God of War is an incredible, incredible game- but it is also a game that wears its influences on its sleeve. If you play through it, you can, for instance, easily see how its UI was inspired very clearly by Horizon‘s, or how thematically, it seems to follow in the footsteps of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that! Those are great games, and it is good that God of War imbibes their strengths. But it does raise the question- exactly how much sharing is there of ideas and technology between Sony’s first party studios?
Speaking to GamingBolt in an exclusive interview, God of War director Cory Barlog mentioned that Sony Worldwide Studios engage in a lot of tech and ideas sharing, each studio learning from the others.
“Oh, as much as we have time, we’re always talking to each other,” Barlog said. “For the UI specifically, we looked at tons of games, you know, like Destiny, Battlefield. There are so many different games, and each one of them handles this in a different way. So we can go, “Oh, that’s interesting, we should look at how they work around this”. “Oh, that’s cool, look at how they did that well”. It inspired the things we don’t know very well. We found other games like this where they had things like many layered menus and a crafting system. And this was our first time doing this, so it’s not perfect, there are many improvements we can make on it.
“I think that’s the best part of working at Sony right now, I have access to all these incredible developers. I am able to talk to people over at Sucker Punch, Guerrilla, Insomniac, Naughty Dog. And we are open because we are all part of this connected family. There’s very few people I am not able to talk to in the Sony first party family, and get inspired by their actual process and detail. And that’s the kind of thing we sort of lost as we became owned by corporations-as developers, we don’t get to share as much, everything is proprietary and involving secrets. GDC is no longer the thing where everyone is like “hey, let me show you that code, that shows you exactly how I solved this rendering issue problem”.
“We’re starting to see a little bit more of that, but within Sony, we have these things called Creative Share Weeks, with several developers, where we send our developers to their studios for a week, and they send theirs to ours for a week. And they get a desk, they’re working on the game. And then at the end of the week, they give us a sort report card of, “hey, we solve problems like this, you solve them like this. Hey, your way is better” or “our way is better, and let me show you why”. And that kind of sharing is born is amazing, that is something that is truly born out of this creative thing. We are better because we share.”
Barlog also discussed the Naughty Dog and The Last of Us comparisons that have been thrown the way of God of War since its reveal two years ago, admitting that it is not a comparison that bothers him, but rather one that validates the work that he does.
“The thing with The Last of Us, is, for me, I think a lot of people mean it as a dig, which I’ve never really understood,” he said. “Like, “oh, you’re just doing your own Last of Us”, so, o-Kay. One, I am incredibly inspired by Neil and his team, they are absolutely otherworldly with their abilities and how talented they are and how much they bring to and elevate the medium. And I think to me, I would love to be considered as somebody alongside, or even within the proximity of someone who helped elevate the work that we do. Help make people see the work we do in a different light. So I will never ever be bothered by the fact that we are being compared to The Last of Us, because I think it’s truly a watershed moment in our industry. So to be considered in the same vein as that is fantastic. But I think it shortsells any idea when you say there’s a similar part to something else, like “aw man, The Avengers is ripping off Batman. You’ve got people running around in outfits”. Of course, there are outfitted people and there’s superhero stuff, but it’s not just ripping off Batman.
“I think we’re all inspired by each other. We’re all riffing on each other. At the end of the day, every one of us is ripping off stories from the Greeks and from the Bard, and from everything. There’s nothing new, even “new” is inspired by something. We’re all, either consciously or unconsciously, we’re inspired. I think that’s a good thing.”
I absolutely agree with him on both counts, obviously- there is no such thing as an original story, all stories have been told, it is just how you tell a story that sets yours apart- and on that front, Barlog has already broken ground with God of War.
As for sharing ideas and technology with other developers at Sony Worldwide Studios, Barlog is right there too- once upon a time, programming was a hackers’ hobby, and hackers used to share with each other freely. While that has been lost in the modern corporate world, it is heartening to hear that some of that at least remains alive and well within Sony Worldwide Studios.