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Killzone PS4: why being first demands excellence – interview

Monday, 7th October 2013 07:55 GMT By Dave Cook

Killzone: Shadow Fall is Sony’s leading launch title. VG247′s Dave Cook spoke with developer Guerrilla Games to get a handle on how it looks to exceed expectation, and showcase PS4′s power to the world.

Killzone: Shadow Fall

Developed by Guerrilla Games, Killzone: Shadow Fall is the fourth home console entry to the series.

The game is a PS4 launch title dropping November 15 in North America, and November 29 across Europe.

Pat recently had an extensive hands-on with Shadow Fall’s new multiplayer component Warzone. It’s incredibly customisable.

Killzone: Shadow Fall will offer players a DLC season pass option. You’ll find a trailer for the content here.

We’re rapidly approaching one of the strangest and most scrutinised launch seasons in gaming history. To many, the wait for PS4 and Xbox One has felt longer than past cycles and it’s clear to see that excitement among fans is at boiling point.

But for Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla Games, the release of its shooter represents more than the start of a new generation. It’s a statement of intent for parent company Sony, a technical showcase that can – nay, must – convince players out there that the console still bears technical clout over rapidly advancing PC tech. It may also help decide which format you stick with for the next seven years.

There will always exist an appetite for console gaming but even at a distance we’ve seen many PS3 and Xbox 360 gamers turn to the PC market in search of cheaper games, broader innovation and the flexibility to upgrade their rig as they please. If any cycle represented a chance to cash those cheques and make good on the hype, then this is surely it. We’re almost there, and it’s genuinely thrilling.

I recently met with Guerrilla Games lead designer Eric Boltjes to discuss how the studio helped Sony thrash out the final PS4 tech, and how it felt to be a part of next-gen’s initial charge. Love or hate the Killzone franchise; there’s no denying that Shadow Fall is a remarkable technical achievement. For a day-one title, that’s impressive.

“We knew pretty early on that we wanted to be a launch title,” Boltjes explained. “We knew it was inevitable that there was going to be a new platform, so quite early on – about two and a half years ago – we said ‘You know, we want to be a launch title. We want to be on the next-gen console.’

“The reason for that is that Killzone is all about the graphics and gameplay, obviously [laughs]. But being able to do that on a new platform was just an amazing chance, I mean, we really wanted to get in there and we wanted to get in early.”

To prepare Killzone: Shadow Fall as a launch title, Guerrilla had to be exposed to Sony’s new strategy and tech early on. We’ve heard a lot of talk about the PS4′s PC-like architecture and vast improvements over PS3, but I wanted to hear it straight from someone who has been steeped in that world for the past couple of years. Was it as simple as armchair pundits keep assuming?

Boltjes continued, “The really scary part is, all the tools and all the stuff we developed previously had to go out of the window. We had to re-do everything. We had the engine that we were rebuilding to fit next-gen – you know, the new architecture all that sort of stuff – all the assets had to be re-done, weapons had to be re-done and the animation systems had to be rebuilt. It was a lot like leaving your save data for something new and scary.”

So it wasn’t all that straight-forward then, but Boltjes stressed – as many have before him – that the PS4 architecture is, “a lot more normal,” and added, “The architecture is really cool because it’s easier to develop for, you get more memory, you get more hard drive space, you get more processing power so the architecture is easier.

“It’s also a lot more demanding, because the production effort needed just to make a next-gen title now is not doubled; It’s quadrupled. That’s because everything needs to look that much better. It takes a lot more people, and that takes a lot more communication. So it does it make things a lot more easier from a technical standpoint, but from a professional standpoint it makes things a lot harder.”

This was always going to be an issue going into next-gen. I wrote about it in this blog after Battlefield 4 was revealed. The game looked incredible but I felt troubled at large, because it’s all well and good for developers of next-gen games to tart up their experiences with technical gloss, but unless teams are using that clout to come up with new, disruptive means of play, then that feels – to me – like wasted potential.

I don’t envy any studio making next-gen titles now, because this truly is a crunch time. With so much power, where do you turn to for inspiration? Simply updating visuals isn’t enough any more for a lot of gamers, and it’s a trap that I fear a lot of teams will surely fall into in the year ahead. Let’s face it, budgets are going out of control now, which means publishers will want to take less risks. The reality could be that we’re staring down a long line of pretty, yet ultimately bland experiences.

Yet I don’t feel that way when I look at Killzone: Shadow Fall. As Pat wrote in his multiplayer blog, Guerrilla’s competitive Warzone format sounds refreshing and fun. It’s a break away from standard playlists and the first time I’ve seen a console shooter give this much freedom to its online players. It’s new and uses a lot of the console’s power. Returning to our tech conversation, I asked Boltjes to discuss What Guerrilla requested of PS4 Architect Mark Cerny, during his infamous tour of Sony’s first-party studios.

“One of the things we wanted to improve upon was the controllers,” Boltjes replied. “I personally feel that in previous Killzones, the DualShock was always good, but when you looked at other controllers they had an edge. We really worked together with Mark from Sony on improving the controller. For example, the triggers. We wanted better triggers. They previously reverted inwards where, in a shooter game, that’s not very good. Your fingers slip off.

“We really pushed them to make better triggers that go up. Also stuff like the touch-pad. When I first saw it on the prototype controller I was like, ‘What the hell am I supposed to do with that? It’s not an iPhone game.’ But I’m really surprised as to how well that little thing works. I’m not promoting it, I don’t have to sell that controller, but I’m really happy with how it works in our game. Everything else works now, from response time, the dead-zones, everything is better. The lag is gone, and that makes Killzone a better game.”

The DualShock 4 is indeed a marked improvement over the PS3 controller, and Boltjes even added, “When developing PS4 and our game as well, we held a lot of prototypes, and we played around with them as well. In one, they had replaced all of the buttons were touch-sensitive. We just said, ‘No’.” This dialogue between format holder and studio shows that Sony has listened to its first-party stock when developing every key facet of PlayStation 4. With that kind of backing and communication, it’s little wonder that Guerrilla has managed to craft a game that oozes technical wizardry.

We’re yet to play the full campaign however, and that will be the true test of whether or not that additional power has been used to add depth and innovation beyond what you see on the surface. Many gamers out there won’t care, and will view Killzone: Shadow Fall as a visual benchmark of what’s to come, but others will look deeper, at where that power is being used and how it is driving new ideas in our industry.

For now though, I’m excited to get my hands on final Shadow Fall code, and to see those juicy visuals and – hopefully – new ideas with my own eyes. Based on my chat with Boltjes, I’m expecting one or two technically-led surprises along the way.

Killzone: Shadow Fall launches on PS4 across North America on November 12, and across Europe November 29. Will you be picking it up?

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33 Comments

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  1. Xbone

    …and thats why it wont be 60fps.

    #1 9 months ago
  2. Dragon

    Those screen-shots look delicious :D

    #2 9 months ago
  3. wildBoar

    @1 No ur cunsule is bad! Uhnghhhhh.

    I think what’s delightful about those screens is all the colour and the sharpness of the lighting. Battlefield is still a bit gray by comparison really.
    As for the campaign, let’s all hope it’s more of a Killzone 2 than a Killzone 3. They were really onto something there..

    #3 9 months ago
  4. redwood

    @1 oh look a talking bone :D

    #4 9 months ago
  5. DrDamn

    @3
    I really noticed the colours too. KZ2 got a fair bit of stick for the pallatte choices, but this looks great.

    One thing I’d like to know about is MP map size. What we’ve seen so far is fairly standard maps size wise and I’d like to know if there are some with a bit more scale like some of the KZ2 maps.

    #5 9 months ago
  6. dsr

    @3
    If you look at some videos, campaign is more like Crysis than Killzone now. Semi open world with places to explore and some optional objectives.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. wildBoar

    @6 I was thinking more in terms of the narrative and plot. How large the maps’s are for your pew-pewing doesn’t ultimately make all that much difference. It’s nice to have some extra space, but it’s still gonna be more of a Crysis 2 than 1 I’m sure.

    If it has a good story at the heart that’s more than enough justification however. And with KZ2 they almost had it, then dropped the ball on 3.

    So it’s peculiar what this’ll be like.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. Docker Al

    30 fps is not a ‘technical showcase’. And it certainly does not ‘exceed expectations’. Sony and Guerrilla should be embarrassed.

    #8 9 months ago
  9. DrDamn

    @1 & @8
    MP is 60fps.

    #9 9 months ago
  10. systemr

    @8: it’s not about how many fps if something is nice or not, it’s about the whole package. i prefer 30 fps looking stellar than 60 fps looking meh.

    #10 9 months ago
  11. VibraniumSpork

    Welp, I think this is going to do great numbers for the PS4 launch either way. Most people I know/have heard from who’ve pre-ordered the console have at least included it as part of a bundle.

    I think a large part of that is definitely down to the visuals. If any game looks to show off the system on day one, this is it. From my perspective it also offers something different to the well-worn schtick of COD and BF, both of which I’m a little fatigued with.

    And Dave’s right. With the new console tech, I think most gamers are looking for something that tries something a little different as well as pushing the envelope presentation-wise. KZ has that sci-fi edge and what sounds like a pretty progressive multi-player suite. Titanfall looks set to decimate the competition on the innovation front though…

    #11 9 months ago
  12. monkeygourmet

    @11

    Yeah Titanfall looks hella good!

    #12 9 months ago
  13. Lv01

    @11, and im another that has included this in my preorder bundle. and im seriously excited for it. it looks gorgeous, and the MP ‘warzone’ idea is just a really nice breath of fresh air. roll on nov 29!

    #13 9 months ago
  14. VibraniumSpork

    @12 Yep! Unless anything concrete’s announced re: its status as a ‘timed exclusive’ (most importantly a PS4 release date) I just know that I’m going to have to strongly consider the inevitable XB1/Titanfall bundle -_-

    @13 Right there with ya buddy! GAME contacted me last Monday and I went for the KZ/camera/2 controller bundle. My body (though not my wallet) is ready ^_^

    #14 9 months ago
  15. Lv01

    @14 ditto. that deal is such good value tho..! and id always need a second controller anyway, so for them to include one in a killzone bundle was a no brainer!

    #15 9 months ago
  16. redwood

    the MP on this is gonna be ace!

    #16 9 months ago
  17. VibraniumSpork

    FYI, while they’re late to the party IGN have just posted an update about the PS4 bundles: http://i1101.photobucket.com/albums/g438/LethalSlayer_vP/fariko.jpg?t=1344465507

    They do mention that the KZ bundles come with a ‘Special Edition’ of the game…first I’ve heard of any special edition for the title though. Anyone got intel on that?

    #17 9 months ago
  18. pcbros

    @10 – I think the point some people are trying to make is that in order to “exceed expectations”, they wanted stellar visuals at 60 fps.

    #18 9 months ago
  19. monkeygourmet

    @18

    Yep. I didn’t expect any higher than that. 4K @ 30fps was obviously out of the question, but I don’t think 1080p @ 60fps is asking too much as a standard.

    Especailly as Sony have been whoring out new TV tech for ions. 3D seems to have died a death aswell.

    #19 9 months ago
  20. wildBoar

    @18 I think they do look pretty fucking crispy at 60 as well. Apparently Guerilla’s gay for shaders and illuminative lighting or whatever so they wanted to rather crank the fps down to 30.

    It’s still fucking gorgeous however. Making a game that’s too tasking for the hardware is fucking easy with current game software.
    What’s impressive is that they made the game without much any compromise and the PS4 will still fucking run it.

    And that they’re being so upfront about the hardware struggling is testimony to that they aimed high, and relative to where game software is at right now, that’s an incredible feat for the PS4.

    @21 gotta see the game in motion man, that’s where all that volumetric lighting comes into play.

    #20 9 months ago
  21. monkeygourmet

    Here’s a Killzone 3 screenshot to see how far we have come:

    http://www.gamedynamo.com/images/galleries/photo/2746/killzone-trilogy-ps3-screenshots-5.jpg

    And the infamous Killzone 2 E3 Demo…:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lRAPncF5qw

    It’s amazing, we’ve only just really achieved this and in some cases this demo still looks better than anything yet seen FPS wise.

    #21 9 months ago
  22. DrDamn

    @MG
    That is the actual how it turned out trailer – not the CGI one. So they musta got pretty close huh? ;)

    This is the infamous one …
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-4HNmuEAKg

    #22 9 months ago
  23. wildBoar

    @21 .. I don’t get what you’re saying..

    We’ve only ‘just’ achieved this? while linking to two several year old games.. But yeah, they do hold up if that’s your point.

    #23 9 months ago
  24. monkeygourmet

    @23

    Sorry, didn’t watch before I posted, I presumme I had the right one! :)

    Yep, thats the one! Still want to play a FPS that captures that chaotic ‘war’ feeling…

    @24

    Yeah, more the fact they hold up and that the leap isn’t crazy big.

    #24 9 months ago
  25. wildBoar

    @25 Try going online on KZ2.. Still better mp than 3, and you’ll be lucky if you don’t spawn on a grenade or in the crosshairs of an MG.

    Chaotic is in many ways the worst and best part of Killzone.

    #25 9 months ago
  26. DrDamn

    @25
    That’s a KZ3 bullshot though. It was good, but not that good.
    http://www.play-mag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/KZ3-037.jpg
    http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/607698-killzone-3-playstation-3-screenshot-approaching-a-derelict.jpg

    KZ Shadowfall …
    http://a.pomf.se/7Jg9.gif

    #26 9 months ago
  27. fearmonkey

    Killzone:SF looks beautiful to me, just gorgeous. I have rarely seen so much beautiful color in a FPS. While plenty of FPS’s use vibrant colors at times, they don’t have that same look that Guerrilla is going for.

    It certainly looks next gen to me. I can’t wait to play it and Knack.

    #27 9 months ago
  28. pcbros

    Are those actuall screen grabs in the article or in-game renders? The anti-aliasing looks pretty high.

    #28 9 months ago
  29. fearmonkey

    @30 – Hard to tell at this small of a shot really. All the shots I have seen before seem very low on jaggies, so could be a processed screen.

    I want to see video of that last shot where it’s raining, that looks very nice.

    #29 9 months ago
  30. DrDamn

    Better quality versions of the screen grabs here …
    http://www.gamersyde.com/news_gc_killzone_shadow_fall_new_screens-14450_en.html

    Nice vid here too …
    http://www.gamersyde.com/news_gc_killzone_shadow_fall_trailer-14520_en.html

    #30 9 months ago
  31. fearmonkey

    @31 – thanks!!

    The bigger screens show jaggies but very minimal which is nice, the game looks great! The appear to be in game multiplayer screens according to the links, so the single player would be even prettier.

    Wish the vid was just straight gameplay but it looks good.

    #31 9 months ago
  32. pcbros

    No doubt one of top looking next-gen titles.

    #32 9 months ago
  33. Nekrage

    This first KZ was so fkn terrible, I never picked up any of the other KZ games because of it.

    #33 9 months ago