Horizon Forbidden West, which will be released on February 18th, presented a unique challenge to Guerrilla Games. While working on Forbidden West in 2018, Guerrilla was aware of the PS5’s possibilities, according to its director and technical director. In addition, the game will be playable on the PS4, which is celebrating its ninth birthday this September.
Forbidden West isn’t the first game to be launched on the PS5 and Xbox One, but it stands out for being one of the most comprehensive and technically sophisticated titles to date. During an interview with Engadget, Mathijs de Jonge, the game director, and Michiel van der Leeuw, the technical director, described Guerrilla’s approach to making ensuring that both the PS4 version and the PS5 version functioned well together.
According to van der Leeuw, “We knew it was going to be difficult designing something that would make the PlayStation 5 shine, but also be incredibly gratifying for individuals who had owned PlayStation 4.” As a result, “we’re quite pleased that we were able to plan for how we’ll establish this differentiation“ because of the PS5’s capabilities.
PS5’s 4K resolution (limited to a checkerboard-upscaled 1800p while operating in 60 fps “performance” mode) is the most immediately noticeable change between the two versions. From the beginning, “we aimed for higher-fidelity characters, higher-fidelity settings, higher-fidelity vegetation, everything, just for the PS5,” van der Leeuw added. As a result, the PS4 version will have new models but the same overall mood.
In the midst of a global epidemic, Guerrilla had lots of opportunity to get feedback on the PS4 experience. “The epidemic just hit us while we’re at peak production,” van der Leeuw continued. “It was incredibly challenging for us.” Play testers on PS4 received early versions of the game thanks to Sony’s PlayStation Now game streaming technology. It was because of the epidemic that de Jonge and his team were forced to conduct remote play testing. Sony had planned to implement this with the PS5, but the pandemic prevented them from doing so.
Therefore, Guerrilla had to ensure that the PS4 version received adequate attention throughout production. We had to focus more on building for PS4 since we didn’t want to risk rushing the PS5 version. That was an advantage for us, in a manner,” said de Jonge.
In addition to making the PS4 version work well, the team also took great care to make the PS5 version stand out. Everything on the screen, from the grass to the sky to the leaves to the fabric, had to have a distinct PS5 feel to it if you looked at the images. “We’d look at screenshots for every single object on-screen,” van der Leeuw added.
Even though the PS5 version was expected to have better quality and frame rate, Guerrilla put a lot of consideration into how the PS5 controller might be a differentiator, but getting the experience right was a bit of a balancing act. Early versions of our adaptive triggers had “quite high” values set for them, and after a few minutes of use, de Jonge recalls feeling “fatigued” by them. The haptic feedback was subsequently added. Then you have to balance the amount of haptic feedback you have with the amount of pressure you exert on the triggers,” he continues.
Unexpectedly, the group in charge of haptics is different from the one tasked with developing adaptable triggers. “Audio design designers manage haptics at our studio, while our game designers handle adaptive triggers,” de Jonge explained. “The relationship between those teams was something he was particularly pleased of during the development phase,” says Henriksen.
The final product isn’t a massive overhaul, but rather a well-executed component that makes Horizon Forbidden West shine on the PS5. According to de Jonge, “I think it was amazing to see also how we could [use haptics and adaptable triggers to make the different weapons stand out, sort of give them their own character”) “Firing an arrow from a bow versus a slingshot has a very distinct feel to it,” he says.
Due to the PS5’s built-in SSD, Horizon Forbidden West loads quite swiftly compared to other games designed for the device. Near-instantaneous loading (like when you fast travel) is a major increase in the quality of life with such a large map to explore. This isn’t only a matter of speed, though, according to van de Leeuw. This guy stated, “You don’t know how quickly games can get stuck in a loop.” “Even with a super-fast SSD, a PC game doesn’t start up in seven seconds. “There was a lot of work to be done.”
In the end, the development team had to change the loading screen tips since the game is so fast. Fast travel was referred to as such in Horizon Zero Dawn, although de Jonge admitted that it may take up to a minute for the game to begin loading. “Players can’t even see the hints because the game loads so rapidly on the PS5” Even though they were aware that gamers had grown reliant on these clues, Guerrilla chose to slow things down just a little bit. For this reason, we had to implement a very simple function that allows you to read at least one clue while the game is loaded. In order to speed things up, you may just press X or disable the pause button in the settings, and the game will load as quickly as possible.
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