Should you need to stock up on delightful nerd-documentary fodder for holiday-week hibernation—and you've already watched Ars' Apollo video series—let me recommend the latest entry from the gaming-history video producers at Noclip: Chasing the Horizon: The Story of Zero Dawn. The Patreon- and Kickstarter-funded documentarians at Noclip have just released their latest, hour-long piece, and it centers on the Amsterdam game studio Guerrilla, makers of this year's stellar Horizon: Zero Dawn.
To tell the Horizon story, Noclip rewinds the clock to the studio's early days with first-person shooters. In this rewind, Guerrilla finally tells the story behind a notorious moment for the studio and Sony: the first reveal of Killzone 2. As it turns out, the whole thing was "bullshot"—a term used to describe when fake, touched-up imagery is sold to fans as an actual game.
Guerrilla Executive Producer Angie Smets describes the explosive, combat-filled sequence to Noclip as an "internal vision video about what first-person games could look like for the next generation." Part of the reason this video was "meant for internal use only," Smets tells Noclip, is that the shooter sequel was originally intended to launch on the weaker PlayStation 2.
Cut to a few months later, however, and former PlayStation executive Ken Kutaragi took the 2005 E3 stage to wow the crowd with teases of what to expect on the PlayStation 3 console. "We asked developers to submit content to be shown today," he told that E3 keynote crowd, and the sizzle reel that followed included Guerrilla's "internal vision" video. Guerrilla wasn't expecting it.
Smets recalls watching the video in Amsterdam via an Internet feed and hearing a PlayStation rep describe the Killzone footage as "running in real time on a PlayStation 3." "We were watching this back home, going, 'No!'" Smets says. "What did he just say? It's not true! Then we figured, nobody will believe that, because it's obvious that it's all [pre]-rendered. Then we went online, and we found that lots of people believed it."
That was impossible, Smets points out, because the first PlayStation 3 kit had "just arrived" at the time of the E3 presentation. "I'm not sure if we had the first triangle rendering [running on PlayStation 3] yet!" she adds.
Guerrilla eventually spoke out about the video, particularly on an official PlayStation forum thread in 2008 in which the developer insisted that the 2005 footage was "not fake" and was absolutely developed with PlayStation 3 rendering in mind. Smets' explanation runs a bit counter to that official response, however, and we now know that the video was less about PlayStation 3 specifically—and certainly had nothing to do with expectations of how that console's architecture, including its notorious Cell processor, would impact game design. She points out that its inclusion in the PS3 sizzle reel forced the studio's hand to expand its then-modest staff, as more work was now required for PS3-caliber expectations.
For more on Guerrilla's genesis and its massive pivot to creating an open-world, third-person adventure game, you'll want to watch the full Noclip documentary Chasing the Horizon, embedded above.
Listing image by Sony Interactive Entertainment
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