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News Horizon Forbidden West: An authentic world

Bartski

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Horizon Forbidden West: An authentic world


The Forbidden West is vast and deadly, filled with ancient ruins, awe-inspiring machines, and hidden threats. Surrounded by danger, its human inhabitants need places to train, rest, and improve their gear. The game’s settlements form these sanctuaries, and they are just as vital to Aloy as they are to the tribes that live in them.
The living world in these settlements is a complex character of its own. Every detail establishes credibility, creating an authentic environment through visual storytelling. 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. Food and resources are obtained through hunting and gathering, so there’ll be pelts, baskets, or sheaths full of arrows lying around. All the objects and people within such a settlement feel like they belong, and more so: like they’ve always been there.

Spoiler Alert: Please note this article may contain some spoilers for Horizon Zero Dawn and its storyline.

World building with intention​

With hours and hours of exploration in the Forbidden West, how do you create a lush and thriving world filled with activities, but without overwhelming people, or detracting from the overarching story? Espen Sogn, Lead Living World Designer at Guerrilla, explains how his team is central to this very question.
“When you walk through the Forbidden West, everything should feel like it belongs there. The Living World team at Guerrilla works on aspects of the game that make the world feel authentic and alive: the tribes, the settlements, and the people within them. There’s an intention behind everything we place within the world.”
Clarity on those intentions comes from collaboration with the narrative team. “At the start of a project, we put a lot of thought into every tribe we’re going to encounter,” says Annie Kitain, Senior Writer at Guerrilla. “What their conflicts are, how they fit into the story, and how they interact with the world around them. Take the Tenakth, for instance. Many of their beliefs are influenced by the ancient ruins of the Forbidden West, and unlike other tribes, they’re comprised of three distinct clans. Their shared history, convictions, disputes – all of that is important to developing the characters that Aloy will meet on her journey.”
“Our main challenge is translating this narrative framework into visuals that are integral to the world itself,” says Espen. “For example, the Tenakth are known to be competitive and combat-focused, but so are other tribes. So how do we distinguish them, and how do we communicate that visually?”
‘It then becomes all about the details, the animations, and the behaviors. Within their settlements, you’ll see the Tenakth working out, readying themselves for battle. They’re often younger because they need to be capable warriors. Their base is an ancient ruin, from which they’ve picked up certain Old World gestures that they may not fully understand – like using a military salute to say hello.’
‘Ultimately, our goal is to make sure NPCs feel connected to where they live, and we work closely with other internal teams, such as Narrative, Quest, and Environment, to make sure that every location feels authentic.”
“The Living World team does a fantastic job, and it’s so great to see it all come together,” says Annie. “Each tribe starts as a bunch of ideas, then is translated into these amazing settlements. Like the Utaru, who were imagined as an agrarian society that’s deeply connected to the land around them. Once the tribe is in-game and the Living World team has done their magic, you’re walking around the Utaru’s fields, interacting with them, and you think, ‘whoa, they nailed it.’ 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-combat NPC in Horizon Forbidden West is part of a crowd system,” says Espen. “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.’
‘We are constantly adding layers of authenticity within the world through animations and behaviors. When members of a tribe are in their settlement, their safe spaces, they can act like themselves. The Oseram are a social and historically patriarchal tribe, so their animations are more about shoulder punches and high fives. The Utaru, on the other hand, are laid back, so they will often sit down together and be a bit more touchy-feely. As the player moves around, these are potential subconscious hints that will help you visualize where in the world you are.’
‘All of this happens within the game’s narrative framework. You should be able to identify from a distance which tribe you’re looking at. The way that different tribes hold or transport water: the strong Tenakth will carry it on their shoulders; the peaceful Utaru will hug it closely; and the crafty Oseram will carry it with their hands.”

Heading to Chainscrape​

One of the first places Aloy will visit as she travels west is Chainscrape, an Oseram outpost settlement on the border. It offers abundant natural resources and opportunities for adventure and risk. Its tenants have come here for many reasons: to flee problems back home in the Claim, to make a few quick shards, to embrace a dream, or for the thrill of exploration. It’s a busy hub, featuring a town bar where Aloy can meet some interesting new characters.

Espen continues: “With so much activity, so many visual cues, Chainscrape was a place where we could demonstrate many new systems and animations that make the world and its people feel much more alive. In Horizon Zero Dawn, there were a lot of assets and things in the background. In Horizon Forbidden West, they’re not just textures: they’ve been elevated into actual objects that are being used by people in-game.’
‘Where you previously saw a person standing in front of a forge, they will now actively engage with what’s around them: moving materials, leaning on walls, drinking from cups, talking to friends, and just living their daily lives. They move and exist with purpose.”

Settlements of the Forbidden West​

Of course, the world isn’t just visually detailed – it’s a constant threat. Aloy relies on settlements and NPCs to sustain and equip her. Progression, skills, upgrades, health, and tools are all part of a larger ecosystem that structures the huge and intricate open world of the Forbidden West.
“When designing the core features that form the progression systems of a game, these features always have to be built in dialog with the rest of the game’s design!” says Steven Lumpkin, Senior Designer at Guerrilla. “Beyond the narrative of Horizon, it’s imperative that all our systems work together in harmony to give our players a fantastic experience from the first time they pick up their controller.’
‘Balancing progression is a leading focus for us, making sure that every player is readily able to acquire a set of gear that feels great to them in combat, while remaining powerful enough to tackle all of the challenges over the course of the game. We’ve built an ecosystem that rewards the player for engaging deeply with the whole world of Horizon Forbidden West, while remaining friendly for those who want to stay focused on the core narrative.”

At the heart of that are the settlements in Horizon Forbidden West: bustling hubs where you can find weapons, outfits, and all the upgrades you need to continue your journey. “We wanted the towns and villages across the Forbidden West to feel lived in, vibrant, and useful,’ continues Steven. ‘In each settlement across the world, you’ll find opportunities for adventure. They are filled with merchants and vendors: Stitchers, who can sell Aloy powerful (and beautiful!) new outfits in exchange for shards and machine parts; Hunters, who offer an array of tactical new weaponry; Herbalists, who sell potent potions that Aloy is definitely strong enough to handle; and Cooks, who prepare invigorating meals that Aloy can carry with her for a boost.”
For the Narrative team, it was also important that the merchants fit into the context of their respective tribes. “A Hunter from the Oseram tribe might act more like a blacksmith, forging weapons for hunters to use in the wilds,” says Annie. “Whereas a Tenakth Hunter functions more like a quartermaster, ensuring that their clan’s warriors are armed for battle.”
“You’ll see this reflected in the individual characters, as well. There’s an Oseram Cook you meet in one of the early settlements who has a buoyant personality and puts a lot of emphasis into how food tastes. Later, you meet a stern Tenakth Cook who mainly focuses on how a well-fed warrior is better prepared for a battle. These differences make them feel like they’re a part of a unique culture.”

Customize to survive​

“Weapons and outfits are even more potent and stylish than before,” says Steven. “Weapons now have extra perks to make them even more specialized – you can read more on that in one of our previous blogs. Also, Aloy can now carry up to six weapons at the same time, along with her trusty spear.’
‘Outfits do not only provide resistance to the many damage types Aloy will face in the Forbidden West, but also stack bonuses on top of Aloy’s skills on the Skill Tree. With the right outfit boosting the right skills, the sky’s the limit. Plus, you can swap weapons and outfits on the fly, so you can change your approach at any time.’
‘The narrative of Horizon and the vibrant cultures that inhabit its world were a huge source of inspiration for Aloy’s outfits. Clothing reflects a unique style, as well as the materials a tribe has access to and knows how to use. Hunters from the Nora tend to favor ranged combat and stealthy hunting. Carja excel at the use of traps and tripwires. The boisterous Oseram love fighting up close and personal with a hammer. The Tenakth and Utaru have their own preferences as well — and the outfits Aloy can acquire from each culture tend to reflect and support these unique approaches to combat.”

In the Horizon Forbidden West gameplay trailer, we mentioned a new feature called Workbenches, which can be found all over the world. Steven explains: “Aloy can forge the machine parts she’s harvested into her weapons and outfits, upgrading them to be even stronger. As you travel the Forbidden West, take note of machines that have visible horns, claws, tusks, or tails. While early upgrades may just need a bit of braided wire or sturdy hardplate, if you want extra mod slots, the strongest perks, or the biggest resistances… you’ll want to make sure you shoot off the Tremortusk’s parts before you take it down.”
Whether from downed machines, animals Aloy has hunted in her travels, plants she’s harvested, or even rare crystalline growths called Greenshine that can be discovered around the world — every resource she comes across will be valuable in some capacity.
“More advanced upgrades will require resources from specific machines, and Aloy’s Focus can help her scan the machine, identify key resources, and tag them for easy tracking,’ Steven says. ‘If you’re ever short on supply, merchants will happily take valuables to sell off your hands. And if you need even more, external machine parts can be harvested and sold for a fair price. A consummate crafter, Aloy can use animal skins and bones to sew new Pouch and Quiver upgrades, letting her carry more ammunition or resources with her in the field. All of these systems reward Aloy for exploring the world even as she travels deeper into the Forbidden West.”

An authentic, vibrant world…​

It’s not easy to create an immersive open world, filled with adventure, culture, and opportunity, and sustained by detailed and well balanced systems of progression and commerce. It took a true team effort from start to finish.
“When you’re out in the Forbidden West, our hope is that the story is reflected in every detail of the world,” says Annie. “And we strive to make that happen through collaboration with the many talented teams at Guerrilla. Aloy’s journey will take her through some really gorgeous settlements, allowing her to meet many interesting characters, trade for cool new gear, and prepare herself for the challenges ahead.”
“We’re very proud of what we have achieved together,” says Espen. “We hope the player will encounter a world that feels more alive and more real than ever. We have put so much detail into the daily lives of our people: from groups of people gossiping on a street corner to rowdy customers in the bar who burst into spontaneous song. From children playing tag outside to play fighting with the town guard. We hope players will take a moment to watch what is going on around them and come away with their own favorite moments.”
Steven adds: “To work with so many teams to make sure that everything sings just right all together has been such a highlight. Our goal was to make sure that Aloy feels embodied in and engaged with the world around her, whether she’s relaxing in our settlements or hunting in the wilds. We’re proud of the results: from outfits and the boosts they give to player skills, to Workbench upgrading and hunting for machine parts — there are so many cool new systems that draw you into the world, and we hope you will love the game from start to finish.”
 
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TrueLegend

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All I want to see is grass variation of at least 10 types and better texture filtering of wooden architecture. They seem like PS3 era in HZD.
And more of Outfits because I loved those in HZD.
 
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skit_data

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This is probably the most interesting release out of the ”big ones” next year outside of Starfield.
I know Elden Ring will be really really good.
I know God of War Ragnarök will be really really good.
I know BotW2 will be really really good.

Will Horizon go from being just ”really good” to ”really really good”, i.e on par with GoW:R?

I really liked the first game but it had some weaknesses(mainly character customization and gear), if they simply correct those it could easily be a 10/10 game IMO.

Edit: Also melee combat but we’ve already seen that melee and traversal has been improved greatly. Damn, yeah this one will be very interesting. This, Elden Ring and GT7 within a couple of weeks. My poor wallet…
 
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Draugoth

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I guess we will be getting this monthly until the release

Blog summary:
  • Every non-combat NPC is part of a reactive crowd system .
  • An attitude system detemines their personality.
  • Each tribe has their own behaviours (and animations) to make them recognizable.

Video:

 
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Lightjolly

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Jul 9, 2020
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This is probably the most interesting release out of the ”big ones” next year outside of Starfield.
I know Elden Ring will be really really good.
I know God of War Ragnarök will be really really good.
I know BotW2 will be really really good.

Will Horizon go from being just ”really good” to ”really really good”, i.e on par with GoW:R?

I really liked the first game but it had some weaknesses(mainly character customization and gear), if they simply correct those it could easily be a 10/10 game IMO.

Edit: Also melee combat but we’ve already seen that melee and traversal has been improved greatly. Damn, yeah this one will be very interesting. This, Elden Ring and GT7 within a couple of weeks. My poor wallet…

All those games are going to be the next nominated GOTY, can see it from 10 miles away
 

skit_data

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All those games are going to be the next nominated GOTY, can see it from 10 miles away
Yeah, unless any of them crash n burn on a CP2077 level, which seems very unlikely.

I feel sorry for the 6th game getting nominated in next years TGA. It’s gonna be interesting to see what game will be squashed like a bug under all these releases.
 

Con-Z-epT

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For a studio that was shaped by ego-shooters they already did an astonishing job with the first game and i'm sure they will outgrow themselves again.

The only bad thing about this game is the release date since i can't decide what to play first in february. I might even toss a coin.
 

lh032

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Hopefully there are more random encounters like tribes fighting each other or fighting with machines (not get owned one sided)
 
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Bartski

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The world density is super impressive.
I hope they do a dev deep dive into their procedural systems at the next GDC.
Cuz if this was hand curated the level designers at GG deserve a raise.
Likely similar to the first game, most of it is procedurally "drafted" and then tweaked by hand, they've had some killer tools made for HZD already

 

Lightjolly

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Jul 9, 2020
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Yeah, unless any of them crash n burn on a CP2077 level, which seems very unlikely.

I feel sorry for the 6th game getting nominated in next years TGA. It’s gonna be interesting to see what game will be squashed like a bug under all these releases.
The 6th will most likely be Halo Infinite, unless as you said, it crash's and burns
 
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skit_data

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The 6th will most likely be Halo Infinite, unless as you said, it crash's and burns
Ah, that’s right, I completely forgot it will be in next years awards. I see no indication of it failing miserably, most people seem to really enjoy the MP at least.

Yeah, there we have them:
1. Horizon Forbidden West
2. Elden Ring
3. Halo Infinite
4. Starfield
5. God of War Ragnarök
6. Zelda Breath of the Wild 2

Sick lineup. Could see some surprises hitting us as well, like Nintendo releasing Metroid Dread 3 months after announcing it.
 
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Apr 4, 2017
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All I want to see is grass variation of at least 10 types and better texture filtering of wooden architecture. They seem like PS3 era in HZD.
And more of Outfits because I loved those in HZD.
I'd not keep my hopes up, this is a ps4-first game after all. So just expect high res, 60 fps, faster loading, maybe better texture filtering and better lighting.
 

Gameplaylover

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I really liked the first game but it had some weaknesses(mainly character customization and gear), if they simply correct those it could easily be a 10/10 game IMO.
Biggest flaws to me were the emotionless, boring NPC and their trivial dialogues, the bad AI of the human opponents, boring melee combat, balancing (many difficulty levels were much too easy) and the empty/dead world. Otherwise it was as solid as most Ubisoft open world games with one unique selling point: An interesting setting. Eveybody was like "Why the hell are there robo dinos?". This aha moment is gone now.
 

Ogbert

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I just hope they update the feel of the game.

The original was one of those titles where you feel like the character is walking on ice. There was a lack of weight. Looked incredible, but the core mechanics pushed me away.
 

GymWolf

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Biggest flaws to me were the emotionless, boring NPC and their trivial dialogues, the bad AI of the human opponents, boring melee combat, balancing (many difficulty levels were much too easy) and the empty/dead world. Otherwise it was as solid as most Ubisoft open world games with one unique selling point: An interesting setting. Eveybody was like "Why the hell are there robo dinos?". This aha moment is gone now.


Yeah they solved the biggest mistery from the past but the biggest mistery from the present days plot was not solved at all, we literally don't know who started the whole thing, someone made the ia self-aware and aggressive so in the first game we didn't even fought the real bad guy, if they play their cards well, there is space for an explosive final third chapter.
 
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Robbinhood

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So excited for this, do you guys know if I buy the PS4 version will I get the PS5 version upgraded for free? I'd like to avoid that 10 dollar tax but it doesn't mention it anywhere in the store.
 

Gameplaylover

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Yeah they solved the biggest mistery from the past but the biggest mistery from the present days plot was not solved at all, we literally don't know who started the whole thing, someone made the ia self-aware and aggressive so in the first game we didn't even fought the real bad guy, if they play their cards well, there is space for an explosive final third chapter.
I give you props for your memory. I beat the game 2017 and only know remember fragments of the story. That could be an interesting approach, but i really hope they improve the npc and dialogues.
 
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GymWolf

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I give you props for your memory. I beat the game 2017 and only know remember fragments of the story. That could really be an interesting story, but i really hope they improve the npc and dialogues.
Its my gotg so i remember almost everything, i also loosely follow a channel where they intensively talk about horizon lore, and there is a SHITTON of it.
 
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skit_data

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I hope it's WAY better optimized on PC and that they improve the shader cache system which is easily the worst of all time.
I highly doubt they will let the same studio do the port for this one. Guerilla had to step in and fix a lot of stuff themselves afterwards if I’m not mistaken. Can’t imagine Sony was pleased with that fact.
 
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