Guerrilla Games Shares a Ton of Horizon: Zero Dawn Info and Beautiful Concept Artwork

on December 4, 2016 2:05 PM

During a panel at PlayStation Experience in Anaheim, presented by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Guerrilla Games Managing Director Hermen Hulst and Horizon: Zero Dawn Narrative Director John Gonzalez talked in depth about the upcoming game, giving a ton of information on what it entails, and also showing some really lovely concept artwork.

  • When Guerrilla had to decide its next game, there were two concepts that were brought up: one was very safe and prudent, and the other was Horizon. Hulst tried very hard to lean towards the safer one, but in the end he could not resist how much he liked the concept of Horizon: Zero Dawn.
  • When John Gonzalez was approached by Guerrilla, the ambition of the studio to create a compelling world of depth, detail and history is what drew him to the project.
  • The world is full of tantalizing, ancient mysteries, but it’s also the foundation for something new that the tribes have created. The team took this idea really in-depth.
  • When Guerrilla decided to make the game, it was a major “oh oh” moment. They needed new talent, new technology and tools for the Decima Engine. Creating a new IP from the ground up is a very deep undertaking. The tribes’ art needed to be fleshed out with all their differences. The design of the game had to be created with the moment to moment gameplay, so the concept of “prepare engage and withdraw” was created.
  • The Nora tribe makes use of all the wood they can to protect themselves, but they also use the environment to improve that protection, so all the routes of approach are covered. They have machine trophies on display and training facilities so they can consistently train their young hunters. They have walls to enhance their protection, and lookout towers to spot approaching machines. They have rounded glyphs and symbols to symbolize childbirth, which is extremely important for them, and they build using wood and salvaged machine parts together.
  • Even the decoration of the clothing of the Nora tribesmen incorporates elements straight from the machines, while other elements remind of their design.
  • The ambition of the studio with the machines was to create a dynamic robot ecology. The best way to see that is to look at the humblest of the machines like the shellwalkers.
  • Whatever is in game should look like it could be built in reality. Which is why many designers at Guerrilla have background in industrial design. The game is science-fiction. It’s not a fantasy game. Gonzalez did not accept having  any fantasy elements in the game.
  • Aloy was part of the concept from day one. She was part of the original pitch, and she is fundamental to the game. It’s “unnatural” for Guerrilla to imagine the world without her, and she is the perfect “vessel” to explore the world. She is young, agile and she has the right relationship with the machines. There are mythical elements, and she is very grounded in contrast.
  • Gonzalez asked himself if she is a thinker, a dreamer, a rebel or a daredevil. All of those aspects were explored, even with artwork. The fact that she was a outcast gave him insight on her personality. She is badass, but not for the sake of being badass. She has both personal and world mysteries to pursue.
  • Myertery is a big part of the game, both Aloy’s personal mystery and the mystery of the world. The subtitle “Zero Dawn” will make a lot of sense when we finish the game.
  • When the machines were first pitched, an important element was upping the ante on the scale of the world with their size. The player is not the biggest fish in the sea. Thos, according to Gonzalez, was an innovation for an open world game.
  • The world is being built from the ground up, and the universe “really screams” for further exploration beyond the game, but for now now the team is laser-focused on finishing game itself.
  • Asked about the presence of “dungeons,” Gonzales responded that the breath of the world is also “matched by the depth and history of it,” and there are “buried secrets” that Aloy will have to bring to light.
  • The team really tried to be careful about what they were showing, to avoid giving away too much. To Gonzales’ knowledge, players speculation still hasn’t hit on what’s behind the mysterious mechanical door shown in one of the past trailers..
  • The machines don’t appear to have predator-prey relationships, but there is a conflict among them. Other animals have their own ecosystem.
  • According to Gonzalez, Guerrilla took a big gamble with Horizon: Zero Dawn. There were many challenges, but none in particular stands out as a “nemesis.”
  • Guerrilla was already a world-class development studio when Gonzales joined three years ago, and they worked shoulder-to-shoulder to find out what would make a good open world RPG. That said, many of the developers were already huge fans of open world RPG games, even if they worked on linear shootrs.
  • There are activities that let you take a break from the main quests and the side quests.
  • Guerrilla tried to create an hybrid between action adventure storytelling and the depth of lore of an RPG.
  • The “Aloy” name came from the concept phase. It stuck because of the idea of the world that combines something tribal and something technological, even if the tribes themselves do not know what an “alloy” is.
  • Aloy grew up as an outsider, so she does not share the superstition of the tribes, and she is looking for real answers. Yet she is not a complete skeptic, and she understand that stories might have a glimmer of truth, and there might be something to learn from them.
  • She also has a profound inner conflict: a part of her wants to be accepted by the tribe, but she is also so resentful for being cast out, that she doesn’t want to be someone who wants to belong to the tribe.
  • Guerrilla had to imagine the tribes, not only their material culture and architecture, but also their ceremonial culture: what they believe and the stories they tell. They approached that by seeing those stories as filling a “really deep human need” to inscribe the morality of a tribe, and help their understanding of things that are taking place in the world. This includes recent cataclysms, like one that happened twenty years before the beginning of the game, and people are still struggling to make sense of it and to apply  the mythologies of their tribe to understand it. Even in those
  • Gonzalez tried to avoid prove a point with the game, because it would be preachy. Of course every great story is teaches a bit of what it means to be human, and that’s what makes them compelling. Yet, the thematic depth of the story that they were going for is something developers want to be open to interpretation. They don’t want players to walk away with a given moral teaching. They just wanted to create something really rich, and then let people think about what it meant to them.
  • Gonzales brought up Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and The Witcher 3 as two examples of great open world games recently released.
  • The PS4 Pro version just “takes the gorgeous and makes it even more gorgeous.”

Below you can check out the concept artwork showcased during the panel, including environments, characters, an earlier concept of Aloy and the machines themselves.

You can also check out a trailer featuring the Decima Engine showcased yesterday, and a new trailer of the game that was aired during the PlayStation Experience keynote presentation.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.