Guerrilla Games, the developer of Horizon Zero Dawn, is best known for their work on the Killzone series—the PlayStation’s answer to Halo. So when they began work on Zero Dawn, they were “pretty scared” about development.
Guerrilla’s technical director Michiel van der Leeuw talked about what it was like to jump into a new genre and a new generation of games, and the fears that they had at the beginning of development.
“We were pretty scared, but it was even more scary to do a generation switch and a genre switch at the same time,” he said. He noted that the game was given an extended pre-production until the development of Killzone Shadow Fall finished.
The team ended up adding many Horizon-specific features to their Decima Engine, which was also being used for Shadow Fall at the time.
“We were mainly just afraid of what was going to happen next,” he said. “Open world streaming was much more challenging than the linear things we were used to, even though we experimented with non-linearity in Shadow Fall. We had no idea how to script an open world. In non linear worlds, you can pick up a quest and wander off and do something else, and we had no idea how the scripting would deal with the complexities of the logic that required.”
In terms of inspiration, Senior Producer Samrat Sharma said the Planet Earth series was a big one.
“As far as inspiration, the inspiration we’ve taken has been from the likes of Planet Earth and watching lush, vibrant spaces and that is what we wanted to make, our desire was to make something in that space. The concept was built around 6 years ago now and everyone was immediately attracted to this lush, vibrant world and we just wanted to do it, the whole studio just rallied behind this one concept.”
In the end, all of the game’s influences and challenges paid off, and the game even recently won a Writer’s Guild award for its writing and story. But it definitely wasn’t an easy journey.