Killzone 2 In d’artiste: Character Modeling 3

Hi everyone! Guerrilla art director Jan-Bart van Beek here, with an interesting bit of news for the hardcore Killzone fans among you.

I was recently asked to contribute to a new volume in Ballistic Publishing’s line of digital artist master class books, titled d’artiste: Character Modeling 3. The request surprised me a little at first, because I’m not a character artist myself; I’m a director of character artists. As my job title implies, I direct other artists in the creation of assets for the Killzone franchise, making sure their output is consistent with the gritty, ‘hard sci-fi’ look for which our games are known.

Killzone 2 in d'artiste: Character Modeling 3

However, I soon realized this would be a good opportunity to share my unique vantage point overlooking the entire character creation pipeline at Guerrilla. The resulting chapter has become a rather comprehensive overview of the character creation process used for Killzone 2. Taking Rico Velasquez and the Helghast Sniper as examples, the book walks the reader through every step of their development – starting with the rough initial ideas, and ending with their finalized in-game models. Along the way, various tools and techniques used at Guerrilla are explained in detail.

In addition to the chapter on Killzone 2, d’artiste: Character Modeling 3 also covers the works of Giovanni Nakpil and Cesar Dacol Jr., both renowned character modelers for major Hollywood productions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and 300. Their contributions to the book are nothing short of breathtaking, and I was extremely honored to see my name featured on the cover alongside theirs.

Killzone 2 in d'artiste: Character Modeling 3

In short, if you’re a budding character artist or just a hardcore Killzone fan who’d like to know how characters are created at Guerrilla, d’artiste: Character Modeling 3 is a book worth tracking down. It’s the sort of resource I wish I’d had when I just started my career in the games industry. You can preview the entire book on the Ballistic Publishing website, or purchase it from their store in both limited and slipcased editions.

Publishing Information
ISBN #: Limited Edition: 978-1-921002-66-3 / Slip cased: 978-1-921002-67-0
Pages: 208 pages (Slipcased) / 208 pages (Limited Edition)
Authors: Cesar Dacol Jr, Jan-Bart van Beek, Giovanni Nakpil
Publishers: Daniel Wade, Mark Snoswell

5 Author replies
Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 10:05

First ! Good morning everyone. I’ll be here for the next hour to answer any queation you have about the book and how we make characters here at Guerrilla.

Hi, very interesting :) This would make a nice Christmas present for me :D

LAST! This looks great! If I had an ounce of character modelling talent I might even try emulate these. Luckily one of the guys I’m working on a game with, does have the talent, so I may get it for him, for Christmas.

PS. When do we get to hear about Killzone 3. I can’t wait!

Cool! Which characters from Killzone 2 are in the book? does it also feature Killzone 1 characters?

Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 10:40

In the book we’ll show you how we made Rico’s head model. We’ll also explain how all the facila animation work and what clever, nifty tricks we used to get it all working.

Next to that we’re talking about the Helghast Sniper model. This one goes even more in depth as we not only explain how we created and designed the character, but it also shows you how we did the cloaking shader.

Hope you enjoy it.

Since everyone else seems a little scared to ask any questions, let me try….

How many bones currently make up the each Killzone 2 models?

Going forward will you be increasing both bone count and polygon count?

Do you put constraints on the bone joints?
Would this then allow severing at joint points?

There, I think that should keep you busy for a little bit.

Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 10:47

Always scary to speak up I guess, even in interney didn’t change that :)

Not exactly sure how many bones we have. It’s constantly changing. We got automated system that can re-rig and re-skin all the game characters automatically if we want more bones, so it’s become less of a hard fully thought through decision.

The maximum amount of bones we can have in a character is 256. We never actually got to that point.

We’re currently decreasing bone count. We’ve gotten some system online that allowed us to split skeleton into several smaller ones and animate them as one system. This means we don;t have to include all the boes for..let’s say the cape of the sniper.. in the main rig.

Polycount will remain the same. Polycount has some impact on performance.. but far more so on memory consumption. Every game that was ever made needs to match it’s memory consumption, so we’re careful not to raise it too much.

Not entirely sure what you meant with joint constraints BTW.


Looks like interesting reading, it’s the shame I never persued my dream career in graphics design :( Congrats to Guerrilla and Sony for getting recognition for KZ2 though!

I got very excited to hear Killzone mentioned on the blog again though! Is next year too early for a sequel?! ;)

I’m trying to think of a good question but I’m struggling, so I’ll go with the predictable ones…

What is your favourite character model in KillZone 2 and why?

Did you feel strongly about any character concepts early in development that didn’t make it into the final game?

Do you find it easier or harder to design characters like the Helghast where they’re completely covered by armour, how is the approach different to a human character?

What other projects have you worked on? What is the favourite character model from one you’ve been involved in (not just KZ2)?

What is your favourite character model of all time games or movies?

Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 10:54

Favorite character is the Sniper. It was really nice seeing that character come to life.

for every great character or feature in a game, there must be at least one that didn’t make the cut. We usually let the dead rest in peace, loveingly remember them and never mention their names again ;)

Helghast characters are a little more difficult to design. The main design challenge is to make sure they are easily recognizable from a distance and look distinct compared to other enemies. You want to be able to quickly spot what sort of enemy you’re dealing with. It’s all about silhoutte really.

I’ve been working at Guerrilla for nearly a decade now and have been involved to some extent in all our projects.

favorite character model of all time… oooh… I think some of the MGS characters are absolutely stunning.. I’ll choose all of those :

“making sure their output is consistent with the gritty, ‘hard sci-fi’ look for which our games are known.”

No see, I want more green surroundings in Killzone 3 :P


i really consider buying one of these books!
i really wanna learn stuff like this and i realize this is at a pretty high experience level, but i think they could be usefull anyways.

but i saw it was number 3 in the series, you think i should read the other 2 first or are they completly stand-alone?

I’d rather have it that you guys would make the save games not read only. My PS3 died on me right before then end boss fight, I couldn’t back up my killzone 2 save game… I cannot begin to describe how frustrating that is

What are you guys up to at Guerrilla Games? Seb Downie hasn’t posted in ages on the US PSForums. Anymore stuff happening for Killzone 2? or guys working on Killzone 3 or other projects?

Also any other Devs being using the Killzone 2 engine? or will be?

Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 11:10

Hey Spathis,

We’re all hard at work ofcourse. Seb’s a producer these days and is running around all day producing stuff, so he probably hasn’t had much time to post on the forums.
I’ll tell him you guys are missing him ;)

Killzone’s engine is only being used by Guerrilla. It’s a complicated beast of a thing and it takes years to fully understand it. Next to that most developers like to build their own engines, much more fun that way.

I like the visual character design are doing a lot. I love how distinctly different even all of the “space marines” look. The Hellghast design is pretty awesome and iconic.
My problem with the characters of the Killzone franchise is that I have a hard time genuinely liking most of them as far as their personalities are concerned – and the ones I do like usually get killed during the story.

I like the visual character design you guys are doing a lot.
…was supposed to be the first sentence. ;-)

Hi Mr.Jan-Bart van Beek very nice work with KZ2, I can’t wait to see what you guys are cooking for the next killzone and how far can you push the amazing KZ engine(60FPS? lol) and I wish you could bring some more helghast story to the game maybe play as one in sp for the next killzone?

Goed bezig :D

Hi Jan-Bart van Beek!

Just like to say thanks to Guerilla Games for the pure awesomeness that is Killzone 2. I’m very much looking forward to GG’s next game!

Are you guys planning on releasing any new DLC for Killzone 2 anytime soon?

What modeling software are you using?

Jan-Bart van Beek 20 November, 2009 @ 13:06

Maya and z-brush



it is awesome to see how you guys made the best graphicly game ever made :)

TehPhilosopher 20 November, 2009 @ 13:42

Nice post, I recently picked up KZ2 multiplayer again after a bit of a hiatus – really enjoying it!

I’d like to know what different challenges you face when designing characters which have a visible face (eg. engineer) vs. those with faces covered by helmets or masks (sniper)? Are there specific reasons you go for the face-covering model? Is it harder to design human faces, or to make faceless characters players can still relate to?


Hi Jan-Bart,
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I suppose my constraints question is not really modelling related but more how the models react in game. By constraints, what I wanted to know was if the model joints are constrained to a certain range of movement. Therefore if a force, like a bullet, is applied to that joint and it exceeds the constraints, you would have a “snapping off” sort of effect. Therefore allowing limbs to break off etc under certain pressures/conditions.

Oh lord that looks good. The price is too steep for me though ;__;


what type of helghast is that on the cover of the book? Its quite an irregular mask(?)


killzone 2 is still a major underrated piece of art (especially compared to other over-rated games like modern warfare 2), graphically nothing still comes close to this, not even the most beautiful PC shooters..And yeah besides that it’s just one of those grown up series which makes you proud to be gamer, even if people think of us as nerds sometimes, they obviously haven’t played games like killzone and metal gear solid ^^ Keep up the great work and tell the Guerilla team not to hesitate releasing Killzone 3 upon us as soon as possible :p You guys are what gaming companies should be..killzone ftw, now and forever

Maya and ZBrush are both my tools of choice (athough I do like to use Softimage for certain applications). This’ll be incredibly interesting to follow, and no I’ll doubt pick up some new tricks along the way.

[Congratulations on the success you’ve all had with Killzone 2 this year. The expectations, pressure, cynicism, and all-out fanboy war, created a whirlwind around the development of a title I’ve not seen in over 30 years of gaming. You all deserve to feel that pride of achievement. Not many studios would be able to pull it off, and create one of the best games of 2009….regardless of platform. Certainly the FPS GotY. Good luck for 2010].

Killzone 2 is one of the rare games out there that has a great sense of character in the entire world (character, surroundings). Everything really fits together and creates a feeling of familiar but yet so strange, besides it is dark and gritty and dirty and gives a feeling of a very realistic place that you would not want to visit :P

Level design is on an entirely different level than all the other FPS games I played, with the narrow little dirty streets and half broken buildings had a very very realistic vibe to it. Sense of scale was really well done, which was something that really disturbed me in Halo 3 – because buildings there felt like cardboard set pieces.

Hellgan models are awesome and sniper is my favorite. ISA look like the standard western military, which is what they should represent, the only thing I really disliked is the stereotypical action movie “hooah” millitary behaviour.

Still, killzone 2 is one of my favorite games, and I’m not even a huge FPS fan :)

We close the comments for posts after 30 days.

Edit history