The newest God of War hopes to give Kratos some much-needed depth by focusing on character dynamics and new mechanics. Also new: Kratos’ massive, manly beard. I sat down with game director Cory Barlog to ask some hard-hitting questions about Kratos’ new look.
Heather Alexandra, Kotaku: Let’s talk initial design : what made you decide to give Kratos a beard? How many design iterations do you go through before saying “What this guy really needs is some scruff?”
Cory Barlog, SIE Santa Monica: It was an on-the-fly decision at first. We were were working with a concept artist, Jose Cabrera and he did the first images of Kratos that became the guiding light for us and our vision of the character. I said “I think he’s really grown his beard out like a linebacker in the offseason.” And he ended up looking very worn, like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.
Alexandra: When players see a dog in a game, they want to pet it. Can we stroke the beard?
Barlog: That would be glorious. Unfortunately, you can’t stroke it at the moment but it does billow in the wind.
Alexandra: Are you telling me that all of those wonderful little hairs are all being rendered in real time?
Barlog: They are all being rendered in real time. Raphael Grassetti is the lead character artist on the project and I have no idea how he is doing it but I do know that it’s a old school trick. It’s not like we’re using some new tech.
Alexandra: No new beard tech? That seems like a missed opportunity.
Barlog: We were waiting for a while for the beard. For a while, Kratos had beard at all; he had a strange, polygonal beard that made him look like Beard Papa. It was a strange plastic beard that ended up in leaked images but instead of doing some special tech, [Grassetti] had an idea so the beard now uses the same technology as all the fur and other hair in the game.
Alexandra: If I’m looking at a bear, I’m looking at the same tech that’s bringing me Kratos’ lovely beard?
Barlog: It’s tied back to stuff we used as far back as the Playstation 2 that I won’t pretend to understand.
Alexandra: Do you think the beard smells nice?
Barlog: I imagine it smells like pine and dead troll.
Alexandra: Freshly killed trolls, I hope?
Barlog: It’s definitely aged a little bit. There’s a certain degree of musk, maybe like a head cheese.
Alexandra: I’m not going to lie, but I am a bit sorry I asked that question now. Kratos has a son in this game though: will he grow his own beard?
Barlog: At one point, we actually did have a beard on him because someone had a silly idea and moved some assets. We were just goofing around though; it wasn’t anything serious. The kid was bald at one point too because we hadn’t figured out how to the any of the hair yet. He was bald for a long time because his hair was the last thing we did; we only added it right before last E3. I do remember sharing screenshots of the kid with a beard.
Alexandra: Let’s say that Kratos undergoes pivotal character development: will he ever shave the beard?
Barlog: I know we’re not doing that in this game. It’s a big movement that you earn. I think he’ll shave the beard and then sell all the hair on eBay.