SemoLogic Creates Cinematics for “God of War II”

In its most creatively and technically ambitious project to date, SemoLogic has produced cinematics for this year most eagerly anticipated game title, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) God of War® II, exclusively for the PlayStation computer entertainment system. The fully CG cinematics, which both precede and appear at critical junctures within the game, rival a blockbuster feature film in terms of their production value, subtle characterizations and dramatic force. Picking up where the original God of War left off, the cinematics introduce the new game storyline in which the ex-Spartan warrior, Kratos, has transformed and sits atop Olympus as the new vengeful God of War.

SemoLogic, which has production facilities in the United States and South Korea, also produced cinematics for the original God of War game, which captured more than a dozen ‘Game-of-the-Year’ Awards, including the prestigious Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences ‘2005 Overall Game of the Year Award,’ following its release by SCEA in 2005. The new cinematics go far beyond the original in terms of their scope and their large number of characters and environments. They also attain a level of photorealism never before seen in game cinematics.

‘God of War II differs from other games in that it relies more on cinematics to illustrate the story, and those cinematics are a more integral part of the gameplay,’ noted SemoLogic creative director Jong Bo Kim. ‘We are proud to have helped SCEA take the medium to the next level and provide players with a richer, more immersive experience.’

SemoLogic employed a team of more than 75 artists and support personnel on the project. Rendering required some 340 CPUs spread across three render farms. The total project size exceeded 4TB. The cinematics also feature a rich original music and sound design track, and an all-star voice cast headed by Academy Award-winner Linda Hunt as Gaia and Christopher Lee as Zeus.

SemoLogic teamed with SCEA creative staff in translating the game storyline as well as its characters and environments into a cinematic form. The cinematics begin where the original God of War ended with the apparent death of Kratos at the hands of Zeus. But players quickly discover that Kratos has eluded death and, with the help of Gaia, has set forth to himself become God of War.

The characters within God of War II are composed almost entirely of Gods and Titans based on the brutal world of Greek mythology, whose unusual physical attributes and outsized personalities posed unique challenges to SemoLogic team of character animators. ‘Gods are different from humans and that is reflected in a subtle way through their facial expressions,’ Kim noted. ‘I am especially pleased with the way the animators were able to show Kratos’s development as he transforms for a mortal Spartan general into the God of War.’

Among Zeus’s key attributes are his long flowing white hair and beard, said Kim. ‘It was very difficult to make lifelike,’ he said. ‘Similarly, some of the cloth simulations were challenging as many of the characters are dressed in long robes and appear in strong winds. The Titans were also hard due to their enormous size.’

The most difficult character of all was the Titan Gaia, who takes the form of a tropical island. The character face, though flexible, appears to be hewn from rock. Her head is also covered with vegetation, rivers and waterfalls, and wildlife. ‘With so many objects attached to its surface, the data size was huge,’ Kim observed. ‘She was more like an environment than a character, yet she needed to speak and move in a realistic manner.’

The cinematics are packed with visual effects, including clouds, fire, smoke, dust and various forms of water and energy ways. There is also a blue tornado that emanates from Zeus’s hand and is filled with clouds and dust particles.

Production for the mammoth project was divided between SemoLogic Los Angeles headquarters and its two production studios in South Korea. ‘Although a good portion of the production took place in Seoul, the producers, creatives and technical staff met weekly with Sony staff to review progress and discuss any obstacles that may have come up,’ Kim said. ‘Our pipeline is set up to accommodate international production and it allows us to collaborate in real-time, despite the distance and time difference.’

In total, the production of the cinematics spanned nearly 18 months. Kim, who founded SemoLogic in 2002 after completing work on the landmark feature film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, expressed satisfaction with the results. ‘We were able to further develop the photorealistic style we have been working on since Final Fantasy,’ he concluded. ‘This project also gave us an opportunity to build a stronger foundation for the company by developing new technology and production know-how, and by nurturing artists. Our most important role, however, was to assist SCEA and to help it achieve its vision.’

About God of War II
God of War II brings players back to the violent world of Greek mythology where they last left the vicious ex-Spartan warrior Kratos atop his godly throne as the new God of War. In God of War II, Kratos must journey to the far reaches of the earth and defeat untold horrors and alter that which no mortal, or god has ever changed, his fate.

God of War II sets an epic stage for a devastating mythological war to end all wars. Armed with the deadly blades and blistering rage, players will be aided by new breath-taking magic and new brutal combat moves. The journey will take them through vividly striking environments where they will be faced with a labyrinth of challenging puzzles and mini-games intricately woven into the story. The violence will come to life in gory detail as Kratos encounters new mythical characters, and competes in epic boss battles in his quest.

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