Killzone Shadow Fall PlayGo tech explained, multiplayer weapons balanced “on the fly” without patches
In this third and final part of our interview with Killzone Shadow Fall‘s lead designer Eric Boltjes (read the first two parts here and here), he tells us how the PS4 game’s play-while-you-download system works, as well as background updates that improve multiplayer weapon balance without you even noticing. That’s the theory anyway. Here’s how it works.
Killzone Shadow Fall’s PlayGo tech explained
Much has been made of Guerrilla Games‘ ‘PlayGo’ system – the streaming tech that allows you to start playing the game while it’s still downloading. But is it as simple as that, we ask? Just click and play?
“Pretty much,” says Boltjes. “Basically how that works is that we’ve split up our engine in such away instead that instead of having to have everything to work you can download parts of it. And a large part of the game is obviously the weapons and gameplay mechanics.” Boltjes explains that the level itself isn’t actually the biggest chunk to download before diving into the game: “So before you can start playing we have to look at, well, what does the first level contain? Well it contains these enemy types, these weapons, these textures, these sounds etc.”
“We can, on server side, tweak the damage down on that weapon and instantly everyone will just have a less powerful weapon.”
“We make a package out of that, and that’s the first bit you download which is a lot smaller than the entire game. So once you have that part and where it gets really interesting is that level 2 might have the same enemies types, just a few extra. So to play level 2 it’s actually not a lot more data to download. After you’ve done that first initial download, you start playing level 1, in the background it’s downloading level 2, level 3, level 4, depending on how fast your internet connection is. Hopefully, there’s going to be wait times, but hopefully there’ll be a lot less wait times than having to download the whole game.”
Recently delayed Evolution Studios racer Drive Club can tailor downloads according to the specific bits that people are playing, anticipating the content you’ll want to play next. Can Killzone Shadow Fall’s internal smarts follow suit?
“On a level basis: no. But what we can do now for example, is in multiplayer, we can track all the weapons. So if a specific weapon is overpowered, you know it’s killing too many people and people start complaining, we don’t have to release a patch any more. We can, on server side, tweak the damage down on that weapon and instantly everyone will just have a less powerful weapon.”
Sounds painless for both the gamer and devs – as anyone will testify to who follows the COD community manager on Twitter and has witnessed the mewling, occasionally death-threat-filled complaints they receive every second But how on earth does it work? “You have to see it as: when you’re playing in-game everyone is communicate with each other. That’s peer to peer. But before you play get the rule set from the server. So the server tells you how this game is going to work and then you use that. And that’s updated and you get the rule set on the fly.”
It sounds like Boltjes is describing a world without patches. A world in which niggles are fixed before you even notice them. A world full of unicorns and rainbows in which no-one can remember what a loading bar looked like. Not exactly, explains the Guerrilla dev:
“There are going to be patches. For example, if we have to change how a weapon looks, that’s content. That’s content and then it becomes a patch. But if it’s variable, numbers that we can change, like weapon balance or stuff like that? That we can do that on the fly. If we want to add new sound? It’s a patch. If we want to change how often a weapon fires? That’s on the fly.”