While the Sony Santa Monica umbrella spans many games via its external development collaborations, its internal studio is best known for the God of War franchise. In fact, Sony's "God of War team" has never worked on a game outside of that iconic franchise. Santa Monica Studio director Shannon Studstill talked about the studio's attempt at moving away from Kratos, and what ultimately brought them back to the franchise with next year's Ascension.
Given how God of War 3 ends, it provided a perfect opportunity for the team to give Kratos a rest. However, when asked if the studio had explored creating a non-God of War game, Studstill frankly admitted "yes." In fact, there were even prototypes developed "very early," albeit "not in this development cycle."
Studstill was not shy admitting that the franchise's tremendous success is one reason why the studio has yet to move on. "There are creative reasons and business reasons," she admitted. Adding, "I think there was still some story to tell."
There's an opportunity to improve upon God of War 3, she noted, especially because that was the first God of War game on hardware the team was unfamiliar with. "I think for the single-player game, there were systems that we wanted to enhance. Not to diss God of War 3, as that was tough to go from PS2 to PS3, but our focus for God of War 3 was very tools and engine-focused. And now what we're trying to do is catch up a bit in terms of systems we wanted to improve upon." Of course, there's also the addition of multiplayer, which she describes as a "completely different game" all by itself.
It's likely that seven years into the PS3's life cycle, Ascension will be the last PS3 game to come from Sony's God of War team. When asked about Orbis (or PS4), Studstill acts shy. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said. "The PS3 is a very powerful machine, and we definitely feel like we're taxing it, but it continuously surprises us."