Horizon Zero Dawn modder Maqsimous (opens in new tab) wrote, built, and filmed a custom quest line for a nameless NPC from the Banuk tribe.
The prologue for the original quest The Song of Kotakali (opens in new tab) is six minutes on its own, and the whole series is enormous. It stars Kotakali, previously known as “Banuk_Hunter_F_09” in the game’s files before Maqsimous turned them into an original character.
“I thought she looked fascinating and I wanted to give her a name that sounded cold and Banuk, which is the tribe she is from,” Maqsimous tells GamesRadar+. “I had been doing that with certain NPCs long before mods came out, and when the powerful mod that allows me to tweak the game was published, the idea was born to combine this concept and use the power of the mod to create a full narrative for her to make this backstory she has come to life.”
Maqsimous got into modding Horizon Zero Dawn by pitting machines against each other – you may know them for siccing 50 Watchers on a Thunderjaw. As the mod scene evolved, new tools were released, and they became more experienced, the scope of their projects started to expand. The Song of Kotakali is an ambitious, ground-up story that has some overlap with the canon events of Horizon Zero Dawn and its Frozen Wilds DLC, but it also explores environments and scenes not seen in the base game.
“You can change the time of day and pause it, you can change the weather, you can even speed up or slow down the rate at which the game actually plays,” they explain. “There is a ton of content to explore with it here, and my personal most favorite aspect of it is being able to explore outside the regular game map. There is a massive expanse of fully developed wilderness outside of the regular map and I use a lot of it for my videos.”
“Creating the stories takes an insane amount of work. Oftentimes I will spawn NPCs and pause the AI processing so they don’t move anywhere,” Maqsimous continues. “From there I can set up camera angles, record, and then edit in post. Sometimes I can even change the world as well; I could spawn in smoke or flames or other props to set up what I need to for the script that I have written down ahead of time.
“So it begins by swapping Aloy’s character model to that of Kotakali’s. Sometimes I will record gameplay with the regular camera over her shoulders, and other times I can detach the camera as a free cam and record what I need to for the scene. All of this is possible with just this one single mod, the rest is simply running the game in 4k on ultimate graphics settings.”
Horizon Zero Dawn is a PlayStation game ported to PC and later cracked open by modders, so naturally, this kind of customization doesn’t always work perfectly. Maqsimous says they regularly run into crashes while building complex scenes or spawning NPCs, and this forces them to find workarounds within the frame of their story.
“It really makes me happy when I see [Horizon fans] liking and responding positively to the things I am producing,” Maqsimous says of their finished Kotakali series. “It takes a lot of time and work, but it doesn’t feel like work for me. I just love doing it.”
Horizon Zero Dawn players are also doing incredible things in the base game, like toppling its toughest enemy in 12 seconds. If PC stuff is new to you however, take a look at VSync, FreeSync, and G-Sync explained.