God of War III is one of the biggest releases for Sony's PlayStation 3 so far. The console is in plenty of hands, it's been three years since the most recent game in the series, and anticipation is at extreme levels.
Of course, the development process has been anything but simple -- but here, Sony Santa Monica senior producer Steve Caterson discusses just how the development team tackled the development process, particularly from tools, engine, and workflow perspectives.
He also addresses the content concerns the game has been facing ever since the demo at last year's E3 show -- which featured the disquieting task of forcing the player, in the role of the bloodthirsty Kratos, into ripping the head off of the god Helios with his bare hands.
What goes into making a great game? Is it creative passion or technical polish that drives the Sony Santa Monica team? Caterson discusses these topics and more, in this interview conducted in the immediate run-up to the game's release (which was yesterday in North America.)
How long have you been working on the game, and how does it feel to complete the trilogy?
Steve Caterson: God of War III was roughly a three-year experience for many of the people on the team, but we've been working on the God of War franchise for seven years.
So for a lot of us, beyond the three-year completion of God of War III, it's been a huge, huge release -- a sense of fulfillment and gratification to see a three-part trilogy done from start to finish, and to say pretty confidently that we've done everything that we could in each and every project. We pretty successfully made every project better than the last.
As we speak, the game has not yet been released. Are you anticipating how gamers and press will receive the game?
SC: There's definitely a lot of anticipation. Three years of anyone's life on anything, you definitely have butterflies, you know? "How is it going to be received?" You can't help but take some of it a little personally, because it's been three years of your life. But I think we're also very excited.
I think there's been very few regrets. We did everything possible. We gave everything we could, and we certainly tried everything we could. We didn't leave anything on the table. There weren't any, "Argh, I wish we could'ves". We were adding things up until the very last minute. We could not have found any more time or added any more stuff to it. We did absolutely everything we could.
The engine behind the game was from the first God of War titles for PS2, and you guys just kept on iterating it for the sequels. Can you tell me about the transition to new hardware? The transition from the PlayStation 2 to the studio's first PlayStation 3 game -- was it overwhelming at first?
SC: It could've been overwhelming. A couple of things were working to prevent us from getting overwhelmed. The first and major thing was that we weren't given a lot of time to think about it. By that, I mean that there wasn't a lot of time to go, "Oh wow, what are we going to do?" because we were able to hit the ground running.
The tech part of our studio has always been really great with the tools and the technology they've provided the team to make the games. And every game we've made at the studio has always been built on the engine before it. That's even the case when we went from PlayStation 2 to PlayStation 3.
The very first thing the tech guys did was they ported the God of War II engine to the PlayStation 3. Very quickly, we were able to play the PlayStation 2 game on the PlayStation 3. It meant that Kratos could move around, he could jump, he could run, slice his blades, do all of his combos and animations, and he could fly. All of the things that he could do in God of War II he could do on the PlayStation 3. That meant that we could immediately start designing stuff and immediately get in and start working on things.
That didn't leave us a lot of time to think about the overwhelming task we had in front of us. We basically just said, "Hey, it's time to start making the game. Let's start making it." What we did along the way was we started replacing those parts on the PlayStation 2. We worked in-depth with our code department and basically, as we developed the game, they would swap out PlayStation 2 stuff with PlayStation 3 stuff.
We figured we needed the renderer first, so that was the first thing to get replaced. Then the particle system, and then the collision system. It was kind of a dual development process -- there was the main track that the engine team was working with, and in parallel, the replacement parts for the engine were being developed. As they came online and were being tested, they were able to be swapped out with as little interference or interruption as possible, so that the whole team itself was not left high and dry while it was developing.