New Horizon game release date
On Friday, the new PlayStation game Horizon Forbidden West will be released, in which the young hunter Aloy must survive in a world full of robot dinosaurs. It is one of the biggest games ever made in the Netherlands. We spoke with Mathijs de Jonge, the game director who directed the project.
You’re a game director. What should I imagine?
“It’s easiest to compare me to a film director. Someone who often works with a story or writers, works with an idea and directs the whole film together and makes sure that a very cool film comes out. That’s kind of my role, but in a video game.”
Does it feel like Forbidden West is ‘your’ game?
“I did set up the first presentation to set the direction of the project. The team then gets to work and comes back with ideas, and we get the coolest things out of that.”
“So at the end of the day, it’s really working together. It’s not that I walk around with a whip and say: that’s how you have to do it all (laughs). We absolutely don’t work that way.”
New Horizon game release date: ‘We didn’t want to work overtime’
Is there a message behind Forbidden West?
“There are quite a lot of hidden messages and themes in the game. For example, about the ‘stupidity of mankind‘, that humanity always manages to screw something up. And about the rise of robots and the power of billionaires.”
“Although it is not our goal to really make a statement with the game. At the end of the day, it’s an entertainment product and we want people to have fun.”
You notice that more and more PlayStation games are about adult matters.
“I think this has always been a bit the case, but that stories are now becoming better visualized. As a result, they also come across better to players and they feel more addressed.”
“Our team is also getting older: more and more have children, so you talk about it faster. Or, for example, you have to deal with a lockdown and write stories about the feeling of isolation that comes with it. You play a bit on your personal life, where you stand and what you experience.”
When Zero Dawn came out, there weren’t many female gaming heroes. Has that changed in the meantime?
“When we were working on Killzone, we were frustrated because the boxes of our games never had the main character on them. Instead, it was always the enemy, such a scary Helghast soldier. Moreover, the world of Killzone was very grey.”
“The concept for Horizon was a kind of counter-reaction, which was at odds with Killzone. Instead of a tough soldier, we wanted a female character in a colorful world. At the same time, we saw that there weren’t many strong, female characters, but that was actually secondary.”
Many women in games were sexualized, which does not seem to be the case with Aloy.
“We wanted a young robot hunter who is cool to play with and just looked, without going in the sexualizing direction. We had the idea that that was not necessary. If you put down a good, cool character, you’re already there.”
We speak Dutch now, but your team is quite international.
“We have more than thirty nationalities in the team, so the working language is English. There are quite a lot of Dutch people, so we always have to be careful not to accidentally speak Dutch.”
“The person who is talking about the story is an American, but in the leadership are mainly Dutch people. It also feels very Dutch here, for example, if you look at how processes run and how we discuss things.”
You hear more and more often that game companies systematically work overtime.
“That happens very little with us. We are very aware of the disadvantages of crunching, so we take that into account a lot in our planning. To give an example: at Christmas we said that there will be no work and that everyone could just celebrate two weeks of vacation. The company was closed, you couldn’t even go there to work.”
“Some people like to continue working, they don’t necessarily want Christmas holidays. That is allowed, we are not going to stop that. But from the company we give a very strong signal.”
“Forbidden West might have come out late last year, but then maybe we would have had to work overtime. People should also be able to relax and take holidays, for example to be with family and friends. That also played a role in the decision to release the game now.”
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