NGP’ represent for the Killzone franchise?
MdJ: I can’t speak freely about it yet but it’s a great device. Especially when looking at the input methods like the front and rear touch screens and even more so the twin sticks which finally allow for proper FPS gameplay. Also its processing power and screen resolution are great for a showcase title like Killzone.
TGL: Killzone 3 is leading Sony’s 3D gaming impetus in 2011. What is it about Killzone 3 in 3D that makes it a must see/play?
MdJ: Our 3D implementation isn’t just splitting the screen up in layers to create the 3D effect, instead we have true 3D. We’re not using any fake 3D effects and we render a complete view for left -and right-eye. And this simply looks amazing. The added depth and graphical richness are so impressive. You actually feel more immersed in the game. Once you’ve experienced it yourself it’s hard to go back to normal TV and play without it.
Killzone 3 is available now on Playstation 3 and supports Playstation Move.