The meticulous process of fine-tuning the God of War series' very first boat

Bringing a boat to the God of War series required over 600 animations and no small amount of mechanical tuning from developers to make the inclusion feel just right.

The attention to detail from Sony Santa Monica is felt throughout the entirety of God of War and, according to a detailed blog post from the dev team, the task of crafting a lake-faring vessel to carry Kratos and his son from one destination to another was no exception to that.

Sr. Combat Designer Dan Rymer has shared a post to the PlayStation blog that dives into exactly how that boat came to be, exploring the evolution of steering and propulsion mechanics, animations, and control schemes that the team tried out throughout the development process.

Rymer notes that, while figuring out the movement of the boat itself was a complicated task, the most challenging problem to solve was how characters would enter and exit the boat itself. He says that the closeness of the camera limited the camera tricks they could use to mask transitions but they didn’t want characters to visibly snap into a rigid position upon entry or exit.

“To get into the boat, we ended up spending a significant amount of time on a system which would be used throughout the game whenever we needed the player to align to an object (the boat, chests, doors, etc.)," says Rymer. "This system leveraged our core navigation to guide the player along a path to their destination, always taking the shortest possible route and matching the entry speed of the upcoming move. Once we had that system implemented, the player was able to seamlessly enter the boat from any direction or speed.

That settled how Kratos, the character directly controlled by the player, would confront the canoe, but figuring out how the companion character Atreus would do the same ended up being another challenge entirely due to the boy’s more sporadic movements. 

“Because Kratos could be entering the boat from any angle or speed, which meant his son could be as well," he explains. "He may be attempting to lead Kratos to something interesting in the world, or he may be following. Because the son could be in so many different states, we had to create a system for him to reliably enter the boat."

"Every dock and beach has built-in area we dubbed the 'son no-go-zone.' If you notice as you run up to the boat, the son will hang back a little bit. When you hit the button to enter the boat, we limit your camera rotation. This allowed us to position the son based on the angle and speed Kratos is entering and have the son enter the boat seamlessly with Kratos.”

Likewise, getting out of the boat came with its own significant challenges that eventually resulted in the team creation 10 different animations for exiting the watercraft depending on factors like distance from a dock and which side of the boat was facing the exit point. Beach-side exits were a whole separate issue as well, something Rymer explores in the full post. 

The post also lightly explores how the boat became a literal vehicle for lore by hosting conversations between characters about the history and mythos of the game’s setting. And detailed looks at how the dev team crafted individual elements of God of War are your kind of thing, be sure to check out past posts on things like crafting a satisfying axe recall mechanic and the tricky task of implementing a companion character like Atreus. 

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