Helghast Infantry - Q&A with Roy Postma & Dan CalvertBy Victor Zuylen on Oct 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM
Earlier this month, we published a Guerrilla Dossier on Killzone Shadow Fall’s new Helghast Infantry. We followed up with Art Director Roy Postma and Asset Art Director Dan Calvert, who were kind enough to share their insight into the redesign of Killzone’s most iconic troopers.
Dan Calvert: “We added a lot of new ideas to Killzone Shadow Fall, but we also wanted to show the familiar Helghast regular forces and how they’ve evolved since Killzone 3. In many ways they have changed, but in some respects they’re the same – their gear and tactics have evolved, but they’re all still zealous and brutal Helghast troopers on the inside.”
Roy Postma: “They’re still the mainstay of the Helghast military, of course, but the role of the military itself has shifted since the war has gone cold. After incurring devastating losses during the destruction of Helghan, the Helghast military was forced to rethink its attrition-based approach to warfare. While rebuilding and restructuring itself in the ensuing arms race with the VSA, its focus shifted to obtaining an edge over the status quo by any means except open warfare.
With limited numbers of able-bodied Helghast available, the infantry required a new breed of soldiers – more durable, more versatile, smarter – and most importantly, able to perform in different and more specialized roles than before. These soldiers are now used to police their own population, guard the endless borders against ISA incursions, and tip the balance in their favor wherever, however and whenever they can.”
Dan Calvert: “Still, while their ability to field masses of troopers isn’t an option anymore, the Helghast doctrine of overwhelming force hasn’t changed all that much. They’ve just improved the force capability of individual troopers, and augmented them with an enormous army of combat drones. If and when war comes, these guys will march over the walls and take Vekta through raw power.”
RP: “The Helghast troopers form the foundation of all the Helghast soldiers we design. They are the first and the last characters we design, and they’re continuously evolving throughout the process. We tweak their looks, details and materials to perfection to make sure they embody all that makes Helghast… well, Helghast. For the new setting we had to make sure they conformed to a much more specialized and high-tech soldier look, while still maintaining that classic appearance.
The most notable part of the Helghast Troopers that we upgraded was their armor. In doing so we increased their survivability and allowed for maximum customization, depending on their roles. All of their soft armor got replaced with a modular, sturdier version made from ballistic-proof composites with a soft low-reflection outer material, in which various high tech communication and respiration systems were embedded. We created the armor from a wide range of separate components, which were layered on top of each other to obtain a realistic and highly detailed look, but without affecting mobility. On top of this, we added a light additional layer of soft gear which, combined with the regular base clothing underneath the armor, stayed true to the classic Helghast Trooper look and feel. It had the additional benefit of maintaining high differentiation between the material types, and increasing the readability of the details.
Style-wise, we maintained the hard, angular edges, realistic construction, and red glowing eyes of the Helghast. We also worked hard and long on updating their masks, to make them even more fearsome.”
DC: “Regarding the masks, it’s difficult to update something iconic like the Assault Trooper mask without either losing its fundamental appeal or just making a predictable remix. The glowing red eyes are the most obvious Helghan motif, obviously, but sticking red eyes on something alone won’t make it look Helghast automatically – and of course you can make something look Helghast without red eyes.
What is fundamental is that their gear de-humanizes them, makes them look monstrous and unfamiliar, so the updated masks distort and conceal facial features as before – we’re just using shapes and components that suggest something more technologically advanced. We looked to the Capture Trooper from Killzone 3, and to a lesser degree the Sniper, who at that point in the fiction had gear that was at the peak of Helghast technological ability. We then asked ourselves what the regular Helghast Infantry would look like if that level of technology was now commonplace and mass produced.”
RP: “After we established the base design for the Helghast Infantry Trooper, we took the other classes as far apart from them as possible, based on their roles and functions in the world. The Commando, for example, is a much heavier and brute-power version of the Infantry Trooper. We bulked them up by adding lots of armor and replaced their helmets with full ballistic face plates, making them more fearsome up close and giving their bodies an even bulkier look in proportion.
Since all classes have their own basis, bringing them together was not that hard. Our new main infantry design was strong and versatile enough that we could swap and share many components back and forth between the characters.”
DC: “In cases where characters had equivalents in previous Killzone games, we tried to keep their larger forms intact so they’d be instantly recognizable to fans, even if the details had evolved. For example, the Engineer is completely overhauled in terms of the forms and shapes used in his helmet and armor, but his basic proportions and design motifs, i.e. the Hazmat suit layered under his armor, are intact.
For the new enemies, we’ve not only tried to make their appearance diverse enough to be recognized at range – which is very important in a game like Shadow Fall, where you have a greater variety of tactical tools available – but we’ve also ensured that the role of new characters can be inferred from their design relationships with other, more familiar characters. This can give players just enough information to begin formulating a strategy for how to deal with an unfamiliar class of foe.”
Thanks Roy and Dan! Check out the gallery below for screenshots and concept images of the Helghast Infantry troopers, and keep an eye on Killzone.com for new Guerrilla Dossiers coming soon!
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