Game On hosts Roland Ijzermans in honour of 50 years of gaming

Guido Cocconi and Kelvin Bras

February 23, 2022. On the 1th of March Game On is hosting Guerrilla games’ lead concept artist Roland Ijzermans to talk about Horizon Forbidden West.

You stand in the corner in one of the exhibition rooms, a big mech statue stands in the middle, imposingly watching over you. The statue replicates one of Horizon’s in game creatures. A Watcher as the game calls. If you don’t know the game the large cornerstand will be the first introduction to Guerrilla’s latest game. In all honesty it’s an imposing introduction.

Horizon Forbidden West is one of the biggest video game productions ever produced by a Dutch studio. With a team of over 350 people working on its development it’s Guerrilla’s most ambitious project yet. On the 18th of February the game finally released after a five years development period.

As the flag-ship in Sony Entertainment’s gaming branch the title has a lot to live up to. Due to its significance for Sony many promotional campaigns were launched. One of these is the game’s attendence at Game On in the Forum.

Game On is an exhibition at the Forum, Groningen revolving around the history of gaming. The exhibition allows you to walk through the last 50 years of gaming history and play a plethora of games. Starting from arcades to the latest games on next gen consoles. As you walk around the exhibition you’ll see OG arcade games like Pong, Space Invaders and Tekken. But also more recent versions of Halo and, off course, Horizon.

Most of these games are playable. But some of them are kept behind glass because of fragility.

By having Horizon present at the event the Amsterdam based studio and the exhibition organisers help each other. For Game On the Horizon stand creates an imposing image from one of the biggest games in recent times, and for Guerrilla, well they get to promote their product.

In light of this Roland Ijzermans is preparing to put on his best bowtie and drink a lot of salted water to come talk about his baby. Well, we can’t be sure about the bowtie but we imagine he’d look quite dapper.

But what’s Horizon actually about? Horizon tells the story of Aloy, a girl living in a post-apocolyptic America. After the Zero Dawn event, basically the apocolypse, in the first game Aloy’s story begins a thousand years after. A rogue AI called HADES has woken up and plans to exterminate humanity. It’s up to Aloy to save humanity.

The second game picks up where the first game left off. At the end of Horizon Zero Dawn, Aloy defeated HADES. But after HADES’ defeat a new plague runs through the country. Aloy again has to take up her bow, pointy mechanical spear thingy – there’s no other way of describing it, and save the world. Again.

Horizon Zero Dawn became the most successful title produced by Guerrilla games. Before the Horizon series the studio was mostly known for making Killzone. A game in which you fight againts Helghast, a bunch of bulky soldiers wearing horroresque armor. Their glowing red eyes, constant shouting and agressive ideology made them an enticing antagonist to shoot at. They wore armbands above their armor with three arrows pointing in black and red. The Helghast were basically Nazi’s.

After making 4 Killzone games the studio was ready for something new. In cooperation with his colleagues Roland set out to create Horizon Zero Dawn. As lead concept artist his role was about creating the aesthetics of the world. His department oversaw that the magical, whimsical, otherworldlyness of the game world was consistent and visually stunning.

The first game turned out to be stunning. The game was nominated for the BAFTA award in best game design, and it won a plethora of other awards in wake of its 2017 release. So far it seems that Zero Dawn’s successor is even more ambitious. The first hour of the game shows you how ambitious, grandiose and beautiful its design is. Although some of reviews critique the game ”Horizon Forbidden West Is Being Review Bombed For Some Pretty Bizarre Reasons.” Josh Coulson writes in a critique of the harsh reviews, the overwhelming majority of the reviews have been positive.

In the opening of Forbidden West, Aloy rides her mech horse towards the sunrise. A metal bird lit up with blue light flies alongside a ruined skyscrapper. Aloy hurries herself ”I’m running out of time, Elisabet.” She says to herself. It sets the mood for what’s to come. An adventure alongside a character in a strange and originally designed world.

What people seem to like about the game is its original design. One of the people interviewed at the exhibition was looking at a big projector screen. A Tremor Tusk appears on screen, it’s a big mammoth like beast that crushes everything in its path. As Guido was conducting his interview with a guy in wayfare glasses the guy’s girlfriend came in. ”Oh! Mammoth, mammoth.” She shouted giddily as she saw the Tusk on screen.

©Forum Groningen

It’s all very telling for how much effort has gone into the game’s design. The guy in wayfare glasses was perticularly laudible about it. ”I really like the world building around it. I really like post apocalypse games. And I find this world particularly original.”

In the backdrop of Game On’s fifty years of gaming history, Guerrilla’s stand allows visitors to play a recently released triple A title. ”Forbidden west came out last week, and the Horizon series is one of the biggest brands on the PS console.” Jos Westra, coordinator of exhibitions at Forum, tells 9to5. Having the game at the Forum expands the exhibition’s scope into the current state of the gaming industry.

”Guerrilla is going to become one of the major game developers in Europe.” Jos Westra continues. In actuallity the studio already is, it’s one of Sony’s biggest studios and carries the banner of it’s innovation. The cultural impact of the first game cannot be understated. Horizon Zero Dawn changed the gaming landscape because of its visual originality.

On the 1th of March, Roland Ijzermans, lead concept artist, will come to Game on to explain his vision for the studio’s newest release.

*Sources not quoted by name requested to remain anonymous.

©Pictures taken in agreement with Forum Groningen.

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