God of War Ragnarok is nothing to sniff at. With players clocking in anywhere between 20 to 50 hours of gameplay, this venture into Norse Mythology is expansive and pretty hard to plan.
Organizing the story, fights, and exploration in God of War Ragnarok would give anyone a headache. In an interview with Game Informer (opens in new tab) God of War, Ragnarok director Eric Williams explained how he and his team overcame this enormous task.
The solution to all of this was simple: creating one Excel spreadsheet that will rule them all. This spreadsheet broke down every single moment of the game and “how much time you’re going to spend in them,” said Williams.
Despite the size of the spreadsheet, it only ended up predicting “10% of the final product”, Williams added. Even after pages and pages of content, it still proved especially difficult to reign in the God of War.
Some may think a master Excel spreadsheet of this size is pretty intimidating. However, it turns out that this detailed planning was crucial for Williams as the director of God of War Ragnarok.
Over the course of making God of War Ragnarok, Williams learned that he had Aphantasia. This describes the inability to form a mental image of an object that isn’t right in front of you. Williams described it as if you tell him to “think of a green apple.” I can’t see it. I can’t picture anything in my head.”
This is why the extensive Excel spreadsheet was so groundbreaking for Williams. “I had to compensate for this with a crazy ton of reference,” Williams said; I need “images for everything”.
There were certainly images for everything in this spreadsheet. From fight scenes to dialogues, if you could think of it, it was probably in there. But the icing on the cake was the terrifying amount of GIFs.
In the end, the spreadsheet housed around 6,000 GIFs. One of the best moments was when Williams described through images and GIFs the exact kind of roundhouse kick he wanted in a fight scene. When his team told him they already knew what a roundhouse kick looked like, he replied, “yeah, but not this one”.
Some of the devs even accused Williams of “taking all the creative fun out of” making fight scenes. It took some time for both parties to get comfortable with each other. “They had to acclimate to me because it’s completely different from Cory [Barlog, director of God of War 2018]Williams said. At first, he thought, “Why are they being so difficult?” Until he realized that his love for GIFs and extensive Excel spreadsheets was not the norm.
Luckily, everyone was able to work through their differences, and the final product is something we thought was truly memorable. It turns out that Williams’ need for spreadsheets and GIFs may have been the best thing to happen to God of War Ragnarok, as the game has an incredible sense of identity and direction.