AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands – Guerrilla Games has spent the past two years creating the very first stereoscopic 3D game for PlayStation 3 with Killzone 3. The studio, which at one point had a team of 200 people developing the sequel, worked closely with Sony Computer Entertainment’s Liverpool team to push the 3D experience. The team also worked closely to develop a brand new PlayStation Move gun peripheral for the 3D shooter, which adds accuracy to the shooter action. And the studio’s location in Amsterdam didn’t prevent the game maker from tapping into Hollywood talent – both in front of the camera and behind it – to bring the 3D cinematics to life and borrow from the latest 3D filmmaking techniques. Hermen Hulst, managing director at Guerrilla Games, talks about the new shooter and what’s next for the franchise in this exclusive interview.
How have you seen the importance of storytelling evolve in the game industry since Killzone 1?
It used to be that storytelling and character buildup was very secondary to gameplay. The game industry used to focus only on gameplay and the story didn’t really matter. It was more of a filler or a bit of general context. I think with the arrival of games like Uncharted 2 that has changed. I think it’s a lot more important now. You see a lot of big actors in games today.
How has being part of Sony Computer Entertainment helped you tap into Hollywood talent?
We’re still independent in the sence that we pick the actors for Killzone 3 like Malcolm McDowell and Ray Winstone. But being part of Sony opens a lot of doors. Sony’s got a great services group out of San Diego with a lot of very close links to Hollywood. It’s a good network of solid directors and writers and it’s just generally easier to set things up with their facility over there on the West Coast of America. I think it’s a little easier to work with big name actors over there. So once you have a foothold there, I think you can do more and that’s very helpful.
How has Guerrilla Games been able to take advantage of Hollywood convergence?
I think the greatest benefit so far has been in borrowing techniques and methods and general inspiration from the other medium and that goes both ways from Hollywood to games and vice versa. We just talked about how we’re inspired by Hollywood and we borrow some of their techniques, but also we use some of their tools. We used Houdini to build those beautiful oceans that you see in our ice level in Killzone 3. The guys that did that used to create effects for the film industry. So these techniques we’re bringing in to games. Vice versa, you see certain films and somehow you can just tell that those guys used to play videogames. I think videogames are now mature enough and they’ve been in existence long enough that some of the bigger named directors have been exposed to that and it’s part of their general entertainment exposure. So you see that cross-fertilization.
Why do you think so many Hollywood adaptations of films have failed at the box office?
Where it comes to direct one on one interpretation of videogames based on Hollywood films, that traditionally has not been very successful. But I think that’s not so much because it’s impossible. I think it has more to do with the fact that games have always been seen kind of as merchandizing, as a spin-off. It’s like a way for some quick profit and not necessarily doing the property justice. But going forward, I think we’ll see more properties being built up in such a way that different media can be used for the creation of new properties. And if you start with a new IP (intellectual property) you bear in mind a movie, a video game, and maybe a novel or cartoon. It can be very interesting, but if you’ve made something that’s only suitable for a movie or for a videogame, it can feel very artificial.
Were you thinking about movies and TV shows back when you created Killzone?
I think we weren’t really thinking about it, but we’ve definitely been inspired by a lot of movies to the extent that we’ve been creating such a cinematic experience that it seems apparently very natural in the eyes of many that our next step would be a blockbuster movie. People ask me that all the time: “When is the Killzone movie coming out?” And to that, frankly, I’ve been wanting to focus on the gameplay experience for now. We’re still making the best possible game. We’ve been staying true to what you’re good at, what’s native to you. But I understand where the question comes from because the storytelling, the creation of the universe, the theme of the games has a lot of overlap between big action movies what we’re doing. So it’s kind of a logical question.
With other Sony properties like Uncharted and inFAMOUS heading to the big screen, does that change anything when it comes to the perspective of turning Killzone into a movie?
No, that doesn’t change anything. In Hollywood, there are always projects going on. So I don’t know what to say to all these things. In principle, as the guy responsible for Guerrilla, I look at Killzone in its own rights. And I’m going to look at it and see what’s best for that franchise and if it serves the right purpose, we’ll have a look at (a film). Up until then, we’ll keep making the best possible games possible.