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March 15
2022

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

GUERRILLA GAMES HEADS INTO HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST

By TREVOR HOGG

Images courtesy of Guerrilla Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Development on Horizon Forbidden West began while Guerrilla Studios was finishing The Frozen Wilds in 2017.

Development on Horizon Forbidden West began while Guerrilla Studios was finishing The Frozen Wilds in 2017.

Expanding upon the universe established with Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games has hunter Aloy exploring a mysterious and dangerous wilderness environment that is inhabited by animalistic machines in the sequel Horizon Forbidden West. Going from being the Senior Quest Designer on Horizon Zero Dawn to Lead Quest Designer responsible for all of the main and side quests in Horizon Forbidden West is Tim Stobo, who worked with a team consisting of 12 designers.

The goal was to present the player with more mysteries to uncover, more tribes to meet and more terrifying animal-like machines to fight.

The goal was to present the player with more mysteries to uncover, more tribes to meet and more terrifying animal-like machines to fight.

Horizon Forbidden West introduces the Machine Strike board game

Horizon Forbidden West introduces the Machine Strike board game

“Development on Horizon Forbidden West started at the end of 2017, as we were wrapping up work on The Frozen Wilds, our expansion to Horizon Zero Dawn,” notes Stobo. “We already knew some of the direction the sequel would take, but really the first step was for us to decide what our goals for the Forbidden West were. We set those goals by asking ourselves what we wanted to see more or less of, what we wanted to improve, what technical challenges we wanted to overcome. But we also looked at reviews to see what critics thought we could do better, and at feedback from our fans, to see what they wanted more of.”

“We knew we wanted to give players a chance to return to the lush, beautiful natural world of Horizon, and to explore it more deeply than they ever had before. We knew we wanted to present the player with more mysteries to uncover, more tribes to meet and spend time with, and more huge, terrifying animal-like machines to fight. We’ve done that, and I’m so excited to see people experience it all for themselves.”

—Tim Stobo, Lead Quest Designer, Horizon Forbidden West

Driving the action is the Decima engine that was developed in-house by Guerrilla Games.

Driving the action is the Decima engine that was developed in-house by Guerrilla Games.

It was important to take advantage of the open-world concept. “We knew we wanted to give players a chance to return to the lush, beautiful natural world of Horizon, and to explore it more deeply than they ever had before,” states Stobo. “We knew we wanted to present the player with more mysteries to uncover, more tribes to meet and spend time with, and more huge, terrifying animal-like machines to fight. We’ve done that, and I’m so excited to see people experience it all for themselves.”

Flying is one of the dramatic activities that Aloy is able to do that allows her to travel faster and showcase the vast open-world environment.

Flying is one of the dramatic activities that Aloy is able to do that allows her to travel faster and showcase the vast open-world environment.

It was important to provide players with the opportunity to return to the beautiful natural world of Horizon and allow them to explore it more deeply than before.

It was important to provide players with the opportunity to return to the beautiful natural world of Horizon and allow them to explore it more deeply than before.

Driving the action is the Decima engine that was developed in-house by the Amsterdam-based video game company. “This engine was built from the ground up to support Guerrilla’s switch from the linear shooter series Killzone to Horizon’s open world.” New tools and weapons are introduced to give players more choice in how to develop Aloy and their own playstyle. “My favorite new weapon type is the Shredder Gauntlet,” reveals Stobo. “These weapons shoot discs that act a little like a boomerang. You fire one of the discs at a machine, where it does damage and then comes back. If you catch it, you can fire it again. I feel like an acrobat as I run and jump to get the perfect catch. Even better, every time you catch a thrown disc, it does more damage on its next use. Do that enough and eventually it will explode against the machine!”

The Pullcaster is a tool set that allows Aloy to propel herself towards marked hooking spots.

The Pullcaster is a tool set that allows Aloy to propel herself towards marked hooking spots.

Aloy enters an underground facility known as a Cauldron where machines are built.

Aloy enters an underground facility known as a Cauldron where machines are built.

“If a player never finds [what they’re looking for], that content may as well not exist. This is handled expertly by our World Design and Environment Art teams. They put a lot of effort into the design and placement of interesting places, amazing vistas or cool challenges that players will interact with as they move through the world.”

—Tim Stobo, Lead Quest Designer, Horizon Forbidden West

Everything in game development by Guerrilla Games is built simultaneously from scratch.

Everything in game development by Guerrilla Games is built simultaneously from scratch.

Everything in game development was built simultaneously from scratch. “A writer might be working on a cinematic script while a designer is figuring out the gameplay and an artist is concepting and building the location,” explains Stobo. “What this means is that everyone will be adjusting their work based on everyone else’s requirements, and scripts might change multiple times to support work from other departments. Cinematic scripts will be the first to get locked down. Once we’ve recorded mocap or voice lines, design and art will use that as the basis for the remainder of their own work. Gameplay scripts, which cover things like reactions, hints, small conversations, will be in flux for as long as possible. This way the narrative team can support changes required by design or art as we finish our own work and respond to playtest feedback.”

Aloy comes across the ruins of an ancient school bus.

Aloy comes across the ruins of an ancient school bus.

Aloy is voiced by Ashly Burch and modeled after Dutch actress Hannah Hoekstra.

Aloy is voiced by Ashly Burch and modeled after Dutch actress Hannah Hoekstra.

“A writer might be working on a cinematic script while a designer is figuring out the gameplay and an artist is concepting and building the location. What this means is that everyone will be adjusting their work based on everyone else’s requirements, and scripts might change multiple times to support work from other departments.”

—Tim Stobo, Lead Quest Designer, Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West takes place six months after the conclusion of Horizon Zero Dawn.

Horizon Forbidden West takes place six months after the conclusion of Horizon Zero Dawn.

Regalla, modeled and voiced by Angela Bassett, leads a faction of Tenakth rebels and serves as the main antagonist.

Regalla, modeled and voiced by Angela Bassett, leads a faction of Tenakth rebels and serves as the main antagonist.

The starting point is deciding upon the core experience and optional content. “We have our core story, and that may include specific activities or quests – challenges players must complete. Everything else is optional,” states Stobo. The hardest aspect is making sure that players discover everything. “If a player never finds it, that content may as well not exist,” he notes. This is handled expertly by our World Design and Environment Art teams. They put a lot of effort into the design and placement of interesting places, amazing vistas or cool challenges that players will interact with as they move through the world. As Quest Designers, we work hard to design quests that can unlock directly along the route we expect players to take, making sure quests are available in a town the first time you arrive, or placing quest characters alongside roads or locations we expect players to visit. All of this is informed first by our expectations and intentions, and second by playtesting as we watch how players actually experience and traverse our world.”

“As Quest Designers, we work hard to design quests that can unlock directly along the route we expect players to take, making sure quests are available in a town the first time you arrive, or placing quest characters alongside roads or locations we expect players to visit. All of this is informed first by our expectations and intentions, and second by playtesting as we watch how players actually experience and traverse our world.”

—Tim Stobo, Lead Quest Designer, Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West allows for six gameplay styles: warrior, trapper, survivor, infiltrator, hunter and machine master.

Horizon Forbidden West allows for six gameplay styles: warrior, trapper, survivor, infiltrator, hunter and machine master.

Concludes Stobo, “When we design content, we’re also looking at how a player’s actions there will change the world as a result. From sweeping changes felt across the game, to small changes in a single settlement, we are looking for ways to emphasize this to players. Once we’re happy with the golden path, we start to look at extra systems that can direct you back to content you may have missed, or to things that may have changed, that we think you’d like to see again. Hopefully, it feels seamless, and you’re always discovering new things to do as you explore the world around you!”


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