It was a hot, humid Thursday night in Sydney as Cory Barlog locked his hotel room door and sat down in front of a computer.
The review embargo had just lifted on God of War, the video game the studio's creative director had sweated over for five years, and Barlog wanted to be alone as he found out what critics had to say.
He started scrolling. "One of PlayStation's finest moments," declared GamesRadar about the eighth instalment in the Playstation-defining series that began in 2005.
"It doesn't just feel like the next step for the franchise, but for the entire video game industry," raved Easy Allies.
"Nothing short of a masterpiece," said We Got This Covered. "From the renewed focus on storytelling to its stunningly gorgeous world and incredibly satisfying combat ... it sets a new bar."
The great reviews kept rolling in. As God of War reached a whopping 95 per cent aggregate on Metacritic, it became the best-reviewed game of the year. Some critics say it's among the best games ever made.
A disbelieving Barlog tuned into a live stream of his teammates back at Santa Monica Studio in Los Angeles, who were doing the same thing as him.
As he watched them celebrate, the emotion of the moment hit him. "I could not talk for six minutes," Barlog says. "I was crying." Once he dried his eyes, he went out for dinner and ordered the champagne.
Critics are raving about God of War for good reason. Barlog has helmed several iterations of the series that's based on Norse mythology and involves plenty of high octane violence and beast-battling action scenes.
But Barlog's new take goes far deeper than previous instalments by giving the game's surly hulk Kratos a new challenge - a son.
Yes, players are still tasked with taking out huge monsters in epic combat scenes that echo the game's early days. The graphics, animation and scenery are among the best you'll see in a video game - especially if you own the Playstation Pro.
But you'll need to do it all with Atreus, Kratos' teenage son, who flings arrows at those huge beasts, by your side. He's a crucial addition to the story, one providing motivation for the growth of Kratos from surly instigator of violence to a protective father.
Several events led to Barlog's concept for the return of God of War. He spent six months working on a Star Wars TV show, heading out to George Lucas' ranch to read through an episode about how one of the franchise's biggest villains became such a baddie.
"The script that I read explained a Star Wars character ... in a way that you actually sympathised [with him]," says Barlog. "At the end of the script, I felt bad for this character. That was really cool ... that was the spark."
Then Barlog went through his own life-changing event - his first son was born. So he started including real-life moments about his journey as a father in the God of War game he was crafting.
"There was a lot of stuff that I was seeding in there and working through, deep-layer stuff that I wouldn't tell anyone about," he says. "Had I had a daughter, Kratos would have had a daughter."
But Barlog says there's one metaphor that doesn't work when fans compare him to Kratos.
"Everyone would say, 'Hey actually you're probably Kratos and your wife is the one from the beginning [of the game]'." He clarifies: "Actually I am the wife at the beginning of this story, and my wife is Kratos and my son is Atreus because I am never there, she has this relationship with my son."
Barlog admits he hasn't yet told her the full story behind the game. "I don't want to tell her what's truly underneath it because it's a little f***** up I think," he says.
His son's 5 now, and with an M-rating, Barlog knows he'll have to wait until he can play God of War with him. But he can't wait: "When he gets older I totally want to play this with him. I hope to be able to play it with him and talk to him about it."
With God of War set to launch tomorrow and reviewers calling it the best game of 2018, Barlog says he and his team are still struggling to believe the hype. "There's a bunch of people working on my team saying, 'I don't know how to feel about it, I don't believe it'," laughs Barlog.
But he's definitely ready for a holiday. In mid-May, Barlog's turning off social media so he can "spend some time with my wife and son so I can be far more present in (my own) story".
Who: Cory Barlog from Santa Monica Studio
What: God of War for Playstation 4
When: Released on Friday