Guerrilla Games, the studio behind the upcoming Horizon: Zero Dawn, lifts the veil on the development of tough female protagonist and cosplay hit, Aloy.

Developer Guerrilla Games has released a video in which the team talks about how Aloy, the protagonist in the studio’s upcoming title Horizon: Zero Dawn, came about as a character. From the very moment the game was announced, Aloy became an icon in the cosplay scene thanks to her rugged looks and determined stare. However, as the developers say in the video, Aloy was never designed this way; her creation was a much more organic process.

The story of Horizon: Zero Dawn is the story of Aloy: born outside of the existing clan structure, she is an outcast from the very start. Because of this, she makes a living by scavenging through the ruins of the ancient civilization that came before, while dodging robotic dinosaurs as well as her less-than-friendly human brethren. The lean, tough look that Aloy developed while Guerrilla Games worked on her backstory was a slow one, says executive producer Angie Smets, “it took years before we had her the way she is now, in the game.”

That it took so long, says art director Jan-Bart van Beek, is because “it’s really hard to design an iconic character … you can’t just put a stamp on [something] and say ‘that’s iconic now.'” At the same time, Guerrilla games did have something to strive for: in Horizon: Zero Dawn they wanted a protagonist as memorable as the antagonists in their other franchise, Killzone, were. Creating Aloy was, in a way, an inversion from the way they put the Helghast together.

It took the team several years, but the Horizon: Zero Dawn team worked hard and at some point just “all the elements came together and we felt, yeah, this is her, this is Aloy,” says Smets. At that point, according to Hermen Hulst, managing director of Guerrilla Games, Aloy “as a character jumped out of the concept art” and became “the ideal vessel” to explore the Horizon: Zero Dawn world.  Hulst adds that it was very “invigorating” to see Aloy has become such a hit in the cosplay scene and fans’ desire to know more about her has spurred the team on in their efforts.

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What these efforts have produced will have to wait a few more weeks, but thus far the game promises to be a very interesting mixture of action-RPG elements with some strong survival sandbox themes thrown in. Between hunting down robot dinosaurs and exploring ruins of lost civilizations, gamers are looking at an adventurous romp through a unique world; no wonder Horizon: Zero Dawn has already gone gold.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is set to launch for PlayStation 4 on February 28 in the U.S. and on March 1 in Europe.

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