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God of War developer is "driven by the creative", not the "publisher mentality"

Sony Santa Monica studio head Shannon Studstill talks about the studio's creative process

Sony Santa Monica recently announced the next installment in its flagship God of War series, God of War: Ascension. While the title will be a prequel dealing with Kratos' rise, the game will also be the first God of War to feature multiplayer modes. Despite some fans believing that the addition was forced onto the game by Sony management, Sony Santa Monica studio head Shannon Studstill told Gamasutra that everything the studio does is driven by its creative employees.

"We are not a studio, nor are we a company, that has the publisher mentality driving the creative decisions within the franchise. That happens at the team level, and we cherish that ability that Sony gives us," said Studstill.

"It's certainly something at Sony Santa Monica that we take advantage of. We want the visionary in there making those types of decisions. What does that person believe in as far as what compels the gamer, and what is the new experience that they want to introduce? It's all happening on the ground floor." Studstill explained that management is still there weighing the cost of implementing new ideas, but the creative team is still fully in control.

"We're always looking at new opportunities for the franchise, and for the various other products that we have in the studio -- products that we want to pick up -- but there's a fine line between spending way too much on a feature and where that's going to pay out in regards to how it's going to drive our fan base, and how it may even bring in new players that we didn't expect," she commented.

"There is a point where upper management needs to look at it again as far as expense: How many people are we going to need to throw at that new thing, and what is the future of that new feature? What does that maybe open up down the line that we didn't have before? All of that stuff is highly scrutinized."

"But we don't want the business to be driven by money. It's a creative industry to us; that's the way we look at it. When you start consistently infusing bottom line and analysis, you don't know what the consumer's going to do; you don't know what they're going to think; you don't know what's going to happen in those two-year development times, by which 15 competitive products will have released, in that timeline," Studstill added.

The full interview also covers Sony Santa Monica's incubation of new indie studios like thatgamecompany and Superbot.

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Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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