The ins and outs of God of War's 'interlinked' art and technology
In a new interview, Sony Santa Monica art director Chris Sutton talks to Gamasutra about how there's no separating the technology and aesthetic of the series -- and how art and tech teams work together.
"Our engine and everything is all completely made in-house, and we try to cater everything specifically to what we do and what our needs are," says Sutton. The series' emphasis on technical excellence and visual impact necessitates a close intertwining of art and technology.
Visual aesthetics and technology are "so interlinked with the way we work" that they can't be separated, he says.
"We just get the features that we want, to create the art style that we want," says Sutton. The art team is "constantly asking for new tools." The two teams meet frequently to hash out ideas between what's technically feasible and what's desired.
For God of War: Ascension, due next spring for the PlayStation 3, Sony Santa Monica added a technical environment lead to the team.
"With a lot of our tools being custom," says Sutton, "we really need that strong tech support."
"There's such a robust engine, so many features and things you can do, it's just a lot to take in -- for somebody to really understand completely, artistically, from point A to point B, and completely understand it from a technical standpoint."
The team's custom engine delivers the visual fidelity that Sutton wants, like lighting and shaders. For specific gameplay and story concepts, the programming team adds new features at the request of the artists.
"We'll come across a new scenario we need and add new features to it," says Sutton. Changes are "very specific to what we need for the project."
"We try to approach it with a good artistic eye and concentrate on color and composition and everything, but we really leverage the technology we have and the people we have on the tech side to push the art as far as we can," says Sutton.
"We definitely have our rules we follow for creating art and we kind of have our formula for doing it, but each time we evolve our process and our procedures," says Sutton, who has been working on the franchise for seven years.
His goal is to deliver "what the fans expect from the franchise," he concedes, but he says that "we try to crank it up a little bit each time and evolve what we're doing."
"There's always room for improvement in what we can do," says Sutton.
Still, while the team has implemented new technology for animation blending to make the characters "move and behave more realistically," he says, "sometimes realistically doesn't translate to making a character feel fun and responsive."
"Usually we defer back to what feels the best and what plays the best," he says.