Writing a Myth: A talk with God of War Narrative Designer Matt Sophos

Writing a Myth: A talk with God of War Narrative Designer Matt Sophos 1

Norse mythology is not as well known by the general populace when compared to that of Greek. While it has concepts, characters, and stories that could fill countless movie screens and games, the simple fact that they are less accessible in comparison makes them obscure to the general audience.

God of War is pushing off its Greco-Roman roots and embracing the new Norse pantheon, exposing a whole new audience to a world of legends many do not know. But translating these characters and stories into a game is not easy, it requires the skills of many individuals, including Matt Sophos, Narrative Designer on the latest instalment.

A veteran of the industry, Matt Sophos has worked on many blockbuster titles including Lost Planet 3, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, and Anachronox. He now brings his talents to this new take on Kratos, and how to translate Norse Mythology to the God of War universe. CGMagazine had the chance to sit down and talk about what it took to bring Kratos to a Norse setting, along with how this game changes things for the franchise moving forward.

CGMagazine: The previous God of War games had Kratos as a very solitary character and one that was built on rage. Why the choice to have Kratos humanized and pushed back into the role of a family person while moving it to a Norse setting?

Matt Sophos:  Well, the easy answer is when I showed up Corey told me what we were doing. He said You’re doing good. You’re Greek. And even though you thought you were joining God of War, for the first time we’re going to a different pantheon of gods. But the longer answer is it was just a situation where Kratos’ story needed to go. We very much exhausted the old storyline he ran through and we also killed off all the major Greek Gods In the most horrible ways possible. Kratos, at the end of God of War III—if people made it through to the secret ending—dragging himself off. I think it organically showed what a broken person he was.

Writing A Myth: A Talk With God Of War Narrative Designer Matt Sophos 3
God of War (PS4) – gameplay image provided by SIEA.

I think in our early stages we kind of talked about what life would be like for Kratos if he stayed in Greece and there just wasn’t much ground to play and there weren’t the people there to interact with. And we kind of thought, how would Kratos be accepted when by and large a lot of the people of Greece kind of revered those guys that he murdered? Kratos needed a change from a narrative sense and as a character. People reinvent themselves all the time, that’s kind of a part of being human, even if you’re like Kratos and you’re only part human.

CGMagazine: Jumping off from that point, the game picks up with Kratos in another down part in his life. You went from God of War III where he’s destroyed all the gods in the pantheon, ravaged through what was the heavens of Greece, a broken man. And then you pick up with him broken but in a different way. Why the choice not to give you a sense of his family life or his home life?

Matt Sophos: The major reason for that is if we were to jump into the story where Kratos is kind of a complete person and he has a family and everything kind of feels okay, it wouldn’t feel like a real entry point for players who are fans of the series. They’re coming into this story with the same baggage that Kratos would have. Kratos starting broken is someone the players could easily recognize. Even when he was a rage-fueled maniac you knew that he was a broken human being. Just from the genesis of how he got that way. You don’t become who Kratos became if you’re whole and everything is fine in your head. So with this story we had to start from a playful place to recognize the character and that was something we focused very hard on that.

CGMagazine: Moving into a new family becoming a father once again, what were challenges you as a storyteller had in telling the tale of the new father that doesn’t quite know what to do and is thrust into the situation of having to be a single parent in a world where everything is trying to kill you?

Matt Sophos: Even in the old games all that Kratos wanted to do was forget that horrible moment. At the beginning of this game, he’s lived through many, many more horrible moments, largely of his own creation. He’s a guy who’s always wanted to just forget the deal that he made with Zeus. Starting this new life he’s not in a situation where he’s dealt with it. He’s Kratos and a core piece of his character is that he just wants to deny and forget.

Writing A Myth: A Talk With God Of War Narrative Designer Matt Sophos 2
God of War (PS4) – gameplay image provided by SIEA.

Kratos starts the journey as someone who is now a father, and I can probably just go and say that that was never his goal. He’s a guy who always blames the gods for the bad things that happened to him.  And he blames his own divinity for the horrible person he became. So he’s largely just trying to deny that part of himself and hide and that translates into its relationship with his son. He never once wanted his son to become like him and he never talks to his son about that. So becoming the single father at the beginning of the game Kratos is doing a lot of teaching of ‘Do as I say not as I did’.

You can read the full interview with Matt Sophos in the April 2018 issue of CGMagazine. Order your copy today.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Frye’s work such as his interview with EA Motive about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and his in-depth look at the Equifax Hack!

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