God of War Ragnarok: Cory Barlog and Eric Williams on Changing Directors, Why Williams Was Right for the Role

God of War 2018 shook up the franchise dramatically – as each 2018’s director Cory Barlog and God of War Ragnarok’s Director Eric Williams put it, that recreation tore the home all the way down to its studs, solely so they may construct it again up once more.

That radical reimaging of what Kratos’ journey might be is one Barlog directed and shepherded via to its acclaimed launch, and although he had grand plans for the sequence, as he told us in our God of War spoilercast, he is not directing Ragnarok. Williams, a veteran of the franchise who has been concerned with it in some kind or one other since 2004 throughout many of its entries, is now sitting in the director’s chair. In talking with each Barlog and Williams following Ragnarok’s first gameplay reveal, although, it is clear not solely how integral Williams has been to the entirety of this new period of God of War, and how a lot he understands the accountability of main the cost.

“I’ve been with the studio a long time, this franchise means everything to me. I’ve worked on a lot of different games at a lot of different studios, and there were only a few that really felt like they could be home once I was done consulting and wandering around the landscape of video games,” Williams advised IGN. “It just happened to line up that 2018 was very successful. [Before that], we had a little bit of a rough spot with the studio and this was like, ‘We’re going to come back, rebuild it strong again, and have a good foundation for the future.

“I’ve labored with each director on the franchise in a unique capability. I labored with Cory as an animation lead. I labored with David Jaffe as a director. I labored with Todd Papy as a stage designer. I labored with Stig as an artist. And with Ru [Weerasuriya] and Dana [Jan] at Ready at Dawn in numerous capacities. Learning from each of them, to me it is simply doing proper by everybody that is come earlier than me and taking the franchise in the proper course. You do not need to be that director that sends it off the rails. So much of large franchises this may occur with, and so I simply need to pay respect to what we have executed in the previous and nonetheless attempt to maintain it contemporary for the future at the similar time.”

For Barlog, the transition to Williams as director has its roots in how closely the two worked together when God of War 2018 was taking shape. In fact, Barlog credits Williams with really pushing him and the team to go as far as they did with the foundational changes and updates to the game.

“When Cory and I sat down and first talked about [2018], he was like, ‘Well, we will tear the home all the way down to the studs.’ I used to be like, ‘What does that actually imply?’ We went again and forth on whether or not some issues had been simply sacred.
And I used to be like, ‘Well, if we will do it, we have now to do all of it.’ We received to these locations the place it was, no blades, no leap, new digicam, companion, all that,” Williams said.

“When Cory and I sat down and first talked about [2018], he was like, ‘Well, we will tear the home all the way down to the studs’… And I used to be like, ‘Well, if we will do it, we have now to do all of it.'”

“I keep in mind that level after we had been speaking about ripping all the pieces all the way down to the studs,” Barlog said, offering his take on that time. “Everything I’ve ever labored on with Eric, Eric is the sounding board and additionally the boundary restrict testing, the place I did not need to say to him, ‘I need to take all of it out and then I need to re-examine it and select the issues that work and work out construct them.’ I used to be like, ‘Oh, we’ll maintain some stuff,’ simply to see how his response was. And his response was ‘Well that is dumb. You ought to completely simply take all of it out.'”

Barlog and Williams’ camaraderie comes through as they both reminisce about this moment, Barlog recalling how much trust they had in one another by how frank and honest they could be.

Every Character in God of War: Ragnarok

“Either we’re actually unhealthy for one another or on this occasion, we’re actually good for one another in the sense that we push one another past our consolation stage,” Barlog said.

A Directorial Transition

That push resulted in IGN’s Game of the Year winner of 2018, Santa Monica Studio’s new God of War. At the time, Barlog spoke at the time of thoughts surrounding the story specifically told in that game, and so I was curious about how he and Williams addressed letting the latter take the reins, and what, if any of Barlog’s original intent, was kept in the plans for the sequel now that Barlog was no longer directing.

“There was so much of dialogue in the starting. So much of me wanting to know the place his head was at, what was attention-grabbing to him,” Barlog said. “There are clearly sure issues the place I’m like, ‘Okay, I really need this stuff. They’re specified by the chronology and the timeline and I’ve some plans and then some hopes and needs.'”

But Barlog made it clear it wasn’t as if he had demands for how Williams’ vision needed to play out. He genuinely wanted Williams’ take on things, and simply asked him to respect the storytelling that had come before, which of course Barlog had full confidence in him to do.

“It was way more of, ‘What are the issues which might be attention-grabbing to you? Where is the true north of the place you need to go? And then in doing so, in the event you select to not need to do any of this stuff [we created], completely superior. Just do not destroy what these issues are. Either ignore them, transfer round them, however maintain them considerably in place in order that we will construct this bigger latticework of what all the pieces is.'”

And for Barlog, as soon as he understood the place Williams wished to take issues, and the way it was constructed from the same shared curiosity in exploring the emotional, relatable core of this story, he felt assured in what the future held.

“[When Eric landed on] ‘This is what you are going to really feel, and that is the battle that exists between these two characters, however the particulars and the specifics of all of that aren’t recognized.’ In my thoughts, [those specifics] did not actually matter as a result of they’re all pushed by the engine of that concept. And [his take] was so strong that I used to be like, ‘All proper. Yeah, we’re good. I’ve nothing left to show you Padawan.’ So then I simply type of took a nap for about two years.”

Which would definitely clarify why Barlog had never heard of it all this time.

Barlog and Williams both said that, when it came to specifics, there were only three core things Barlog asked Williams for – and no, of course they didn’t spoil what those things were. Williams thought those aspects lined up with his vision as well, though he was open and frank about how, following that discussion, the path forward wasn’t always an easy one, but the two trusted each other’s creative process thanks to their history together.

“There had been robust instances, I’ll be straight up trustworthy, the place he was like, ‘Hey, I feel you are messing this half up. Look at it once more.’ And I’d be like, ‘Okay, f**okay you.’ And I’d stroll out of the workplace and then come again like 10 minutes later and be like, ‘God rattling it. You’re proper. Let me go take a look at that,'” Williams said. ‘Then other times he’d be like, ‘Hey, I thought about that thing again. Maybe don’t put as much stock into that as I was saying.’

“I simply need to pay respect to what we have executed in the previous and nonetheless attempt to maintain it contemporary for the future at the similar time.”

“That’s the advantage of the artistic course of and having someone you’ll be able to bounce off and be very quick with. We will be very off the cuff. Back in the outdated days, we might most likely argue to the level the place folks had been like, ‘Are they going to kill one another?’ And then we go to lunch, actually 5 minutes later, we might go to lunch collectively.”

Back in those old days, the two, amusingly, mentioned they had an outlet as well – playing competitive fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with one another.

Finding Williams’ Truth in God of War

Williams further elaborated on how, as he was trying to discover his in and what interested him most about taking on this sequel, he held onto a piece of advice Barlog gave him.

“One of [Cory’s] greatest items of recommendation early on about this was, ‘You’ve received to seek out your method in. If you’ll be able to’t, then we have now to have a unique dialogue,'” Williams said. “I used to be already a little bit, ‘Oh shit, that is scaring me a little bit bit.’ But it is while you’re uncomfortable, that is when you are able to do your greatest stuff since you’re able to develop. Finding the method in was robust. Once I jettisoned what I believed folks wished it to be, it was like, ‘Okay, properly what do I feel is true for it?'”

What was right for Williams was an exploration of trust in relationships, particularly centered around Kratos and Atreus, but extending out into the wider cast, including characters like Freya, Thor, and more.

God of War: Ragnarok Trailer Screenshots — PlayStation Showcase 2021

“There’s one thing that occurs in boxing so much. You’ll have this very, very expert younger boxer and his father is his coach, his coach, his supervisor, his all the pieces. And it will get to some extent the place the child is so good that it is time to go professional, proper? That’s the place the promoters and all these things begins to come back in and needs to drag him this manner, and the dad’s like, ‘Stay with me. We’ll do that proper, you may be champ endlessly. You go over there, they’ll ship you to the wolves, you are going to get knocked out,'” Williams explained.

“And Kratos has this mindset. It’s like, ‘There’ll be a time for this, however now will not be the time. We needn’t go choose a combat. Let’s simply develop and be collectively and have this time.’ But the child, being younger, needs to go, proper? That younger boxer needs to get on the market, needs his title shot.”

So what Williams is after with this new chapter in their story, is understanding, exploring, and giving validation to both those perspectives, and hopefully offering players something to connect with in turn.

“That’s the advantage of the artistic course of and having someone you’ll be able to bounce off and be very quick with.”

“Atreus’ received two names. He’s already break up by default, proper? And I feel these are actually attention-grabbing issues as you begin to develop as a result of, I’m positive as you keep in mind, you get to a sure age in highschool and it is like, ‘Do I need to be this particular person? Or do I need to? Do I need to strive on this persona this yr?’ You do not know who you’re but,” Williams explained.

“Somebody that is already grown, they’ll sympathize with that, however they’re additionally like, ‘Oh man, you are going to make so much of unhealthy errors that I might let you know about. But me telling you is simply going to make you make them extra, I received to simply allow you to do it. But I additionally do not need to watch that occur.’ So that is variety of what Kratos goes via.”

“It’s so lovely. The fact in every of their views, that sense of if the child had simply listened to his dad, he’ll have that profession. But there’s that little paranoia inside the child that, ‘Is he holding me again as a result of he does not need to let me go?’ And whereas the father can all the time have that well-meaning, there’s by no means a method for him to completely know,” Barlog elaborated. “Each one of them has a fairly legitimate level…there is no such thing as a clear-cut proper reply ever.”

Wanting to explore such emotionally complex ground in any medium, let alone an interactive one, is never easy, and Williams wasn’t coy about how difficult it could sometimes be to find the right balance of things, and wanted to do right by the work Barlog and the wider team, including Williams, had done previously.

“I really feel like if we do the job that I hope that we do, it will solely improve the earlier recreation. And the earlier recreation, while you go deeper, will improve this recreation, while you begin to see little connections made,” Williams said. “I do know some folks all the time need it to be a totally model new recreation. That is a tough activity to undertake. This one is an evolution of what we have made, one thing that sits beside it.”

And players will have a chance to see for themselves just how God of War Ragnarok complements its predecessor when the sequel hits PS4 and PS5 in 2022.

Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! He’s the proud dog father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.


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