Cory Barlog is the Creative Director of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Santa Monica Studio, which means he is the Creative Director of PlayStation’s God of War series, which basically means he is God… of God of War.
He lives in California and has just been to Norway for a massive launch event for the new God of War reboot, but this week he is in Sydney … in a blacksmith (no really, a fully functional blacksmith), taking part in a real-world axe-making workshop.
Between the 1100-degree Celsius metal and the water-powered pressure hammers, it’s a time to focus. But this axe-making, which is pretty freaking captivating to be part of, coincides with the lifting of the review embargo.
In fact it is only a few hours before he finds out what the international press think of his new baby.
So why is a Californian games maker crafting an axe just as he anticipates discovering if the critics have wielded theirs?
“It’s a great distraction, otherwise I would be obsessively languishing over this all day,” he says. “I didn’t sleep last night.”
Corey is refreshingly honest about finding out what critics think. For him, this is the most stressful day in any game development.
“A lot of people say reviews don’t matter, but they do matter to a lot of people to determine if they feel comfortable,” he says.
“If we have a preview that comes out and somebody says one bad thing, that ripples through the internet. People worry, they worry, they say ‘cancel my pre-order!’ That matters.
Let’s be clear, Corey is very sure he has a good product. He just hopes others agree.
“We want them to feel confident – as confident as we do. We feel amazingly proud and confident of what we’ve done. But it is in this bubble we live in. We all think our children are beautiful.”
So with fifty two minutes to go, how will he go about reading the responses?
“My process has always been the same. I go alone. In my home office before, but for this one I’ll be in my hotel room. With a glass of scotch.
“I’ll start with Metacritic to see the initial dump. And then start to pore through reactions and read what people are saying. That’s where it really matters.”
Has he got a preferred critic?
“I don’t know who I’ll start with. I didn’t think about it like that. I’m dreading and excited about the first moment of just actually turning on the browser and going to the home page.
“Its Schrödinger’s cat. It truly is to me dead and alive at the same time. It has both possibilities.
“The realisation is going to be simultaneously elating, but also a letdown. Nothing can live up to that hype.”
If it sounds like he’s getting a rush out of the reviews, its nothing compared to his critical drug of choice.
“I have the damaged psychological game I play with myself. I’m utterly obsessed with reaction videos. They’re one of the things that drove us, because we live in this vacuum existence when we’re making the game – we’re sequestered from everyone, we don’t tell anyone anything.
“So, when we put out a trailer, when we put out any sort of demo, and then people film themselves watching or playing it…
“…that is my cocaine man.”
So with 44 minutes until the *ahem* axe falls, Cory is planning to pour over the scores, but that isn’t his primary concern.
He wants the critics to get a rush as well.
“The scores seem to be second most important to me. The most important is hearing personal connections. Hearing people actually say ‘this affected me and it affected me because I felt connected to this moment.’
“To see that other people who, by all rights, play a lot of games and are going to be jaded about it, to see if they are open to the experience and feel some of the things I was hoping they’d feel, that is the victory moment.
“It would be indifference that crushes me.”
God of War for PlayStation 4 debuted on MetaCritic to a 95 Score. The best summary would be “to rave reviews”. We hope Cory enjoyed his scotch.