Interviews// Killzone 3 Senior Producer, Steven Ter Heide

Posted 3 Feb 2011 17:00 by
We're going Killzone 3 mad today at SPOnG. Not only have we got the review for you to peruse, but I also managed to spend a few moments with Guerrilla Games' Senior Producer, Steven Ter Heide. And he's a very friendly chap.

The PS3 exclusive - which hits stores on the 25th February - rounds up the war between the Helghast and the ISA forces with explosive consequences. But with both praise and criticism of Killzone 2 fresh in the studio's mind, it's also a statement of intent for Guerrilla in how it responds and listens to its passionate fanbase.

In this monster interview we learn of Guerrilla's future plans for its engine and its relation to the new IP it is working on, how Killzone 2's controls amounted to a bug, and why the series can be compared to Star Wars.

SPOnG: How have you found PlayStation Move as a first-person controller? What were the challenges you faced and what was your general experience with the peripheral?

Steven Ter Heide: Itís a difficult one, because the book hasnít been written on Move and how itís supposed to work. So we looked at other titles that use the same kind of mechanisms, we look at PC games with the mouse and we tried to figure out what was important to make the best experience. Killzone 3 is a fast-paced action shooter so you have to have a quick response time - but how do you get that in there?

We started to implement different kind of methods for control. We tried locking the camera to wherever you were pointing at, and that quickly turned into a nauseating experience. That didnít work. We tried all kinds of different setups and did some testing becauseÖ weíve all very much grown up with the DualShock - we all grew up with the DualShock, so transitioning to motion control was kind of difficult at first.

But you have to bring fresh people in because thatís what the Move is about. We want to attract new crowds of people, so that anyone who wants to try Killzone 3 can feel like they can play it.

Causal Gamers
But first to set out what are good ways to play with this? This is very difficult to just go by our opinion, so you get these masses of people in and do focus tests. What we quickly started to figure out was that initially we thought we were going to appeal to the casual audience, so weíre setting the guys up and teaching them where to point and explain thatís where the bullets are coming from, itís a very natural thing and people who are more casual and canít get on with the DualShock controller, they really got that.

On the other end of the spectrum, we found - quite surprisingly - that PC gamers, who liked the accuracy of a mouse and keyboard and were used to snap responses, they really liked Moveís accuracy and the ability to pinpoint where the bullets go.

We did have to make some tweaks for that side of things though, because obviously if you want to cater to both markets thatís difficult because certain things appeal to one audience but not the other. Thatís why we have the options menu and allow you to set the dead zone or even completely eradicate it so it feels more like a mouse. Thereís an aim assist for those who are more casual and you can toggle that as well. So I think weíve done our best to cater to both markets, which is great.

SPOnG: Do you think core gamers could eventually transition from DualShock to Move controller?

Steven Ter Heide: I compare that thought to snowboarders versus skiiers really. At some point snowboarders will be calling skiiers a bunch of sissies and theyíll insist thatís not right to use the snow like that. You need just one plank and thatís fine. Of course, the skiiers will say Ďyou canít do this, and you canít do thatí and they have their own kind of style.

So itís a matter of preferred taste and some of the people who have grown up with the DualShock will make the transition over to Move, and weíll start playing [games] that way. And itís just great that we have that option.

SPOnG: What has the fan feedback been like? Not just on the Move controller, but on the experience you offered in the Closed Beta some weeks back?

Steven Ter Heide: We have had lots and lots of feedback. We have a very vocal fanbase, which on the one hand is great because we get many suggestions, but on the other itís sometimes difficult to ask ĎWhatís the real issue here? Can we just cut through all the bullshit and see whatís actually happening?í So thereís a lot of telemetry data that we capture as well to make things more objective.

For instance, bringing the multiplayer count down from 32 to 24, something that we did where our fans went ĎWoah, but we like our 32-player games.í Well, look at the data for Killzone 2 and look at the ways that you play, itís all smaller games because people tend to bunch up in smaller groups, on maps with close-quarter arenas - players tended to gravitate towards that. The numbers push you one way, the forums push you the other way and you have to try and find the right balance in all of that.

From the Beta, again we took a lot of feedback on board. We know that the multiplayer game is all about balance - trying to get that right mix of progressing your abilities and keeping it in line with your skillset and the mix of players and options. We need large numbers of people to test the waters so we can accurately decide that balance, and the Beta really delivered.

Some of the feedback focused on the weapons and how they felt, so we made changes to fix that. At one particular moment the LMG and M1 guns had sniper-like accuracy - which cannot be, because itís not a sniper rifle. These need to have recoil and to behave like a machine gun. That was a bug, something that shouldnít have happened that we overlooked on our end, but thatís what the Beta does - to help us sniff out things like that.

We had a wide range of things that were fed back to us from that Beta, from weapon handling to how well players could mix and match different abilities and depth ranges in weapons and maps. It allowed us to tailor the entire experience around the players.
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