After the incredible success of God of War in 2018, Ragnarok has seemed to surpass this. But what did this success cost the developers?
The God of War Ragnarok collector’s edition has already sold out just one day after release. As the Jotnar Edition is also almost impossible to get your hands on.
The fact that copies are hard to come by, coupled with all the raving reviews, shows how massive this game is. While this success is great for fans who love the series and Santa Monica Studios, who spent so much time perfecting the game, it only did so well because of how hard the developers had to work.
Going beyond the scope and success of God of War 2018 is no small feat, especially after the game surpassed 23 million copies sold earlier this year. The stakes were raised for Ragnarok, and it was all left up to the devs over at Santa Monica Studios to deliver a game that would step beyond its predecessor.
“It’s tough”, says game director Eric William. “The team's already kind of burned [out], and you're asking a lot of them at a place where they're already pretty fragile”.
But that didn’t stop the team from pulling out the stops daily, going above and beyond to ensure Ragnarok would be in its best shape. “I have probably played the game ten times since April, all the way through, and on every different setting we have”, says William.
It wasn’t just the pressure of living up to expectations that hit hard, but like many, Santa Monica Studios were thrown out of the norm by lockdown and forced to adapt to remote working.
“Working from home is a big wrinkle”, said William. “Wandering by somebody's desk and seeing something cool was dead”. Split up, the team found it hard to bounce off one another and make the most out of the creativity that comes with working in a group.
Not the first
“If I don't feel like I'm scared, like I'm literally gonna get fired every day because I screwed up”, said William. “I don't feel like I'm doing it right”. While this demonstrates the fantastic work effort and mentality you need to keep improving a game to the best of your ability, this isn’t far from the norm for many game devs.
Rockstar Studios was accused of intimidating employees working on Red Dead Redemption II into working unpaid overtime after Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser seemed to brag in an interview with Vulture about how “we were working 100-hour weeks”.
This interview was followed by a string of complaints from the spouses of the Rockstar San Diego employees. In an open letter, “if working conditions persist in deteriorating as employees are manipulated by certain hands that wield the reigns of power in Rockstar San Diego, " the spouses of employees will seek legal action.
This isn’t a stand-alone issue. CD Projekt Red employed a ‘crunch’ so the team could meet the delayed release schedule of Cyberpunk. At the same time, Naughty Dog has been accused of putting their employees under copious amounts of pressure to deliver on their AAA titles like Uncharted 4 or The Last of Us Part 1.
The reason I left is because I only want to work with the best. That is no longer Naughty Dog. Their reputation for crunch within LA is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project. As such we loaded up on film animators.March 12, 2020
None of this is to say Santa Monica Studios put their employees under ridiculous strain. Pushing beyond your boundaries to produce a game like God of War: Ragnarok is far from unusual. “Everybody wants to take a break, but really they're like, ‘We've got to start building’”, said William.
However, as players begin to expect more and more from AAA titles, the pressure is mainly placed at the feet of the developers to deliver on this, and fans should be aware of this.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.