Horizon Zero Dawn's world was one of its best assets. Whether you were wandering around snow-capped mountains marvelling at its mechanical wonders or trekking across the plains ducking behind rocks to avoid being picked off by avian machines, the world always felt like an integral part of the role-playing experience.
It's something the developer is eager to ensure remains in the follow-up, Horizon Forbidden West. In a new PlayStation Blog post from Guerrilla Games community lead, Bo de Vries, we've heard more about what the studio is doing to make the world-building in the sequel even better, and how the studio is creating a believable world in both settlements and environments.
A key factor in making the world work harmoniously comes from the development pipeline itself; per the piece, several departments (including narrative, environment artists, and quest designers) all work in unison to make the game's various tribes look identifiable and have unique behaviours and cultures.
"Every detail establishes credibility, creating an authentic environment through visual storytelling," explains de Vries. "For example, the Nora live in relative solitude in the isolated valley of the Sacred Land, making it difficult for them to communicate with the outside world. As a result, they are less technologically advanced than other tribes, and more wary of outsiders. Their settlements are made of wood and rope, featuring minimal furnishings other than what is needed for daily life."
Espen Sogn, lead living world designer at Guerrilla, notes that getting the balance right between immaculate world detail and not overwhelming the player can be tough – but, if done right, the rewards are worth it. To that end, various systems have been added to the game to make it feel more realistic, and more alive.
“Every non-combat NPC in Horizon Forbidden West is part of a crowd system,” says Sogn. “Within that system, you can create rules such as reactions, walking paths, and other animations. We then also have the attitude system, which determines a personality. This means we can create unique people who behave like individuals within the world."
Sony Interactive Entertainment and developer Guerrilla Games recently delayed Horizon Forbidden West to February 18, 2022, nudging it back from its previously planned holiday 2021 release window. The game will launch on both PS4 and PS5.