The Playstation and Me: Hermen Hulst, Part 2

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Previously in the series: The Playstation and Me: David Jaffe, Part 1,  The Playstation and Me: David Jaffe, Part 2The Playstation and Me: David Jaffe, Part 3The Playstation and Me: Ted Price, part 1The Playstation and Me: Ted Price, part 2The Playstation and Me: Ted Price, part 3,The Playstation and Me: Evan Wells, Part 1The Playstation and Me: Evan Wells, Part 2,The Playstation and Me: Evan Wells, Part 3The Playstation and Me: Scott Rohde, Part 1The Playstation and Me: Scott Rohde, Part 2The Playstation and Me: Scott Rohde, Part 3, The Playstation and Me: Hermen Hulst, Part 1

The first Killzone game was dubbed a Halo-killer but my talk with Hermen Hulst reveals that Bungie’s Xbox game wasn’t even on the minds of the Guerilla Games dev studio. Learn about the origins of the Playstation 2’s premiere FPS and more in part two of my talk with Hulst.

So, after signing the contract for what was then Marines, was there a sense internally at Guerrilla that, hey, we’ve got to knock this out of the park? This is our big shot. We are going to be on the PS2, which is the hot console now. What was the mood as you guys entered into the development stage for what wound up becoming the first Killzone?

We had shown a tech demo, basically on the back of the old technology that Orange Games, one of our predecessors, had developed. It had some great rendering technology. Time is not very friendly, looking back at it now, but it was “wow!” 10 years ago. Things have evolved. But, for back then, it was really state-of-the-art technology, and we as a studio needed to develop a game around that technology. So, that was a massive learning experience for us. We capitalized on something that we were naturally strong at–because of the quality and backgrounds of our founding members– very tech savvy, very graphics savvy. And not surprised that those became key pillars for the Killzone franchise and for Guerrilla as a studio.

Taking those technological strengths and then developing compelling concepts, designs, and great gameplay, that was our focus. Working with Sony very early on gave us a lot of credibility to help us become a very international studio. We currently employee, I think, 23 different nationalities. We already had that very international DNA from the early start, and we were able to recruit people from outside the Dutch community. The hiring pool in the Netherlands was very small, because there weren’t any other proper game development companies at the time, either domestic or from other countries. So working with the market leader that just had the hot new console out was a massive thing for us. That put us on the map frankly.

Was the pitch for Marines more of a standard military game? I’m inferring that from the name. And at what point did you decide to make it the kind of sci-fi epic universe that Killzone became?

Marines was more of a demo and it was essentially Killzone without the Helghast. For the standards of the year 2000, it had great rendering technology, pretty good visuals, fluid animations, and then. Making it sci-fi came later, and it’s the kind of sci-fi that’s grounded in reality, which is a little different than most sci-fi. Having it centered around the Helghast was a pretty conscious decision. What we wanted to do is create a game that wasn’t so much based on a hero; pretty much any other video game did that at the time.

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We thought it was very interesting to approach it from the other side. So we were looking at creating a very compelling enemy, that again, allowed us to show off great graphics, but also take a very different approach. Less cliche. I guess, we were inspired in a way by Aliens, that took a similar approach. So, that led to the Helghast, and obviously we evolved a very deep and massive universe and back-story around that.

So, you’re saying that was all part of the initial pitch? Like you knew you wanted to do something more science-fictional and something centered on the enemy from the beginning?

No. That was kind of being developed in parallel. That was certainly not in the demo. So that demo was a tech demo, it was definitely going to be a first person game, and it was going to be a shooter. but the bigger premise of Killzone as a franchise, as a game, that was still being developed. As you can imagine, that took us a number of years because we released it in 2004.

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