Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the best (not to mention one of the best-looking) games of 2017. It was also one of the best single-player experiences of the last few years, making Aloy’s adventure one that players won’t soon forget. The open-world RPG title came out almost one year ago now, but Horizon has so much offer that it’s not uncommon to hear people are still playing it and exploring the many areas that were left uncovered. Aloy’s solo adventure, though, almost wasn’t the case.
The earliest concepts of the game featured a two-player co-operative experience, and according to Mathijs De Jonge, the game director for Horizon Zero Dawn, that element of the game was actually going well. In an interview on Noclip, the YouTube channel that makes video game documentaries, De Jonge said, “there have been early concepts where we had discussions where we were thinking about two players…our very early prototypes was with two players. We had the game running back then in co-op, and that was quite nice to see.” This can be heard around the 45:53 mark.
It wasn’t until programmers at Guerilla said the co-op features would detract from 50% of the other in-game features, that this concept was eventually removed. “We want the 100%, so we dropped co-op in favor of that.”
Horizon would have been a much different game if cooperative gameplay had been included, and maybe not for the better. This decision to remove it lends itself to a bigger conversation surrounding the market for single-player games and their probability of success in this console generation.
While the interview of De Jonge is a lengthy one, it is worth a full listen to hear about some of the other ways Horizon changed during development. In the original script, for example, Aloy found her focus as an adult, not as a child. It was also interesting to learn how the Guerilla team strategically expanded Horizon. Near the beginning of the game, the world felt more linear, if not confined. It wasn’t until after the Proving, really, that it started to branch out and become a traditional open-world that gamers have come to expect.