Horizon Zero Dawn Celebrates 10 Million Copies Sold with…

New Insight Into the Game’s Development

Good news comes when we learn that one of the best games of 2017 did well, and it’s still doing well. On its 2nd anniversary, the folks at Guerrilla Games revealed that Horizon Zero Dawn reached the 10-million milestone. In response, Managing Director Hermen Hulst has decided to share some secrets.

Horizon Zero Dawn Patch 1.20

Plenty of love and care went into the development of Horizon Zero Dawn. Much of what we saw, however, got there through coincidence. Hulst brought some lesser-known facts to the PlayStation Blog, and it’s a rather interesting list. DId you know that the first hint of the game’s existence came in Killzone: Shadowfall? Neither did I.

Among the special details below, Hulst tells the story of how Guerrilla Games discovered the face of Aloy, the first machine prototype, and how they derived the unique sound of each metal beast.

Pilot Program

Prototyping on Horizon Zero Dawn’s gameplay elements began in 2010, at a time when most of the studio was still putting the finishing touches on Killzone 3. In the earliest prototypes, the team didn’t have an in-game model for Aloy because her character was still under development. Instead they used the model for Jammer, the Intruder pilot from Killzone 3.

About Face

It proved quite a challenge to find the right facial model for Aloy – until Conversation Director Jochen Willemsen came down with a bad case of the flu. While recovering at home he saw a movie starring Dutch actress Hannah Hoekstra on TV, and immediately knew he’d found the face of Aloy. Within minutes he was on the phone with the studio and the rest, as they say, is history.

Toy Brick Raptor

The first machine that the development team designed and finished was the Thunderjaw, a fierce Tyrannosaur-like monstrosity. However, during the gameplay prototyping phase the Thunderjaw looked like a children’s toy made from brightly colored plastic bricks. Each color-coded ‘brick’ represented a different part of the machine that could be targeted or shot off.

Easter Egg

An early prototype machine ended up as a holographic ‘easter egg’ in one of our other games, Killzone Shadow Fall, which came out in 2013. Dubbed the Predator, the design for the prototype machine ultimately didn’t make it into Horizon Zero Dawn. However, many of its behavioral routines were used to create the devastating Sawtooth.

Hey Walla Walla

Some of the ‘walla’ (sound imitating the murmur of a crowd in the background) recorded by the Audio Team consists of Guerrilla developers speaking in gibberish. Although these recordings were intended as placeholder, they turned out so well that our Sound Designers decided to keep them in the final version of the game.

A Star Is Born

The lines — or rather, the cooing and gurgling — for baby Aloy were performed by an actual baby: the three-month old daughter of Guerrilla’s Music Supervisor/Senior Sound Designer Lucas van Tol. Her performance was captured over a period of the days from the comfort of home, where her father had set up a little recording area near her playpen.

All The Moves

The composers for Horizon Zero Dawn were invited to the Guerrilla studio to ‘play’ on real-world facsimiles of the tribal instruments seen in the game. The resulting animations can be found at various points throughout the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, such as in the performance of the three-man band playing in Meridian City.


Every machine in Horizon Zero Dawn has hundreds of different sounds, from the creaking of mechanical limbs to the cries of alarm when it spots a threat. The Sound Designers mixed animal sounds together to give each machine a unique character; the sounds that the Watcher makes, for instance, contain Chihuahua barks to underscore its cute but ferocious nature.

Bird’s Eye View

Guerrilla’s Music Supervisor/Senior Sound Designer Lucas van Tol researched over 750 bird sounds. From these, only 30 made the cut to star in Horizon Zero Dawn; it was a comprehensive job to pick the birds that would naturally appear in the world of Horizon Zero Dawn. Not only does each bird sound differently based on the time of day, but weather also has an effect, as do biome location and height.