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Creating The Lore Of Horizon Zero Dawn

by Kimberley Wallace on Sep 19, 2016 at 09:00 AM

One of the most exciting parts of Horizon Zero Dawn is its fascinating world where humans are at the bottom of the food chain and giant, animal-like machines rule the roost. But how did it get that way, and why are things getting more dangerous? How is it that people came to forget technology and live in this preindustrial state of development? That's for you to uncover when you finally step into the game come February 28. We spoke to Guerrilla Games and discovered that the team spent a lot of time on the lore and explanations for the world.

From the beginning, Guerrilla Games decided it wanted the story to be a work of science fiction, and so no fantastical elements or explanations, such as magic, would come into play. "We're not going to rely on fantasy at any point; we're not going to go for any kind of supernatural explanations," says lead writer John Gonzalez. "We really dug down into the history of the world and built it all the way up in order to imagine how it is this world came to be. What I want to put out there to people is just that it does make sense. We took that really seriously."

In Horizon Zero Dawn, humanity has regressed into tribes and are all living off the land in different ways. For instance, Aloy's tribe, the Nora, is a hunting group that's dependent on the bow to take down wildlife and mechanical beasts. But the Nora are just one of many tribes in the game, and the writers were tasked with figuring out how all the tribes would differ from one another and what conflicts they would have. This meant creating a rich history full of warring tribes, crafting different religions for them, and most importantly, Guerrilla made sure to consider their different climates when deciding how the different tribes lived off the land.

"It was a great deal of fun [coming up with the tribes], but it was also a great deal of work," Gonzalez says. "We took it pretty seriously. I don't think there's ever been a development team where so many people read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies [a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction novel by Jared Diamond - Ed.] We really thought about how humans have adapted historically to their environments and how that then is reflected in their material culture and also the ideologies that they have." 

This required them thinking more deeply about the tribes and their histories. "As is unfortunately common in our world, different groups of people usually don't like each other, and there are certainly exceptions to that, but in this case some of the recent events that have taken place that have led to longstanding hostilities in the groups, and that's something Aloy needs to navigate on her journey," Gonzalez says.

What's cool about each tribe is that they all have their own variations on the array of different weaponry and armor that Aloy can equip. Aloy has only known the Nora tribe, so her stepping into these other cultures will be an eye-opening experience. As an outsider, she doesn't hold any grudges or preferences, and is just eager to find solutions and a way to help people in need. In addition, the game has side quests for each tribe so players can learn more about them at the same time Aloy does.

Outside of the tribes, the bigger quest at hand will have Aloy discovering ancient technology and its usage. During the game, you will find certain artifacts and items that give more background on these mysteries. This also includes discovering why the machines have taken over. "The question of why is it that these machines have shapes and forms that remind us of the wildlife we see in our world, or sometimes in the history of our world, have been factored into the ecology." Guerrilla spent a lot of time just figuring out each machine's role, so it would factor well into the action gameplay and player strategy. "That's another we took seriously; trying to create and imagine this rich machine ecology that you would also be able to learn more about by observing, as part of getting to know the creatures around you," Gonzalez says.

So far Guerrilla says it hasn't seen any correct theories about where Horizon's story is going from searching message boards and other speculation about the game. You'll just have to discover it yourself when you can finally dive into the game early next year. 

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