During the construction of Horizon Forbidden West, a huge focus for the guerrilla team made the world feel alive and authentic. To create the feeling of a living world, we offer a lot more ways than ever before to interact with the player. This means going beyond just breathtaking action and adventurous offers, including small moments that reflect the culture of the tribes living in the Forbidden West, adding an extra layer of realism.
Please note that this article contains some spoilers for Horizon Forbidden West.
As Alloy explores this new frontier, he discovers many exciting things: settlement pits, rescue deals in the wild, outposts and camps with rebels, cauldrons, ancient ruins, and of course: machine strikes.
A strategic approach
Machine Strike is a piece-based board game that can be played against characters across the Aloy Forbidden West. In this tactical game, players remove tiny pieces representing the iconic horizon machine around the board, ‘fighting’ them against each other. Invented by the war-minded Tenacath, Machine Strike aims to clear the board of your enemy’s machine. To claim victory, the player must not only hold strong pieces but also implement a strong strategy. And the farther you go west, the more challenging your opponent will become.
Bert Van Austen, Guerrilla’s World Design Lead, is one of the masterminds behind this mini-game, new to the sequel. “We started prototyping right after Frozen Wilds! Many open world RPGs use such activities to create immersion in the world, which is always talking to a group of players, so we decided to get the idea out of there. ‘
‘Initially, it was just a random cube with random rules, but we wanted to include individual machine figures, which meant the board had to be scalable to accommodate these ideas. That’s how we got to the tile system. Each tile has a specific value that affects the statistics of any machine that lands on them, for example, increasing the attack from the grassland tile. After that, we made a paper prototype of the game, which we played a lot! It has helped us to find rules and arguments. It took us almost a year to finalize the whole mini-game. “
“We have returned the design to make it as minimal as possible. It keeps the board overview clear and allows players to create their own tactics, “said Bert.” Readability was important, so with art guidance, we tried everything from simple discs to ornamental designs and landed somewhere in the middle: the game seemed to be the West Made by craftsmen – and played. “
Prohibition has been authenticated in the West
Applying Machine Strike to the game itself was a collaborative effort between AI and visual design, from narrative and UI. Concept artist Christian Aur was part of the team that helped define the visual look of Machine Strike. “All the pieces had to look interesting without being too closely associated with any particular tribe, because the game is played by a variety of people from the forbidden West – be it Osaram Tinker or the war-hardened tenacity. We also wanted each piece to feel special, a collectible, so they had to carry some prestige in their design. ‘
The scale of the pieces makes it a fun challenge for us. The metallic elements in each piece were much smaller than we normally see in our props, so we decided to go for more simple details that improved the overall design. The wood material started to get more rough to show the marks left by the carpenter’s tool carving each piece. However, later, we decided that the glossy look of the hand would be distracted from the original design, so we ended up with a more sandy treatment. It made our overall goals for the pieces better. “
‘We have introduced wear and tear on the pieces so that the wood gradient is not so monotonous. You can see how the carvings get lighter and darker in the dusty places, where the wood is burned or waxed. These details help establish the authentic craftsmanship that would have gone from the craftsmen of the Forbidden West to every part. “
Before entering the Alloy Forbidden West, the first settlements he discovered were the Chainscrap, a mining town in Osaram. Inside the lively drinking center at its center, Alay can meet Salma, a friendly and enthusiastic Osaram who is willing to explain the rules of the game. “A tutorial was important to get people interested in Machine Strike,” Bert said. “We wanted to make it as casual as possible, like a friend sharing some of their recent hobbies with you over a few drinks. Our narrative team has done an amazing job of conveying information in a warm and understandable way. ‘
‘Like any board game, the basics are fairly straightforward but there’s still a lot of information. Some people may not be interested in sitting down with a long explanation, so we have divided the tutorials into several parts. Most basic concepts are explained in advance, and the rest are learned through play, vocabulary, or additional tutorial sessions – you can even press L3 during a machine strike to get easy access to all of this information. “
Ready for a challenge?
Machine Strike is one of the many activities you can stumble upon in the Forbidden West, but it is a Bert and Christian particularly proud. “It’s great to see people enjoying the game,” Bert said. “I am just happy to be here and hope that more people will enjoy it in the future. We knew that a machine strike might not be for everyone, so we tried to make it as smooth as possible. “
‘And if you’re stuck against a certain character, my top tip is to always find the best position for your units, be it high ground or take your parts out of range. And don’t be afraid to charge extra. As Salma puts it: ‘It’s often the best way to turn a game around for you.’
Christian agrees that it’s great to see our community’s reaction to the game. “As an artist, to try and show something and feel as believable as possible, it was the best response we could expect. I’m glad the players are enjoying the game as much as we did!”
Many in the Forbidden West are keen to test Alloy’s skills – are you ready for a challenge?