Among games in which you can pet the dog, Hades faces a unique challenge: The dog—Cerberus, the eternally fearsome hound of hell—has three heads. You might think this would make him thrice as good as the average good boy. You would be correct. However, you can only ever pet one of the heads. It is enough to send some players (me) to their own personal hell.
Yearning to pet the other two heads is only natural. For me, it began as an idle curiosity. “When will I unlock the ability to pet the other two heads?” I wondered. “Do I have to kill a god? Because you better believe I fucking will.” But soon, 10 hours turned to 20, then 30, then 60. I pet Cerberus after literally every escape attempt, but each time, Zagreus’ gentle affirmations were reserved for the same head. So then I figured that surely the option to pick which head I pet—or to use my divine powers to sprout a third arm and pet all three at once—would come as part of Hades’ 1.0 update. After all, only then could the game be truly complete.
Hades 1.0 came out yesterday. You still can’t pet the other two heads. Defeated and utterly despondent, I reached out to Greg Kasavin, writer and designer at developer Supergiant Games, to ask why he would do this to me and me personally.
“Zagreus explains why Cerberus must be petted in a very precise way if you keep petting him,” Kasavin told Kotaku in an email, attaching voice clips of Zagreus pointing this out, some of which I’d already encountered in the game. “The bottom line is: Some dogs just don’t like pets! Especially immortal hell hounds.”
That cruel narrative twist, however, is only part of the story.
“Completely coincidental to this in-world justification, it incidentally does happen to be very difficult to make characters in our engine perfectly line up and interact,” said Kasavin. “If Cerberus’ two other heads enjoyed being petted, and it was necessary for us to express this in-game, then we would have had to spend many days of animation, rendering, and design bandwidth creating alternate interactions for those heads. Fortunately, Cerberus absolutely does not like having his two other heads petted, so we were able to use the time we otherwise would have spent on that on other significant features.”
It’s a bummer, but an understandable one. Game development is exceedingly difficult, and Supergiant, especially, tries to do it in a way that takes its very high human cost into account. Kasavin, a dog owner himself, hopes that the rest of the gargantuan game makes up for the crime he and his colleagues have committed against dogkind.
“Look, I like dogs. I have three dogs at home and pet them each day, while not working on Hades,” Kasavin said. “Hades is the sort of game where we could have worked on it forever, going infinitely deep on any given aspect. More weapons! More characters! More Boons! More environments! More enemies! But since, unlike the characters in the game, we members of the development team will sooner or later die, we did want to complete the development in a reasonable amount of time. All told, it’s taken a little over three years now... This is by far the biggest, most feature-rich game we’ve made, and we think players will find plenty to sink their teeth into once they try the full game. And hopefully they can forgive Cerberus his quirks.”