Lately, Sony has been increasingly open to bringing games to PC that were previously exclusive to PlayStation, and today’s release god of war is the most notable so far. One of Sony’s most significant franchises since the original game was released for the PS2 in 2005, all subsequent titles – a 2007 spin-off for mobile phones – have been locked to PlayStation hardware. Santa Monica Studios 2018 god of war is one of the most acclaimed games for the PS4 and is now available to a new audience for the first time.
I spent some time with the PC version and found it impressively well aligned with the platform, which isn’t always obvious. I spoke with Santa Monica’s senior technical production manager Matt DeWald and chief UX designer and accessibility leader Mila Pavlin to learn more about the process of god of war to pc.
“It was about two years ago that we decided to investigate whether it was possible,” says DeWald. “So the idea came from: Okay, let’s think if we can make a PC [port] – we have a custom engine, we haven’t actually released a PC game, let’s get it going and see what the issues are and how much work this will actually take. Santa Monica commissioned Jetpack Interactive, a Vancouver studio that had already worked on other internal collaborations, to determine the scope of the project, and it was eventually approved.
“They’re integrated into the team, so it’s not really your typical harbor house where we unload and throw something over the fence,” DeWald says of Jetpack. “They’re working from our codebases, they’re on our Teams channels and they’re communicating with our team, they’re part of our stand-ups.” Four engineers at Jetpack provided primary development for the port, with DeWald serving as the producer and other Santa Monica members such as Pavlin providing additional contributions.
“[PC players] want it to feel like it was built for the PC rather than being a port,” said Pavlin, who worked on the project’s UX and controls. “So a lot of the work we did in the beginning was about getting to those points on the graphics quality, making sure the graphics quality was up to standards and it was responsive to the PC platform and then making sure that the controls were customizable and felt good in the native configuration.”
I can’t talk to how god of war will, of course, run on everyone’s PC – and hypothetically, DeWald wouldn’t be drawn to how it will perform on the Steam Deck – but my experience with the game on a five-year-old machine has been positive. There are many graphics options and the performance is more or less in line with what I expected; I average about 50 frames per second on a 1440p ultrawide monitor with G-Sync, and that’s using a Skylake Core i5 processor and a GTX 1080 with a mix of settings. Each visual option can be run in “original” mode, which basically gives you PS4 level quality, and you can flip them up or down from there.
While you might not immediately consider it a good match, given its heritage as a console-based action game, god of war on PC can be played with mouse and keyboard controls, and the scheme is surprisingly well thought out. Actions like aiming and throwing Kratos’ ax will feel more natural if you’re used to playing FPS games with a mouse. Pavlin points out that the commands aren’t assigned one-to-one from the controller actions list – for example, on the PS4 you jump with the same context-sensitive button used to interact with the environment, but on PC the jump command is handled separately by the space bar, like most other PC games. There are also options like auto sprint, which can be more comfortable for many players. Personally, I’d still be tempted to use a controller, but I’ve beaten the game on the PS4 so I’m already used to it. For newcomers who only play on PC, the mouse and keyboard scheme is a thoughtful addition.
“I found it very comfortable to use, because that’s what I’m used to from my other games — I play a lot of PC games,” says Pavlin. “It feels like a very native and fun way to play the game. It changes the whole way you approach combat. I found that I could aim very easily with the mouse because the precision was so good that I could do things like take headshots and make sure I take out the dragon’s legs and do those precision shots that I might with a controller would be a bit more difficult or for which I would have to use an aim assist. So I do think there are benefits.”
Another strong addition to the PC version is support for 21:9 ultra-wide monitors (as well as the taller 16:10). This is more interesting for god of war than for other titles due to the game’s signature one-shot technique, where the camera essentially never cuts from the beginning to the end of the game. I wondered if expanding the field of view presented any problems in terms of revealing things that might not have been originally intended to appear on the screen.
“[The ultrawide support] revealed all the little hacks and cheats we used to put people in position or get someone to come in from off screen,” DeWald says. run through.” Cutscenes also sometimes had to be reframed to better match the rich content rendered by the engine in real time. The results are impressive – I never felt like anything seemed out of place, and Kratos’ AI-controlled son Atreus follows you as convincingly as he did on a 16:9 TV.
Unfortunately, though, you’ll have to play the game at ultra-wide resolution if you want a wider field of view, as there’s no conventional FoV slider. DeWald says it introduced bugs that the team has been unable to fix, with the game basing certain logic on what’s on or off-screen at any given time.
god of war wasn’t originally designed as a PC game, and the experience of going back and making it feel native to a platform has prompted Santa Monica Studio to re-examine the workflow. “The move into the PC space really got us thinking, not just about PC releases, but our entire pipeline,” says Pavlin. “So looking at how we make things more adaptable and adaptable from the get-go with the way we build our code base and our resources. If we know that we will have a large number of formats that we will go to or if we know that we will have to adjust the controls, then the programmers should actually do that very early in a project so that they can build the code base in a more flexible way .”
That also allows Santa Monica Studio to make its games more accessible, with Pavlin citing the example of how the way god of war was initially designed only with hard-coded PS4 controls in mind, causing a lot of work for the team to rethink its entry into PC. “This is very important, not only for PC ports, but you also move forward with accessibility and make sure you support additional control functions, controller customization or keyboard customization. And in future projects, we’ve learned key lessons here that we can use to actually design our games better to be more flexible for the future, to make it easier for everyone in the future.”
Santa Monica Studio is currently under development god of warthe sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, which will be released this year on the PS4 and PS5. There’s no word on whether it will ever come to PC, but Pavlin’s comments suggest that: god of war‘s PC port can positively affect even the console versions of Ragnarok. For now it is simply the best way to play the game and it is well worth checking out if you are a new or returning player.
god of war is out today on Steam and the Epic Games Store.