Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Posted by Tony Huynh.
While I was not the Main Hero designer for God of War III, that honor belongs to Jason McDonald, I do have some insight into the new enhancements to the combat system in God of War III that I’d like to let you guys in on.
QTEs (Quick-Time Events)
Here is a little explanation on how we attempted to improve our QTEs, or as we refer to them internally, Context Sensitive Moments. For God of War III we attempted to remove the clutter away from the center of the screen to give the player an unobstructed view of the action. To do this we made two improvements to the QTEs. The first thing we did was move the button prompts for the QTEs to the edges of the screen to correspond with the button placement on the PlayStation controller’s layout.
• Triangle appears at the top of the screen
• Square appears on the left side of the screen
• X appears at the bottom of the screen
• Circle appears at the right side of the screen
The second key improvement from previous God of War titles and even God of War III’s demo that you should notice is that along the edges of the screen there are a series of white flashes that accompany the button prompts. This was specifically designed to take advantage of the way the human eye works to make QTEs more intuitive. A little scientific explanation to follow, you’ve been warned.
The human eye is made up of rods and cones. The rods are more sensitive than the cones, but are unable to discern color. The rods are also concentrated on the edge of the retina. The flashes on the periphery of the screen are designed to be picked up by the rods and help the player to quickly determine the appropriate button prompt while not having to shift focus away from the center of the screen.
Article on rods and cones.
With these improvements to the QTEs, we found that players could focus on the center of the unobstructed screen (where the action is) and intuitively pick up which button input was necessary to succeed in the QTE.
New Weapons That Players Want to Use
We used a multi-prong assault to address the fact that most players in our previous games have doggedly refused to use any weapon besides the default blades. The following is the list of changes designed to promote the use of other weapons by the player.
1. Increased orbs to make weapons easier to upgrade
We purposely gave players more red orbs (experience) than in the past in an effort to encourage players to be less reluctant to experiment and upgrade other weapons in their arsenal.
2. Tied magic to weapons
We tied the magic to the weapons so that there would be greater incentive to switch weapons to use different magic. In addition, this helped us streamline the controls and remove the redundancy of the separate weapon and magic system that was in previous God of War titles.
3. Made on-the-fly weapon switching accessible
This was the most important change in my opinion. We put the weapon selection on the directional pad where the player could easily switch their weapon on the fly. The other addition is L1 + X also cycles weapons and produces a new attack. These two mechanics made weapon switching much less cumbersome.
4. Nemean Cestus
We purposely made the Nemean Cestus overpowered to ensure that players used something besides the default blades.
5. Hades’ Hooks
Reasons to use the Hade’s Hooks.
o The single most powerful magic is the Centaur Soul summon.
o Gorgon Soul summon is useful as well.
6. Nemesis Whip
Reasons to use the Nemesis Whip
• Builds combo meter fast
• Titan mode (Blade of Olympus) meter builds up fast
• Enemies drop orbs on occasion when hit by the Nemesis Whip
• Easy air juggles
Regarding the Hades’ Hooks and Nemesis Whip, I think a byproduct of having weapons that look similar to the traditional blades is that it entices people to put them to use more often.
7. Made enemies that require a specific weapon to defeat
Siren’s require the Helios’ Head to make vulnerable. The shield carrying grunts require the Nemean Cestus to defeat. These design choices were made all in the hope that we could entice players to mix up their weapon usage routines.
New Items and Item Meter
We added a self-recharging item meter and tied it to the following weapons, Apollo’s Bow, Hermes’ Boots and Helios’s Head.
We found that players in previous God of War titles were largely ignoring items like the bow because it was tied to the Magic meter. Players tended to horde their magic for really difficult fights and bosses. To combat this we added a self-recharching item meter. This opened up the combat system, as players were no longer limited by their magic while also giving the combat designers a way to limit and balance the use of these weapons.
In my opinion, the Hermes’ Boots and the ability to Air Evade is the single greatest new addition to the game. I personally rely on this mechanic constantly and don’t know how I ever got along without it.
The combat grapple is an important new addition to Kratos’ repertoire. The combat grapple makes the combat in God of War III a bit more accessible to players as it allows the player to more easily string together combos and worry less about player positioning to maintain combos.
Pro tip: Using the combat grapple against Wraiths that are underground pulls them out.
This is another new combat feature that puts a different twist on encounters. The areas we struggled were to make the creature feel responsive while selling that the player is indirectly controlling the creature through attacks. This was a tough balancing act, but I think the final product succeeded.
Our switch from the PS2 to the PS3 has allowed us to greatly increase the number of enemies that the player faces at any given time. Now we are able to have the player fight up to 50 enemies at once.
We wanted the player to be actively engaged and making decisions during combat. One way we did that was to encourage the player to decide which enemy to deliberately target during a combat engagement. For instance, if the player is fighting a group of enemies and one of them happens to be a Gorgon, he can decide to focus on the Gorgon and kill her first and unleash an area effect stone blast to dispatch the other enemies. The Siren works off of a similar concept.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about the framerate. Framerate directly applies to combat because it affects how a responsive a game feels. The game runs at 45+ frame rate for the most part and in my experience anything 45+ is hard to distinguish from 60. In other words, what we noticed is that the difference from 30 to 45 fps is tremendous, but the difference from 45 to 60 is not as discernible. So, wherever we could we tried to keep the frame rate close to 45. The God of War III’s framerate on the PS3 is at least on par with God of War II’s on the PS2. God of War III shouldn’t have any screen tearing (which is an improvement over GoW2) and the new motion blur we are using masks the variable framerate very well.
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