INTERVIEW: Taking God of War to PSP
God of War: Chains of Olympus director Ru Weerasuriya talks about the successes and failures of the game’s development, the direction the title almost took, and ramping up for new IP development.
With over eleven years of experience in the entertainment industry, Weerasuriya previously plied his trade at Blizzard, contributing heavily to a number of the developer’s most acclaimed franchises including Starcraft and World of Warcraft.
He currently leads the creative endeavors in all media at Ready At Dawn, which he co-founded, and here he tells Next-Gen how the studio managed to translate one of Sony’s flagship franchises, which has enjoyed multimillion unit sales in two previous PS2 iterations, so successfully to the platform holder’s handheld system.
God of War: Chains of Olympus is receiving early critical acclaim, sending it to the top of the PSP chart on sites such as Metacritic. Early reviews suggest you’ve pushed the PSP further than ever before and created what is essentially a console experience on a handheld. How do feel you managed to achieve this?
Much of it has to do with the team and the individuals that comprise RAD. Everyone was adamant about not only replicating the God of War experience but bettering it from the get-go. We started development with very high aspirations, a story that was originally longer than the previous games, and more characters, puzzles and environments than we could sanely manage.
We also knew that, although this game would be done with only a third of the number of people that had worked on the previous games with also much less time, we would still be compared and held up to the same scrutiny as the first two God of War games. The SCEA WWS Santa Monica Studio set the bar high with those games. This pressure ultimately pushed us to do whatever was necessary to create a game experience equaling or surpassing that of any game on a home console.
One of the things that was so impressive about the first two God of War games was the sense of scale the environments portrayed. How did you manage to replicate that sense of fighting in or traveling through enormous, beautiful locations on PSP?
I think we’ve given the player more of that epic feel of playing in the God of War universe. You’ll get the opportunity to travel to new places with sceneries as beautiful and vast as the ones you’ve seen previously. Pulling that off on the PSP has to do with the tech and the team. We always made sure that the primary goal was the immersion of the player. Without getting slowed down by details, we always concentrated on the mood of the environments, then only were they fine-tuned.
The tech always served the purpose of allowing the artists to express themselves, without becoming a hindrance as is sometimes the case. The story also needed to take you through this journey and work hand-in-hand with design to deliver that epic experience.
Aside from the overwhelmingly positive critical response to Chains of Olympus so far, one reviewer, although he called it a “very good game," said it is “very, very short” at under five hours long. Is this the case?
We’ve had people finish the game in five to eight hours just like there have been people who finished God of War II in that amount of time. I don’t think "very, very short" is a good assessment. It’s always hard to put a playtime length to any game. I just had a journalist tell me that he finished it in nine hours and had started a second playthrough. Some have already logged in more than 20 hours. So to each his own.