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Q&A: Nathan Phail-Liff, Lead artist, God Of War

Nathan Phail-Liff

Play took time out of its busy day for a chat with Ready at Dawn’s Nathan Phail-Liff. We laughed, we loved, but mostly we talked about Chains Of Olympus

GOW is huge. How has Ready at Dawn stamped its mark on the franchise?
It was difficult just to match the quality of previous games. So right away we looked at what Santa Monica Studios did well and we wanted to honour that. If anything, we’re just proud that it holds up to the rest of the franchise. But we’ve added really cool things in terms of story. We’ve tried to give Kratos a more human side and tried to add depth to his personality.

Did you get a lot of feedback from the PS2 God Of War team?
Definitely. In terms of gameplay, and feel, and the style of the story, their input was a huge help. Sometimes it was a tug-of-war between ideas, but we wanted the best idea to win. Some days it might be our idea, or sometimes Santa Monica had great points, and we’d tailor the game to match their comments. So it was give and take, we weren’t given strict orders.

Was it intimidating?
Extremely. Until we shipped it was scary, but we’re pretty excited how it turned out.

Was it hard to translate GOW’s epic and cinematic scope onto the PSP?
People ask us, “How do you cram so much onto a PSP?” But we never told ourselves we’re making a PSP game. That’s down to either our brilliance or our stubbornness. Yeah, the screen is smaller, but it’s very crisp, really rich, and the hardware is very powerful. So there is no reason that you can’t have a fully fledged game that rivals the scope of a PS2 franchise.

What extra things did the PSP’s 333MHz processor allow you to do?
It’s funny because every article I’ve seen was like, “Ready at Dawn convinces Sony to unlock 333MHz.” We found out we could do it because we read the press release and the firmware update, and thought, “Let’s see what we can do.” Things ran smoother and it let us do more particles and effects, like blood and dust.

How satisfied are you with Chains Of Olympus, and is there anything you would change in retrospect?
There’s so much cool stuff we wish we could’ve got in. But it’s always that way. The centaur is a great example: it was an awesome character that was really different from God Of War. The Persian King was supposed to ride in on a war elephant, in a more elaborate environment. There are always things you’d like to do, and it’s easy in the early stages to pitch all kinds of outrageous things, but the difference between a game on paper and in reality, is focusing that vision to give players the best experience you can in those time constraints.

God Of War PSP

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