Let’s meet John Gibson and learn more about Killing Floor 2
Hi, this article is a transcription of the interview we, Julien Tetart and I, had the pleasure to record with John Gibson from Tripwire Interactive. We met John Gibson during the Paris Games Week 2016 thanks to Koch Media’s Community Manager and we talked a lot about Killing Floor 2 and it’s upcoming release for PlayStation 4 and PC.
The interview has been slightly amended for clarity.
What issues were you facing while working on the PlayStation 4 version of Killing Floor 2?
John Gibson: We designed Killing Floor 2 to work on console from the very beginning. It’s our first console game and one of the biggest challenges was performance, because the PS4 is a pretty powerful machine, but not as powerful as an high-end PC. So it was a big challenge to get a good frame-rate and really nice visuals. We don’t wanna have to compromise. The game on PS4 is better than… like, we have the high and ultra settings on the PC, and it’s most of the ultra settings. Some settings are on « high » but it’s almost like running the game on « ultra ».
So that was a challenge and then we had to get the controls right. You mentionned that the controls were good (note: in an off conversion we had before the recording). One of the things we wanted to make sure of when we made our first console game was that controls are great. So many console games start as PC games then come over consoles and have terrible controls and it just ruins the game. And we wanted to make sure it feels great. That was challenging and it took a lot of iterations, we passed the past year trying different settings, different techniques until we had what we got today.
You were talking about the performance of Killing Floor 2 on PS4 but does the game run in a constant 60 frames per second on console?
John Gibson: So for us this is kind of strange, coming from a PC developer, this whole idea that game are 30 fps or 60 fps ’cause on PC, it’s whatever the machine can run. So we believe between 30 and 60 there is a wide range for developers, and the closer to 30 the worst, the closer to 60 the better. On a base PS4, Killing Floor is running at about 50 frame per second. At least it did last time I asked. I know there has been some optimisation work since then and the goal has been 60, but it will be very close to 60.
So the impressions we got from most of the people that played it is they think it’s 60 fps and it runs very smoothly. It’s a very steady framerate and there is not a lot of dips and they don’t go very low, and that’s what’s important.
(Julien Tetart) How did you manage to introduce Killing Floor 2 to new players, the ones that never played the first Killing Floor on PC? Are there any tutorials or any new ways to discover and have fun with the game?
John Gibson: Yeah, so we did add a tutorial for Killing Floor 2. You can play it before you start and it gives you the basics of selecting a Perk, find the Trader.
You know, we really wanted to teach the basic stuff, because if they don’t know it they will have a hard time. If they don’t go find the Trader and get a better weapon they will not live. If they don’t know how to heal themselves, they’re gonna struggle. So we teach them those basics but other than that it’s a really easy game to pick up and play.
About the difficulty of the game, I would like to know how you balanced Killing Floor 2. In the first game, even the normal difficulty was challenging, so how is Killing Floor 2?
John Gibson: With Killing Floor 2, one of the thing we discovered is, well going back with Killing Floor 1 we found that on our easiest mode, well nobody played it because it was too easy for everyone. (I nod.)
Yeah it was far too easy, it was a good introduction for one or two round but after that you had to move to upper difficulties.
So we dropped our lowest difficulty setting so Killing Floor 2 has just Normal, Hard, Suicidal and Hell on Earth. We balanced Normal round so most entry-level players would be able to play and we went up with each difficulty from there. One of the thing we discovered is we would balance for sort of a certain core-skill-level player and we would find out that let’s say Normal was here, Hard was there (he moves his hands) and that the player that was in the middle was not having has much fun.
So one of the thing we did was design a system called game conductor, and what it does is look at the rank of the player, how much experience they have, and it actually looks at real-time statistics on how the player actually plays on the server.
And what it can actually do is it can dial up or dial down the difficulty of the game to kind of get half-way to the next difficulty, or half-way down to the previous difficulty. And it allows players of different skill levels and experience levels to play together and still have a good time. But also it makes sure that fun range is much broader. So the game conductor was a real transformation for Killing Floor 2.
Still about the difficulty, the Patty says he learned new tricks but can we expect the same things for the other Zeds in the higher levels of difficulty?
John Gibson: Yes, absolutely. One of the big differencies between Killing Floor 1 and Killing Floor 2 is that in Killing Floor 1 all the Zeds had like a basic set of capabilities and they were the same in any difficulty. In Killing Floor 2 we gave the Zeds a lot more abilities and rather than making the harder difficulties just ramp up their health and their damage, we capped that to a minimum and we ranked up their capabilities. They do far more dangerous attacks, attacks that you won’t see on the lower difficulty levels.
An exemple would be the Stalker, that can capture you and go invisible. On normal she just comes to you and swipes you but when you are facing her on Hard or Suicidal, she will do flips and cat wheels, and karate spins and she’s very difficult to shoot. But she still does the same damage and still has the same health! But she will be more challenging to play because she has different abilities.
With Killing Floor 1 there was a lot of free updates including content such as new weapons or gameplay modes, do you plan to do the same with Killing Floor 2?
John Gibson: Oh, absolutely!
John Gibson: Especially our old fans on PC, they know we’ve given lots of free content update and support toward our games. Killing Floor 1 got free updates for five years after its release, and we are really excited to introduce console gamers to that. Because they are used to be what we Americans call nickle and dimed, they are used to be, you know, like « here is a new map, it’s 20$ » and « oh you can’t play with your friends anymore if you don’t buy this new map »
At Tripwire we don’t like that, we feel that things that players had to have so they can keep to play together really should be free, unless it’s a major full-game extension. So you know we will charge things like cosmetics and hats and weapons skins and things like that. But the things you have to have will be free and we are finished for the most part with the developpement of Killing Floor 2 for the full release on november 18, so our team is already working on the first free update.
Will there be an offline play, to enjoy killing Zeds alone?
John Gibson: There will be a offline play. It’s definitely better than Killing Floor 1 offline but it’s not a story where you play through a campaign. You’re playing by yourself, fighting against the monsters. But it’s a lot more balanced. Frankly in Killing Floor 1 the offline play was way too hard most of the time.
Yeah, it was mostly for really good players.
John Gibson: Yeah, it was balanced for multiple players but this time around we balanced it separately for both modes. Also you’re assisted by the game conductor, that allows the game to be just challenging enough when you are playing alone.
In the first Killing Floor you added a multiple-objective mode with a free update, where you had to protect the ring leader and open gates, can we hope to see that mode back in Killing Floor 2?
John Gibson: We would definitely like to do something like that but I don’t have anything to reveal or announce right now.
About the weapons, how are you choosing them? What makes a good weapon in Killing Floor?
John Gibson: Really, it’s all about what would be fun to shoot the monsters with. (We laugh.) And you know, for the real-world weapons, we try to imagine before we put them in the game which one would be fun to play with. And for some of the non-real-world weapons, the more sci-fi weapons or the crazy Mad-Max hybrid we just make them thinking « would this really be fun? ».
For example the sledgehammer shotgun. We were just like « hitting a monster with a sledgehammer with a shotgun runned inside that blows up the monsters, that sounds like fun, let’s try it! »
And we just try those things, but it’s really important for us too, well I programmed almost all the weapons in Killing Floor 1 and Killing Floor 2 and as a group of persons who worked on the weapons it’s so important for us that every weapon has a tone character. We are almost looking at them like they are cast members. And you know if you make a movie or a game where all the cast members feel like the same, it’s boring. If you make a video game where the weapons all feel the same but with slight differences, they are boring.
So even something like the saw rifle is original. All weapons could have been full automatic and single fire. But we wanted to give them all different characters so we picked them, the starting one has a three round burst fire, the next one is fully automatic, the next one is full automatic and has a three round burst that is twice the rate of fire and then the most powerful, the Scar 17, is just powerful.
So basically you are giving a personnality to each weapon and trying to make it fit the Perk it should be used by?
John Gibson: Yeah.