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GINX TV > Opinion > God of War: Ragnarök

How God of War's One-Shot Camera Came To Life

We discuss the history of God of War's one-shot camera, how it came to be, industry reactions, challenges, and its influence.
How God of War's One-Shot Camera Came To Life

Quiet boy! Go grab us some mead, as we have a story to tell. A "long" story about a man and his dream of making an entire game one unbroken shot.

It was a task as tricky as climbing Yggdrasil, but by Odin's beard, Cory Barlog from Sony's Santa Monica Studio managed to pull it off with his team to widely-celebrated success for God of War (2018) 

God of War Ragnarök once again features the one-shot camera, but getting to the point of making a game in one continuous shot wasn't easy.

Let's explore how the one-shot camera in God of War came to be and the struggles that needed to be overcome.

How The God of War One-Shot Got Camera Came To Be

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Gamers got more intimate with Kratos than ever before in God of War (2018) thanks to the one-shot camera. (Picture: Santa Monica Studio)

God of War is not the first time a game featured no camera cuts. To the best of our knowledge, this honor goes to Splinter Cell: Conviction (released in April 2010), with the brilliant Maxime Béland as the game's Creative Director. 

God of War, however, was a smash hit, partly due to its one-shot camera, with no cuts, taking the storytelling and that feeling of living in the world to the next level.

Cory Barlog, the Creative Director of Sony's Santa Monica Studio, has wanted to make a game in one unbroken shot for quite some time. Following his work on the original three God of War titles, Mr. Barlog moved to Crystal Dynamics in March 2012 to work on a Tomb Raider title.

Prior to the launch of God of War in 2018, Barlog admitted in an interview with the Daily Star, that he wanted to do the one-shot camera idea with Tomb Raider, but he didn't get the green light.

"I wanted to do [the single shot camera technique], and I had pitched it to Crystal Dynamics when I was there working on Tomb Raider, and everyone was like, 'That’s crazy, we don't want to do that!’

“And, my reaction was like, 'Yeah, y’know, I don't know if this is the best place for me anyway.’”

To quote Kratos: "A choice from the gods is as useless as the gods themselves."

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"Swedish family dinners are weird", as per Cory's Twitter. (Picture: Cory Barlog)

In April 2013, Cory Barlog left Crystal Dynamics and returned to Santa Monica Studio in August 2013. Sony believed in the idea and supported Mr. Barlog's creative concept from the outset, regardless of how difficult it sounded.

“I guess, for me, there was just a lot more creative support and faith with Sony." Barlog explained in 2018.

"Like they’d say, you’ve got a crazy idea, we’re going to support you, regardless of how much of a leap off of a cliff it is."

Speaking to Variety in an interview, Dori Arzi, the game's Camera Director, said that the camera was "essentially an additional character" in the scenes.

Dori Arzi further explained the intent for creating a one-shot game without any cuts. This wasn't a cheap trick, but rather something the team hoped would have a tangible impact on the story:

"The intent was to create deeper immersion in the story and to promote stronger empathy towards the characters by making the viewer feel like they are literally taking the journey with our hero."

It worked out beautifully, but it was no easy feat to achieve.

Difficulties Of The One-Shot

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Parenting or creating a one-shot camera for a 30-hour game, which is more difficult? (Picture: Santa Monica Studio)

Making an entire, massive game that takes, on average, roughly 20 hours to beat and over 50  hours for completionists isn't easy.

Considering the fast-paced combat, the inclusion of Atreus, some mammoth bosses, and world verticality thrown into the mix, God of War's single, unbroken tracking shot on Kratos is mind-blowing.

It comes as no surprise that there were difficulties in pulling off this magic trick. While the game presents itself as a single, one-shot camera throughout, the developer did need to use some "tricks".

Speaking to Polygon, Cory Barlog explained: "Sometimes we had to pull a few little tricks, but, you know, we’re talking about six-to-seven, six-to-eight tricks in the whole game."

He continued by noting that apart from these few tricks, the rest of the game is just "an absurd amount of planning and technical tricks".

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Mammoth creatures and fast-paced combat make the one-shot even more difficult to pull off. (Picture: Santa Monica Studio)

In the interview with Polygon, Cory Barlog explained how it was a massive technical challenge for the team and that there was no real example that it could work. They had to believe in his vision.

Gory Barlog explained: "They had to take it on faith that when I was saying like, ‘Look, you’re gonna get a sense of immediacy and connection to these characters, an unrelenting feel, to the adventure that you can’t get in any other way, and I can’t cite something else.’"

Dori Arzi, the game's Camera Director, also explained in his interview with Variety that there was a "mountain of challenges without industry precedence that needed to be proven out" both from an experimental visual and technical perspective.

Things did start to pick up as goals became clearer throughout development though.

"It needed to be shot in some form of documentary style" Arzi explained,"we needed to accentuate the sense of scale for both creatures and the environment."

The release of God of War on PS4 wasn't the end of the struggles due, in part, to the one-shot camera, as the PC version's ultra-wide support and the ability to change the Field of View (FOV) did a number on the team tasked with porting it over.

In an interview with PC gamer, the Senior Technical Producer on God of War's PC port spoke about these difficulties: "Now there's all this stuff that was on the edge and cut off on 16:9 that now is in the scene. Like, 'Oh no, Atreus is warping through the scene because he's getting into position.'"

The developers had to play the entire game quite a few times to spot issues, then go back and fix them. It wasn't a task for the faint of heart, but they pulled it off with aplomb.

In the end, it worked out, as the reception to God of War (2018) was terrific, and so was its release on PC in January 2022.

GoW's One-Shot Camera Reactions & Reception

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God of War was a triumph. (Picture: Santa Monica Studio)

To quote Kratos again, because his lines are just epic: "I Am What The Gods Have Made Me!"

In this instance, the "gods" are the team at Sony's Santa Monica Studio. God of War (2018) is one of the best-reviewed games ever and currently sits on a 94/100 on Metacritic for its PS4 version.

It is clear that both industry experts and gamers alike found God of War to be a fantastic experience. 

Many praised the one-shot camera putting them into the battle-hardened boots of Kratos as a triumph, and we simply can't disagree with that.

God of War won Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2018, Best Game Direction, and Best Action/Adventure Game, alongside a slew of other accolades across the industry.

The game won four 2018 Golden Joystick Awards, including Best Video Design and PlayStation Game of the Year. The list goes on, and while we won't list them all, it is abundantly clear from reading dozens of reviews that the one-shot camera did have an impact.

GoW's One-Shot Camera Influence

Since the one-shot camera is quite difficult to pull off from a technical standpoint, there aren't that many developers working on similar storytelling tricks.

That is, except for two... one of which is Sony's Santa Monica Studio with God of War Ragnarök, which is pretty obvious.

The other is EA Motive, as the developer announced the long-awaited Dead Space remake would play out in one sequential shot just like God of War.

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The Dead Space remake will feature a one-shot camera. (Picture: EA Motive)

"From the moment you start the game to the moment you end the game, there are no camera cuts or load screens - unless you die" explained Senior Producer of the Dead Space remake, Philippe Ducharme.

"The Ishimura is now fully interconnected, so you can walk from Point A to Point Z, visit the entire ship, and revisit locations you’ve already completed to pick up things you might have missed - that’s all new. It’s now a completely unbroken experience."

We hope it works out; godspeed to EA Motive's team of developers. We expect more developers to attempt the one-shot camera in the future, as the success of God of War is undeniable. And anyone willing to put in the hours to pull off this incredible feat is worthy of praise in our books. 

So that's it, the story of how God of War's one-shot camera came to be, industry reactions, and its influence to this day. 

With God of War Ragnarök's release this week on November 9, we can't wait to experience another incredibly cinematic outing with Kratos and Atreus in one unbroken shot. Glorious!

Love Kratos and Arteus? Then check out our section dedicated to God of War Ragnarök news, guides, features, and more.


Featured image courtesy of Sony Santa Monica Studio.