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Repopulating the Earth: Character Production on 'Horizon Zero Dawn'


Daniel Calvert (Character Art Director, Guerrilla Games)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall

Date: Thursday, March 22

Time: 5:30pm - 6:30pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Conference - Get your pass now!

Topic: Visual Arts

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

After 15 years of developing 'Killzone', Guerrilla Games made the bold decision to move in a new direction and focus on a brand new genre and IP, 'Horizon Zero Dawn'. To Guerrilla's character team, the massive open world of 'Horizon Zero Dawn' was a giant blank slate with unlimited potential, but from another perspective it provided a host of new challenges. How could they rise to the creative challenge of filling a world full of new and distinct peoples without second guessing themselves and succumbing to uncertainty? How could they build enough content to fill the massive open world without losing the small-team culture they spent years developing? How could they do useful work in an environment where everything, story, mechanics, world building, is constantly evolving? This lecture discusses how Guerrilla Games tackled these challenges, with honest reflection on their successes and mistakes.


The lecture will share best practice for AAA character design and content creation, as well as the challenges of designing for a new IP. Specific approaches to key challenges such as maintaining quality at scale, and how to do useful work in an environment of uncertainty are covered in detail.

Intended Audience

The course covers both art design and art content production. The material is relevant to art leaders both creative and managerial, as well as production and concept artists. While the subject matter is character art, the lessons and approaches covered are not particular to character creation.