"King Arthur would have been disappointed... But this will have to do," Hermen Hulst, managing director at Guerrilla Games, is a tad disappointed - the studio's roundtable discussion won't take place on an actual round table.
However, as the initial disappointment subsides it matters little. The recently announced Killzone: Shadow Fall, not furniture, is of greater interest, and the game in question is what a dozen curious journalists seated around the rectangular table want to learn more about - roughly an hour after Sony's official reveal of the PlayStation 4 in New York City.
You've probably already seen the first footage of the game. In it, our protagonist arrives at a glossy Vekta City anno 2381, a place that is soon under attack by a gang of thugs with familiar orange eyes. That's what is to be expected when Helghast are your neighbours. The trailer in question offered a stylish first impression of the new game, albeit with some standard firefights and lots of dashing between cover - followed by a rollercoaster-like flight through the fancy city. The design differs a lot from previous Killzone games, and that's the first thing I ask about.
Killzone: Shadow Fall looks to be a brighter and more colourful game, based on what we've seen. Will that tone dominate throughout the game?
"The bright city, Vekta City, will definitely be the heart of Killzone: Shadow Fall. Does that mean that you never will encounter gritty environments? Absolutely not; Shadow Fall is still very much Killzone. But we really like this new environment. We want to create a world that is worth fighting for. A beautiful world you want to live in. A world that feels like home."
These ambitions of a radiant game world is something Guerrilla keeps coming back to. Vekta City is described as a large, vibrant place - huge in scale but also very much alive. Tree branches move in the wind, leaves swirl through the air. NPC characters talk a lot, and the urban planning is ambitious, with the kind of logic we've seen in other sci-fi worlds, complete with flying vehicles and mile-high towers.
Killzone has undoubtedly come to be synonymous with the PlayStation as a platform, regardless of what you think of the games. Shadow Fall will also be one of the launch titles for Playstation 4, and a fully fledged sequel. I am however a bit puzzled by the choice of name. My next question to Hulst is as follows:
Can you tell be about the name, and why this isn't called Killzone 4?
"That's a good question. Playstation 4 is a big deal for us, and a giant leap for our franchise. The name Shadow Fall simply has a lot of meaning for us, and for the game. Helghast live in the same city as the humans, tension builds up - and a shadow falls over the city. Meanwhile, the name Shadow Fall has a more literal meaning, with the Shadow Marshall performing missions on both sides of the conflict. We simply felt that it was time for a name that was more descriptive and enticing."
A huge city like this looks costly. But the jump to a new console and a new generation does not seem to have been a hindrance for Guerrilla and Killzone: Shadow Fall. The budget as well as the staff are only slightly larger than it was during the development of Killzone 3.
"When we did Killzone 2 and 3, we probably maxed out with a team size of 125. We have 150 now, so it's marginally bigger. This is about a two-and-a-half year development cycle, which is roughly similar. It includes a hardware transition, so that explains potentially the six months of extra time."
"The costs are actually quite comparable. But if you look at the scale of what we're doing and the detail in not just the assets but the more believable detailed animation and things like that, the effects, I think a lot of the effort has gone into tools. Making sure we can develop smart."
"There's more art outsourcing, but that's not necessarily very expensive. We're outsourcing between double and triple from previous games."
When asked how the horsepower of the Playstation 4 will be used to create better artificial intelligence, we get a somewhat vague answer - and some more about the importance of a good game world.
"We want to create a world you care about. And it's important that you as a player really does exist in the world, and that the people around you acknowledge you. In this game, the flankings will be better, and the enemy comment on your actions. But A.I. is many different things, it's a combination of things like character models, dialogue and animation."
Guerrilla Games says also says they're fond of the new DualShock. They will use its new features, but it's the the small, more subtle improvements they like best: like how the analog sticks and shoulder buttons will work:
"The new DualShock feels very good in the hand and is very accurate. We also like the outward-facing trigger buttons, the headset jack, and the internal speaker, which we will use for radio messages to the player. We will use the touchpad, but exactly how is something we'll talk about later. We will also use the lightbar in Killzone: Shadow Fall and it will glow red when the player is dying, for instance."
"This is an evolution of a controller that was great to begin with, and is even better now. The fact that the sticks are slightly higher now, for instance, that's a small but crucial detail."
Graphically, Killzone games have always been at the forefront (although we were not exactly floored by the third one), and judging by the gameplay sequence, Shadow Fall looks great. As for the frame rate, 30 fps seems to be with us for even longer.
"The demo you saw at the event ran at 30 fps and that's how the final game will look: 30 fps and 1080p."
Speaking of graphics, Guerrilla won't tell us whether stereoscopic 3D will be included in Killzone: Shadow Fall. The studio does not however view 3D as a thing of the past.
"3D is not "over". We will talk more about such features in the future. We like 3D though..."
The discussion by the non-circular table nears its conclusion after about twenty minutes and the last question, fishing for Killzone: Shadow Fall 's release date, actually gets a response from Guerrilla. But it is an answer followed by a laugh.
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