Working for a Guerrilla

A day with the guys behind Killzone 3.

Read about our day with the guys behind Killzone 3, and then scroll down to see how you can win a exclusive Killzone 3 prize package!

Killzone 3 graces PS3 consoles across the world this week, and many gamers already know that it annihilates the FPS competition. What gamers may not know is that the Killzone franchise is the baby of Guerrilla Games, an Amsterdam-based studio under the Sony umbrella, tucked away in an old bank on a street bisected by a canal. (Got all that?) Guerrilla is helmed by the mad genius of Hermen Helst and staffed by his legion of 150 über-talented, intensely passionate developers with, arguably, the coolest jobs in the world.

The studio’s interior, easily confused with a Helghast shrine, is a part of the daily routine for the guys at Guerrilla. Walls are cluttered with what you’d expect; overviews of level maps, sketches of heavy artillery, deadline schedules. What really stands out is the unexpected. A sunken-eyed youth, recognizable as a young Stahl from Killzone 3, hangs in the hall. This image, among many others, is painted with attention to detail, must’ve taken someone hours to do, and doesn’t show up in the game. It’s not intended for the end users but the first users, the ones who get paid to imagine the world of Killzone in a deeper way, like where a Helghast soldier goes for a drink when he’s not on duty. This is the precise moment that we realize the guys at Guerrilla eat, sleep, and smoke (it is Amsterdam, after all) Killzone.

The team is comprised of a mix of homegrown Dutch and ex-pats from across the world. The two factions blend seamlessly as a team, and the atmosphere in the studio shows it. Team members congregate around a single workstation to combat a newly discovered bug, take a walk to the gardenhouse-turned-3D theater, or chill in the backyard to have a smoke and recap the day. Sitting down to talk with the guys only solidifies this sentiment. Arjen Bokhoven, the art producer at Guerrilla, is a local Amsterdammer, got into the industry because of a love of handheld games, and has worked his way from designing black and greenish Gameboy titles to managing his own team, a relatively large leap in just under a decade that he’s very proud of taking. Dan Nanni, a level designer and native New Yorker, travelled a different path to reach Guerrilla. Classically trained in art, he bailed on the U.S. to gain membership in this club and would recommend it to just about anyone. “The video game industry is massive, and there are opportunities for all kinds of disciplines; pick yours and stick with it, it’s doable. If you like art, be a designer. If you like business, manage a studio. If you like playing, start out as a tester.”

Guerrilla draws on all walks of life to form their team, but the tie that binds them is passion and dedication to the craft; they’re all doing what they love and creating the best product is paramount to them. It’s why they don’t mind that their normal 9-to-5 turns into 18 hours in the office during crunch times when a new release is looming. It’s also why they’ll all rage mightily once the game is in your hands. No media, no outsiders, just the team, their friends, and family that have tolerated weeks of late nights and early mornings. They’re all gonna party. Hard.

This wrap party will be a bit different for Guerrilla than other studios, though. As much as it’s a celebration to mark the completion of Killzone 3, it’s also a christening of their new home. The new studio is just up the canal from the old one, and we walk the half-mile with el capitan himself, Hermen Helst, next to us, pointing out his own brand of landmarks. “This is the hotel where we put up our freelancers; each room comes with unlimited scotch.” We wonder what it takes to be a freelancer for Guerrilla, as we’d sign up on the spot. When we arrive at the new studio, Hermen triumphantly opens the door wide, and we’re greeted by a lobby that could easily be part of a multiplayer map. The industrial fan spins slowly in the corner and, though still under construction, we imagine that the secretary’s desk would make a great bunker. It’s completely intentional, Hermen says. The guys have been trying to convince him to arm the secretary with a sharpshooter. They definitely have our support.

Hermen starts bounding around his new playground, and we struggle to keep up while taking in all the badass-ness. Function takes precedence, but it’s all well-hidden among the flourishes thought up by the entire Guerrilla team (and Hermen himself). The studio was made for the team, by the team, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a someone at Guerrilla who isn’t ecstatic about their new home; they’re as excited to celebrate the completion of Killzone 3 as they are to make the move. Conference rooms are tucked into what look like cargo containers in the middle of the giant open space. Bathroom doors are flanked by Banksy-inspired Helghast soldiers, poised to charge in and disrupt your deuce. The space is massive and variations of the Guerrilla logo, designed by the same artists that build the levels of Killzone, are woven throughout the decor. These are huge steps past decorating your cubicle with trinkets and cat pictures. For a second we forget that we’re in, essentially, a corporate office, but at no point do we forget that this is Guerrilla’s new and spectacular home field.

We wrap up the tour and walk out with Hermen. We’ve seen video game studios before but none so thoughtful and tailored to a group as this. Excited to know what the inaugural project of the new studio will be, we ask Hermen what’s next on the agenda. He’s obviously excited about what’s to come but remains tightlipped about his studio’s new projects. Instead, he’s quick with a different sort of answer. “A boat…for the team.” He points to a slip outside of the new studio’s front door. “Something with Guerrilla all over it. And maybe some turrets.” We part ways and wonder what it’s going to take for our own office to finally get a party boat, turrets or not.


Jealous? So were we. To ease the pain of dealing with your own work grind, tell us about your shitty job, and we’ll reward the worst of the worst with some Guerrilla love.

Email, and our top five picks will get a copy of Killzone 3: Helghast Edition, which includes a limited Helmet replica, KILLZONE®3 game, exclusive Cloaking Helghast Marksman action figure, exclusive KILLZONE®3 Art Book, KILLZONE®3 Super Voucher with map pack, soundtrack and more! 

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