God of War Creator Says They Could Never Compete in the Open World Genre with Ubisoft or Rockstar

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Jan 7
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Even several months after its launch on PlayStation 4, the game continues to get praise from critics and fans alike. In fact, a bit surprisingly perhaps, God of War managed to beat even Red Dead Redemption 2 for the Game of the Year award at the recent The Game Awards 2018 event.

However, speaking with GamesBeat as part of a very long post-mortem interview, Game Director Cory Barlog revealed that he doesn’t think it would be possible to compete with the open world games made by the likes of Ubisoft and Rockstar Games, which both use thousands of developers for their massive projects.

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We kept describing it as “wide linear.” 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.

Yeah, I think they [Rockstar] were closer to 4,000. We were 300, at peak. At the time I thought the 1,600 that Ubisoft had on Assassin’s Creed was a lot. To do these things, to do the complexity they have, you just need a lot of people. 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.

It’s an interesting take, particularly after another internal studio at Sony, Guerrilla Games, proved with Horizon: Zero Dawn that you don’t necessarily need thousands of people to make a great open world game.

Still, later in the interview, Barlog did highlight the importance of opening up God of War compared to previous installments even if it wasn’t a true open world design.

Once we started saying wide linear—I didn’t have a term for it. One of the level designers actually started saying that. That was a good way to describe it, because I kept saying, “not open world.” That’s the worst way to describe something, to say what it’s not. It’s better to give a good picture. It was hard for people to understand that, one, I wanted them to do work that might not be seen, which is a really hard thing to convince people about. “You worked hard on this, and 50 percent of players might not see it.” I think that’s okay, because that 50 percent might be told by their friend, “Did you find this?” “No way, you have to go over here to see that?”

That was my experience with Zelda. 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.

Would you like to see Cory Barlog and his team at Sony Santa Monica tackle a larger, fully open-world version of God of War next, or should they stick to the formula established with this game? Let us know in the comments.

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