Composer Bear McCreary Reflects on Scoring the God of War E3 Demo Live; “The Challenge was Terrifying and Thrilling”
In a night that was filled with spectacle, one of the most stunning displays of the night at Sony’s E3 2016 press conference was the use of a live orchestra to not only kick off the show, but also to score the conference’s opening demo of the PS4-exclusive God of War, with composer Bear McCreary reflecting on his experience at the event.
In a blog post on his official website, composer Bear McCreary (known previously for his work on AMC’s TV series The Walking Dead) shared his thoughts on the press conference and the opportunity to score the upcoming God of War, and also the particular challenges of having to score a live gameplay demonstration in front of an audience of 5,000 people.
McCreary explained in the post on his first collaboration with Sony Santa Monica to begin work on the game, which he explained began two years ago:
“This moment was the culmination of a long journey, because my work on God of War began nearly two years ago. One rainy November afternoon, I was called into Sony’s Santa Monica Studio to meet with acclaimed music producers Pete Scaturro and Keith Leary (with whom I had collaborated closely on Sony’s SOCOM 4: US Navy Seals), to discuss a secret project. Our conversation revolved around folk music, mythology, Nordic ethnic instruments, vocal writing, and classical thematic development. “Wait a minute.” I asked. “Is this… a new God of War?!”
“Their facial expressions told me everything I needed to know. And with that, I realized I was tumbling headfirst into a daunting and challenging dream project.”
McCreary also mentioned the beginning of his discussions with the game’s director, Cory Barlog, and explained how the game’s Norse mythology setting allowed McCreary to “map out how many musical themes would be necessary to guide the audience through epic story.”
He also explained in great detail the thrill (and challenges) of having to conduct an orchestra alongside a live gameplay demo, mentioning:
“When the decision was made to unveil God of War at E3 2016, Playstation came to me with a radical idea. They asked me if I would be willing to perform my original score live to picture with a full orchestra at the press conference. Naturally, I was on board immediately and enthusiastically.”
“The logistics of playing orchestra live to picture are daunting enough. This event, however, was further complicated by the fact that the picture would change every time because it was live gameplay, not a pre-rendered video. So, traditional sync techniques such as click tracks and streamers would be useless. I worked closely with the development team to come up with solutions that would allow me to follow the gameplay with the orchestra, and still allow Cory the flexibility to truly play the game in real time. The challenge was terrifying and thrilling.”
Even with that type of challenge, McCreary explained that after the performance, “the audience burst into cheers,” and how “words fail to describe how I felt in that moment. The reaction from the crowd was thunderous, threatening to shake the walls.”
At the conclusion of the post, McCreary explained his experience after the performance at the press conference:
“As I stepped off the stage, my phone buzzed incessantly with texts from friends and family who had no idea I was doing this. I felt a momentary sadness that this thrilling experience blasted by in a brief fifteen minutes. Then, that letdown quickly morphed into excitement; after all, the game is still in production, and I still have a lot of music to compose. I returned to my studio with newfound inspiration.”
“My journey on God of War is only just beginning, and I look forward to sharing more of it with gamers in the future.”
God of War is currently in development for PS4 – you can check out a full video of the performance below from Sony’s E3 2016 press conference (courtesy of YouTube’s “trywizardo”):