Thanks to SIE’s invitation, we participated in a group interview with Eric Williams, game director of Ragnarok, and talked about the growth of Kratos and Atreus in the new game, faster battle rhythm and customization options, new mythology The addition of characters, improvements in gameplay and UI, accessibility and optimizations for DualSense, and sources of inspiration for the development team.
Q: Ragnarok is the first work in the series (PS5 and PS4) across generations. How to ensure that the game experience of the two versions is equally good?
Eric Williams (hereinafter referred to as Eric):I just played the game for the third time on PS4 and it feels great, and I’m having a good time even though PS4 is a few years old. On the PS5, we took some time to make sure the experience was just as robust, thanks to improved graphics, DualSense’s haptic feedback and new features like adaptive triggers, 3D audio, and more. Due to the fast loading of the PS5, the loading response time of the game will be less than that of the previous game.
After I played on PS4, PS4 Pro, PS5, the experience on each platform is very good, it just depends on the player’s choice. Whether you want to experience 60fps on PS5 or go back to PS4, we want all fans to be able to play this game, which is why it’s coming to PS4 and PS5 at the same time.
Q: In this generation, Atreus has grown very clearly. From an obedient child to a very self-aware “God”. What considerations did the production team make when designing Atreus in Ragnarok?
Eric：At the end of the last work Atreus is still very young, everyone else is older than him, and he is also in the process of learning. Three years after the timeline of Ragnarok, Kratos has been training him, and he has grown into a stronger warrior, and a warrior with ideas. Kratos can sometimes be full of anger but Atreus is not, he is thoughtful and can make sharp judgments. We want to make the two of them equal. In the previous game, Kratos was basically taking care of Atreus, but this time you will see something different, like Atreus climbing on Kratos’ back. It’s past tense.
Although there is still a need to learn, Atreus no longer plays the role of listening all the time, he will ask questions and have his own point of view, this is the stage that all parents and children go through, you will see in this work into this interesting relationship. This contradictory presentation will also make people wonder whether he is Atreus or Loki.
Q: The changes of Kratos in the previous generation are obvious. Although it exudes more human brilliance, we can still feel a resolute and go his own way. God of war. But in Ragnarok, we often see Atreus commanding Kratos. Does this represent another layer of change in Kratos’ heart? How did the production team consider the setting of Kratos in this work?
Eric：Kratos is indeed a god of his own way, and we usually use the word “focus” to describe him. In previous games he was very focused on revenge because the gods killed his family. But before that he had other identities, he was a father, a husband, a commander of the army, and when you have those identities you can’t just be a furious monster.
Looking back to Northern Europe, in the relationship between Tong Fei and Atreus, his focus returned to the identity of “father”, which gave him more humanity. But his furious side is always there, and we’ll explore it again. This leads to an interesting question, would Kratos fall back to the way he was without Atreus? What kind of god would Atreus be without Kratos? Others need each other to maintain goodness, to maintain balance and learn how to maintain that relationship and make trade-offs. Players can explore this interesting interaction.
Q: The smoothness of actions in Ragnarok has improved compared to the previous game. For example, the movements such as climbing and jumping are more concise and fast. What kind of work have you done in this regard?
Eric：Of course, this also comes from the plot. In the last work, when Balder appeared on the doorstep, Kratos hadn’t experienced a battle for a long time, like a retired old man suddenly facing a challenge, his body felt like rust, but the rust quickly faded . And now Kratos has been training Atreus for the past three years, and his own form has returned. He’s back in combat mode and has to keep up with the young man’s rhythm. Just like when your kids run around you as you get older, you need to work hard to keep up with them. This is where the plot starts.
To this end, we have adjusted a lot of animations. This time Atreus is faster. If Kratos moves slowly, players will notice it, so adjustment is necessary. We want players to have more opportunities for self-expression and choice in the combat system, rather than waiting for a cooldown, to make Kratos’ combat more personal. There will be many considerations, and more options throughout the process. Everyone’s Kratos will be different as you progress through the game, but the story of what the father and son experience is the same.
Q: Compared with God of War (2018), the UI of Ragnarok is flatter, and the hierarchical logic of the menu is more intuitive. The last “God of War” focused on immersion, whether it was “one mirror” or UI design. What did you think about the design of the new work, and how is it reflected in the game?
Eric：I’m glad you guys can feel the progress on this, it’s always been a tough part. Sometimes when you’ve played a game for a long time and are already familiar with the design, other people may still be confused. The general design philosophy is to make everything feel seamless, whether it’s switching left and right, going in and out of menus, all the settings, options, games, weapons, what you see and hear.This is the part we are most concerned about
We also added some realism and color, expanding from the realm of video games to well-known physical objects, such as color from RBG before. But this time we used platinum, gold, silver, copper, and iron, just like everyone knows the material and color of Olympic medals, so that players can quickly understand. A button has also been added to the weapon menu this time, which can help players directly change to the best equipment. We try to meet the needs of different types of players for AI and convenience, if you don’t want too much trouble, just leave it to us. If you wish to dig deeper, you can also decide entirely for yourself.
Q: Compared with “God of War (2018)”, the plot rhythm of “God of War and Ragnarok” is obviously more urgent. In order to find a way to deal with Ragnarok, Kratos and his son embarked on the journey, but the game still includes A lot of sideline content, have the developers considered that this sideline may interfere with the rhythm of the main line?
Eric：Of course, the impact in this regard won’t be so great as to change the ending, but it does affect character strength. Advancing the main line will make your character stronger, but the side line will let you know more about the world and characters, for example, Mimir has his own story. So if you like our world and want to dig deeper, the path we provide is not an open world but “broad linear”, which means that the whole story is linear, and the path is wide enough that you can temporarily leave the main road and come back at any time. This is the player’s own choice. The important thing is that we don’t want to force the player to do anything, if you just want to advance the story, just keep going, if you feel the pace is too fast you can stop temporarily.
In the last work we sent a clear message that we cannot go back to the past. Just like Kratos, who was a witness to the war, knew the consequences of going to war, so he did everything he could to prevent it from happening. But Atreus was full of curiosity, and at the same time did not know the part of his bloodline that was a giant. Kratos also doesn’t know the identity of his wife, the giant, so he is also confused and unable to help his children. Controversial things about these things may be difficult to embody in combat because they have no substance, but emotions and feelings that are difficult to convey. We put those things on Kratos again and he needs to work harder. This is where the contradiction arises, and of course there will be a beautiful solution.
Q: What special designs have been made for the DualSense controller of PS5 in Ragnarok.
Eric：DualSense is a very important part, and we have always admired the upgrade of the handle’s touch to make the game world thicker. Even on the DualShock of PS2, PS3, PS4, players can touch the thumping experience with both hands. So we wrote a script for each of the PS4 and PS5 to utilize both generations of controllers in the best possible way. There’s a lot of great technology being used in cinema right now, like collecting the fluctuations in audio and translating that into the PS5’s haptic sense, it’s going to be a great experience. At the same time, there is also a special person to manually debug the tactile sensation, so that the whole experience is just right. Overall, both the procedural and manual aspects are guaranteed to be a great experience with both DualSense and Dualshock.
Q: Compared with the previous work, this auxiliary function can be said to be a comprehensive upgrade. There are many options that can be adjusted and are very detailed. What motivates you to do this? When designing these auxiliary functions, what needs of players will be mainly considered? What experience do you most want to improve?
Eric：Because Kratos is better, we should be better ourselves. When the Ragnarok project started, accessibility was already on the table. Some of them will be simple, like text size, but then we want to overcome all kinds of different hurdles to get as many players as possible to experience the title.
Such as navigation in high-contrast mode, and fully customizable controller keys. There is no “God of War” with similar functions before, because we are an action game, it is actually quite difficult to move the keys, after all, factors such as combos have to be considered. But everything that can be done is added and tested. We listened to the player community and invited them to join the test. There’s also a collaboration with our friends at Sony Europe, who have a huge booklet full of things to consider about accessibility.
It’s something the whole team needs to think about, because we want more people to play the game. There were even blind players who made it to the Wetlands without help during the demo, and we’re glad that some players enjoyed it. Even the previous trailers, we will always provide the sound version, these future will be integrated into the DNA of Santa Monica, always in mind, for players.
Q: In terms of the plot, this work has a lot of important characters in mythology. Is there anything you can share about the design of these well-known characters?
Eric：There will be characters like Sol that everyone is looking forward to, and there will be some surprises, but I don’t want to spoil things because many characters haven’t appeared yet. But in the end, it will return to the core story, to show the close father-son relationship between Kratos and Atreus, or to reflect this from characters such as Mimir. There are other families in the game, like Freya and her sons Baldr, Thor and Odin, who died in the previous games, and other interesting characters who also have families of their own.
Together, these characters** come together to present the theme of “the family of origin and the family of your choice”. How to be a real family What do they mean to you? What are you willing to fight for them? So we chose the characters based on the story background, because forcing them in would confuse players, and we always wanted them to be connected to the core story.
Q: “Twilight of the God of War” is the end of the Nordic chapter. The two Nordic “God of War” are full of the feeling of “desolation” and “twilight”. There are still many players who miss the old God of War’s pure pursuit of passion and refreshment. Sensational heroic epic story. Can players expect a “Return of Heroes” story?
Eric：I’m not very clear about this for the time being. At present, my studio keeps the current team in excellent shape, and I’m not very clear about future plans. You might have to ask Cory Barlog (former director of God of War), he might know more.
Q: It is not easy to design such a grand game. Did you get inspiration from other works of art?
Eric：I can say this for an entire day, like in 2018 the whole team traveled to Iceland and collected inspiration. We also read tons of films and got inspiration from every artist, animator we worked with. Of course, there are also games. Everyone is a game fan and plays a lot, even from board games. There seems to be some magic in this studio that holds them together, and our inspiration comes from everywhere because even though everyone is working on one goal, the members of this studio come from all over the world with different ideas.
Once you start to discover the connections between these inspirations, the journey becomes interesting. Even putting a real rock into the game is a magic that makes it part of the fantasy world. It’s like one of our animators went dog sledding, and when people saw this video, they decided to move on the lake in the game in a different way. These real-world experiences, the game-world experiences, all come together in the end. There have been so many sparks of inspiration over the past four years, with hundreds of members working hard to create this fantastic experience for players. It also feels unreal at times when it’s done, but I’m glad it did.
Q: After playing the first and middle stages of this game, I feel that the overall volume is very large. For example, the explorable parts and branch lines in the map are very rich in content. Can the production team reveal how much larger this game is in terms of the overall scale of the game compared to the previous game?
Eric：I’m also not sure if there’s a specific number to quantify it, because everyone’s game pace is different. I’m sure the game is bigger, how much bigger depends on how you play and how difficult it is. If you choose to be very difficult and die many times then you will have more time. But our purpose is not just bigger.
Mainly to tell the story we wanted to tell, and to make that happen, the game was scaled up because adventures to new lands required new characters. We have never been big for the sake of being big, that is wrong and will ultimately lead to bad results. It’s all in the service of the story, the places you want to go, the characters you want to touch. People worry about things like length of the game, but in the end it’s about doing well or not.
Q: As a continuation of the previous game, Ragnarok, how to add enough changes to make players feel that this is a new chapter? How did these changes come about in terms of game development?
Eric ：It’s kind of hard, because there needs to be a coherence in the story, so something needs to be consistent, but with a lot of new developers coming in, of course there’s going to be something new. So we want it to be familiar and fresh.
In terms of gameplay, as long as you play Ragnarok, you won’t want to go back to the previous work, and even hope that the previous work will be like the new one. We went to great lengths to optimize things like menus, navigation, faster Kratos and more. And the story itself continues. On the whole, they are still adjusted in a positive direction. It is unreasonable to reform each game from scratch, and even a lot of talents will be lost because of this. The best work requires a good foundation from the past, which is what we always do. I believe this work is just as good.Return to Sohu, see more