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Postmortem - Sony Santa Monica's God of War: Ascension
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Postmortem - Sony Santa Monica's God of War: Ascension


June 19, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

What Went Wrong

1. Shortened Pre-Production Due to Schedule Limitations

As one project ends, it's important to begin planning for the next. We hold to a very high standard during our finalizing process, and the reality is that God of War takes all focus and all hands on deck to finish. Everything is custom, and every part requires a level of pride and perfection that only we put on ourselves, and it all comes together in the end.

Balancing that kind of singular focus against pre-production for the next project was a very big challenge. At the end of God of War III, we were also doing some R&D experiments with an entirely new project. Our excitement ultimately came back around to telling a new God of War story, but that conclusion came later than we would have liked, and we lost out on invaluable pre-production time. Between "all hands on deck" to finish the previous game, and experiments with new directions we didn't take, pre-production for Ascensionwas not in the place where Todd Papy (game director) and senior leadership wanted it to be when we began. This proved to be very difficult to recover from, and it did have a detrimental impact on the entirety of the project.

2. Technical Debt Delayed Delivery of Key Mechanics

While many of the systems that were improved for God of War: Ascension built upon successful systems from prior games, some features, not least of which was multiplayer, required substantial rewrites that took longer than expected, and we couldn't deliver those mechanics until well after key deadlines. Our entire player navigation code was something that we had to completely change to allow for online play, which was initially assumed to be co-op and therefore had to work alongside the single-player campaign. That was a much bigger undertaking, and it didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped, so we lost of lot of mechanic development time in that effort. Ultimately, the single-player and multiplayer parts of the game were more delineated than was initially expected, and a less disruptive approach would, in hindsight, have been better.

While the wall-navigation system was ultimately smoother than in prior games, revising this system required additional effort from animation, environment art, design, and engineering, and by the time the system was fully implemented, we didn't have enough time to polish it sufficiently. In the end, we learned the hard way that we should have put more time into these elements up front, and better understood the scope and effort needed to finish them.

3. The Road to Multiplayer Was Longer than Expected

We knew that we wanted to tackle multiplayer, but we didn't know what that meant in terms of creative and technical resources. We had never attempted multiplayer, and we didn't have a lot of team members who had that experience, so we created our own rules -- some of which were successful, and many of which would have been identified as unsuccessful, earlier, if this had been an established multiplayer gameplay genre.

When we started thinking about multiplayer, we left the constraints wide open. We knew that we wanted to do more than tack on a bunch of playable Kratos characters in a competitive arena. We knew we wanted to do more than add a co-op bot, and most of all, we knew that whatever we did had to be awesome and God of War in its epicness. What we didn't know was that every idea would feel too small upon the start. What we didn't know was how much work it would take to make the game we envisioned, and how many people would be required to successfully realize that vision. On top of that, we all didn't agree on what the game should be.

So we ventured on and did a lot of prototyping. We started down a co-op path and realized that it just wasn't going to be what we wanted. It wasn't until just before our first showing to the press and public that we really found the heart of what would become our final multiplayer game, and we tweaked it right up until Alpha. In the end, however, we're really happy with what we shipped, and we continue to hone the experience through patches and DLC.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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