Killzone 3 director on 3D, ‘hard sci-fi,’ and more

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You should know, before you read this interview, that I braved a natural disaster to bring it to you. More specifically, on my way to San Francisco from Baltimore, my layover flight was delayed because of a tornado in Denver, Colorado. According to the alarms and buzzers being set off in the airport, the tornado was headed directly toward the Denver International Airport.

I was convinced I’d miss the Killzone 3 event, which was set to take place later that evening. Less than an hour later, despite the apocalypse-level hype, we were all clear to take off. Seriously.

Guerilla Games’ Herman Hulst, game director on Killzone 3, started off his presentation by addressing my situation. “Which one of you guys had to deal with a tornado to get here?” I raised my hand as everyone turned and started. “Awesome. That’s great. Thanks for coming out,” he added.

So, when I finally got a chance to sit down with Hulst one-on-one, we did talk about tornadoes. But we also chatted about Killzone 3, 3D gaming, PlayStation Move, the science fiction of the Killzone universe, and more. Check it out after the jump.

So the time between Killzone 1 and Killzone 2 seemed pretty long. It was about four, maybe five years? And then when you revealed Killzone 2, it seemed like forever before it came out. Now you’re showing us Killzone 3, and it’s out next year; two years seems a bit quick.

So you know, Killzone 3 will be coming out in 2011, so you’re right in saying it’s a much shorter development cycle. And wow, there was a lot of pressure on getting Killzone 2 out on time, after we released that initial concept video at E3 in 2005. This time around, the pressure is essentially bigger, because we’re creating a much bigger game than Killzone 2 was and we’re doing it in a much smaller development cycle.

The reason we can do it is not only because we work very hard, but I think we’ve got a much more experienced development team right now; we can build on a very solid foundation. We’ve got a lot of great systems we’re bringing forward. There’s nothing really in Killzone 3 that’s straight from Killzone 2, everything’s been improved.

You saw the demo today, those are actually Killzone 2 characters in there. We actually have already replaced them, just not in the demo we showed you today. But it’s a great head start, and it doesn’t really take away from the experience. They look great, but they’re going to look a hell of a lot better once the final content’s in there. So having that solid foundation, the team in place, the development process streamlined at the end, you know we really have hired, recruited up, trained up, we can move a lot faster.

You actually mentioned before, debunking the myth that Naughty Dog was developing some or part of Killzone 3. Where did that start?

I have no idea. I talked to [Naughty Dog co-president] Evan Wells yesterday about it, he had no idea either. I think it originated somewhere in Scandinavia where some guy made some predictions about Killzone 3

It’s not true. We talk to Naughty Dog a lot about the general development process, mostly about concepts and ideas for technology. And each team has their own technology groups; each team develops their own engine. There are some worldwide studios, some tools that we share; it’s a two way thing, but stating that one team is developing the engine for the other is way too big of a story. It’s more of a conceptual thing back and forth.

You did mention that God of War III and Naughty Dog influenced the design or direction of Killzone 3. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Yeah, I don’t want to say — and I didn’t say — that they influenced or set the direction for the game. What I do think is that for various reasons these games are very inspirational. I talk scale, I talk about how we set up these huge variety of different settings and some of them on a massive scale. The level today, is ten times bigger [than stuff from Killzone 2]. Talk about scale, God of War III — a boss on top of a boss is kind of a boss to the third degree. Wow, is that a lot of scale.

So whilst you’re developing you see something like that and think “We’d better step it up, we’ve got to floor it!” So that’s a game-changer. And in Uncharted 2, you know, character driven story-development, man…that was a step up from what we’ve seen before. I think to me that was the notion that there really isn’t anything that you can drop the ball on. It used to be you could do great gameplay with kind of a sucky storyline and you’ll get away with it. After Uncharted 2, I think everything’s got to be up to par, up to snuff. In those different senses, I think that those two games and those two teams are always increasing that bar, and in that sense they have influence. And vice versa, we get the same feedback from those guys. That’s what’s really great about some of these worldwide studios right now, since…

Looking at where the story is headed, the direction your taking players with the worlds and such, Killzone is starting to get a much more “sci-fi” feel, whereas I’d say that the earlier titles felt more “military.” Is that intentional?

Yeah, it’s really a conscious decision. We call it more “hard sci-fi.” The the enemies are a little bit more mechanical, more robotic, they’re bigger, they’re scarier. We’re doing that just because we can; it’s cool. We have this realism, then this twist, stuff you can’t do in real life, but it’s still grounded in reality, so you can make sure you can associate yourself with the experience with what you know.

I love the characters, particularly the iconic Helghast. You seem to be working towards a pretty rich over-arching narrative. You’re really building a world. When can we expect a Killzone movie?

Killzone: The Movie? Nothing to announce. The question has come up a number of times, but again, nothing to announce.

So this whole 3D thing, I’ll admit I’m not entirely sold on it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the 3D as implemented in what you’re showing on Killzone 3 is impressive, for sure. But I also hear from other gamers, and I’m sure you have to, that they’re not really interested in or sold on the idea. Why were you so for getting 3D into Killzone 3?

No, I appreciate that feeling. You know, we’re trying to raise the bar, and that’s what we love to do. We love taking the hardware and getting the maximum out of it. The PS3, something like 3D comes by, we jump on it. We love it. We think it’s going to enhance the experience. I fully buy that, you know, it’s the early adopters who are going to have the [3D-enabled] TV.

As we go forward, you will see that televisions — and you will be upgrading your TV at some point — it’s very likely that you’ll purchase a TV that’s 3D-enabled. Just like I’m sure if you recently bought a TV, it was HD-enabled. So, organically, people will go through that phase. At the same time, we’re making sure that the people who don’t have a 3D television get the full experience, the bread and butter of Killzone. It’s still playable and viewable in HD televisions. So that’s still the full experience.

So as a gamer, and a developer, are you sold on the idea in terms of the future?

Yes. I think it’s a game-changer for a franchise that has always strived to create a full sense of immersion in every single way. You know, very realistic animations, great concept design, a world that’s believable, that could have been built in reality. You know, us putting our guys — our playable characters — on the frontline of the experience, in 3D the frontline of the experience is now real. It’s virtually real. You see yourself, and there’s stuff happening behind you and in front of you, so you’re almost literally right in the middle of it. And I think it’s a real game-changer in that we’re continually strengthening that sense of immersion.

So no Move?


PlayStation Move.

Yeah, Move is great. We’ve been toying around with SOCOM, and I can’t really talk about… we get a lot of questions about co-op and Move. But we’re really only talking about what we have here today. It’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

You know, working with Sony 3D televisions and pushing forward with the 3D technology, it seems it would make sense for you also to support Move.

It would make sense that you would ask that question! [laughs]

Full details and hands-on with Killzone 3 can be found here.

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