Horizon Zero Dawn Gets New Concept Art And In-Game Screenshots Showing Volumetric Cloudscapes

Guerrilla Games recently held a technical presentation on the Volumetric Cloudscapes of Horizon Zero Dawn at SIGGRAPH 2015. In this presentation, they detail the technology that they have used to render the skies of Horizon Zero Dawn. You can get a glimpse of this in their Time Lapse of the world here.

In addition to this, they also showed some unreleased concept art and screenshots from the game revealing the evolution of Skies in Horizon Zero Dawn.

You can check out the concept and in-game screenshot showing the Volumetric Cloudscape below.

horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph

Guerrilla Games then detailed their early concepts and design of the skies in Horizon Zero Dawn. They had a set of main points in mind for the skies in Horizon Zero Dawn.

•Art direct-able
•Realistic Representing multiple cloud types
•Integrate with weather
•Evolve in some way
•And of course, they needed to be Epic!

You can see the evolution of their clouds in the screenshots below. All of them were rendered in real-time running on the PS4.

horizon-zero-dawn-siggraph-slide-1 horizon-zero-dawn-siggraph-slide-2

They tried a variety of methods for the clouds of Horizon Zero Dawn including Poly Clouds but eventually had to look for a better method because all of them were unable to evolve over time, which was a requirement for them. Not to mention these method requires some large amount of memory and as a result could go over rendering budget of the game.

This bought Guerrilla Games to their next solution: Voxel Clouds.


Voxel Clouds might look impressive but they also have a very large overhead. Guerrilla Games managed to get these running in the game but it took 1 second per frame to compute these clouds basically rendering them useless for in-game use.


The final solution for them was the Volumetric Cloudscapes and this is intended for the final version of the game. However Guerrilla Games has plans to improve it even further ahead of the launch in 2016. You can check some gorgeous screenshots of these Volumetric Cloudscapes below.

horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-4 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-5 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-6 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-7 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-8 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-9 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-10 horizon-zero-dawn-ps4-new-siggraph-11

This final solution resulted in a rendering budget of 20 milliseconds for the Volumetric Cloudscapes. They were able to reduce it even further to 2 milliseconds per frame after performing optimization on it, hence using them to render the skies in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Horizon Zero Dawn is currently in development exclusively for the PS4. It was announced for a release in 2016 at E3 2015.

Let us know what you think about this article in the comments below.

Khurram Imtiaz

Editor-in-Chief at GearNuke. I am a hardcore Final Fantasy fan and lover of JRPGs. When I am not posting news, I can be seen sharing my thoughts over at Twitter.

You can follow me on Twitter and Google+

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  • Head Blackman

    those in game pictures look a little ashy. they look below 720p. what resolution are they at?

  • miyamoto

    Best “Cloud” in the business.

  • miyamoto

    Oh crap! Unreal!
    GG has one of the most capable artists in Sony’s stable of developers.

    • MrSec84 .

      Guerrilla certainly seems to be ridiculously talented for a studio, even within the AAA arena, hopefully this game puts them on the map and shows how they’ve always been capable of much more than people thought.

      The game looks amazing for sure, if it wasn’t for Dreams I’d be saying this was my most anticipated game/piece of software coming in the future from Sony.
      Maybe other studios offerings from Worldwide Studios and it’s partners like Quantic Dream can give them some competition.

      God only knows what a current gen Red Dead or Grand Theft Auto can look like from Rockstar or something like a current gen Bioshock can look like.

      • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

        This, besides Final Fantasy XV, Uncharted 4, and Kingdom Hearts III (if it makes 2016) is my most anticipated release next year. I can see it taking industry by storm. This will make them rival Naughty Dog and Santa Monica’s status, believe it.

  • MrSec84 .

    What Guerrilla have done is awesome, best looking clouds and lighting seen in a game so far, for an open world game this is utterly phenomenal.
    I can’t wait to see how amazing this turns out to be come launch.
    Considering this is after about a year and a half of full production they probably have a lot more improvements and optimizations to leverage even better levels of tech.
    Performance should be very solid by PSX.

    • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

      I know right. They actually look tangible instead of like floating static boxes. Overall this game has got everything going for it. I’m curious if, given the premise they gave for the setting and story, it’s even possible for there to be a sequel or if this will be a one off that they never do again and move onto something else after?

      • MrSec84 .

        I agree, it’s funny the scenery in those pictures above looks a bit more artificial by comparison, but in the gameplay footage it fits really well.

        As for whether this becomes more than just the one game depends on the outcome of the story, what happens overall throughout it and how popular it is from a sales perspective.
        I don’t really see how Guerrilla Games couldn’t do more after the first game, unless the world gets blown up or something, but even then there could still be prequels with 1000 years of time between the fall of modern society and when Zero Dawn is set.
        I seem to recall in the E3 interviews with Herman Hulst and co that they were referring to Horizon as a new series, which implies they have plans to do more than the one game.

        Presumably they have their environment, which they can build on, they can always add more variety to the machines, depending on how the creators of the machines are dealt with they could go more in depth on that.
        This game could be absolutely massive from a story length perspective, with tonnes of stuff for Aloy to learn, but without knowing the depths of that and what it’s all about it’s impossible to say.

        • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

          Yeah seeing is believing as they say. Yeah with no definite time or place really to constrict it, it’s possible to expand to other times or different characters or further explanation through other games.

          If ask me it’s in the same situation as The Last of Us. It’s not a matter of it it will succeed, but how they will best it next time.

          The way they’ve set it up leaves open questions but also means there’s bound to be resolution that’s definite in a sense to stand on its own, which will make it harder to follow up with a new game, sam situation as The Last of Us atm. I say a sequel is possible yes depending on what direction Guerrilla has taken but it will be a long time if a sequel does come up. Yeah I’m sure they’ll expand the lore in order to extend the franchise.

          Yeah all we can do is guess since the reveal was rather ambiguous even if we got enough info for the overall picture. No matter what they chose though I want this game to be their main focus atm so it’s the best thing they’ve done. I can’t wait to play as Aloy, not many red heads in games.

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