God of War's PC port is an enhanced version of a fantastic game, with a few features we love to see on PC like DLSS upscaling, a flexible FPS limiter, and ultrawide support. That last one was a no-brainer inclusion for God of War's developers as they started work on the PC version of the game, lead UX designer Mila Pavlin told me. “I think this is just a tremendous game for the widescreen format,” Pavlin said. “It has those huge vistas, the big sweeping moments, and the cinematics that play to that… So I think that was something that was really important to the team, as we were looking at how to present the game in the best possible way.”
For UI designers, making a game work well in ultrawide includes some fairly obvious tasks. You have to ensure that UI elements that are 'pinned' to the corners of the screen in 16:9 aren't uncomfortably out of view on a 21:9 monitor. But that's just one of the considerations developers have to deal with to make ultrawide work. The field of view at that wider aspect ratio can be a big problem for games that were originally only built to support standard widescreen.
“It's not just setting resolution and done. I wish it was that easy,” said Matt DeWald, the senior technical producer on God of War's PC port. If you widen the aspect ratio without increasing FOV, it just doesn't look quite right to our brains. But once you widen the FOV, you start seeing things that you were never supposed to, like in bad 'HD remasters' of old TV shows.
“Now there's all this stuff that was on the edge and cut off on 16:9 that now is in the scene,” DeWald said. “Like 'Oh no, Atreus is warping through the scene because he's getting into position.'”
“So you had to go back and animate all those things. It required playing through the entire game. And not just cinematics because we're a no-cut camera, right, it's the one shot the entire way. So it's really playing through the entire game… all these controlled camera moments, like when Kratos is trying to kill something and he goes into a locked animation, the camera's controlled to that scene, or there's some gameplay moment where something shows up like the Draugr popping out and Kratos whipping out the axe and it frosting up.
“Those aren't cinematics per se, they're just gameplay moments. You've got to go through all of those and check to see: Was there a Draugr on the side of the screen that popped into visibility because he's going to be attacking from behind? Is Atreus warping around? Is Kratos's skirt flipping around because the cloth simulation isn't working properly? There's all that kind of stuff that you have to go through and tweak. It was literally just hand effort to go back and fix up all those things.”
The only way to ensure God of War looked just right with a wider FOV was to play it in ultrawide. A lot.
“Because it's hard to systematically find these issues, it requires a human being to look at it and watch it, you can imagine playing through not only a 30 hour game from the core game elements, but also all the exploration spaces and all that stuff, you're talking about 80-plus hours to play through the entire game to find the visual things,” DeWald said. “And you've got to run through that multiple times.”
God of War's PC port was developed by a small team at Santa Monica Studio alongside Jetpack Interactive, while most of Santa Monica is still devoted to development on the upcoming sequel God of War Ragnarok. As QA logged visual bugs, the PC port team would pull in animators to fix them.
“As much as I would love to say that we planned appropriately and it took exactly that amount of time, it didn't,” DeWald said. “QA would find some new issue that we missed the first time around. Once they opened up the hundreds of bugs ,the amount of work it took to fix all of those, it was quite a bit of effort.”
These sorts of animation issues certainly aren't exclusive to God of War's “no-cut camera” design—pretty much any game built for a locked FOV is going to exhibit some problems when you widen the lens. But it's emblematic of how much more complicated life gets for games designed around a fixed console spec when they're brought over to the PC.