Hermen Hulst Discusses the Transition From Killzone to Horizon Zero Dawn

Hermen Hulst DICE Europe 2017

Hermen Hulst is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Guerrilla Games. The company is best known for the Killzone series of first-person shooters for Sony PlayStation consoles. Those games have enjoyed a solid following and critical acclaim. In 2017, Guerrilla hit a new level with Horizon Zero Dawn. An open-world action-RPG with a lush setting, the game was a radical departure from the grim-and-gritty shooters Guerrilla was known for. Many consider it one of 2017’s best games.

At DICE Europe 2017, Hermen Hulst will be talking about Guerrilla’s evolution and the challenges he faced preparing the company for Horizon Zero Dawn. Here’s an excerpt from my chat with Heremen Hulst.

In the keynote I’ll be talking about how long this process has been. During the Killzone 3 days, we already started wondering about doing something new. “Is the time there now? Can our creatives do their best work within the same franchise? Is there enough room for wild design ideas?” We actually made the decisions to start investigating new roots towards the end of Killzone 3. That’s when we started the internal pitching processes of new ideas. So we’ve been working on this thing for six-and-a-half, seven years. That’s a very long time.

There were such a wide range of changes. For one, we had always focused on games in a particular genre — the first-person shooter genre. With that comes a certain set of expertise, which you would expect from a studio that operates within that genre. So when you move into a different genre, you’re looking for new areas of expertise. We moved from first-person shooter to open-world action-RPG, so we had to build out our narrative capability. The requirements in that new genre are much higher in narration then they are in the fps world.

There were also areas where we had no expertise in whatsoever — quest design, for instance, and open-world design. Those were all teams that we had to essentially build from scratch. So there were a lot of new people and a lot of new capabilities. Also on the technology side, we had to really completely and deeply overhaul everything we had built up until then. We had great technology, but obviously suited for the development of first-person shooters. That said, our technology at its core is very flexible and well-suited for making it work for a new genre, but that was a huge effort.

I’ve been covering Guerrilla Games since the original Killzone and it has been fun watching the company grow over the years. It’s even cooler to hear the story from the man in charge, so kindly hit the link below to read my full interview with Hermen Hulst.