God of War III Interview with Design Director Todd Papy

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Last week, I was lucky enough to attend our God of War III event in Hollywood, where we revealed the opening portion of the game to press. Yes, as you could imagine, jaws dropped.

I’m not going to spoil anything here, and frankly, I made sure to keep my head turned for the majority of hands-on time because I’m all about going in fresh when I finally have retail copy in hand. But, in addition to hosting the event, key members of the Santa Monica Studio development team were on hand to chat. Last week you sent me questions for Stig, but unfortunately, he was sick and very limited during the event. So we’re saving most of those up for when we talk to Stig during GDC next week. But Design Director Todd Papy was nice enough to fill in (and he’s an insanely cool guy), so we sat down to talk God of War III, and I couldn’t help but throw a few of your questions his way. Hope you like it.

And make sure that if you do have more questions for Stig, drop them in this post via comments, as we’re definitely getting some time with him next week during GDC.

God of War III Event 3

Was there a lot of stress when it came to living up to the previous God of War games, not only in the fans eyes, but with the developers too?” – Vaughn Johnson via Twitter

Well I think we put more pressure on ourselves. There’s always that stress, and you don’t wanna be known as the guys who F up God of War [laughs]. You really don’t want to be known as that! You know, it’s one of those things where I think we were able to pull it off and hopefully exceed expectations even though the bar is set so high.

And you’re setting your own bar.

Yeah, and that’s the thing that’s always scary…how are we going to outdo ourselves. So when we started talking about God of War III, it was like, “What are we going to do with the Titans and how are we going to change the weapons to make things new and interesting?”

At what point do you reach a level that you’re happy with in development? When do you know when to stop?

Obviously time. I think all of us are artisan in a way and being able to noodle the game to death…there’s got to be a point in time where we say, “This is enough, let’s get it out the door.” But with that, we want to push the envelope, so we do a lot of play tests to see if we’re getting the reaction we want out of players. Are they getting it, and are are they enjoying the experience. But also, we have cameras on their faces when they are playing so when they get to that kill — what’s the reaction? Some people are stone cold and we can’t read them, but when they’re filling out the paper, they’d say they loved it. Others are like, “Ohhh! Oh my god, I can’t believe I just saw that!” Then we know, alright, we’ve got something special

What has been most challenging about the game, handling the tech or the story/gameplay?

I think the Titans, just because the way that we design the levels is under designer control. So we can do iterations really quick, say adjust the jump if it doesn’t feel right, change it and get it into the game quickly. Versus the Titans, when we’re designing in T-pose. We have to figure out what the arms is going to look like, or how the shoulder is going to look when its climbing. And basically, it’s the designer working with the animator to say, “Hey bring that down a bit.” There’s a lot of working back and forth, and it’s just very time consuming.

Well, it’s paid off because you’ve really done some amazing work. Are you happy to be done with the game?

I love it. I am very happy to be done, but at the same time I’m like, “Oh sh*t, what are we going to do next!”

It’s something that you’ve lived with for song long, just the process of creating a game, right?

Yeah, we’ve been doing it for 3-plus years and 10-plus months of crunch. We actually had a couple of designers come in today and we said, “No, no, you’re supposed to be on vacation, go home!” Really, we all love it, and even when we finished this one somebody was noodling around creating new ideas and new designs. It’s something that we live for.

God of War III Event 2

What is the most difficult thing about adapting mythology to a video game? – Brandon Gedrich via Twitter

Well, it’s our take. We don’t follow mythology to a T. It’s us taking what we want and what we think is interesting, and basically weaving a story around Kratos. And with Greek mythology there’s a lot of inspiration to draw from, but it’s, “What do we think is cool? What wrapper can we put around that?” And if it happens to be something in Greek mythology, we’ll say, “OK, that’s cool. Let’s use that.”

Was there anything you were influenced by with UNCHARTED 2 during your development process?

Well, we didn’t really see the game [during development]. But we did have design meetings with them like Richard and Neil, and we’d basically talk and say, “Hey, how do you guys do things?” Their system versus our system is completely different, even in the way they handle their big wow moment which was probably the train sequence. And now this [the opening] is one of our big wow moments. They saw one of the titans early on and saw what we were doing, and hopefully our communications with them and they way we talk about our enemies…hopefully that will influence them. And the way they tell stories, I would hope that we would do some of that stuff in the next game.

Knowing God of War, though, God of War III will probably bring a lot of those “wow” moments, right?

Right, and that’s the thing. In the beginning of the game, Stig and I went through and listed our all our wow moments once we knew the locations and set pieces. And we listed out how many of those moments were wanted to hit, and said, “We’ve got to be in this range.” And I think we hit it.

Well, congrats on being done! Without revealing any spoilers, is there anything you want to say to the PlayStation fans? These are some of your biggest fans who will be reading this.

I hope you love it. If there are things that you like about it, or anything that you dislike about it, trust me – all of us read the boards and we watch out for that stuff. So if there’s something that irks you, write about it. And we’ll find it, look at it and review it.

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