Killzone HD Interview: Enhancing The Original
In part 1 of the Killzone HD developer interview, Guerrilla Technical Director Michiel van der Leeuw and Senior Programmer Frank Compagner discussed the challenges they faced while bringing Killzone to a new platform. In the second part of our interview, they talk about the changes and enhancements made to Killzone HD by the conversion team.
Last week you explained how you retrieved the code and assets for the original Killzone. What happened once you handed them over to the conversion team?
Michiel: That’s where the real fun began! There were corruptions and missing bits in the exported data, which caused all kinds of weird artifacts like polygons shooting through the game world. For the conversion team, the first order of business was to go in and fix all that.
Frank: Our old exporters no longer functioned, so the conversion team rather ingeniously re-used portions of the Killzone 3 pipeline with some manual hacks to convert the data back to Killzone 1 format.
Michiel: Yes, they really went above and beyond the call of duty. The team even solved a few bugs we hadn’t discovered when the original Killzone went to gold master.
Can you give an example?
Michiel: The Offices level from chapter 2 is a good example. In the original, there were a couple of pillars that the player could just walk right through. The bug slipped by us due to a very, very late change to the content.
Frank: I remember how [Killzone 3 producer] Seb Downie really despaired over that one. He was our QA Manager back then, and the poor fellow discovered the bug right after Killzone had gone to gold master, so there wasn’t any time left to fix it.
Michiel: The Killzone HD conversion team solved the problem by painstakingly recreating the physics mesh and merging it back into the game. When I showed the fixed version to Seb the other day his response was, “Now I can die with honor.”
Aside from fixed bugs, what else has been improved for the HD version?
Frank: Where possible, the Killzone assets we retrieved have been resampled or recreated at a higher resolution. Textures, for instance, were originally designed at twice the required size and then downscaled to fit into PlayStation 2 memory. For PlayStation 3 that’s no longer a concern, so the game uses the full-sized textures. Similarly, the menus and HUD-elements have all been up-scaled and reworked to look good in 720p.
Michiel: A lot of the improvements to the game have been facilitated by switching to the more powerful PlayStation 3 hardware. The frame rate is smoother, the shaders are of a better quality, the LOD settings have been tweaked to nearly always show the highest level of detail, and the engine now applies MSAA filtering – which, by the way, looks really sharp on a lower-polygon title like Killzone.
Frank: The conversion team also introduced trophy support and an updated control scheme, to bring the game in line with modern PlayStation 3 shooters. I believe [Killzone 2 and 3 game director] Mathijs de Jonge helped out with the controls?
Michiel: Yes, he did. The difference between PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 controller sensitivity meant that the controls required tweaking anyway, so Mathijs used the opportunity to change them to something more familiar to players of Killzone 2 and 3.
Does that mean there is now a ‘jump’ button in Killzone HD?
Frank: No, something like that would require extensive changes to the levels, to prevent players from climbing out of the geometry.
Michiel: More importantly, it would run counter to what we were trying to do with Killzone. The omission of the ‘jump’ button was a very deliberate design decision, almost like a statement against other shooters of the time. We wanted players to have a visceral, realistic experience, and that meant preventing them from traversing our game by bunny-hopping or rocket-jumping. Even when we re-introduced jumps for the obstacle-heavy terrains in Killzone 2, they were ‘weighty’ jumps – not perfect parabolic arcs, but the sort of short leaps a heavily packed soldier would make.
Frank: It’s interesting how many of the features and design decisions that shaped the sequels – things like weightiness, hit response systems, brutal melee moves, and elaborate reload animations – all evolved from that early desire for visceral realism. Guerrilla always tried its best not to make players feel like disembodied guns floating through a level.
What do you hope players will get out of Killzone HD?
Frank: Killzone HD will obviously have nostalgic value for fans who’ve played it on PlayStation 2, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well most of it holds up after eight years. If you liked Killzone 2 or 3, or even if you’re just interested in the Killzone universe, Killzone HD will be a lot of fun.
Michiel: It’s a chance to see where it all began and play a unique entry in the Killzone trilogy. Killzone HD doesn’t just differ from it successors because the game takes place on Vekta instead of Helghan, it also has a very different approach to the way it presents its characters. You can play as Templar, Luger, Rico or Hakha, and use different abilities, weapons and tactics depending on who you choose. It’s the only Killzone title to do so, and I think players will enjoy it a lot.
Thanks for the interview, guys.
Frank: Our pleasure!
Killzone HD will be released as part of the Killzone Trilogy bundle on October 24. A standalone version will hit the PlayStation Store on the same date for £11.99/€14.99/AUD23.95. Stay tuned to Killzone.com and the PlayStation Blog for more Killzone Trilogy and Killzone HD news!