Horizon Forbidden West: The making of Machine Strike

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Horizon Forbidden West: The making of Machine Strike

How Guerrilla created a tactical mini-game that adds authenticity and depth to the world of Horizon Forbidden West.

When building Horizon Forbidden West, a massive focus for the team at Guerrilla was making the world feel alive and authentic. To create the feeling of a living world, we offered more ways than ever for the player to interact with it. This meant going beyond just offering breathtaking action and adventure, also including smaller moments that flesh out the culture of the tribes dwelling within the Forbidden West, adding an extra layer of realism.  

Please note this article contains some spoilers for Horizon Forbidden West.  

As Aloy explores this new frontier, she discovers many exciting things to do: Melee Pits in settlements, Salvage Contracts in the wilds, Outposts and Camps teeming with rebels, Cauldrons, Ancient Ruins, and of course: Machine Strike.  

A tactical approach

Machine Strike is a piece-based board game that Aloy can play against characters across the Forbidden West. In this tactical game, players move miniature pieces representing iconic Horizon machines around the board, ‘battling’ them against one another. Invented by the battle-minded Tenakth, the aim of Machine Strike is to clear the board of your enemy’s machines. To claim victory, the player must not only hold the strongest pieces but also execute a strong strategy. And the further west you go, the more challenging your opponents become. 

Bart van Oosten, World Design Lead at Guerrilla, is one of the masterminds behind this mini-game that is new to the sequel. “We started prototyping right after the Frozen Wilds! Many open world RPGs use these types of activities to create immersion into the world, which always speaks to a group of players, so we decided to flesh out the concept from there.’ 

‘Initially, it was just random cubes with random rules, but we wanted to incorporate individual machine statistics, meaning the board had to be scalable to accommodate those ideas. That’s how we arrived at the tile system. Each tile has an assigned value that influences the stats of any machine piece that lands on them, for example, increased attack from the Grassland tile. Next, we created a paper prototype of the game, which we played a lot! This helped us figure out the ruleset and reasoning. It took us almost a year to finalize the entire mini-game.”  

“We stripped back the design to be as minimal as possible. This kept the board overview clear and allowed players to create their own strategy,” says Bart. “Readability was important, so with the art direction, we tried everything from simple discs to ornate designs and landed somewhere in the middle: the game feels like it was made — and played — by the artisans of the Forbidden West.”  

Authentically crafted in the Forbidden West  

Implementing Machine Strike into the game itself was a collaborative effort between various teams, from AI and Visual Design to Narrative and UI. Concept Artist Christian Auer was part of the team that helped define the visual look of Machine Strike. “All the pieces had to look appealing without being too connected to any particular tribe, as this game is played by a wide variety of the Forbidden West’s inhabitants — whether it’s an Oseram tinkerer or a battle-hardened Tenakth. We also wanted each piece to feel special, like a collectible, so they had to carry some prestige in their design.’

‘The scale of the pieces made this a fun challenge for us. The metal components on each piece were far smaller than anything else we typically see on our props, so we decided to go for simpler details that enhanced the overall design. The wooden material started much rougher to showcase the traces left by the artisanal tools that carved each piece. However, later on, we decided that the hand-whittled look distracted from the core design, so we ended up with a more sanded-down treatment. This better conveyed our overall goals for the pieces.’  

‘We also introduced wear and tear to the pieces so that the wood gradient would not be so monotone. You can see this in how the carvings are lighter in areas with dust buildup and darker at the bottom, where the wood has been burned or waxed. These details help establish the authentic craftsmanship that would have gone into each piece from the artisans of Forbidden West.”  

The learning curve 

Before Aloy enters the Forbidden West, one of the first settlements she explores is the Oseram mining town Chainscrape. Inside the lively brewery at its center, Aloy can meet Salma, a friendly and upbeat Oseram who’s more than willing to explain the game’s rules. “A tutorial was crucial to get people interested in Machine Strike,” says Bart. “We wanted to make it as casual as possible, like a friend sharing their latest hobby with you over some drinks. Our Narrative team did an amazing job of conveying the information in a warm and understandable way.’  

‘As with any board game, there is still a lot of information even though the basics are fairly straightforward. Some people might not be inclined to sit through a long explanation, so we broke the tutorials up into a few parts. The most basic concepts are explained upfront, and the rest are learned through playtime, the glossary, or additional tutorial sessions — you can even press L3 during Machine Strike to get easy access to all this information.”   

Ready for a challenge?  

Machine Strike is one of the many activities you can stumble upon in the Forbidden West, but it’s one Bart and Christian are particularly proud of. “It’s been great to see people enjoying the game,” says Bart. “I am very happy with what we managed to accomplish and hope many more people will enjoy it in the future. We knew Machine Strike might not be for everyone, so we tried to make its inclusion as unobtrusive as possible.’   

‘And if you’re stuck against a certain character, my top tip is always to seek out the best position for your units, be that high ground or getting your pieces out of range. And don’t be afraid to overcharge. As Salma said: ‘It’s often the best way to turn a game in your favor.’”  

Christian agrees that it’s been lovely to see our community’s reaction to the game. “As artists, to try and make something look and feel as believable as possible, this was the best reaction we could have hoped for. I’m just glad players are enjoying the game as much as we enjoyed making it!”  

The many inhabitants of the Forbidden West are keen to test Aloy’s skills – are you up for a challenge?

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  • Love my little Aloy don’t ever want her story to end she’s mine & no one else’s I’ll go though hell for her & protect her forever.

  • Online mode when? Machine Strike is already awesome addition to the game, but would be even better if we could play with others.

  • I liked so much this mini game. It fits perfectly the world of the game

  • Waiting for DLC!!!

  • It needs a standalone like Gwent

  • I would love to see this as a real world table top game!

  • Machine strike was a smart addition to the game,, played it more than poker in rdr2, also found it more complex and wild than chess, had a lot of fun, thanks for making it.

  • Sony be smart ragnarok trailer & realise date or straight after microsoft event & look forward to more ps5 update & rest of 2022 line up all day 1 for me ragnarok forspoken Gotham knights

    • What part of your comment has to do with Machine Stike from HFW. Do you really think that the more unintelligible posts you make in the wrong comment sections the faster Sony will do what you are asking…SMH.

  • I actually feel bad that the developers spend so much time making these games within a game, as I barely play them.

    I’m usually pretty dumb with these. Never could figure out Gwent, and I had to get good for the game in Valhalla as it was tied to a trophy.

    Maybe I’ll fire up HFW tonight and see what all the fuss is about.

  • I’m so very sorry to all the people who worked on this minigame. The rules are easily exploited when using only one piece, as that piece gets two move/attack actions on your turn.

    A single 7pt Fireclaw Machinestrike piece is all you need to beat every single other AI player. Move in range on first action, attack and retreat to high ground on second. Repeat until you’re done.

    If there was a way to play other human players, even locally on my PS5 by sharing the controller, it’d be a ton more fun. As it is now, it’s just an easy way to skill points for minimal effort.

  • 1st Thank you for making the trophy only two victories. Mini games are really not why I play games, I was there for the hunt, not board games.

    2nd I love that so much attention to detail was put in for this, but like many of the other things in Horizon 2, it seemed out of place in how much time was spent driving the player to trivial things when a world ending incident with high urgency is literally driven at the very start of the game. Don’t get me wrong you had the FF13 problem to contend with here if you focused to hard on driving people down a cooridor when conveying urgency, but horizon is open enough to protect against that imo. So maybe taking more consideration for with regards for where the narrative is going before throwing mini games at us. If aloy is impaitent about dealing with corrupt leaders in a small village, then why am I stopping to play a board game.

    3rd Might consider an external physical game and digital online game, like what square did with Tetra Master on Play Online. Or even that Naughty Dog Vita Card game for Uncharted. Horizon should have given a taste, but this is expandable. So good job with what is there, I appreciate that effort, even if I don’t like being interrupted with it in my campaign, once again thank you for letting me ignore it.

    4th More to do with your logo. Pandering logo changes is why I unfollowed GG on all other platforms. Please keep your politics separate from your business, bad enough Bungie and Insomiac didn’t get the memo (Looking at you Ted Price), but its not in vogue to wave your personal views of a small group in your company and overriding the voice of your other employees who are helpless to do anything about it. I have no problem with individual views and people slapping rainbows on their cars, but you’re a company and all this shows is pandering for the sake of manipulation. It’s oppressive and violates the free speech of any one having to work under that banner (even though GG is not based in the US), even if they agree with it. You can’t be demanding professionalism from your employees if the company it’s self is refusing to show professionalism when interacting with the community.

  • spongequaviusiii

    We as the community come together as one. We stand strong and uphold our decision.

    We want skate 3 on the new ps plus

    Get this trending so PlayStation listens

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