Chris Leigh
26 Jul, 2006

God of War II interview

PS2 Interview | We chat to director Cory Barlog on developing the PS2's most anticipated title.
With its vicious and fluid combat, gorgeous visuals and balanced, thoughtful puzzles, everyone quite rightly loved last year's God of War. Developed at Sony's Santa Monica studio in California, it was precisely what a modern video game should be: gratifying, clever and beautiful.

Hence, we imagine we weren't the only ones chuffed to hear about God of War II - scheduled for a release in February 2007, it's a title that occupies a lofty position in our list of most wanted titles. So, with one eye on next year, PALGN chatted exclusively with God of War II game director Cory Barlog about what we can expect from the sequel, why PS2 was chosen for the return of Kratos, on living up to high expectations, and what he thinks of the PS3.

PALGN: Firstly, tell us a bit about how you got involved in the games industry.

Cory Barlog: I was working for Disney doing live action visual effects when one day I realised that I loved movies way too much to continue to make crappy movies. I was working on some really bad FX films that I had no input or influence on making them better - so I decided to head over to games after being recruited by a company called Cyclone Studios... they were a division of 3DO. So I basically left the Film biz so I could stop making bad movies to go to the game biz and make some bad games at 3DO.

Well the first game I worked on, Requiem: Avenging Angel, wasn’t all that bad... just cursed with bad release timing. We released after Half Life 1 had just come out, so we ended up getting rocked by that game. But the rest of the games up until God of War were pretty bad. So I guess when I think about it I did not improve my situation for quite some time. But another big reason for going over into gaming was the ability to advance quicker and be a part of shaping the product creatively from the beginning. In the film biz I was working under guys in their mid-40's who had academy awards for Visual FX. I knew it was going to be a long time before I would get promoted to a position where I could actually have an affect on the overall quality of the product. So in the end the move to games has worked out perfectly - though I never planned to be in the position I am in today. That was just plain dumb luck and hard work I guess.

You're currently slaving away on God of War II as game director - what are your responsibilities in that position?

CB: I'm responsible for the overall creative vision of the game. From the beginning I work out the details on story, locations and characters, and gameplay. I then work with the team to refine the vision and see it through to completion. Man, when I put it like that it all sounds so simple... but it really isn’t. I basically oversee the creation of the concept art, character models, animation, level art, level design, music score, and combat implementation. This basically translates into me being in meetings every second of every day since I work directly with the leads of each relevant discipline.

Though recently I have had more time to spend tuning and tweaking the gameplay which is GREAT! I am actually getting to do a bit of animation also... well I wouldn’t say that I am getting to do a bit of animation... more like having to do a bit of animation. I am jumping in and helping out on a few characters that I don’t want to cut from the game. It’s a lot of work, but in the end, the game will be better for it.

When God of War II does launch next February, the PlayStation 3 will have been out for a good three or four months. What was it that encouraged the God of War team to develop God of War II on the PS2, rather than the PS3?

CB: For us, when you look at the PlayStation 2 - there's a 100 million people out there that will be able to play God of War II as soon as it launches. As a game maker that is the best possible situation you can be in, you want the largest possible audience of people to have the opportunity to play your game. Plus, it’s going to be playable on the PS3 with PS2 backwards-compatible functionality so it’s a win/win situation really.

Cory Barlog: likes Guitar Hero. Sensible man.

Cory Barlog: likes Guitar Hero. Sensible man.
As a developer, what are your personal impressions of the PS3?

CB: I think it is a pretty impressive machine they have put together. I have not had much of a chance to really kick the tires and look under the hood, but some of the early stuff is pretty damn good. As with all hardware launches it takes the developers a little time to really unlock the true power of the machine and put out something spectacular so I am looking forward to seeing what is on the horizon with it. Maybe a God of War game on PS3... hmmm... wouldn’t that be sweet? Maybe someday...

What about PSP - do you think Kratos will be portable at any point in the future?

CB: I love that idea... but I have no clue about the details on that. I would be the first in line to buy if it were though... God of War on the go... count me in!

David Jaffe recently hinted that he envisaged God of War becoming a trilogy. We take it you'd happily stick around to make a third game?

CB: Yeah, I think I might stick around to make a third game if Sony were so inclined to green light it. I have a ton of story ideas on how to complete the trilogy... Dave and I have always seen this story as finishing with a third installment. That is kind of the logic behind the Whole... "The end begins..." thing we are using right now. Like I said before, maybe someday... we'll have to wait and see. Right now though, I'm really excited to get God of War II to the millions of fans out there. It's gonna be sweet!

In the case of both God of War and God of War II, why did the team at Sony Santa Monica decide to develop a game inspired specifically by Greek mythology? Was that area a personal interest of yours or has it become one?

CB: Well, I came on to the project about two years into development so the Greek mythology theme was decided long before I got here. But since I have started at Sony I have devoured the myths... some while doing research for the character movements and behaviors in God of War... but mostly for the research and prep for writing the story and script for God of War II. But I am soooo very far from being an expert... hell, I am not even a lay-person when it comes to having a comprehensive knowledge to the Greek myths. There is just so much to read and so many interpretations of the myths. It’s staggering really.

As in the first game, spectacular environments look to be the order of the day.

As in the first game, spectacular environments look to be the order of the day.
It's fair to say God of War was a hit both commercially and critically for Sony - has that success added pressure to the God of War II team, knowing that the standards set by the first game have upped expectations for the sequel?

CB: Well, I try to not really think about that too much... of course that doesn’t really work so well. I would say every waking minute, but I dream about the pressure too so I am screwed there as well. Seriously though, there is a lot of pressure for this game to not just equal but eclipse the experience of the first game. Believe me, that is something that is constantly on my mind. But I am confident that we will be able to pull it off.

Having worked on the first game I am extremely familiar with the world we created, and everything we are doing remains faithful to that world while at the same time enhancing it to the next level. I am also working with most of the original team that created the original God of War... so it’s hard to see this falling shorter than the first game. These guys are just way too talented to let me screw it up.

How's the combat system for God of War II coming along, and in what ways is it being refined?

CB: We're keeping the same pick up and play combat system we had from the original God of War as a base and enhancing nearly every element of it. From the Magic system, where Kratos will now be able to navigate while in a magic state, to the Weapon system where Kratos will be able to switch to different weapons in mid combo. We really are focussing heavily on making sure that everything the player can do in combat system fluidly and seamlessly flows together. I really can’t go into more detail right now... that is a lame answer I know, but I promise I will be revealing more info on that later.

We really enjoyed some of the puzzles in the first God of War - reminded us of the better Tomb Raiders and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Are they going to play a greater or smaller role this time?

CB: We are still looking at the same balance of puzzle solving, adventuring, and combat as the first God of War... except without the Blades of Hades. The balance of those elements was really solid in the last game and we are working to ensure we keep the same mixture. We are taking the puzzles in some new directions with this installment, so that is pretty exciting as well.

And how are the new bosses shaping up? Even bigger than before?

CB: They're shaping up quite nicely. We just showed some of the early shots of one of our bosses on my blog [http://corybarlog.blogspot.com - click here and here for the pics]. He's still at a pre-alpha state so he is a little rough around the edges but it gives a taste of where we are going with bosses in God of War II. He is one of our smaller boss encounters as well; the others are much larger and I am sure they will exceed the expectations of players.

Finally, do you actually get to play games in your position? If so, what are some of your personal favorites, PS2 or otherwise?

CB: Well, I don’t get much time to play games. I don’t really get to play them at work so it leaves the limited amount of free time I have to catch up on all the latest stuff. I try and get at least a little time on as many of the new games as I can. Some of the games I have played recently are MGS3: Subsistence, Oblivion, Hitman: Blood Money, FIFA World Cup 2006, Prey, Battlefield 2, Shadow of the Colossus (again), GTA:San Andreas (I have been playing the same game for like a year now... it takes me forever), GTA PSP, Lemmings PSP, Indigo Prophecy, and of course freaking Guitar Hero which is pretty much the greatest game of all time - ever.

PALGN would like to extend its thanks to Cory, and also to Paul Murphy at Sony Computer Entertainment America. God of War II is scheduled for release in February 2007.

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7 years ago
Wow hitting it big time. Nice interview, cant wait to play it.

EDIT: Is it just me or does Cory Barlog look alot like Andy Serkis (the actor behind gollum/king kong) in that picture? icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
Nice, interviewing the director of God of War 2, Well done Palgn. Great interview too. The weapon-switching on the fly system makes me drool.
7 years ago
Nice scoop guys - and a top interview as well.
7 years ago
Ganon wrote
Wow hitting it big time. Nice interview, cant wait to play it.

EDIT: Is it just me or does Cory Barlog look alot like Andy Serkis (the actor behind gollum/king kong) in that picture? icon_razz.gif

Just you, Karl. icon_razz.gif
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