In a nutshell: Horizon Forbidden West is only a few months away from release, and developer Guerrilla Games took to the PlayStation Blog to share with fans some of the important aspects of world building that are being developed. Aside from simply creating environments that players can explore, Guerrilla has spent a lot of time making these settings feel real and alive.
Guerrilla Lead Living World Designer Espen Sogn explains that they make the world more immersive by introducing a crowd system that forces non-player characters (NPCs) to act in a way that makes sense in the game. This system dictates everything from the paths that NPCs take to how they carry items.
“Every non-combat NPC in Horizon Forbidden West is part of the mob system,” says Sogn. “Within this system, you can create rules such as reactions, footpaths and other animations. We also have a relationship system that defines personality. This means that we can create unique people who behave like individuals in the world. “
Thus, instead of having a simple set of NPCs that can only be distinguished by their appearance, each will have a unique personality determined by relationships and cultural influences. For example, some tribes are more outgoing, so you can see how they gesture, like high-five. Other groups may be more reserved by maintaining open social gestures for times when they feel safe, such as when they are in their village.
Sogn says this behavior makes the environment more believable and serves as a subconscious visual cue that lets players know where they are in the world.
“All of this happens within the framework of the game’s narrative. You should be able to determine from a distance which tribe you are looking at, ”Sogn said. “[For example,] the way different tribes hold or transport water: a strong Tenact will carry it on his shoulders; peaceful Utaru will hug him tightly; and the cunning Auxerram will carry him in his arms. “
In the past, we’ve seen other developers try to apply crowd behavior systems with varying degrees of success. Assassin’s Creed and Cyberpunk 2077 immediately come to mind, but neither of them had a sense of the uniqueness of each NPC. It remains to be seen if Guerrilla discovered the secret sauce with which this all works, but it doesn’t take us long to find out.
Horizon Forbidden West will be released on February 18, 2022 on PS4 and PS5.