Horizon: Zero Dawn Developers Explain Why They Made Their Own Engine

Basically, they wanted full control over the game development process, now and in the future.

Posted By | On 28th, Jan. 2019

Horizon: Zero Dawn as well as Killzone: Shadow Fall ran on Guerrilla Game’s Decima Engine, their custom built engine that will also be powering the upcoming PS4 exclusive from Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding. But in an age when extremely impressive third party engines are readily available—for instance, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4—why did they go to the effort to make their own engine?

Not that anyone is complaining, because the results speak for themselves, but why invest so much in making a proprietary engine? According to Guerrilla Games, the engine was custom made because the development studio wanted to have control over all the components of game development, rather than have any of it be out of their control, as it might have been had they used a third party solution.

“We like to make things, our company attracts a lot of inventor types. For us, it’s important to feel like we’re in charge of what we’re going to do next,” said technical director Michiel van der Leeuw while speaking with TNW. “You think: this third-party service we’re using isn’t just going to disappear. Then something like Morpheme, which is an animation suite, gets bought up by Zynga and Zynga pulls the plug. It’s a reminder that sometimes it’s just better to make things yourself.”

Which, of course, is fair. And Guerrilla very obviously had very specific needs that they wanted met. When they built Decima Engine for Killzone Shadow Fall, it had already been future proofed, so they were willing to retool it for an open world game like Horizon as well.

“Sometimes I look at someone else’s engine, and I think: that does the exact thing you want it to do way more than ours does, I wonder if we should’ve done it that way,” said Van der Leeuw.

“We tend to make things that can do more than just what we need in the moment, and that slows down our process. At the same time, because we’d already built this relatively complex engine, when someone decided that hey, we want to use our first-person shooter engine to make an open world game, we were in a position to say: that’s a lot of work, but we can do it.”

In the end, as I said, the results speak for themselves. Horizon: Zero Dawn was stunning, and the Decima Engine is clearly impressive enough for a maestro like Hideo Kojima to want to use it for his upcoming game Death Stranding (although modified). What a triumph for Guerrilla Games this has been.


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