All major console manufacturers have flagship first-party characters that define their systems and audience. For Nintendo it’s always been the colorful cast of the Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda franchises. For Microsoft it’s the Halo and Gears of War games. But for Sony, it’s changed with each console generation. The PS1 had Spyro and Crash Bandicoot, the PS2 had Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Kratos from God of War. The PS3 also had Kratos, but then saw the debut of Nathan Drake with Uncharted.
Most of those games wouldn’t really be that great of a fit for VR you’d think. They’re all third-person action games. Even though Lucky’s Tale proves it can work it’s not exactly the go-to genre for VR, so consider me a bit surprised when I learned that years before the PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset (previously known as Project Morpheus) actually released, Sony’s Santa Monica Studio created a prototype demo for a God of War VR game.
During an interview with Glixel, the Head of PlayStation’s Magic Lab, Richard Marks, recounted the several years the company has been working on some form of experimental technology that contributed to the creation of the PSVR headset.
“So this is 2009, 2010,” Marks said. “We had the PlayStation Move controllers, and a lot of people were just doing different stuff with them. We put them on our head and did this with the TV. Another guy in R&D was putting it on his head and having a phone screen in front of his eyes, and that’s, you know, more like VR. And the same thing happened down in Santa Monica Studios. They made, like, a God of War VR demo.”
You can see some of the prototype running on an old experimental headset with a Move controller strapped to it. The footage starts around the 5:45 mark during the GDC 2014 presentation embedded below:
The most surprising part about this prototype to me isn’t that it’s a God of War VR demo, but that it’s a first-person God of War VR demo. That flips the whole franchise around and truly turns it into something brand new. Similar to the treatment Resident Evil 7 received.
“They took the code and just did the same thing with a screen in front of their face, a phone screen,” said Marks. “And then some guys in the UK were doing the same, but they were working more on better optics, so they actually made it so it looked better. And then some people in Japan, too. So it was this grassroots thing at Sony – a lot of engineers liked VR and wanted to do something with VR. So they all had a poor man’s VR system because they had this cheap tracking system thanks to the Move controller, that they could use, and it just worked with the PlayStation hardware already, so they could just plug their game straight into it and do stuff. And so everyone came to these internal events and showed each other what we were doing, and kind of got some bottom-up momentum, and then from the top down the head of hardware and the head of content development and the head of the game studios, they decided, ‘Yeah, let’s do this as an official full-blown thing.'”
For more details about the gradual development of the PSVR you an read the entire interview on Glixel. We haven’t heard anything about God of War VR becoming a real thing, but interestingly, Sony’s Santa Monica Studio collaborated on the development of PSVR horror game, Here They Lie, and published Bound, which did receive a gorgeous VR update. So maybe we aren’t so far away from a full-blown project from the studio eventually.
Let us know what you think of the prototype and idea for a full title down in the comments below!