By now you've seen the incredible God of War: Ascension multiplayer footage and if you are anything like us, you can't wait to get your hands on it. Last week during the unveiling of the title we caught up with the lead game designer of Ascension, Mark Simon. Simon worked on GoW II and III before Ascension and is extremely excited about the franchise and the genre. Check out our Q&A with him as he gives a lot of insight into what went into the title as well as what fans can expect when it finally hits shelves.
The God of War franchise gained its popularity as single player game. Is the team at all worried that the new multi-player in God of War: Ascension will overtake the single player campaign like what happens with most FPS's?
Not a chance in hell, because if that happens then what we did was right! Our single player is epic. Its bad ass. I came to work here because I played God of War, I played the single player and thought, "that is everything right with an action adventure game, I gotta be part of it."
When Todd [Papy] (Game Director) and I started working on this project, we felt that we needed to do something different. We're not going to do a Titan or a Pegasus; we're not doing any of that nonsense. This time around, lets give our players something that they've never had before. We're giving them the opportunity to play their friends or family members. Let them kick each other’s ass on the couch together. The minute they get the controller in their hand, fight each other, cut off a friend’s head and throw it off a cliff is the minute they know they are playing God of War multi-player.
Why a prequel and not GoW IV?
If you go back to God of War, there was a lot of stuff that you were told about Kratos before the game even really started. He was crazy, he was on a boat was yelling at the gods. There was a lot of interesting stuff that happened up until that point for us to go back to. We've got more to work with by starting at the beginning.
Speak a bit on the customization of playable characters.
Each one of the players has two different weapons. We've got swords and hammers, and each sword has a different skin. Swords and hammers are about the same in how they act but a different skin may give each weapon a different attack.
When you play any one of the existing fighting games you've got to understand who your character is based on the abilities. If you look at the eight characters that we were playing today, they were all configured differently so that they all had different abilities from one another.
Kratos is not one of the available characters in multiplayer because everyone would pick him. With so many characters available over the trilogy, how did you settle on which ones to make playable?
We went with Poseidon, Zeus and Hades because they are the three brothers and Aries because he has massive tie-in to the story. The way we looked at it on the design end was these are classifications of ability. Zeus is a magician. Aries is more of a warrior kind of character. Poseidon is more of a marine type and Hades is a necromancer. That is how you can start to see how the allegiances and weapons fit in to how you build your character.
The best part is once you start going down one path and you see that everyone is going with the same allegiance, in the next battle you can switch and go another way. That’s the freedom we allow the players to have and when you play with them you gain more favor with them, you get more ability and that way, the gameplay stays fresh.
Is building up your specific character going to be a big part of the replay value of the multiplayer?
Massive! You look at the map that you saw, which had a memorable thing about it. You remember the big beast.
And the spikes coming out of the floor.
Right, so the next time the beast will be there, the traps will be there. Maybe not the spikes coming out of the floor, maybe it’s a flame trap this time. Maybe the power ups where they were spawning are now spawning in a different place and the powers that come out of them are different as well.
As a designer, this is where my head is at. You play it once, twice or three times, you start to get more familiar and understand how the combat works. You start to get used to it and have fun with it. What’s going to get you to come back the 300th time is the progression of building your character up from soldier to gladiator. If you start to get showered with gifts from Hades and become their number one gladiator, you'll be coming back to maintain your status.
Has the team started working on other multi-player modes yet?
With the five to seven maps mentioned, how intricate do they get?
It was funny because the rest of the designers were in the back of the room going, "awww what, you don't tell them we've got five to seven maps." What he was saying was that’s the number of maps that we actually have in development right now. That's not it. No way in hell! I'm not going to get into numbers but that is the tip of the iceberg. We're not gonna only have five maps.
I'll tip my cap to the combat guys. Vincent and J (Jason McDonald, Lead Combat and Weapons Designer) are hardcore Street Fighter players and competitive fighters. It's one thing to take our single player campaign and recycle it, but does anyone really want to play that? We're already been there. What’s' cool about playing the single-player game through with Kratos is that every turn you go around there is something new. If you weren't doing that in co-op then why would we do it?
One of the things that we as a group got excited about is, when we're playing together and you launch a guy up into the air and I grab that guy out of the air and we take him down together, it felt good. When we're fighting against a creature and I hold that creature down and we can rip him in half together, that felt good. We want to do a lot of that. We're not going to do just the couple things you saw today, we're going to do a lot more of that. In the next couple months you are going to see more of that come out.
Is the engine that’s used for the multi-player modded out from the single-player or is it completely new?
We took the GoW engine and we made it work across the network. When we first started this deal we were prototyping stuff out and the designers were hacking shit like crazy. We scripted things and the programmers were like, "what the hell are you guys doing?" We were doing all kinds of shit that was not network safe.
What we've realized now is we gotta take a lot of things we were hacking and set it up now so that it works properly across the network. We've been spending a long time taking things that we take for granted in single-player and making it work for multi-player. The programmers are doing a great job of making that happen.
You guys spoke on a tutorial that will be available before gameplay. Is there a serious learning curve or will a person who has played GoW before, be able to jump in and play?
Here is what I hope. In the next couple months when we're able to meet up again, I can hand you a controller and me and you will fight each other and I guarantee you will kick my ass. And I've played this game a lot. Not because the learning curve is really steep--actually the move system is very shallow--It’s just the amount of complexity it goes to is very deep. In terms of how to do it, it’s not hard. Just in terms of how to mix things together and read my attacks versus your attacks, that’s complex.
Also, the tutorial at the beginning of multi-player is the story. When you create your guy, you're gonna learn about the relationship between these guys and the gods and what their tie-ins are. We're going to give back stories to each character about who they are and why they're doing what they're doing.
And this is fully integrated into a player signing on with their god and everything?
Yeah and that’s the difference between multi-player and single-player. In single, we lead you by the nose down our breadcrumb story. In Multi-player we can’t tell the story the same way but we're still going to tell a story.