God of War Director: “We Couldn’t Make An Open World Game”

God of War took the world by storm earlier this year and even beat Red Dead Redemption 2 at The Game Awards. Despite that stunning victory, the game’s director doesn’t feel like the title is going head-to-head with triple-A heavyweights. In fact, he feels that they can barely compete with massive open world games.

In an interview with GamesBeat, director Cory Barlog discussed the game’s incredible success and development process at length. As with so many artists, he compared his project to other award-winning titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2. Regardless of the awards and praise, he believes that he and his development team have a significant disadvantage to open world games.

“We kept describing it as ‘wide linear’,” Barlog explained. “I was adamant that we couldn’t make an open world game. The cost of entry and the expectation level is so high that we’d never compete. We just don’t have the infrastructure and the systems. I don’t want to do that.”

The numbers behind the scenes back up his claim. While Rockstar’s working environment came under fire, the sheer size of the company dwarfs almost all competitors. “I think they [Rockstar] were closer to 4,000 [team members]. We were 300, at peak. At the time I thought the 1,600 that Ubisoft had on Assassin’s Creed was a lot.”

That sort of workforce makes almost any project doable. The logistics simply did not allow Barlog to create an open world title. “To do these things, to do the complexity they have, you just need a lot of people,” he continued. “For us, not only do we not want to invest in that aspect of it, but to me the world needed to feel large, and not empty, but with surprising moments of discovery. It could feel like there were areas where there’s not a lot going on, and then all of a sudden an entirely new level opens up that you weren’t directed to, that you just discovered.”

Barlog went on to describe creating aspects of games that often go unseen. He counted on word of mouth to reveal some of the secrets within God of War. Some may argue against this method, but Barlog drew inspiration from one of the most popular franchises in history.

“That was my experience with Zelda,”Barlog explained. “I talked to other kids at school, and all of a sudden I’d find out that if you put a bomb next to a wall over here you’d find a secret. Those kinds of shared experiences, the sense of feeling like you’re the one discovering these things in the world, that’s very important. But the cost of entry for open world, the gambling systems and territory control—it wasn’t in the cards.”

It’s hard to argue with the final product Barlog and his team crafted. Open world or not, players explored a completely unpredictable and exciting world. Legions of cosplayers, musicians, and authors have drawn inspiration from God of War and will continue to do so for years to come. Perhaps his next project will have the requisite staff to create an open world environment. If not, we would be more than content with another “wide linear” game on par with God of War.

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Drew Weissman230 Posts

Drew is a freelance writer for DFTG. He's the former Managing Editor of Haogamers and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and The Paragon Journal. He also edited the novel Three Brightnesses and Artist Journey: Rachta Lin (2016 and 2017 editions).

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