Thursday, January 27, 2022

How God of War’s impressive PC port came to life

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Lately Sony has been more and more open to placing beforehand PlayStation-exclusive video games on PC, and immediately’s launch of God of War is essentially the most notable but. One of Sony’s premier franchises because the unique sport was launched for the PS2 in 2005, all subsequent titles — a 2007 spinoff for cell phones apart — have been locked to PlayStation {hardware}. Santa Monica Studio’s 2018 God of War is one of essentially the most acclaimed video games for the PS4, and now it’s out there to a brand new viewers for the primary time.

I’ve spent a while with the PC model and located it to be impressively well-tailored to the platform, which isn’t at all times a given. I spoke with Santa Monica’s senior supervisor of technical manufacturing Matt DeWald and lead UX designer and accessibility lead Mila Pavlin to discover out extra in regards to the course of of bringing God of War to PC.

“It was about two years ago that we decided to look into whether it was possible,” DeWald says. “So the idea came down of like, Okay, let’s let’s think about whether we could do a PC [port] — we have a custom engine, we haven’t actually released a PC game, let’s get it up and running and just see what are the issues that we’re going to have and how much work is this going to actually take.” Santa Monica tasked Jetpack Interactive, a studio in Vancouver that had already been engaged on different inside collaborations, with determining the scope of the challenge, and in the end it obtained authorized.

“They’re integrated into the team, so they’re not really a typical port house where we offload something and throw it over the fence,” DeWald says of Jetpack. “They’re working out of our code bases, they’re on our Teams channels and they’re communicating with our team, they’re part of our standups.” Four engineers at Jetpack dealt with main growth of the port, with DeWald serving as producer and different Santa Monica members like Pavlin making extra contributions.

“[PC players] want it to feel like it was built for the PC rather than being a port,” says Pavlin, who labored on the challenge’s UX and controls. “So a lot of the work that we did early on was about hitting those points on the graphic quality, making sure that the graphics quality were up to standards and that it was responsive on the PC platform and then making sure that the controls were customizable and felt good in the native configuration.”

I can’t converse to how God of War will run on everybody’s PC, of course — and as a hypothetical, DeWald wouldn’t be drawn on the way it’ll carry out on the Steam Deck — however my expertise with the sport on a five-year-old machine has been optimistic. There are lots of graphical choices and efficiency has been roughly in keeping with what I’d count on; I common about 50 frames per second on a 1440p ultrawide monitor with G-Sync, and that’s utilizing a Skylake Core i5 processor and a GTX 1080 with a combination of settings. Each visible choice could be run in “original” mode, which principally offers you PS4-level high quality, and you’ll crank them up or down from there.

While you won’t instantly assume of it as a great match given its heritage as a console-based motion sport, God of War on PC could be performed with mouse and keyboard controls, and the scheme is surprisingly nicely thought out. Actions like aiming and throwing Kratos’ axe, for instance, really feel extra pure should you’re used to enjoying FPS video games with a mouse. Pavlin factors out that the instructions aren’t mapped one to one from the checklist of controller actions — for instance, on the PS4 you bounce with the identical context-sensitive button that’s used to work together with the surroundings, however on PC the bounce command is dealt with individually by the house bar, like most different PC video games. There are additionally choices like auto-sprint, which could be extra comfy for a lot of gamers. Personally, I’d nonetheless lean towards utilizing a controller, however I’ve completed the sport on the PS4 so I’m already used to it. For newcomers who solely play on PC, the mouse and keyboard scheme is a considerate addition.

“I found it very comfortable to use because I’m used to that from my other games — I play a lot of PC games,” Pavlin says. “It feels like a very native and fun way to play the game. It kind of changes up the whole way that you approach combat. I found that I was able to target very easily using the mouse because the precision was so good that I was able to do things like get headshots and make sure that I’m, you know, knocking out the legs of the dragon and doing those precision shots that maybe with a controller I would find a little bit more difficult or have to use an aim assist for. So I do think that there’s advantages to it.”

Another robust addition to the PC model is assist for 21:9 ultrawide screens (in addition to the taller 16:10). This is extra attention-grabbing for God of War than it may be for different titles as a result of of the sport’s signature one-shot method, the place the digicam basically by no means cuts from the start to the top of the sport. I questioned whether or not increasing the sphere of view introduced any challenges in phrases of revealing issues that possibly weren’t meant to be on-screen initially.

“[The ultrawide support] revealed all the little hacks and cheats we were using to kind of move people into position or have somebody come on from off-screen,” DeWald says. “They might not be fully animated. So that was a manual process that required just kind of going through the entire game.” Cutscenes, too, typically had to be reframed to higher match the expanded content material that’s being rendered by the engine in actual time. The outcomes are impressive — I by no means felt like something regarded out of place, and Kratos’ AI-controlled son Atreus follows together with you simply as convincingly as he did on a 16:9 TV.

Unfortunately, although, you’ll want to run the sport at ultrawide decision if you’d like a wider discipline of view, as a result of there isn’t a standard FoV slider. DeWald says it launched bugs that the staff didn’t have time to repair, with the sport basing sure logic on what’s on- or off-screen at a given second.

God of War wasn’t initially designed as a PC sport, and the expertise of going again and making it really feel native to a platform has prompted Santa Monica Studio to reexamine its workflow. “Moving into the PC space really got us to think, not just about PC releases, but also our entire pipeline,” Pavlin says. “So looking at how we make things more adjustable and customizable from the get-go with the way that we’re building our code base and our assets. If we know that we’re going to have a large range of formats that we’re going to move into or we know that we’re going to need to have control customization, the programmers actually need to know that very early on in a project so that they can build the code base in a way that’s more flexible.”

That will even enable Santa Monica Studio to assist make its video games extra accessible, with Pavlin citing the instance of how the best way God of War was initially solely designed with hard-coded PS4 controls in thoughts brought on lots of work for the staff to rethink its inputs on PC. “This is very important not just for PC ports, but also you’re moving forward with accessibility and making sure that you are supporting additional control functions, controller customization, or keyboard customization. And in future projects, we’ve learned those key lessons here that we can take into actually designing our games better for them to be more flexible for the future, to make it easier on everyone going forward.”

Santa Monica Studio is at present creating God of War’s sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, which is about to be launched on the PS4 and PS5 this 12 months. There’s no phrase on whether or not it’ll ever make it to the PC, however Pavlin’s feedback counsel that God of War’s PC port might have a optimistic influence on even the console variations of Ragnarok. For now, it’s merely one of the simplest ways to play the sport and nicely price testing whether or not you’re a brand new or returning participant.

God of War is out on Steam and the Epic Games Store immediately.

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