Killzone 3 is one of the bigger games coming from the Sony camp for E3, with the PlayStation 3 exclusive shooter trailing stereoscopic 3D visuals and the promise of bigger, badder everything. Gamasutra got to talk with Hermen Hulst, managing director of Dutch franchise creators Guerrilla Games ahead of the show, and put him on the spot regarding familiar FPS tropes (why is melee more powerful than guns?), 3D (do you design around it?), and regenerating health.The newest Killzone [YouTube teaser trailer] promises a deeper story, more environments, and more freedom of gameplay, but how do you introduce this to new players, when you start right where the last left off? Hulst has some of the answers, mixed with just a handful of "wait and see."One thing that Ive noticed in FPS games in general is that the melee is more powerful than shooting -- you can shoot a guy for 30 seconds before he dies, but you hit him once with a rifle butt and hes done.
Do you ever think about justifying this in the game world?Hermen Hulst: Thats something that were balancing continuously. As soon as theres a new system like this brutal melee system that comes in, and theres new variances within that, were pulling that through play testing straight away. You gotta balance that immediately. If you have a knife kill that somebody could finish the entire game with, thats not good, right? So you want to go back and make sure that youve got some encounters that really require you to either take your pistol or rifle out to finish him. Of course, here with this gunplay that weve got requiring you to hop through from iceberg to iceberg, youre gonna be shooting from the air, so thats already an example of where you cant just use a brutal melee or close combat.How early do you start playtesting for things like this?HH: We start it almost straight away. As soon as we got a level that is some sort of functional indication of what its gonna play like, we get guys from the team, we get guys from the street, through Sony, in London and we also do it here stateside. Playtesting is a huge thing for us, so we do it all the time.It seems like a lot of the more successful FPS developers are advocating aggressive play testing. Obviously Valve does it from first prototype stage.HH: I think, frankly, in Killzone 2, it was kinda the first game where we did a lot of playtesting, though we started a little bit too late, I think. So you had some pretty severe difficulty spikes in that game still.
Massively multiplayer game developer Sony Online Entertainment has laid off 35 employees, slightly more than 4 percent of its total full-time workforce, to "better align the company's resources" and "improve operational efficiency."SOE is responsible for numerous live and upcoming MMOs, including the EverQuest series, DC Universe Online, Free Realms, and The Agency. In a statement released to the press today, the company said the layoffs will "better position SOE to deliver against its emphasis on developing games for a wider, more diverse audience and remaining a worldwide leader in online gaming."This isn't the first round of job cuts to be publicly reported in the game industry in the last week.
So far, Ready at Dawn Studios (God of War: Ghost of Sparta) laid off 13, Firaxis (Civilization V) laid off 20, and Rockstar San Diego (Red Dead Redemption) laid off an unspecified number of workers.Sony Online is headquartered in San Diego (Free Realms), with subsidiary development studios in Austin (DC Universe Online), Denver (Legends of Norrath), Seattle (The Agency), and Tucson (PoxNora). The company gave no indication of which studios or departments were hit by the layoffs.The company officially explained its layoffs with the following full statement: "In a move to better align the company's resources against areas of growth that meet consumer demand in today's online market as well as improve operational efficiency, Sony Online Entertainment has eliminated just over 4% of its full-time workforce, equaling 35 people. The changes will better position SOE to deliver against its emphasis on developing games for a wider, more diverse audience and remaining a worldwide leader in online gaming.".
Whole squads will attack me at once. It's the kind of merciless, deadly play that leads to two things: cheap, sneaky tactics (I'm quite the master of sniping stalkers from various positions), and reload screens. Unfortunately, when I load back into the Zone, often my mission objectives have changed. More often than not, the various enemy and friendly squads nearby have disappeared or relocated. Unless I quick save in the middle of a firefight, it is entirely possible that a battle I heard across the swamps no longer exists. This happened every time I quick-loaded a game, or loaded an older save. The game is completely incapable of recording what was taking place in the Zone at the save game point. There might as well not be a quicksave (or regular save) option. Checkpoints would be just as helpful for recording ingame activity and minute-to-minute occurrences.This makes the punishment for death more than just a tax on my time. There's nothing more galling than getting this close to successfully helping my squad take a key point, on orders, only to reload and have that objective disappear. In Clear Sky, your superiors will only pay you in items and money if you attack designated targets on the map. It's pointless to attack enemy emplacements at random. I won't get paid for my troubles, and I'll probably die.
It's incredibly frustrating to realize that I can't actually treat these stalkers as enemies, or take objectives as I please. It's even more frustrating to realize that unless I'm extremely careful, I'll lose all of my progress (or money, or my squad) thanks to a simple glitch.Clear Sky is a broken game, like its predecessor. It also never fully commits to its tower defense pretensions, which is a shame. The RPG mechanics of the Stalker games (where your guns are your stats), the unforgiving and frightening Zone, and the basics of tower defense make for surprisingly entertaining play when combined. It's unclear whether GSC Gameworld will reintroduce the faction warfare mechanic to the recently announced Stalker sequel. These elements were completely excised for Pripyat, the series' third outing, and it was the better Stalker game (if not a better tower defense game) for it. I sincerely hope someone pursues this line of design. The mix of RPG, open-world shooter, and tower defense is one that doesn't really exist right now, outside of Clear Sky.
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