God of War: Ascension Q&A – Taking Kratos to the next level

With God of War: Ascension’s launch just a few days away now, today we have a trailer for you that looks back on what we feel are the Top 5 Epic Moments from the God of War saga to date. Take a look:

This week we also sat down with the Lead Combat Designer Jason McDonald and Lead Game Designer Mark Simon for God of War: Ascension to find out how they’ve kept the formula fresh six games into the series, and what challenges the addition of multiplayer presented to the team.

We’ll have more insight from Game Director Todd Papy next week before Santa Monica’s lean, mean new actioner hits the shelves on 13th March (15th March in the UK). In the meantime, over to Mark and Jason…

How difficult is it retro-fitting a prequel story onto the existing God of War trilogy?

Mark: It’s kinda nice, actually. At the end of God of War 3, Kratos is completely rage-filled. His sole-focus has been figured out. With Ascension, we can go back to a different time period before he was this character. He has a wider range and you can explain things about him that you didn’t know before. You get to find out what turned him into the guy that he is – what makes him snap, and why is it that breaking a bond with a god like Ares does this.

If I was to plot Kratos’ anger on a graph, I’d say he starts at ‘seriously ticked off’ for God of War 1 and climbs to ‘ball of latent fury’ for God of War 3. But from what I’ve played of Ascension, he starts this prequel with a serious rage on. What gives?

Mark: Sure, he does! But that’s due to the way the story is told. It’s like Slumdog Millionaire, or something like that. He’s not at the beginning of the story when you start the game. It’s told in a non-linear fashion. It builds up to why he is in the prison – why he was taken there by The Furies.

Do you ever worry that you’re going to run out of Greek gods for Kratos to beat up?

Mark: Every game is a challenge, but the Greek mythos is so wide and varied. We could never do every myth that it has for us. We don’t find it limiting; it’s more exciting to explore more areas of it – new gods, new titans, new locales.

Take the Furies. They’re primordial. They’re from before the gods – they’re more powerful than the gods. Some of their abilities are just ridiculous – so powerful. They make really great nemeses for Kratos.

Do you have an in-house expert who spends all their time going through Homer looking for new myths and characters?

Mark: The cool thing about the studio is that some ideas come from the director, and then a lot of it comes from the rest of the team. Someone comes in and says ‘Y’know, this would be really cool!’ Suddenly you’re in a brainstorming session, and before you know it you’re building it into the game. That’s the great thing about our studio – ideas come from everywhere.

Jason: But if you look at the typical desk in the office you’ll see Greek mythology books, random Greek materials – we do often reference that so we have to have those around.

Mark: And the movies! Immortals, Jason and the Argonauts – all of them. We can’t get enough!


There are no office fact-finding outings to Greece then?

Jason: No, but you should recommend that!

Mark: Santorini, maybe. There’s got to be some myths around that island, right?

Every God of War game has had a different director. How hard is it to maintain a consistent feel in every game?

Jason: Even when the director changes, the core of the team remains the same. There’s a number of people who’ve been there for every title. Each director, when they assume that role, was really skilled to begin with, so it’s not like ‘Oh my god, what do I need to do?’ They know exactly what they need to do. Every director puts their spin on it. Like [Ascension director] Todd Papy was a designer, so with this game he kept a close eye on mechanics.

Mark: I think that after a project of this size and scope, it’s not an unhealthy thing to go ‘You know what? The director is going to move onto another thing if he wants to.’ We’re a team full of leads. So if one director decides he doesn’t want to do it on the next project, there are a lot of people who can help out.

The series is known for its visceral violence, and I’ve already seen some brutal kills in Ascension. Was there ever a moment during development where you said ‘Okay, we went too far with that one…’?

Mark: It’s got to feel impactful. If you swing a club and hit someone it’s got to feel like you’ve just hit them with a club. If it doesn’t, it feels gamey. We don’t want that gamey feeling – we want it to feel like you’re actually impacting someone’s head. It makes that sound, it feels like that – you kind of cringe thinking about it, but that’s what melee combat should feel like.

Which of the additions that you’ve made to the God of War formula this time around are you most happy with?

Jason: The Rage system turned out really well. Everyone uses it differently and it’s nice to see that come together. The multiplayer though – seeing all that come together and people having fun – that’s an experience that is very unique to this game and I’m very proud we were able to accomplish it.

How did the decision to add multiplayer come about?

Jason: I don’t remember anyone saying ‘it’s multiplayer time, let’s do it!’ It was more that we were curious about it. We hadn’t tried multiplayer before so we were asking ourselves ‘can it be done? Is there fun to be had?’

So we tried out a few tests using Kratos, as he was already built. What we found was that people would sit down with two Kratoses and have a lot of fun. They’d sit there for hours. It was un-tuned and very rough, but when we saw people enjoying it we thought it had merit. After that it was all about putting the God of War spin on it – making sure the scale reaches what we expect, and not just eight players bundled into a room fighting each other. We had to design modes and rules to make sure it wasn’t repetitive.

How difficult was it to keep the combat balanced?

Mark: You always start with something very simple – people fighting one another. Then you start adding new things and you watch the balance go out the window. Then you try desperately to get it back again before introducing another new thing. That’s how we iterate. We didn’t start with everything all at once.

20440E3_001 copy20953SP04

How useful was the beta? Did players’ behaviour take you by surprise?

Mark: I learned a lot just looking at the data that comes in. I’d be like, ‘Woah, I can’t believe this guy opened 17 chests’ or ‘this guy actually killed three guys at once?!’

And the thing that I was surprised by was some of the stuff that I thought would be cool. Like, I thought it would be cool when the god throws the spear down in the middle of a match – everybody would get the same cinematic and we would have this big spectacle in the middle of a match.

I thought that would be cool. And it was cool… the first time. But it wasn’t cool the second time or the third time. We found that players really wanted to keep the action going as long as they could. And when the match was over they generally wanted to get right back to it again. So we took the camera cut out so as not to stop the action. The beta was really helpful for that kind of feedback.

Finally, I’ve got to ask for your take on the PlayStation 4 announcement last month. What do you make of the new system?

Jason: Very excited! We don’t get hardware leaps like this that often, so to have one coming up is very exciting. The social stuff in particular. The power is going to be awesome, and we’ll have amazing artists and engineers who will be able to draw so much out of it – but the social stuff is great. It’s something gaming is moving towards so the more features that support people playing together, the better.

Did you enjoy this?


11 Comments 0 Author replies
Show oldest first  

Any idea why stereoscopic 3D support was decided not to be included in the game after the idea was explored?

Was it because of the strain on the PS3s resources or because the developers didnt feel 3D suited the game?

Would have really loved if this had been a 3D game!

Coody-Baroody 8 March, 2013 @ 3:06 pm   2

I too am totally GUTTED that 3D isn’t supported after Todd Papy himself told us it would. I have a sneaky suspicion what may have caused the U turn though.
After playing the Ascension demo I noticed that when you move Kratos in certain direction a kind of motion blur surrounds him. Not that I know the first thing about game making but maybe this is necessary for whatever reason but it would not suit 3D imaging having this motion blur so maybe that’s why its been pulled?

Either way its so disappointing. If EVER a game would suit 3D its a current gen God of War. All we need now is terrible grindy mulltiplayer trophies.


Don’t bother.. they’re not answering it.


The 3D was 2 years before for advertising the 3D tv’s Now no one cares adout that because they don’t need them. Most gamers playing for hours and is not comfortable those 3d glasses all the time, thats why 3D gone, besides cost for developers extra work and money.The future now is 4k. On topic: the beta was really combat balanced, thats why i love the multiplayer, nice to see the developers take feedback to improve more, i hope for matchmarking balance too 🙂 low level players play witn low level players and the same witn big levels.

another_gamer195 8 March, 2013 @ 9:11 pm   5

Funny the 3D Logo is still on posters of games box art, bottom right hand corner, would they have released that box art IF theres no 3D, not fussed myself as agree with above, i just Never took to gaming in ‘sunglasses’, So, it is confirmed it got left out then ?.
on topic. Taking Kratos to the Next level, wth is That on about, never bothered reading Anythin after That opening header.. some kind of joke perhaps ?.. Kratos and Next level, lol.. what a silly idea, (imo). They best not be serious. i mean Why try and fix/make better that which is allready best it can get..So anyone be here around this time next week, lol, me either. roll on 15th.

chipito_90 8 March, 2013 @ 9:43 pm   6

Will Zeus and Isaac codes for PASBR come with this game?

Stonesthrow 9 March, 2013 @ 2:14 am   7

Yea, I’m hoping it’s not too different from Stig directing, because I absolutely loved the third. Everything seems in order though :p Can’t wait!



I agree that most people don’t care about the 3D that much anymore.
However,there were promises made last year,so no it’s not been 2 years.

But 3D in general is not really supported that much,i actually have to buy 3rd party software for my AMD card on the PC to get a decent support.

Okay.. maybe not have to buy it but still.. they could at least state there’s no 3D rather than saying nothing at all.
It has been said once here yet i don’t see nothing from SM.

Coody-Baroody 11 March, 2013 @ 5:20 pm   9

@ ABTR comment number 4

I beg to differ. The only people who say they dont care about 3D are (the VAST majority of the time) people who dont have 3D tvs & have never tried it. 3D is still here to stay i reckon for a couple of reasons. Mainly because nearly all new tvs released now include 3D and also because i cant remember the last time i saw a big movie advert that DIDNT say its showing in 3D and 2D, therefore the movie would end up on 3D Bluray.

Plenty of games still have 3D support too. Treyarchs CoDs, Crysis 3, Sniper 2, all Assassins Creeds since Revelations has had 3D and so too will ACIV. The Last of Us will have 3D support. The list is getting longer not shorter.

My own opinion of 3D games is that if its done well and you have a good 3D capable tv with no crosstalk it adds immersion to the game Ten fold, i dont even notice im wearing the glasses after a few minutes n im into the game.
Nobody can tell me that say…Arkham City isnt so much better in 3D than playing it without.

Young_Khalifa09 12 March, 2013 @ 11:56 am   10

Guys I have a super slim PlayStation 3 on the philippines
but when will God of war : Ascension will be released on the Philippines ?

Young_Khalifa09 12 March, 2013 @ 12:01 pm   11

Coody you’re right.