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Hermen Hulst on making Horizon happen

After years of working on the largely unevocative Killzone franchise, not many expected Guerrilla Games to come up with something as intriguing as Horizon Zero. With its absence of guns and giant robo dinosaurs, Horizon is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated games on PS4 (even if the game did leak seven months early). In a previous issue of Edge, managing director Hermen Hulst discusses how the Dutch studio brought the world of heroine Aloy to life...

You moved to a bigger studio around the time you started work on Horizon. Were the two connected?
It was an evolution more than a hard connection tied to the project. Our studio had grown beyond 100 people, which was the capacity at the old building, and it was on a UNESCO protected waterfront. It was very important that we stay in that area, because I feel it defines who we are. We’ve always been in the heart of Amsterdam. I worked on getting [the new] building for four or five years. The investor was trying to make a hotel out of it; that didn’t work out, and we seized the opportunity. It’s pretty much the only modern building in the heart of Amsterdam.

Horizon came out of a studio-wide pitching and voting process. Why did you choose to do it that way?
We have a very flat organisation, and we’re open to anybody on the floor offering up ideas or dissent. When you have 200 people, you have so much creative talent. It would be a big mistake to only have your formal creatives – your designers – come up with game ideas. Also, I’m a firm believer that you need to embark on projects that are widely supported by the team you’re making them with.

What was your initial reaction to the pitch?
It was my personal favourite right away. I saw it, and I just felt immediately – and many others did too – that this was the one.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in making Horizon?
It’s the sum total of all the newness, all the new stuff to the studio. A new IP, a new genre, it’s open world... Being out of your comfort zone by a mile and a half.

Is it safe to say it’s the toughest project you’ve ever worked on?
After we shipped Killzone: Shadow Fall, and we’d been through the hoopla of doing a launch title, I thought that was going to be the toughest thing we’d ever do. It pales in comparison to this. This is so much more challenging on the team in every single way. But I find that doing something that is this refreshing, and that is supported so strongly by the development team, is probably even more important to the success of a title than how far you are out of your comfort zone. I feel a sense of love for this project among the team, and maybe that sounds corny, but it’s really empowering.

The latest issue of Edge, with Horizon: Zero Dawn on the cover, is out now. Download it here or subscribe (opens in new tab) to future issues.

Dom has been a freelance journalist for many years, covering everything from video games to gaming peripherals. Dom has been playing games longer than he'd like to admit, but that hasn't stopped him amassing a small ego's worth of knowledge on all things Tekken, Yakuza and Assassin's Creed.