Horizon Zero Dawn

During the pre-production phase of Horizon I joined the team as an 3D environment artist.  During this phase I helped blocking out the rough shapes of Meridian City and helped deconstructing these shapes into reusable components later in production. After pre-production, and when most of the reusable components were back from outsourcing, I worked on fleshing out and set dressing settlements, camps and quest locations.

Sun Carja Territory

Sun Carja fundamentals
• Rich
• Flamboyant
• Colorful
• Artisans
• Traders

Social classes of the sun carja are visualized through the construction materials they can afford. When I worked on villages I had to make sure that wood was mostly used and stone was reserved for only the richer Sun Carja.For every settlement I worked on there was a story to tell about how the inhabitants live or lived. The Sun Carja were no stranger to trading luxury goods and this allowed me to combine the Oseram theme with the Sun Carja. You often see these overlaps whenever there is need for a robot part connoisseur/smith or at an inn for its brew.

Meridian Village

Meridian Village fundamentals
• Quest starters
• Artisans
• Traders
• Farms

The village was one of those locations, like the city above, that I worked on in between other tasks since it was such a huge place.

The buildings surrounding the harbor had to appear like they housed all the laborers, artisans and traders that live there. To make it look rich and diverse every building got its own specialty by the thing they made or traded. The goods that are farmed, made or traded had to be taken to the elevator and the city above. To really make this show I had to work closely with the Livingworld team to liven up the place.

The final destruction of the village in the final quests was not incorporated in its original layout. For the story telling of that quest to work, as well as support the combat of the few corrupted machines, we had to make alteration of the village layout for rubble and destruction to make sense in the destroyed but also undestroyed state.


Brightmarket fundamentals
• Quest starters
• Difference in Sun and Shadow
• Stone mansion
• Organic feel

For this settlement to really make its mark I had to make it look completely different from its northern neighbor and military fortress, Blazon arch. Brightmarket had to flow with its environment and feel open hearted towards travelers and traders.

At one point in history this location was the most northern of the Sun Carja territory and worked on making it look like a rest stop before people took up boats to cross the lake. The rich travelers could stay with the Lahavis family while the ordinary trade folk could rest up in the local inn.

The main problem in this area was the delta river and the terrain that was still being tweaked at the time making the ground surrounding Brightmarket very difficult to work with. While I could work around this issue, it made working together with Living world a lot more difficult since they required fixed positions of roads, houses and other structures.

Lone Light

Lone Light fundamentals
• Quest location
• Robot Combat
• Silhouette
• Trading

Lone Light is a small village next to the main route from the North-East to Meridian and is passed by people from all tribes. The settlement needed to look as if it had seen better times but it is starting to show its colors again. Now it houses a few inns and bars for the travelers and tradesmen that come there for a rest.

The challenge for this location was to show its history and to make a lively settlement without blocking the combat. It was one of those location where you had to juggle around with making it interesting to look at, practical for NPC’s and practical for combat at the same time.

Sunstone Rock

SunStone Rock fundamentals
• Quest starters
• Robot Combat
• Reformation
• Prison break

This place once was used to keep and punish criminals but since the reign of King Avad it got a gentler touch. I wanted to make it look more like a place where the inmates could learn some crafts, grow their own food, basically to learn to take care of themselves.

The prison grounds had to be suitable for the fight with Behemoths. For this location we had more than enough space for the rampaging Behemoths. Destructible assets made it possible to make the prison grounds look guarded and yet suit the combat requirements.
The collapsed wall was my main focus for the storytelling. I wanted to make it look like it was possible for someone on the inside to escape the prison walls. This hole was made by one of the Behemoths that rammed it, making it collapse inwards, damaged the isolation cells, which made it possible for the prisoners to escape.

Ranamans Family Estate

Ranamans’ Estate fundamentals
• Quest location
• Robot Combat
• Disuse
• Recent destruction

This estate had to look that it housed a stone quarry owner whose work had not as been as flourishing lately. I made the barn look as if it had not been used a lot recently; stacked up furniture, unused equipment and materials etc. His house had not been kept in the best shape either but his riches are still visible by the colorful and decorative furniture.

The estate had to appear to be recently attacked by robots. These robots broke through the mansions gate and still reside there when the player arrives. A very important part of this location was to block off any means to get inside while being in combat since it would become out of balance. The addition of destructible assets on the estate grounds made the combat really come to life.

Banuk Camp

Banuk Camp fundamentals
• Quest starter
• Robot Combat
• Lightweight
• Temporary

In the world of Horizon there are a few locations where you can encounter the Banuk people but there was only one camp in which you can see how the tribe actually lives.

To enhance the story of why the Banuk were there I had placed the camp around a carcass of a passed away Thunderjaw. The Banuk intend to strip this creature of its useful and carriable parts and would be on their way again.
The player had to be guided up this most northern area with Banuk themed waypoints and the balloon that she could spot even further away. The slope of this mountain range was difficult for both the NPC’s and the combat to get right. In the end we needed the help of multiple departments to get this difficult patch terrain working.

Dervahl’s Camp

Dervahl’s Camp fundamentals
• Quest location
• Robot and human combat
• Former Oseram estate now Bandit camp
• Multiple combat options

Bandits never build their own settlements, they simply take over someone else’s and make a mess out of it. I had to make it look as if it once housed an Oseram family, then decorate it with bandit themed assets. While working on this location I had to keep in mind the space that was necessary for human as well as robot combat.

Players had to have several ways to approach this bandit camp, to be consistent with the rest of the game. Oseram combat locations were nice to work on because they have big and clunky assets which worked great when you wanted to have something to hide or dodge behind.
While above ground the prime focus was on combat, the inside of the basement was focused on storytelling. Whenever I needed a break from the combat heavy environment I could work on the subtle details and decoration of the basement.

Work Method

Many tasks were done in parallel in the production of Horizon, not everything I would rely on was fixed in stone. Flexibility was a big aspect of production since design and writing was not worked out in every detail and the engine and tools were also being tinkered at.

Often a location was shared by multiple people: Someone from Team Brown1, Team Grey2, a writer, a designer, the Living world Team3 and many more people behind the screens.

After getting assigned a location or quest I began gathering as much information as I could. Designers working on the same location gave a lot to go on but the more info the better, so I asked myself and my colleagues the following:

• Whose tribe does this settlement/ location belong to
• What is the background of this location
• Did something change recently
• What are the quests in this location
• Are there assets or other features required
• What are the visual impacts needed for this quest
• Is there combat in this location
• What are we fighting
• How much space is required for that fight
• How do you want to approach this fight
• Are there assets required for this fight

In some cases I had this list of questions pretty much answered  but in others it was up to me to make it look interesting and consistent with the rest of the game. The locations shown below are a selection of the locations I have worked on and are the ones I am most proud of.

1. Team Brown had the responsibility for the terrain and rock placement
2. Team Grey was responsible for all man made constructions (my job)
3. Team Living world make sure the NPCs have a life, a goal, a daily routine