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Horizon Forbidden West developer almost cut flying due to PS4 support

Winging it.

The Horizon Forbidden West team considered cutting flying from the game, because it wasn't sure the PlayStation 4 hardware could support it.

Chatting at Develop:Brighton earlier today, studio director Jan-Bart van Beek said Guerrilla faced technical challenges when developing the Zero Dawn sequel, as it was releasing across two generations of consoles.

"It was almost up until the last moment that we didn't know whether we could support the flying on PlayStation 4," the developer said (thanks, "We were like, 'Do we need to cut the whole feature of the game? That's going to make such a mess'."

Horizon Forbidden West cinematic trailer.Watch on YouTube

In the end, the team managed to get flying to work across both consoles, so Aloy was able to take to the skies on the back of a Sunwing on Forbidden West's release last year. It took some doing, however, with van Beek joking Guerilla "sacrificed some coders to the gods" to get the job done.

Head of development strategy for PlayStation Studios Angie Smets - who was previously Guerrilla's studio director - elaborated further on the challenges faced while developing the cross-generation release.

"In the early part of the project, it was really hard to get the focus on the PS5 and push the quality bar there, and in the second half it was really hard to get the PS4 to catch up," she shared.

Guerilla's technical director Michiel van der Leeuw added that while the team "pushed the quality bar" on Forbidden West's PS4 version, it wanted the game to look "significantly better" on Sony's newest console.

"We wanted it so that in every Horizon screenshot, you could see the difference," the technical director explained. "So there was the clouds, the vegetation, the cloth, skin, and we had to look at all these elements and see what we could do because if you had a screenshot, you should always be able to tell which version it is."

This in itself created its own hurdle, with van der Leeuw saying while the team made a PS4 game he was "super proud of", the PS5 version was "so much better".

This meant many decided to forgo the PS4 release, and wait until they could get their hands on a PlayStation 5.

"A lot of people said, 'Actually, I want to play it on PS5 so I'll wait until PS5s are available because I don't want to miss out'," van der Leeuw recalled.

Horizon Forbidden West's underwater exploration was another technical challange for Guerrilla. Image Eurogamer.

While Forbidden West was a cross-gen release, its DLC Burning Shores was a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Ahead of the DLC's release earlier this year, game director Mathijs de Jonge noted that everything the team "added or increased" during Forbidden West's development had to be "[optimised] for PS4 as well". However, with Burning Shores being a current-gen exclusive, Guerrilla was "able to charge forward" with its development, thanks to the more powerful hardware.

"The cityscape ruins of LA and its surroundings are highly detailed and require a lot of processing power as well as fast streaming technology to run properly; especially when the player is flying over the lands and can see a lot at once," de Jonge stated in March.

In addition to improved visuals, de Jonge also alluded to one of Burning Shores' battles that, seemingly, would not have been possible on the PS4. This is because it required "a LOT of memory and processing power" to pull off.

Aloy travels to Hollywood in Burning Shores.

As for the series' future, van Beek affirmed Guerrilla will be "continuing Horizon for a long while." This will include the upcoming Netflix adaptation, its new co-op-focused online project and a third game focused on Aloy. The studio is also rumoured to be working on a remaster of Zero Dawn.

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