Relic Ruins are environmental puzzles set in old world ruins. These are optional activities that Aloy can engage with.
During pre-production I noticed we had some interesting new mechanics in mind for the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn. I immediately thought that tools like the “Pullcaster”, that allow Aloy to pull objects in the world, would be great ingredients for puzzle solving. And since we had a bunch of ruined cities in the first game which we were not really using for gameplay, I started blocking out ideas for how we could fit environmental puzzles in old world ruins. After multiple rounds of pitching to our game director, this grew from a small collectible type of experience into much bigger side content.
We ended up building eight Relic Ruins for the final game, each involving a lot of playtesting and iterating.
Tallnecks are gigantic machines that roam the lands of Horizon. When Aloy climbs one of these iconic creatures, she can hack its head to unlock a region of the game map.
For Forbidden West, we wanted to add more variety to the Tallneck level designs. In the first game, you could just jump off and start climbing these machines, but for the second one we wanted to make each Tallneck feel like a unique encounter that often required puzzling, traversal and combat.
After taking over from Stuart Billinghurst early in production, I’ve been responsible for designing and maintaining all four Tallnecks. Some of them went through quite some iterations after the hand-over.
The above video shows all Tallnecks that I worked on. Additionally, there’s the Tallneck “The Shining Wastes”, which is part of a main quest designed by Cho-Yan Wong and the Tallneck “Salt Bite”, which is part of a Cauldron designed by Dennis Micka.
Salvage Contracts are a series of tasks for the player, usually involving hunting for specific machine parts. The contracts can be obtained by talking to Contractors, who all compete to build the best armor.
I worked together with Dennis Micka to come up with interesting twists and turns, so the contracts would not feel as cheap fetch quests. Our goal was to highlight obscure and underused machine behavior and mechanics in these contracts. And by adding challenge and story and by not repeating themes, we designed and built each contract as a unique mini-quest set in the open world of Horizon.
The above video shows all Salvage Contracts that I worked on. Additionally, there’s the Salvage Contracts sites in “The Greenswell” and “The Stillsands” and their missions, which were designed by Dennis Micka.
“Using road design, I also guided the players through the open world”
In addition to designing activities, I was also responsible for the early placement of the roads in the game. Roads are used to guide players towards the various quests and activities that we have placed in the game world. They require a lot of design work to control how players approach content and when certain reveals are made. Additionally, they should blend in with the environment and flow nicely. This involved a lot of iteration and close communication with the environment art department.
Above is a 2D overview of the entire road network from the final game. Each individual road was sculpted in the terrain of the game in 3D space. Note that I only worked on the first couple of iterations of the roads, and they were later further designed by other designers and artists.
Note: for all the content mentioned above, I worked close together with other departments, including Writing, Art, Animation, Cinematics, Tech Design, System and Tools Programming.
©2022 Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe. Developed by Guerrilla. Horizon Forbidden West is a registered trademark or trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC.