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Horizon Zero Dawn: A Game Design Post-Mortem

Download the full presentation here: http://www.guerrilla-games.com/read/horizon-zero-dawn-a-game-design-postmortem

Abstract: Going through early prototypes and delving into design decisions and processes that shaped development of the game, this talk gives insight into the journey game design went through while moving from an ambitious paper concept to a finished open world action RPG, with all of the small and large design decisions and choices that have to be made along the way.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: A Game Design Post-Mortem

  1. 1. Horizon: Zero Dawn Game Design Post-Mortem
  2. 2. Feedback was Brutal…
  3. 3. GAME DESIGN = NOT EASY • Concepts = Very little to go on • Prototypes = Little polish • Production = Not everything there yet …Doubts… …second guessing… …negative feedback…
  4. 4. Intro <Horizon stats / success images?>
  5. 5. Concept Pre- Production Production Polish What are we going to talk about? • INTENTIONS • PROBLEMS • REFLECTIONs
  6. 6. Hello! • Eric Boltjes • Lead Game Designer • 15 years at Guerrilla Games
  7. 7. Early Concept Pitch
  8. 8. PILLAR 1 MAJESTIC WILDERNESS
  9. 9. AWE-INSPIRING Machines
  10. 10. EXOTIC Tribes
  11. 11. I’m dreaming of an open world…
  12. 12. Concept Pre- Production Production Polish • Started 2011, would take~2.5 years • Small MULTI-DISCIPLINARY team • Make the concept PLAYABLE CONCEPT phase
  13. 13. Designers Artists Coders Animators Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Early Team Structure ~(8 to 16)
  14. 14. High Level Questions to answer in Concepting Concept Pre-Production Production Polish …Combat against robots? ? …Open world? ? …Player abilities? ? …Story? ? …World Interactions? ?
  15. 15. Go wide, find out what works… Explore, Go wide Ship Abandon Cut Pitch Keep Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  16. 16. Concept Pre-Production Production Polish open world?
  17. 17. Player Abilities? Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  18. 18. Takeaways • Getting things playable QUICKLY = Great • …. But costly Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  19. 19. Not a cohesive experience Open World Majestic Nature Combat Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  20. 20. Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  21. 21. Start earlier on proof of concept? Islands = Find WHAT your game is Full loop = Find what your game is not
  22. 22. Steadily finding answers… Concept Pre-Production Production Polish …Combat against robots? Destructible parts, weak spots, Large encounter spaces …Open world? Appealing, inviting, natural, SIZE?, DENSITY? …Player abilities? Primitive weaponry, not guns, VARIETY? SPECIAL TYPES? …Story? ? …World Interactions? Outcast, Merchants, IMPACT ON WORLD?
  23. 23. PRE-PRODUCTION PHASE Concept Pre- Production Production Polish • FOCUS on WORLD SYSTEMS • Focus on Building the world • Focus on DEFINING THE STORY/Narrative
  24. 24. Design Team Structure Core Design Player Systems Combat User Interface World Design Encounters Activities Living World Quest Design Main Quests Side Quests Tutorials Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  25. 25. Narrative Team formed Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  26. 26. Robot Riding Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Context 1
  27. 27. Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Defines Abilities Context 2
  28. 28. Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Defines behavior, look and feel Context 3
  29. 29. Unique spin on World ElementsConcept Pre-Production Production Polish Context 4
  30. 30. Takeaways • CONTEXT helps everything you do • But don’t do it too early? Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  31. 31. Steadily finding answers… …Combat against robots? Destructible parts, weak spots, Large encounter spaces …Open world? Mapped out size, visuals coming together …Player abilities? Primitive weaponry, not guns …Story? World context established, Main character born …World Interactions? Talk to NPCs, Merchants Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  32. 32. Production Phase Concept Pre- Production Production Polish • Finalize CORE MECHANICS • MAKE entire GAME PLAYABLE Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  33. 33. Start at the beginning Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Problem 1
  34. 34. Tutorialize core mechanics Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  35. 35. Gameplay WEIGHT shifts over time Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  36. 36. Start at the beginning? Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  37. 37. Problem 2
  38. 38. Difficulty Spikes Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  39. 39. Make solutions mandatory? Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  40. 40. Introducing the Focus tool Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  41. 41. Make it core gameplay Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  42. 42. MORE humanS than we thought Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Problem 3
  43. 43. Robots cannot speak Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  44. 44. Fewer tactical options than Robots Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  45. 45. 4 Focus on Encounter Design Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  46. 46. Make fighting single enemy as fun Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  47. 47. End of PRODUCTION …Combat against robots? DONE …Open world? DONE …Player abilities? DONE …Story? DONE …World Interactions? DONE Concept Pre-Production Production Polish Humanoid combat? Player pacing vs. narrative pacing? Accessible game vs. complex combat?
  48. 48. POLISH PHASE Concept Pre- Production Production Polish • Playtest -> feedback -> improve • META issues started showing Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  49. 49. 1 Involve all content = Open world? Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  50. 50. More resources, more problems!Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  51. 51. World- VS Player LANGUAGEConcept Pre-Production Production Polish
  52. 52. 6 Added Trader Jobs Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  53. 53. Problem not solved Concept Pre-Production Production Polish
  54. 54. SHIP IT Concept Pre- Production Production Polish • Horizon launched February 2017 • 7 million+ SALES so far • Most successful game Guerrilla has built
  55. 55. REVIEW OFTEN… BE HONEST and Flexible… ADAPT IF Necessary…
  56. 56. Thank you! Questions ?

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