God of War 3 with Adam Puhl
Lead combat designer Adam Puhl has been beavering away on the 'grittier' elements of God of War 3 ever since work was completed on the second God of War title, a PS2 smash. The next-generation version is one of the big hopes for the PlayStation 3 for Sony, and the emphasis will be on Kratos' bloody mission as we're once again thrust into this very adult take on Greek mythology. We sat down with Mr. Puhl for a few words on his new opus.
Thanks for speaking with us Adam, how long have you been working on God of War 3?
Since God of War 2, actually. We took a small break for a couple of weeks, then dove back into the game on PS3.
So at the end of God of War 2, was there already a lot you had in mind for the sequel?
Yes, there was a lot. There were some obvious things, of course, like this character (points to huge, on-screen beast), the Chimera, wasn't in God of War 2. We didn't quite get it to the place we wanted it, so it ended up getting cut from the game. So, that was one of the first AI creations we wanted to get in. There were several things like that, that we really wanted for God of War 2, some boss battles I really wanted to get in - and now we're realising all that.
Is this a more brutal game than God of War 2?
Yes, I think it's... its a better representation of Kratos' brutality. You can see a lot more of the detail; feel a lot more of it. We're not showing everything in the demo, but later on in the game you really get to feel Kratos' character, I think we're managing to pull this off with small touches. Kratos' muscles flexing while he's pulling bad guys apart, veins popping - the blood dripping onto his body... this also builds up during the battles. In even in the really small details - you rip Helios' head off and his eyes are looking around wildly, there's that sense of reality, its completely believable, the sense of being in this world...
Looking at the visuals... where do you take your cues from stylistically?
That would be a better question for the art guys, but we have a fantastic concept art team, they've worked on ever character; the conception of every level and our art style for God of War has been established over the past few games. Its about taking that style, that look, and bringing up the detail, increasing the size - adding epic scale.
The scale is certainly impressive. How interactive is the scenery, and how much can you impact the world?
Well, we're doing a lot more small things. Making sure when enemies slam into walls it seems real, you can use the walls as a tactic basically - grabbing a grunt and crushing his skull against the wall, and in the levels we make them as interactive as possible. Some of the levels themselves move, the Titans, when you're fighting on a Titan and when they decide to move their arms... or anything, Kratos has to wall-climb, and adjust to the whole world changing around him.
How much choice does the player have regarding their progression through the world. Is it linear, or is there some choice?
There's freedom in the combat system; in how you express Kratos' brutality, but not in terms of the story. There a couple of choices here and there, but we wanted everyone to experience that same story arc. From God of War one... all the way to three, so we have the big epic conclusion of Kratos exacting his revenge on the gods.
Could God of War support multiplayer?
Well, we could... but I don't think it would make sense for the God of War games, just because its all about Kratos, and if we had a multiplayer game everyone would play as Kratos. I think this game is all about the singleplayer experience, and focussing on this allows us to make the best singleplayer experience possible. I love multiplayer games. It's definitely something I enjoy. But it makes sense to really hone in on Kratos and to sell this big scale world...
Story is key, then. How do you tell a compelling story without interrupting the action too much?
I don't think there's much there at the moment... but there are things we put in to tell the story, beyond the cinematics. All our cut-scenes are in-engine, you don't have that divide anymore. I think we're also coming up with more creative ways to convey narrative, rather than just waiting for the next dialogue sequence to come up.
How big would you say the game is?
Its pretty hard to tell right now. I'd say it'll be around the same length as God of War one and God of War two. We never end up with a final range until everything is in place. It varies a lot depending on the amount of content in there, the number of battles.
Who is your favourite bad guy in the game right now?
I'm not sure I can talk about him right now... but I can say this: my favourite bad guy is someone you've never seen in a God of War game before, but we have talked a little about Hades... he'll be a boss battle in the game. So, Hades is also one of those characters we like. He looks awesome, loads of personality. He is an awesome foe for Kratos. That's an awesome boss battle, too.
Are you surprised by the game's success? Obviously, titles like Dante's Inferno and Darksiders are heavily influenced by what God of War has achieved...
I've always had faith in this genre, just because I'm a huge fan of it. I guess it surprises me in how it has become more mainstream, that's something we've always pushed for with the God of War games - trying to make sure everyone can play this sort of game. I love Devil May Cry, I love games like that. We make sure we take that genre to more and more people. I'm so happy with the series!
This is the last installment in the trilogy, and God of War will end with this?
Yes, this is the last in this story arc. We've been telling a story for two games now, and this will be the big final chapter...
So are we waving goodbye to Kratos here?
I don't know! It's definitely the end of this story. You'll have to play the game and see where the story ends up... that's one of the things we try to avoid talking about, the story, other than this is a big, gory tale. You know what Kratos' motivation is... we didn't want to say too much. We want people to play through and have that experience and see what happens at that end.
Can you see yourselves taking on another myth in game-form?
I mean, maybe. Greek mythology has certainly been good to us. It could be, it would make sense!
Thanks for your time, Adam. Best of luck with your ongoing work on the game.
God of War 3 will be released on the PS3, exclusively. It is presently scheduled to land on April 1st, 2010.