At Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony Santa Monica Game Design Senior Manager David Hewitt and Programmer Koray Hagen talked about the studio in a panel that DualShockers attended. During the panel they explained the studio’s mission of upholding the God of War legacy and more.
- Santa Monica Studios is mainly known for its internal development team “working on the legacy of the God of War Series,” but it’s actually an “incredibly large” studio that houses many incubation teams and external development.
- There’s “much more than the God of War team.” It’s a collaboration of many different departments. Some teams are literally in different parts of the building. They’re much smaller. The studio includes about 200 people, but there are teams as small as ten.
- The main studio is working day to day on the blockbuster AAA console games, but there is some nice cross-pollination going on, as external teams bring in their software from Europe and Japan to localize for the United States. There are also a couple of incubation teams working on “super-interesting, risky, more artsy” projects.
- God of War is a “legacy” and at Santa Monica Studios they have the mission to uphold that legacy and bring it into the future through whatever project. Part of the studio culture is about celebrating who they are, and really showing off all the technology that they are proud of.
- There are 40 game designers in the internal development team, across a wide range of sub-disciplines. There are some very specialized roles within the studio.
- An important fact about Sony Santa Monica is that they’re not trying to follow data or trends, or to chase after something, but they instead try to make the game director’s vision come true, seeking what’s best for the game. This doesn’t mean that everything originates from the director and that every idea is top-down. The studio culture encourages developers to have many different opinions, and ideas pop up all over the place all the time, but everything has to pass that filter. Does it fit with the game? Does it match the vision? That results in a stronger game.
- Data can only take you so far, so the studio starts playtesting games really early.
- The role of Sony’s first party studios is to continually put quality first. They have to create something that excites people about the platform, about the hardware, about the PlayStation brands, that they can’t get anywhere else. That means that they have this “weird, terrifying ability to say yes to things that maybe a sensible studio would say no to.” Having that responsibility can be both exciting and terrifying.
- The reason why the studio is a big open space is because the developers want to be able to talk to each other and collaborate with each other much more easily. There’s also a huge projector screen to show everyone the work that has been done.
- The studio has live drawing sessions in which a model comes in and developers can draw. Not all of those who take part are concept artists, as the studio encourages developers to learn skills outside of their discipline. The studio drives its developers to do things that are interesting and will spark their creativity.
- The studio also hosts “game jams” among its developers, encouraging them to create small games in teams outside of the normal production in aperiod of two or three days in order to foster creativity and ideas.
Personally, I can’t wait to hear more information on what exactly the folks at Sony Santa Monica’s internal development team are working on. A few days ago, we heard that it’s “well into production.” Could E3 be the right time for a reveal? Time will tell.