Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The End Begins ..... no, for real now.

Its been a couple of weeks since GOW2 came out in the US. This is my favorite comment on it so far. Its the one I am going to frame anyway! Its from Penny Arcade in case anyone didn't know.

Its also started up some thoroughly fascinating debates, absolutely the best of which is this on the Newsweek Blog of N'Gai Croal.

Its very interesting watching your own game get critiqued, which is what the best reviews are about. I used to absolutely hate English Lit at school where they made us study Shakespeare or Charles Dickens. I enjoyed some of the books, just not the over the top dissection that was necessary for good grades. I was always convinced that we were being made to read far more intentions into the writer and his motivations than he had when he was writing the book in the first place. Now I am not saying that GOW is like Shakespeare or Dickens, but its probably the closest I am ever gonna get, so bear with me. Being on the other end of it, I guess I can see merits in it when its as well written as N'Gai and Stephens critique. In some cases they know us better than we know ourselves. I have to conclude that they are both right about us.

Stephens point was that we played it safe, didn't break enough new ground, didn't have the same emotional depth of character as the first game. N'Gai's retort can be summarized as the game was more of the same but with better 'construction' and pacing. But he thinks that this is still an advance and who cares if you are having fun.

At the start of God of War 2 we had a meeting of the Leads on the team where we were asked the question of whether we wanted to do a 'mission pack' or a true sequel. I argued strongly for a true sequel as did some of the others and that is the direction we ultimately took. Everything is an evolution though, especially when you are making a sequel. We definitely took into account the critiques of God of War 1 when working out what we were doing for 2. Bosses, game length, re-playability etc. Then there are the confines that you force upon yourself to keep it finishable. We knew we couldn't re-write the tech that we had to choose carefully what to add making sure we didn't break what worked already. The character was established and the fans of the franchise have expectations, for all the work on the technology, I sure didn't envy Cory's job of following up the story of the first. But I thought the reveal of the identity of the narrator and some of the cutscenes of the Titan war were pretty compelling stuff. In the end, its my opinion that we did end up with a more perfected version of God of War, better paced, better art, more combat depth and replayability. But I am acutely aware, and I know I am not alone in this, that we are going to need to do something pretty fucking cool on PS3. Its looking like we will get to make the trilogy that we always wanted to, we are 2 games into making something I am very proud of and I'm excited at the prospect of the 3rd.

And just for some counterpoint, my favorite troll review from Metacritic, he gave us a 3/10. I wonder what games he thinks are worth 8 or 9?

While GamesTM have sold out to the mighty pound signs, Edge keep their reviews real and to be brutally honest this game is shite! Not Americas most wanted territory, but after the initial qualities the game throws at you its plain downhill after that. Seriously gameplay has moved on from this dog turd, pity Sony haven't realized it!

PAL 50/60Hz, Tearing, 480P etc

This is just a quick post to answer an issue I keep seeing come up on various message boards and now in some comments. Its in regards to some mistaken perception that a game runs 'slower' in PAL than NTSC.

This post is a comment on my previous entry :-

Why o why couldn't you guys leave a 60 Hz mode in the game for us PAL users? It makes me so fkn pissed of that our version is over 17% slower than the NTSC one.

And the big problem is that there's no way to import the game because I don't have a credit card.

Is it really that hard to include a 60 Hz mode. I know you have to work hard because of all the arrogant Europeans refusing to use the english language but is it reallt THAT impossible? The GoW series is ruined for me because of this simple reason.

In God of War NTSC we use what is known as a variable frame rate. It runs at 60 fps as much as possible but if there is too much going on on-screen, it gracefully drops the frame rate. However one second in game time still lasts one second in the real world as we dynamically adjust how much to increment the game clock for every frame. This frame rate dropping is also what causes the tearing. Tearing is worst when the game is almost, but not quite running at full frame rate. We decided this was better than switching between 30 and 60, a contentious decision but I am 100% sure its the right one for the play experience.

On the PAL version we make the game run at 50 Frames Per Second. But every second in the game still lasts a second. It doesn't run slower at all. I am not sure where you got that impression, probably from the boards? If you compared them side by side, they would look identical. Actually the PAL version would look a bit prettier since the NTSC standard is crap at doing RED, it bleeds out. But anyone playing the game would not do it faster on either version.

One other subtle advantage of running in PAL is that you actually get less screen tearing, since the game has slightly longer (1/50 sec vs 1/60) to prepare each frame. And finally the screen resolution for PAL is slightly higher than NTSC to satisfy the PAL TV standard.

The main reason we don't include a switch to make the game be playable at 50 or 60 fps, is that we specially convert all the movies to work at 50 FPS (Actually 25 in an MPEG vs 30 in the US) In order to make everything look as good as possible, we render the movies out at 50 fps to make sure they will look as good as possible on PAL TV's. We also have special versions of the Normal and Widescreen movies that are compressed from full resolution source material, so we reduce the artifacts of the compression wherever possible. Believe me we are really anal retentive about this stuff. Probably way more than we need to be.

Finally there is 480P. I know that a lot of people get pissed about this one as well. The reasons we don't do it on the PAL version are connected to the stuff above. There is no PAL 480P definition that I am aware of. 480P calls for running at 60 HZ. This means that we would have to include, or convert in real-time, the movies to run at 60. That would effect the quality of the MPEGS too much to be acceptable for the vast majority of people who will not play in 480P.

So sorry if you feel like you are getting a bum deal, if you consider less screen tearing, higher render resolutions, 6 languages etc as being bad!