One of the big subjects about this game that has come up is the violence. The series is violent, but now that we have the PlayStation 3, you can really crank up the graphics. For instance, in the demo, you have the neck skin ripping as you tear off of Helios's head. How did you guys approach that depiction of violence now that you have such processing power to make it hi-fi?
SC: That was definitely a challenge for us. The violence question is something we always take very seriously, and we recognize the controversy involved in those works and decisions. I think we tried very hard to follow one of our key guidelines that was set out when we were making God of War, and that was, "Don't do anything that doesn't fit the character."
Don't do anything that wouldn't be appropriate for the character given these circumstances. Anything that relates to the character, as the situation evolves the character and pushes the character forward -- those kinds of things you need to do and should not be shied away from.
Don't do anything just to be sensationalist. Don't do anything just to be controversial. There should be a purpose and a reason for the actions and the depictions shown on-screen.
That was the guideline that we set for ourselves and one that we tried very hard -- and I think successfully -- to follow in the first two products. The same thing applied for God of War III.
The fidelity of the graphics we were able to do...we kind of surprised ourselves. "Hey, look! We can split a centaur from stem to stern and still have insides falling out!" And it was like, "Whoa, we can actually do that?" And then the question was, obviously, "Should we do that?"
It definitely heightens the level of brutality, but after careful consideration and viewing it and experiencing it, it became obvious that Kratos is a very brutal guy, and what he does is very brutal. We want that to be a part of the experience.
Anything that goes in, that we look at and say, "That's too brutal," or is worse than the definition of "This is what Kratos would do given the situation," it goes in and we keep it. Anything that we do and look at afterward and say, "Hey, this just doesn't fit. It's too over the top," we pull back. And there are a few things we actually pulled back on.
SC: Ah, after you play it, I'll tell you. (laughs) I won't tell you until you play it. After you play it, give me a call, and I'll say, "Okay, what do you think we pulled back on?" I'll happily tell you once you play, because I don't want to spoil it for you.
Were there any company-wide concerns about the game's violence?
Honestly, there were. There were conversations held at a variety of levels. The Helios scene in particular was like, "This is pretty crazy. I don't know if this is appropriate." Our take on it was, "It fit the character, and it fit the circumstances." We felt it was okay to do. But we were thought, "We're going to E3. Let's put it in at E3 and see what the reaction is." We put it on the show floor, and the reaction was over the top. There were definitely a few cries of, "This is too crazy. This is too over-the-top." But for the most part, the reaction was good.
It confirmed for us that we were on the right track and we were doing what was right for the franchise and was right for the character. It also confirmed for many of the doubters internally that, "You know, they've got a handle on this. They're pushing the limit, and they are going to the edge, but the games have always done that." We've always tried to take it as far to the edge as we could.
But what if people mainly said, "Oh wow, that's too much," once the demo was out there? Do you think you would have scaled back some of the violence in the actual game?
SC: If we found the reaction was that it was too crazy...I don't know. That's a very good question. I don't know. But we would have for sure listened to it, and would have considered it. I don't know if it would have necessarily changed our decision, but I can tell you for absolutely sure that we would have listened. And we were listening to what was being said.
Talking about the future of the God of War franchise, you're wrapping this one up -- the Kratos storyline -- but this is a big franchise, and you're going to want to take it forward. What's Sony Santa Monica's role going to be?
SC: That's a good question. I think from our standpoint, God of War III is the end of a three-part trilogy where the franchise is obviously successful, but it's also a very rich franchise. There's a lot of opportunity, and there's a lot of options, and a lot more creativity that can be applied to this universe and these characters. I'm sure it's not the end of the franchise by any stretch.
Now, when the next installment's going to be, it's anyone's guess. From a personal level, I'm very much looking forward to trying some other things. By that, I mean with our background that we have, I'm a firm believer that your art is only as good as the life you have the opportunity to experience, and the more things you can experience, the better your art is because of it.
I think the same is true of making games. The more things you can experience and try, the more things you can develop, and the more successes and failures you have only make the things you're going to do next better.
Having said that, I'm looking forward to whatever we do next, further down the line, if I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come back to this franchise. I'm lookin forward to what I'll be able to bring to it, and what we'll be able to bring to it, having had an opportunity to potentially step away for a bit. I can only imagine that anything we bring will refresh it, reenergize it, and make it that much better.