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As part of our continued focus on key developers, our attention turns to the talented team behind Kill-Zone and ‘Shellshock: Nam’67…
Although Guerrilla is a new name to the development scene, it was only a short while ago that they changed their name from Lost Boys, and so the nucleus and infrastructure of the company is well in place and set to make big news this summer with a number of releases that include ShellShock: Nam 67 for Eidos and the highly impressive PS2 title â??Kill-Zoneâ?? for SCEE.
We spoke with both Hermen Hulst (HH) â?“ Managing Director and Arjan Brussee (AB) â?“ Development Director about the vision and set up at Guerrilla.
TVG: Why the change of name from Lost Boys to Guerrilla and what is the set up of your company in terms of vision and mission statement?
HH - Around 3 years ago our parent company Lost Boys made the decision to focus on their online business. Although we were no longer part of the organisation, we kept the Lost Boys games name under license. Eventually the decision to change the company name to Guerrilla was made to avoid confusion between the two separate companies. Our new parent company is Media Republic, which was founded by a number of senior Lost Boys employees.
By employing the best people and basing everything we do around strong technology, we aim to ensure that Guerrillaâ??s titles are high quality as well as commercially successful.
TVG: Can you explain Media Republic and how it works alongside the dev team?
HH - Media Republic is a media and entertainment company, with links to broadcasters, mobile operators and various sponsors. Their aim is to use branded content to create successful cross media, cross platform, digital entertainment productions. Their latest successful project is a mobile phone soap opera being created in partnership with MSN.
Guerrilla is a fairly independent business operation. Guerrillaâ??s own management team is therefore responsible for all games related decision making.
TVG: Currently you are working on two titles one for SCEE and ShellShock: Nam 67 for Eidos. Does the team create all their own game concepts and what do you believe is the core expertise of the team?
AB - Game conceptualisation and design is very important to us at Guerrilla, and each game has dedicated game designers working throughout the development process. The designers are responsible for background research, the game story, gameplay mechanics and the overall vision for the game. We also work closely with our publishers, with producers from Eidos and SCEE giving input throughout the development process.
We believe that the real expertise at Guerrilla lies in the determination that the entire team has to provide the best possible game experience without having to compromise due to the restrictions of the different platforms. This has led to innovations in technology that have allowed us to push both graphical and technological boundaries.
TVG: How many make up the dev team â?“ what is the breakdown in skills and what previously have you created?
AB - Guerrilla currently employs 77 individuals, 72 of which contribute directly to game development. Central to everything that is created at the studio is our in house technology team, which has created the engine that lies at the heart of all the games in development at Guerrilla. The technology team is responsible for creating and maintaining our technology, enhancing it to suit the style of individual games and researching new platforms and technology ensuring that we have the know how to create games for both current and future platforms.
Each team is headed by a producer who oversees the art, design and coding teams for that project. The number of employees in each discipline varies depending on the structure of each project. We also have an in house music and sound design department and we have recently set up a test team.
Previously we have completed a number of games for GBC and GBA, but our focus now is on creating AAA titles for leading consoles.
TVG: Why do you think that there have been so few Dutch developers and is piracy still a major factor in Holland? Has the Guerrilla cartel in effect brought all the major talent together?
HH - Software piracy within the Netherlands is still high, but is a shrinking problem. Since our games are published worldwide, we donâ??t take particular interest in Dutch piracy rates, but are more interested in the major markets.
Being one of the few developers in the Netherlands means we are lucky enough to have the pick of some of the best Dutch talent. The downside to this is that although local people are often exceptionally talented, many of them lack games industry experience. To overcome this, we are working closely with local colleges and universities, many of which offer game development courses. We are helping to structure these courses to ensure that the graduates leave with the best possible skills to enable them to join the games industry.
Weâ??re based in the centre of Amsterdam, which is a dream location for a studio and with our rising profile weâ??re lucky enough to have attracted talented developers from all over Europe to join the team. Currently around 35% of our employees are from overseas.
TVG: A lot has been made of the technology featured in Guerrillaâ??s first title; are Guerrilla predominantly technology focused, perhaps you can tell us a little about your own custom engine and tools used at Guerrilla to produce such stunning effects?
AB - We donâ??t want to see our products as technology focused, but the genres that we operate in do benefit from strong visuals and leading technology. Our custom engine has been tailored to achieve high-end effects on PS2, not focussing on pure polygon throughput but on â??high quality polygonsâ?? with multiple textures and good lighting. The same technology now runs on Xbox and PC. Next to that we focus a lot on creating tools to enable all the non-programmers to get the best possible results within a short time.
TVG: We know that Guerrilla is currently at work on two titles; is there enough personnel and resources to undertake more titles, or is two-at-a-time the current situation?
HH - Both of our games are in the final stages of development and itâ??s going to be an exciting year for us with two big releases on the horizon. Weâ??re already in the early planning stages for our next projects, but we canâ??t say any more at this stage.
TVG: What games inspire the members of Guerrilla and whose work do you most admire?
HH - With over 75 gamers employed at the company you can find fans of just about every game in every genre. As a studio we believe that for the games industry to mature and progress it is essential to draw inspiration from as many different forms of media as possible. We have a huge range of reference books, videos, DVDs and photographs that our teams dips into, this material ranges from factual to pure fantasy. Weâ??re also lucky enough to be right on the doorstep of many of the worldâ??s most renowned museums and Iâ??m sure many of our artists have been inspired and influenced by some of the great pieces on display in our city.
TVG: What are you looking forward to in the next-generation of consoles and do you believe that we are reaching a limit in terms of visual qualities?
AB - The next generation of consoles will certainly bring an increase in memory and processor performance, bringing with them greater innovation in terms of visual quality. Whilst game graphics may be becoming more beautiful, they are not yet of realistic photographic or film quality, therefore we can certainly expect advances in this respect. The greater memory available with future-generation consoles will allow the developer greater freedom to further enhance all aspects of game development from art style and quality of animation to increased AI behaviours and patterns and more absorbing sound effects and soundtracks.
HH - Current generation consoles have already begun to explore online gaming opportunities. With these frameworks already in place and being built upon all the time, online is sure to be a major feature of gaming in the future. The likelihood is that future-generation consoles will be online enabled â??out of the boxâ??, and therefore the consumer is more likely to experiment with online gaming if there is no need to invest in additional hardware.
AB - Itâ??s fair to say that games have not yet reached the same level of emotional pull that can be experienced through movies or books. This level probably wonâ??t be reached with the next generation of machines, but the games industry is certainly making advances and tackling increasingly sensitive issues. There are some exceptionally interesting ideas that can be explored further as the games industry grows and matures with its audience.
TVG: Do you have any technical/hardware equipment that helps you with the production of games?
AB - We basically use the standard development kits that all other developers use. We have many PS2 and Xbox devkits next to performance profilers, DVD-emulators and test stations. We are developing on high-end PCs, but do on-target previews in all stages of development.