God of War is one of the biggest games of the year both in terms of sales and critical acclaim. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was God of War. The success for Santa Monica Studios was hard-fought, and maybe even a little precarious as God of War director Corey Barlog recounted a time, just six-months before launch, when Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide president Shuhei Yoshida came to play a build of the game and was "horrified" by it.
Barlog was speaking at Devcom this week and discussed some of the troubles Santa Monica Studios faced during God of War's development. "Part of it was that we were building the engine and tools, as we were building the mechanics, as we were designing the mechanics, as we were then designing the levels," Barlog said of the "convoluted" development. GamesIndustry.biz was there at the event to report on Barlog's talk.
Barlog discussed various problems with God of War's development ranging from early playtests featuring rough animations and placeholders, to private playtest feedback about the artistic direction of the game (some playtesters were livid that Kratos had to pick flowers for one mission).
But the big sticking point was combat. "The core loop didn't feel good, but the combat team was super confident, and I trusted them," said Barlog. "They got it, but I needed them to get it way earlier, so I was really trying to force it." So Barlog went and asked for a demo to help push things along, and that required SIE head Shuhei Yoshida to come in and play the game, six months before launch.
"I mean, the framerate was terrible, everything just felt bad," explains Barlog of the time Yoshida finally came in to play God of War. "He's playing, he's got scrunched up shoulders, head shaking a little bit. I definitely get the feeling while he's playing that he's not having the greatest of times – which is great. I mean, it bums me out a little bit, but that's what I brought him here for."
Yoshida apparently privately told a Santa Monica developer that he was "horrified" but Barlog needed this feedback to get the team to nail the core combat mechanic and framerate. Something that apparently worked given that neither combat nor framerates were problems in the final game.
Now, Barlog can probably share these details given that God of War was a huge success, but it's crazy to imagine that God of War was in such a shape just six months before launch. Luckily for us God of War finally came together in the end (take our word for it with our perfect score review). Also, be sure to check out our God of War guide if you're just starting out on Kratos' Norse adventure.