With God of War finished on PS3, Sony Santa Monica dares to dream about PS4

"If you give us enough time and you give us those specs, we will blow you away."

Editor's note: If you've come here looking for our God of War: Ascension review and are wondering where it is, it will be slightly delayed. Due to technical difficulties we haven't yet been able to test the multiplayer portion of the game to our satisfaction. We're working to resolve this and we'll bring you a complete review as soon as we can. In the meantime, enjoy this interview with the devs.

With God War: Ascension's release this month bringing to an end the brutal action game's run on the PlayStation 3, developer Sony Santa Monica can dare to dream about the next God of War game on the just announced PlayStation 4.

"We're going to be able to show a lot more, right?" lead game designer Mark Simon told Eurogamer.

"If you give us enough time and you give us those specs, we will blow you away. Our team's pretty good."

Sony shocked many when it announced the PS4 would include a whopping 8GB or RAM. Eurogamer's already spoken to the development community about the PS4's specs, and most are enthusiastic about the extra horsepower.

So is Santa Monica Studio, Sony's huge, 150-200 person Los Angeles-based first-party team responsible for the God of War series and the production of other PlayStation-exclusives, including PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, The Unfinished Swan and Journey.

"Well, the hardware itself has 16 times the memory we had on the previous console," Simon continued. "The hardware takes a lot of the shackles off in terms of visuals."

But those anxious to see the next-gen God of War in action shouldn't hold their breath - Simon confirmed the God of War development team's focus is squarely on Ascension, the first title in the series to feature multiplayer.

"To me [the PS4] is imagination land," he said. "We haven't touched it. We're not even concentrating on it. All we're concentrating on is we know we release in a week. I imagine we're going to be on our forums talking to players about the stuff they're experiencing in multiplayer and trying to address that stuff immediately. We're going to have half of our team ready to go for that stuff.

If you give us enough time and you give us those specs, we will blow you away

God of War lead game designer Mark Simon

"We're going to continue to tune and balance and create new content. We still get to think about and imagine how cool it would be, but we're still working on this game on the PS3."

Talking of the PS3, the PS4 announcement has drawn attention away from Sony's current-generation console in recent weeks, but Simon reminded gamers that a number of eye-catching exclusives are due out this year.

These include God of War, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, Quantic Dream's Beyond, Japan Studio's Puppeteer and, potentially, Polyphony's Gran Turismo 6.

"It's cool for fans," Simon said. "I'd be excited if I was a PS3 owner because, I'd know Sony is not just leaving me hanging or waiting until the next-gen comes out, that they're still kicking out really awesome games for me.

"There's the future, and you're like, oh cool! But there's a whole spring, summer and fall to get through."

With the release of Ascension, God of War has found itself, once again, fulfilling the role of a showcase PlayStation exclusive released at the end of a console life cycle.

This happened before with God of War 2, which released on PlayStation 2 just a few months after the launch of the PlayStation 3 in Japan and the US. And now, we have Ascension, which releases half a year before the PS4.

Is this part of some grand design, or is it fate?

"It's like Kratos finishing off a god, you know what I mean?" Simon laughed. "It's like he's putting the final touches on the console or something."

I'd be excited if I was a PS3 owner because, I'd know Sony is not just leaving me hanging or waiting until the next-gen comes out, that they're still kicking out really awesome games for me

Simon said that Santa Monica Studio was able to squeeze even more performance gains out of the PS3 - despite being told it had maxed out the console with the release of God of War 3 in 2010.

"When we were done with God of War 3 people were saying, 'they've got everything out of the PS3 in terms of how it can look and they've squeezed every little bit out of it they possibly could.' But then, we get to do another project on PS3, and we gave ourselves all these new challenges we're going to try to do for this project.

"So we re-write our renderer to make it a little bit faster. We take our lighting scheme and we change it so we can get more colours out of it. We can make it a little bit faster as well. We change the layering system so the worlds look less polygonal. The artists can actually paint up to three layers in the world.

"We added an avatar system which, based on the weapon you wield, will change the animations you have. It gives you three different sets of head, upper chest and lower body, and changes the armour pieces out. We had a crazy system to do that.

"We had IK (inverse kinematic) animation blending. And then on top of all that we re-write our game code underneath so it will work across the network. We never had to worry about that before.

"God of War 3 didn't have any of this stuff in it. God of War: Ascension has all this stuff in it. And they said this has tapped out the PS3."

According to Simon, Santa Monica will never truly be able to max out the PS3 because, given enough time and resources, iteration will always lead to improvements.

"It's funny. In my head right now I'm like, oh yeah, we totally had to have tapped it out. But I bet you, if you gave us the same hardware, and you gave us another two or three years we would find more stuff to try to extract out of the PS3.

"What ends up happening is the hardware is incredible and allows you to do an amazing amount of things, but the team at Sony Santa Monica is so creative and technically gifted that if you give them enough time to do something and just let them go, they will find new things to innovate in and they will find new things to make awesome."

In my head right now I'm like, oh yeah, we totally had to have tapped it out. But I bet you, if you gave us the same hardware, and you gave us another two or three years we would find more stuff to try to extract out of the PS3

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