The recently release God of War was in development for several years. For much of that time, the public knew nothing of its existence. Now that the game’s out and has received much deserved praise from critics and fans, we’re beginning to gain an understanding of God of War’s arduous development cycle. According to Creative Director Cory Barlog, much of the trouble stems from his desire to keep Kratos’ son, Atreus, entrenched in both the narrative and gameplay.
As Barlog told an audience at Devcom 2018, he and his team were persistently in doubt of whether or not the project would ever come together. Getting the code for Atreus to work as intended took three years. During this time, there were several instances when the character was nearly cut altogether.
The concept of Atreus scared a lot of people. It scared everyone on the team, it scared the executives, because I didn’t want to do just an additional character delivering narrative… They definitely thought it was too ambitious. I was like, ‘no, no, no, it’s going to be fine, don’t worry about it.’
Barlog and the Lead Programmer took a trip to Naughty Dog, who’d attempted to accomplish something similar with an Uncharted title. According to Barlog, the insight shared by the Uncharted developer wasn’t hopeful in the slightest. Naughty Dog, too, had difficulty in getting the mechanics down and ultimately abandoned the idea.
Still, the Creative Director persisted, despite encouragement from members of his team to cast Atreus aside. Barlog revealed the following:
[Atreus] was on the chopping block many times throughout the duration of this project. There was a point where Yumi Yang, the director of production, came to me and said I was going to have to start designing a game without Atreus… We couldn’t afford it, it was too big, too unknown, too many things we were trying to change.
I was very childish, and designed the most expensive arthouse game you’ve ever seen, which had Kratos saying three words throughout all of it. She realised what I was doing and said, ‘fine, fine, keep him.’
It’s a good thing they stuck it out. Atreus represents one of God of War’s strongest elements. Given the game’s surprising ending and epilogue, this character will no doubt prove a boon to the franchise going forward.