Guerrilla Games‘ Studio Art Director Jan-Bart Van Beek on the making of Jorham Stahl, Killzone 3‘s charismatic villain.

How did you come up with Killzone 3’s bad guys?

Killzone’s universe is very heavily inspired by the wars of the previous century. So we often look at that era’s leaders, states and political events. In Killzone 3 we had two competitors fighting for power, both very clearly delineated. Admiral Orlock would represent the military, while Jorham Stahl would represent the Helghan industry. Both individually very powerful, but dependent on each other as well. We did a first sketch of Orlock where he looked a lot like Stalin and it immediately clicked. Jorham Stahl was a bit trickier. Where Orlock was about physical power, Stahl needed to be smart and cunning. There is some Albert Speer in there. Some Doctor Mengele. Some Oppenheimer. A little Trotski. A bit of Goebbels as well. But I think most of all, he’s based on Senator Palpetine from the Star Wars prequels.”

What comes first, the character design or the voice acting?

“Most characters are first thought up in story meetings. Once you know who the character is and what he represents, it’s all about making sure that message comes through loud and clear. You do need to be careful not to communicate something about the character that’s the exact opposite of what you’re looking for. Say if we would have given Stahl a big bushy mustache. We design a character before we cast him. That sometimes means we adapt him a bit when we know what actor portrays him. In the case of Orlock we didn’t really change much. In Stahl’s case we tuned his facial features and hair a bit just to make him look a bit more like Malcolm McDowell.”

What’s more fun to design, good or bad guys?

“There isn’t a lot of difference between designing a bad guy or a good guy. Any major story character is a lot of fun to design. It can take months to get it right and it’s very rewarding to finally see that character come to life in the final game.”