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Development Lessons From Killzone 2: An Interview
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Development Lessons From Killzone 2: An Interview

May 8, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

A lot of things are required for single-player campaigns. Design is obviously really important in single-player and multiplayer. Before things were nailed down, you could immediately start testing. Did you resist design documents for the multiplayer because you were being iterative?

AB: [laughs] I think I've made a couple of games in my life now, and I think the online component is one of the only games that I've ever worked on where the initial design is actually more than 90% translated into the final product. That really worked well. Our vision, we really kept true to that. But we did actually still iterate. We still throw away things, try things, etcetera.

We don't value design documents that much, but you have to have that vision. You have to have those poles in the ground. What is it going to be about? What are we going to do with squads and badges? And those kinds of notions were available really early.

You can iterate as you like. You don't need 300-page design bibles. But you know, that 30-page initial vision, and you have people that are really hands-on and driven towards chasing their ideas throughout the company. That's more valuable than any piece of paper.

How did you communicate? You say that 90% of the original design came through in the end, and there was a really long process and also a very large team. So how did you communicate that and keep it consistent over that? That sounds like a pretty impressive accomplishment to me.

HH: I think what Arjan just mentioned just now is a very, very critical part of our process. Every Friday, everybody in the company drops what they're doing and plays the game, so people at all times are aware of the state of the game. There's no better way than sharing where you're at and what you want to achieve than forcing people to play the bloody game. So that's probably the single most important thing, forcing that.

Yeah, so it has the benefit of everyone being on the same page essentially.

HH: It's got that, plus you get feedback from a hundred guys. A hundred guys that play a lot of games, and getting that feedback and doing something with it, never dismissing that, responding to it, week-by-week. That's very early user-testing.

AB: And for online, that works really well. Single-player, it's a bit less so. The pipelines are a bit deeper, so it takes a long time for people to see their stuff in the game, finally playing. But in online, because of the quick iteration and the kind of way that you structure it from mo-cap to final, the game was fun and completed before there was any art.

So, that's a really interesting approach. It worked wonders for that. And that meant we could also have other teams, even within Sony, work on the online levels to help us out, so we didn't have to touch it up ourselves anymore because we knew it played well. "Okay, sure. Now make it look nice," you know.

Totally changing track, relatively soon after the game shipped, you came out with a control patch. I just want to talk about that process. What spurred it? And what was that like? Because prior to this you guys have had PC development experience, but this is the first console game where you've been able to ship a patch.

AB: Well, we've done patches also for Killzone 1, right? Though the systems then were less meant to do these patches, but still, we were able to do that.

I was talking to some other guys out of Bungie at GDC on the idea that games don't ever finish anymore, right? So, you go into this kind of service model, and you keep on improving your game. We kind of found this issue, we investigated some things, and if we find issues that we think, "Yeah, that's a bug, we have not seen this" or "we've forgotten about this," then we can patch it, and we have that system.

We're thinking about continuous improvements to our game. If we find issues, we now have a million-plus people playing the game actively -- if you look at the site, [that's] how many people are playing it. So they're bound to find issues or cheat.

You know, we had an issue with auto-aim being a kind of cheaty solution sometimes, so we fixed that, just to make the experience nice for everybody. I think that will continue for the next half year.

You know, the Halo guys are working on Halo 3 still two years down the line. I think that's the kind of model that you're looking at. The Left 4 Dead guys, I think they did 70 patches or so? And they slip it under the curtain. You don't see it anymore, with Steam. That's the kind of way that you need to think about these kinds of things.

So, I think it's a strong thing. It's a strong thing that we listen to our customers and we fix these things when we find them, and just help improve the game continuously.

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