Horizon Forbidden West: An authentic world

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The Forbidden West is vast and deadly, full of ancient ruins, awe-inspiring machines and hidden dangers. Surrounded by danger, its human inhabitants need places to train, rest, and improve their gear. Game settlements make up these sanctuaries, and they are as important to the Eloy as it is to the tribes that live in them.

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The world in these settlements is a complex character in itself. Every detail establishes credibility while creating an authentic atmosphere through visual storytelling. For example, Nora lives in relative solitude in an isolated valley of the Holy Land, which makes it difficult for her to communicate with the outside world. As a result, they are less technologically advanced than other tribes, and are more wary of outsiders. Their settlements are made of wood and rope, with minimal furnishings apart from essentials for daily living. Food and resources are obtained through hunting and gathering, so there will be shrapnel, baskets or sheaths filled with arrows all around. All objects and people within such a settlement feel as if they belong, and even more so: as they always have been.


spoiler ALERT: Please note that this article may contain spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn and its story.


world building with intention

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With hours and hours of exploration in the Forbidden West, how do you create a lush and thriving world full of activities, but without overwhelming the people, or distracting from the wider story? Espen Sogan, Lead Living World Designer at Guerrilla, explains how her team is at the center of this question.

“When you walk through the Forbidden West, everything should feel like it’s there. The Living World team at Guerrilla works on the aspects of the game that make the world feel authentic and alive: the tribes, the settlements, and the The people of. Everything we place within the world has an intention behind it.”

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Clarity on those intentions comes from the collaboration of the narrative team. “At the beginning of a project, we put a lot of thought into every tribe we’re going to encounter,” says Annie Kitten, senior author of Guerrilla. “What are their conflicts, how do they fit into the story, and how do they interact with the world around them. Take Tenakath, for example. Many of their beliefs are influenced by the ancient ruins of the Forbidden West, et al. Unlike tribes, they consist of three distinct clans. Their shared history, beliefs, conflicts – all of which are important for developing the characters Eloy will meet on her journey.”

“Our main challenge is to translate this narrative framework into visuals that are integral to the world,” says Aspen. “For example, the Tenakath are known for being competitive and combat-focused, but so are other tribes. So how do we differentiate them, and how do we communicate this visually?”

‘It then becomes all about the details, the animations and the behavior. Within their settlements, you will see Tenkath working, preparing himself for battle. They are often small because they need to be capable warriors. Their base is an ancient ruin, from which they have picked up some Old World gestures that they cannot fully understand – such as using the military salute to say hello.’

‘Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that NPCs feel connected to where they live, and we work closely with other internal teams, such as narrative, quest and environment, to ensure that For that every place feels authentic.

“The Living World team does a great job, and it’s great to see it all come together,” Annie says. “Each tribe begins as a set of ideas, then is translated into these wonderful settlements. Like the Utaru, which were conceived as an agrarian society, deeply connected to the land around them Once the tribe is in play and the Living World team has worked its magic, you’re walking through the fields of Utaru, chatting with them, and you think, ‘Wow, they caught this. ‘ Now this tribe feels real.”

authenticity through behavior

With a world as vast as the Forbidden West, it was important for the team to maintain the level of authenticity that was achieved in Horizon Zero Dawn. “Every non-combatant NPC in Horizon Forbidden West is part of the mob system,” Aspen says. “Within that system, you can create rules like feedback, walk paths, and other animations. Then we also have the attitude system, which determines a personality. This means we can create unique people who are unique to the world.” behave like individuals within.’

‘We are constantly adding layers of authenticity within the world through animations and behaviour. When members of a tribe are in their settlement, in their safe place, they can act as their own. The Osram are a socially and historically patriarchal tribe, so their animations are more about shoulder punches and high fives. Utaru, on the other hand, are laid back, so they will often sit together and be a bit more touchy-feely. As the player moves around, these are potentially subconscious cues that will help you visualize where you are in the world.’

‘It all happens within the descriptive framework of the game. You should be able to identify from afar which tribe you are looking at. The way different tribes hold or transport water: the strong Tenakt will carry it on his shoulders; The peaceful Utaru will embrace it up close; And the cunning Oseram will pick it up with his own hands.”

moving to chainscrape

One of the first places Eloy will visit as he travels west is Chainscrape, an Osram outpost settlement on the border. It offers abundant natural resources and opportunities for adventure and exposure. Its tenants come here for many reasons: to run back home from problems in claims, to do some quick icing, to embrace a dream, or for the thrill of exploration. It’s a busy center, with a town bar where Eloy can meet some interesting new characters.

Aspen continues: “With so much activity, so many visual cues, Chainscrap was a place where we could showcase many new systems and animations that make the world and its people feel more alive. In Horizon Zero Dawn, the background There were a lot of possessions and things in Horizon Forbidden West, they’re not just textures: they’ve been elevated into real objects that people are using in the game.’

‘Where you previously saw a person standing in front of a forge, they will now actively engage with their surroundings: moving material, leaning on walls, drinking from cups, talking to friends, and simply living their daily lives’ Live. They move and exist with purpose. ,

Forbidden West’s Settlements

Of course, the world isn’t just visually expansive—it’s a constant threat. Alloy relies on settlements and NPCs to maintain and equip him. Progress, skills, upgrades, health and equipment are all part of a larger ecosystem that makes up the vast and complex open world of the Forbidden West.

“When designing the core features that make up a game’s progression system, these features should always be built in dialogue with the rest of the game’s design!” says Steven Lumpkin, senior designer at Guerrilla. “Beyond the legend of Horizon, it’s imperative that all of our systems work together so that our players can have an immersive experience from taking on their controller for the first time.”

‘Balancing progress is a major focus for us, ensuring that each player is able to easily acquire a set of gear that makes them feel great in combat, while still being good enough to deal with all challenges during the course of the game. remains powerful. We’ve created an ecosystem that rewards the player for engaging deeply with the entire world of Horizon Forbidden West, while remaining friendly to those who want to focus on the original narrative.”

At the heart of this are settlements in Horizon Forbidden West: bustling centers where you can find weapons, costumes and all the upgrades you need to continue your journey. “We wanted the towns and villages of the Forbidden West to feel alive, alive and useful,” Steven continues. ‘In every settlement around the world, you’ll find opportunities for adventure. They’re full of merchants and vendors: stitchers, who can sell alloys for sharps and machine parts with powerful (and beautiful!) new outfits; Hunters, which offer an array of tactical new weapons; herbalists, who sell potent potions that the alloy is definitely strong enough to handle; and cooks, who prepare refreshing meals that Eloy can take with her to promote. ,

It was also important to the narrative team that merchants fit within the context of their respective tribes. “A hunter from the Oseram tribe might act like a blacksmith, making weapons for hunters to use in the wild,” says Annie. “While a Tenkath Hunter acts more like a Quartermaster, it ensures that the warriors of their clan are armed for battle.”

“You’ll see this reflected in the individual characters as well. In one of the early settlements you meet an Oseram cook, who has a spirited personality and places great emphasis on the taste of food. Later, you meet a stern Tenkath cook , which primarily focuses on how a well-fed warrior is better prepared for battle. These differences make them feel like they are part of a unique culture.”

adapt to survive

“Weapons and outfits are more powerful and stylish than ever,” says Steven. “Weapons now have additional features to make them more distinctive – you can read more on that in one of our previous blogs. Plus, Alloy can now carry up to six weapons at the same time with its trusty spear.” Is.’

‘The outfits not only provide resistance to the many types of damage that Alloy would face in the Forbidden West, but also the pile…

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