In an excellent and in-depth interview given by Mark DeSanto at I. Eat. Games, Sony Santa Monica’s senior producer Steve Caterson has revealed that the team deliberately slows God of War III’s action for cinematic effect. Though this concept sounds a little odd at first, the team has built the game’s technology around making such changes in framerate as smooth as possible. Make sure you read the context of this quotaiton before jumping on Caterson’s back.
As we already know, God of War III’s framerate runs variably between 30 and 60 frames-per-second with v-sync enabled to stop tearing. Caterson confirms this, further explaining the advantages of a variable framerate:
It’s interesting; God of War 2 had some tearing going on with it, but with GoW3 there shouldn’t be any tearing at all and the variable frame rate helps us out with that. We’ve also got some good code in place–that you can’t tell is working–which helps to make sure frame rate drops are gracefully executed. By graceful I mean that you won’t see any tearing.
In some respects—and I know I’m going to get shredded on the boards for saying this—we intentionally slow things down. We want to show you what’s going on in some scenes. A good example is this one huge creature who grabs Kratos and, if we showed that at speed, you would just never even see him. So we say, ‘ok slow the camera down, zoom in—there he is! Doesn’t he look cool?!’ and then we ramp the speed back up and put you back into the action. It’s a pacing thing.
Also, there are some small pauses in the combat that some people though were slowdown because there were so many guys on screen but it’s intentionally there because it makes the hits feel more impactful.
Such a concept doesn’t sound like as much of a cop-out when we understand that movies play at 24 frames-per-second. Personally I’d pin Caterson’s explanation to only a part of the team’s reasoning for a variable framerate, with the scale of the game’s graphics stopping the team from achieving a locked 60fps.
[UPDATE] - Sony Santa Monica’s director of technology, Tim Moss, has corrected the above quotation (and our interpretation) by explaining that although the team does slow down the action in God of War III, this is not the same as the framerate dropping:
“We slow timestep so 1 sec of game lasts >1 sec for dramatic effect. NOT the same as slowing the framerate,” Tim Moss tweets.
[UPDATE 2] – Jason de Heras, combat designer on God of War 3, has kindly forwarded an article written by original God of War combat designer Derek Daniels that neatly explains the use of both slowdown and hit pause, which is featured in games from Street Fighter to God of War. If you want to learn more about the dramatic advantages of using these techniques in video games please visit Derek Daniel’s blog post.