How Horizon Forbidden West dawned on PC

Horizon Forbidden West launched to PC with high praise and enthusiasm. Here's how Nixxes and Guerrilla Games pulled it off.
horizon forbidden west pc

Horizon Forbidden West made the leap from PlayStation 5 to PC in March 2024, its success buoyed by strong, positive reception from players, who hailed it as one of the best PlayStation ports of recent times. For developers at Nixxes Software and Guerrilla Games, its arrival was a welcome chance to invite new players into Aloy’s gorgeous, sweeping adventures.

“I think the biggest thing [for the team] is just exposing a whole new group of users to Horizon Forbidden West,” Craig Leach, Senior Systems Programmer at Nixxes told GamesHub. “Being able to give people access to Forbidden West, and make our fans happy [is why we’re excited.]”

For Misja Baas, Senior Art Director at Guerilla Games, the most exciting part was more technical: the ability to play the game in widescreen and ultra-widescreen. “[It’s] bloody amazing,” Baas said.

The process of porting Horizon Forbidden West to PC took the Nixxes Software team around a year, with time given to ensuring engine robustness, and clarity of detail in User Interfaces (UI), controls, and more. Jurjen Katsman, Senior Director and Studio Head at Nixxes Software described the process of porting Horizon Forbidden West as a complex one, relying on plenty of talent across Nixxes.

Porting to PC

“It’s a complicated process, and there’s lots of different disciplines that go into it,” Katsman said. “The [game] engine often needs to have a lot of work done, on a purely functional level, so it can really handle all the aspects of PC games you’d expect. Consoles are quite different in that respect – it’s one set of specs you’re running against.”

Developing input for consoles relies on standard hardware and specifications, with few unexpected quirks. When porting a game for PC that has been developed with this certainty in mind, robust testing is needed to ensure compatibility with new hardware, of all kinds.

horizon forbidden west pc nixxes software
Image: Nixxes Software / Guerrilla Games

“There’s lots of different hardware that people have, and they’ll expect their hardware to be used to the best of its ability,” Katsman said.

Nixxes tested many hardware variations in the creation of Horizon Forbidden West for PC, but the team also had to accept it’s impossible to test every piece of hardware in the porting process, and that trying to do so is futile.

“We don’t actually test against every person’s hardware,” Katsman said. “We can’t possibly do that. Our QA team is very proficient about swapping in and out different hardware and testing as much as possible. We have external QA groups who do a lot more testing … even that is a tiny little percentage of the overall amount of hardware that will be out there.”

“When we launch, we expect there will be other pieces of hardware that we will have to do something for, that we might not have accounted for just right … it’s slightly more of an unknown, but of course, we try to have a wide range of hardware, and we try to focus on the low ends, and a couple of steps in the middle … and then we get a pretty good feel for what we think will happen. We’ve gotten used to predicting that fairly well – but there are always unknowns, and that is both the fun and charm, and what is one of the difficult things about PC gaming.”

New developments in handheld hardware have also added layers to this testing process, with the Steam Deck coming into consideration during the development of Horizon Forbidden West for PC. For the Nixxes Software team, it was just another piece of hardware to adapt to.

“We did specifically set some time aside to make sure the game ran decently [on Steam Deck],” Leach said. “Obviously, there were some improvements that can be made, but people were playing it on launch day, and a bunch of people streaming it, so [we’re] quite happy with the performance in general.”

“I think that it’s actually really important that we try to please all users, with their own little unique desires,” Katsman said. “Some of those are widescreen some of those are particular high end graphics features. 90% of users don’t turn those on, but it’s still great [to have].”

Tweaking the UI

Beyond account for hardware differences, another core concern for Nixxes was in how UI translated to new formats – different screens, and different player inputs, in mouse and keyboard. Where the original version of Horizon Forbidden West relied heavily on the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller, the game’s port for PC meant carefully adapting controls and UI in a way that remained natural.

“The UI library, Guerrilla has their own internet tools they’ve developed for this. But it was very much focused primarily at console. There was no support for mouse input or clicking around,” Leach explained. “So, we first needed to make sure everything reacted to mouse input, so we could start going through the workflows … for components like the map, and the inventory, and the notebook – to make sure you can still pick around, everything works, and nothing breaks if you get somewhere unexpected.”

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Image: Nixxes Software / Guerrilla Games

Sizing was also a core focus, particularly in allowing handheld PC compatibility. Accessibility for everyone is essential, and in translating smaller pieces of UI, the Nixxes team aimed to maintain focus and playability, even on a small scale.

“The main thing that comes into it is UI,” Katsman said. “If it gets too small, then we need to pay a little bit more attention to it … Sometimes, it’s a little bit off, so we make some adjustments.”

Careful hands

Implementing these changes and hauling Horizon Forbidden West to PC in refreshed form was a collaborative effort between Nixxes Software and developer Guerrilla Games. In handling the port, Nixxes was most passionate about delivering a good experience for fans that deftly handled Guerrilla’s creation.

“You feel responsible because it’s a great product,” Katsman said. “It’s a product that has heritage. It’s an incredibly great game, and you want to make sure it launches as best as it can on PC … There is a some amount of pressure to that.”

“It’s very dear to us,” Baas said of Guerrilla’s feelings towards the game. “You only want one of the best teams to take care of [the port].”

“Everybody that worked on the project is very invested, and very keen to see it presented in the best light,” Leach added. “We’re very aware of that during development. We obviously want to reach a particular bar, and make sure that everybody’s happy, and keep close communications to ensure everybody’s happy with our progress.”

In developing Horizon Forbidden West, Nixxes and Guerrilla stayed closely in touch. Some elements of the game’s PC development required weekly check-ins, but it was the more casual communications that Nixxes found most useful. According to Katsman, popping into Slack channels regularly allowed the teams to share information, including any faults or challenges, without formal restrictions.

Being in touch with the original engineers on Horizon Forbidden West, in particular, allowed for good, hearty discussions and problem solving.

horizon forbidden west pc port
Image: Nixxes Software / Guerrilla Games

“The team at Guerilla [kept] helping and collaborating, and we valued that a lot,” Katsman said. “I think it’s the best way to make a great product … We knew the studio also had its own projects to focus on, and it’s important that they [could] – but when they are able to make that time, and share that knowledge, I think that’s when we can make the best product.”

Guerrilla’s own experience working on the PC port of Horizon Zero Dawn also proved invaluable to the Forbidden West development process, and ensured a smoother and more collaborative development this go around.

“We changed the process, understanding just how complicated it is,” Baas said. “I think we were under-estimating it ourselves, from our end. It was a process – [we changed] communication … Nixxes is just one city over, and communication is a lot easier as well … In the end, we learned a lot [from working on Zero Dawn]. We had a hard look at ourselves, as to how we should approach this, and we learned a lot from that.”

While it remained a complex process to overhaul Horizon Forbidden West for PC, the Nixxes Software and Guerrilla Games team agree the effort was worthwhile. Horizon Forbidden West has debuted on PC to enthusiastic responses, with players on all levels of hardware now able to jump in and enjoy the game on a fresh platform, with the same level of quality that debuted on PlayStation 5.

In the initial GamesHub review, we called Forbidden West a five-star triumph – a breathtaking journey through the post-apocalypse that stunned in every facet. By all accounts, it appears Nixxes and Guerrilla Games have lived up to that legacy, with a well-developed PC port that stays true to the impressive vision of the original game.

Horizon Forbidden West is now available for PC, as well as PlayStation 5.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.