By now you’ve probably read a thing or two about the PlayStation Move Sharp Shooter – like the fact that it has a digital trigger, a pump-action grip, and an authentic form factor. But did you know that it originally started life as a side project for Killzone 3‘s game director? In this two-part article, we look at the origins of the Sharp Shooter and the people behind it.
It all began with a Helghast soldier using a PlayStation Move controller.
“We were at a game convention where the Move was being demonstrated,” Guerrilla Game Director Mathijs de Jonge recalls. “We had several Helghast performers walking the show floor, and one of them decided to have a go at the Move demo booth.”
For Mathijs, the image of a big, intimidating Helghast soldier waving about an innocuous game peripheral just felt off. “I could scarcely imagine him playing a game like Killzone that way,” Mathijs says. “He looked like he should be holding something resembling a weapon – something with a little oomph to it. A peripheral that not only played well, but looked cool at the same time.”
The event got Mathijs thinking about an add-on for the PlayStation Move. “We’d toyed with the idea of designing a Killzone-themed gun peripheral before,” Mathijs says, “but with the introduction of the Move, that idea suddenly seemed a lot more feasible. The timing was right as well, because development on Killzone 3 was still in its early stages.”
Early mockups consisted of kitbashed gun peripherals from other platforms.
Mathijs voiced his idea at a Director’s Panel, where Sony Product Design Manager Ennin Huang was also in attendance. Having worked with the SOCOM team on the first Bluetooth headset for PlayStation 3, Ennin was heavily involved with the development of PlayStation peripherals. “After the panel, Ennin approached us and said he very much liked the idea of a solid, realistic-looking Move add-on,” Mathijs says. “He advised us to put together an official proposal and submit it to the Product Design team.”
For his proposal, Mathijs enlisted the help of Guerrilla Lead Concept Designer (and resident weapons expert) Roy Postma. “Mathijs wanted to design a gun peripheral that could represent the majority of firearms in Killzone 3,” Roy says. “We chose the Helghast StA-11 SMG as our starting point: like most weapons in the game it requires two hands to operate, but at the same time it’s quite compact.”
The first mockup housed the navigation controller in the rear grip.
Using foam board, duct tape and pieces of gun peripherals from several different platforms, Mathijs and Roy then constructed a mockup roughly approximating the StA-11’s size and shape. The mockup housed the navigation controller in the rear grip and the Move controller in the barrel, while a trigger mechanism in the fore grip connected to the Move’s T-button. This setup, however, proved impractical.
“When you play Killzone 3 on a DualShock 3 controller, you move around with your left thumb and fire with your right index finger,” Roy explains. “Our first mockup had it the other way around, making the setup somewhat awkward for right-handed people. So I went back to the drawing board to design a clip/fore grip that could house the navigation controller. I also moved the firing trigger back to the rear grip, where it normally resides on an StA-11.”
Guerrilla CEO Hermen Hulst tries out the revised mockup.
Instead of relying on a complicated (and possibly error-prone) physical pass-through mechanism to bridge the distance to the Move’s T-button, the trigger could simply be wired up to the Move’s extension connector digitally. This solution allowed Roy to add additional buttons to the body of the peripheral, saving players from having to reach for the Move controller in the barrel whenever they wanted to reload or swap weapons.
In the meantime, Mathijs worked on the proposal document, outlining the type of user experience he had in mind for the gun peripheral. “I wanted players to experience a sense of joy as soon as they picked up the peripheral,” Mathijs says. “It not only had to look cool and authentic, I also wanted it to feel like a weapon. It had to enhance the overall experience of playing a shooter on the PlayStation 3.”