Kratos is a tough guy to keep down. After being beaten, betrayed, and even dying more than once, the character continues to prove his resilience to both fans and Sony Santa Monica, the developers of the God of War games.
In just a few short years, since Kratos made his debut in 2005 in the PlayStation 2 best-seller, God of War, the Ghost of Sparta has become iconic. Part of that was due to the characterization–after all, at one point he did rip the head off of a god and proceed to use it as a flashlight—but the games also had a suitably epic scope. But with most of the Greek gods having been murdered throughout Kratos’ bloody reign of terror, where could the series go? The answer coming from Sony Santa Monica, is the past.
The fourth game of the series to appear on consoles, God of War: Ascension, will expand upon Kratos’ early days, back when he was just a doe-eyed murderous psychopath. The story will take place after the angriest man in gaming receives his trademark Blades of Chaos, but before the events of the first game. Details of the campaign are still being kept classified for the moment, but one thing the developers have debuted in the hopes of generating excitement is a brand new multiplayer.
The inclusion of multiplayer will be a first for the series, and may represent where the franchise will continue to head in the future. We had the chance to sit down and speak with Whitney Wade, Senior Producer for God of War: Ascension, and a veteran of all the God of War console games. We discussed the shift towards multiplayer, details of the new mode, and the importance of picking the right gods.
So you’ve been with every God of War game.
What roles have you played?
I’ve always been in production. I’ve worked most closely with design. On God of War 1, I worked with Todd Pappy, who was the senior designer. And he and I, and David Jaffe were sort of the late night tuners, getting all the details in and out, and obviously we had a whole design team that we worked with. But I worked mainly with design. On God of War II I became the specific design producer and design manager, same thing on God of War III. As the team grew so did my role as their manager. And now I am senior producer of the whole project.
God of War: Ascension is set before the events of the original God of War game. Why choose a prequel?
I think when we initially set out and said “here’s what we’re doing, and what do we want to do,” we weighed all the pros and cons of our various options. We thought about what do we want to do with this guy? Can we think of something new and interesting that we are going to feel good about, let alone that the players are going to want to play? What do we want to do with the story, and what story do we want to tell? It just was sort of the right thing that we felt was the way to go.
At the end of God of War III, there was a definite ending, despite a touch of ambiguity. So minus prequels, is Kratos’ story complete?
Kratos to me is a timeless guy that will live on forever. He’s become an icon. There’s always the opportunity and desire for more Kratos.
Makes sense. He did fight his way out of Hades, multiple times.
Exactly. He’s a bad ass.
Any plans to bring Kratos to the Vita?
I’m sure that there are, our team is focused on the PS3.
Details on the campaign have been kept quiet. Can we expect to see more at E3?
We will be at E3. <Laughter>
So far the emphasis has been on the multiplayer. In the development, was the priority still the campaign, or was it split evenly?
Our fanbase has been built on single player, and we don’t take that for granted. We want to make sure that the 4 million people who bought God of War III can grow and be as happy, or happier playing God of War: Ascension. And so we want to make sure that the single player campaign stands very strong and on its own, and that multiplayer feels like its own thing too.
You guys have already confirmed that the multiplayer will not be directly tied into the single player story, but is it going to be presented as Trojans versus Spartans?
It’s not necessarily Trojans versus Spartans all the time, that was just the example we used in that demo. So for me, in that demo you have the red guys versus the blue guys. What we name them is TBD.
Will there be anything from the multiplayer that will crossover into the campaign (ala Mass Effect 3)?
For me the story for the multiplayer is really about the experience of building your character. So at this time there is not necessarily a direct story link, but it is trying to translate Kratos’ journey from man to god. So that’s hopefully what we’re trying to give the players to experience.
How much historical research goes into preparing for the Greek setting?
I think there’s a lot of Greek mythology to borrow from and inspire us. And when I say “inspire” I mean we do take our creative license and make sure that it makes sense to us and fits into the world, even though it may not be historically or mythologically correct. So we kind of borrow from bits and pieces all over.
That’s currently our goal. If you are choosing Poseidon to be your allegiance, that it feels different than if you choose Zeus.
Does that mean we’ll see elements from the previous games, like Poseidon’s Rage and Zeus’ Fury as useable attacks?
I think that’s what we are currently shooting for.
How many weapons will there be in the game?
I know, I’ve said it a million times… I know there are 20 different armors. I’m going to say a wrong number and say that each god has eight weapons…that’s not correct though. There are a lots of weapons and lots of armor. <Laughter>
Are the weapons going to be more powerful or just different styles?
In order to balance the game I don’t think that one weapon can necessarily be more powerful. We want to make sure that it is balanced and fair, but then at the same time, I’m a lousy player and you might be the most awesome player, but we still need to make sure I still have fun, and that you have fun playing me. So it’s like “Eh, she’s too easy” as you smash my head off, but it’s like “I can still get you with a trap, man, so get out of my way.” So we’re trying to balance it that way so that we appeal to a varied group of players. And when we play test, we make sure that we have players that only play Mario, or players that are awesome at whatever games, and then sort of the middle of the road players so that we can make sure that we can accommodate various players’ styles.
So will there be a leveling system? And will the characters grow more powerful or just unlock more options?
I think it is going to be a combination of those things. As you earn favor, you’ll earn additional specials and additional weapons, and things like that.
No. What we’re shooting for is that the various maps that we have will be able to accommodate as many variations of modes as possible. So if we have player versus player modes as opposed to team modes, we’re trying to make sure that each level can accommodate the variations.
Will the gods that players ally themselves with affect the matchmaking options and what other players you end up with?
The thing that we’re still playing around with is the matchmaking. We want to make sure that we have a strong matchmaking system in place so that if I am a terrible player, maybe for the next game I want to be matched up with up with other terrible players so that we can all have a fun time together and make sure that it stays balanced throughout the matchmaking. It’s about balance.
Do you have a release window for the game yet?
How many types of game modes will there be in the multiplayer?
We’re still playing around with it. We want to make it sure that it is deep enough that players feel like they are getting their money’s worth as well as having enough to play with and try out. We definitely have our wish list of what modes we want to succeed, but again, it’s going to come down to what’s right.
Will there be any co-op in the campaign?
It’s single player.
Will there be any co-op modes in the multiplayer?
Not at this time, but it’s not something that’s off the table.
So how is the multiplayer going to play out? Will there be respawn?
Yeah, you’ll respawn.
The demo we saw was objective based. Will we see other traditional modes like deathmatch?
We’re looking into that, that’s one of the modes that we’re playing with.
Will it be drop in gameplay?
We will not have drop in.
How are the games going to be hosted?
We’re looking at our options. Right now there are a couple different options we are evaluating. For us the lag and stability is the most important thing, and that we choose the best option that is the most satisfying for players?
Will there be post-launch support in terms of DLC?
We’re definitely evaluating our DLC options. That’s something we’re in talks about right now. We have a couple of potential plans. Our real focus right now is making sure the game itself that we’re going to ship with is as strong as possible.
What are you most proud of about this game?
I am most proud of being on this team. And that’s a cheesy producer answer, but I think that as a producer, the thing that I see is our creative guys’ pride, and their passion toward making a great game. That’s something that makes it a really enjoyable place for me to work, and a really enjoyable team for me to be on. The lucky thing is that the franchise is successful so that doesn’t hurt, but honestly what we make is great because of the people who are on the team and the vision that we all have together. That’s what makes it awesome.