God of War was one of the defining titles for the Playstation 2 and the franchise seemed to have made Kratos the unspoken mascot of the console. Over the years, this spawned an ongoing discussion among many players about whether they preferred God of War 1 or 2 (1 was better *cough*). God of War was the series that helped me decide on my speciality of game production during a time when I was unsure about which area of games I wanted to focus.
Arguably, GoW 2 had some incredible content, but Sony was able to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the first GoW title; as you can imagine, topping that would have been very difficult. David Jaffee, the game director on God of War, spoke about putting on a ton of weight from working countless hours with little exercise. He was also fighting against the pressure of Sony HQ who would constantly question spending resources on a new IP (making a new IP is hard). The successor did deliver as it was supposed to in terms of spectacle, action and visuals and we all still loved it, but the kitchen sink was already thrown. Of course, more of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I was quite excited when GoW 3 was announced for the Playstation 3.
This new iteration of the series caught me at quite an interesting time in my video game career. I had sparse experience with game developers and more theoretical knowledge from my studies. I had not decided where I wanted to specialize in games. Most of all, I had an unending curiosity to find out what made game studios tick. Why do they make the games they do? Why do they make it this way? Why not that way? This would lead me down the YouTube rabbit hole as I tried to grab any bit of information regarding the development of God of War 3. It was here the seeds of production were sewn into my brain; the whys and why nots.
GoW 3 was released with an “extras” section, including the development of the game, and the art and creation of the giant Chronos character in battle. Although it was cool to hear about these things I was drawn to the larger picture. I honed in on the videos regarding the changing of the guard. Stig Asmussen was at the helm of God of War 3 (he is now at Respawn working on Star Wars) and I would watch him in front of the camera as decisions were made and how he helped carry this huge title over the finish line with his team.
However, many questions arose in those videos, and I only realized later in my career what some of them meant. The controversy between directors and staff is always apparent, especially when someone new is leading a project. Tempers flare, people talk behind each others back, questions that are not answered are emphasized. I see now that, as they walked out of some of those meetings, the team questioned certain decisions as they didn’t understand the asks of those above them. It’s understandable, especially considering that spearheading a title for the first time does have pitfalls, and having to prove oneself definitely means shedding the skin of ego, and getting some bruises (and broken bones). And sometimes, it is not necessarily anyone’s fault. Explaining asks in detail is simply too time-sensitive depending on the crunch. This happens often in games, especially when we are under the gun of time. If you want to test a person’s mental strength, drop them in a crunch blender and watch what happens. At the end of it all, those that come out at the other end feel a sense of accomplishment (mostly).
Fast forward to 2018, with the new GoW on the horizon. This title is just “God of War”, not God of War 4, although the number “4” is on the tail end of every YouTube search for the title. There isn’t even a fancy last name like God of War Ascension. This is a reboot, a hearken back to the original PS2 game with a different shift. The immediate vibe I get from this GoW is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The 3rd person “slightly-to-the-left/right” camera angle definitely has the western feel (as it should). It has been some time since we have seen new GoW gameplay, so I expect the game to be in a much more polished and ready state from what we saw at E3 in 2016. The new iteration also seems to have all the check marks we expect from God of War – Kratos being a bad-ass, check. Gratuitous violence, check. Impressive visuals, check. He has a son…..wait what? Well, this is new, a different role for the badass character that has had his name behind the Playstation for some time. And the question comes again – I wonder why they did that?