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Studio Profile: Guerrilla Games

May 9, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

It was shortly after the rebranding of the studio in 2004 that it released its first big console projects: ShellShock: Nam '67, published by Eidos for PC, Xbox and PlayStation 2, and of course the Sony-published Killzone.

The work the studio had done for Eidos was very much in line with the way it had previously worked on the Game Boy platforms -- contracted work for a third party publisher.

Killzone, however, was not.

"Back in December 1999," said Hulst, "we had made a demo called Marines. I showed it to Sony in London, and you have to understand back then that was a risky proposition -- since the only popular console FPS was GoldenEye. A lot has changed since then."

Given the market conditions when Hulst pitched the project to Sony, and the fact that Sony already had a promising sci-fi shooter slated for its platform, its decision to take a pass on the Marines project made sense.

On one hand, you had a small Dutch developer which had never produced a shooter before, and on the other hand was a well-known developer with a proven track record. Coming from the PC and Mac sphere, Bungie had extensive experience in making first person shooters (the Marathon series) and had two games pledged for the upcoming PS2 system.

One was a third person action game called Oni; the other one however is arguably the game that built the Xbox brand -- none other than Halo: Combat Evolved.

Bungie started out as one of the very few Mac game developers, but economic realities (the implosion of sales of Macintosh computers in the late '90s) forced it to branch out to Windows computers as well.

Halo was first considered for release on Mac, PC, and Dreamcast. As hype started to build around the upcoming release of the PlayStation 2, the Dreamcast version was shelved in favor of a console exclusivity deal with Sony for PS2 -- where Sony itself would act as publisher of the game.

Microsoft, however, was coming out with its Xbox and needed more talented developers to attract gamers to its first real entry into the console industry. Bungie was open for a buyout, and Sony lost the Halo franchise. It still got Oni via Rockstar, however.

Ironically, Halo: Combat Evolved -- the game that killed the Marines project for Sony -- was also the one that revived it. After the huge success Halo enjoyed on the Xbox, Sony realized it needed a high profile exclusive sci-fi shooter on the PS2. Guerrilla was contacted and the project got the greenlight -- and the budget it needed.

This, of course, fueled the fanboy flames -- with many, thanks to the pre-release hype, calling Killzone the "Halo killer".  This, despite the fact that Guerrilla set out to make a different type of FPS, and despite the game's PR manager Alastair Burns, who left the company shortly after the release of the first Killzone game, telling me back in 2004:

"Halo, you say? Well, we have the utmost respect for the people at Bungie; they made an incredible game. We are not trying to make a Halo, here, though. Yeah, both are sci-fi shooters, but I think that is where the similarities end. We are making our own game here, and I don't see why both can't be successful side by side."

Even after the game released and became a commercial success, controversy followed both the release of the game and the debut of its follow-up -- which exploded at E3 2005 when Sony's then-Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison told us that what we were about to witness was all gameplay.

What followed were CG trailers of several games -- which Harrison had just claimed were actual PS3 games. Included was a Killzone 2 trailer, created by a Scottish CG studio.

This put Guerrilla -- which at that point was not yet owned by Sony -- in a difficult spot. Yes, the developers were working on Killzone 2, and yes, they had provided assets to an outside company to make a Killzone CG trailer, but the kicker was that Killzone 2 was up till then a PS2 project.

No code existed on PlayStation 3; in fact, Guerrilla didn't even have PS3 dev kits yet when development on the trailer started. After E3 2005, however, there was no way back for Guerrilla -- nor for Sony, who had backed itself into a corner thanks to Harrison's statements.

"After we completed Killzone 1 on PS2, for a good half-year or so, until early 2005, we had a PS2 game in development called Killzone 2.  What happened was that we had never anticipated that that trailer in 2005 would get that much traction. I mean, the whole world seemed to be talking about it, and at that point it just made more sense to scrap the work we had done for the PS2 version and work on the PS3," said Hulst.

"You have to understand, back then compared to now, we were still a relatively small studio. I think we were about 55 people back then. So the decision was made to direct all our resources to the PS3, and try to fulfill the expectations set by that trailer. The trailer being gameplay was obviously not true -- because there was nothing there except for the trailer.

"The hard part for us was like 'Uh-oh. Now we will actually have to make that!' But the good part is that that 2005 trailer shown at E3 created tremendous focus for the team. You had a graphical benchmark, but also the intensity of the combat shown, and frankly there was no way back from that. When you show something and shout about it to the outside world, you better live up to it. So the good part of that was that it gave us a lot of focus, and it acted as a kick start for the project."


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