God of War Director Admits He Couldn’t Compete With Rockstar on an Open-World Game

When I first started exploring the Lake of Nine in God of War, I was tempted to celebrate the fact that Santa Monica was attempting an open-world God of War. Early in the review process, however, Sony PR admonished me to stay away from the words “open-world,” and reminded me that God of War is really “wide linear.” It’ a term we’re hearing repeated now from God of War Director Cory Barlog in a new interview with GamesBeat.

Barlog admitted that an open-world God of War is not something he and his team at Santa Monica Studio were prepared to tackle. The team simply didn’t have the resources to pull it off. Barlog noted,

We kept describing it as wide linear. I was adamant that we couldn’t make an open-world game. The cost of entry and the expectation level is so high that we’d never compete. We just don’t have the infrastructure and the systems. I don’t want to do that.

After playing the game, it might be hard to imagine a studio restricted by limited resources or manpower. Many consider it a cinematic marvel from beginning to end. This is despite the size of Barlog’s team, and not because of it. He revealed in the interview that his team, at its peak, was about 300 members strong. Compare that to Rockstar Games and Ubisoft, companies that produced the two open-world games everyone was talking about in 2018: Red Dead Redemption 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Barlog said,

Yeah, I think [Rockstar] were closer to 4,000. At the time I thought the 1,600 that Ubisoft had on Assassin’s Creed was a lot. To do these things, to do the complexity they have, you just need a lot of people. For us, not only do we not want to invest in that aspect of it, but to me the world needed to feel large, and not empty, but with surprising moments of discovery.

It is strange hearing the man who directed the 2018 Game of the Year say that God of War couldn’t compete in the open-world space. Those who play the game can now appreciate the scope and breadth of the project for what it is, while acknowledging what makes games like Red Dead and Assassin’s Creed so appealing in their own way.