How God of War mixed live gameplay and an orchestra at Sony's E3 conference

Sony's E3 2016 press conference was full of surprises and delights, and it kicked off with a bang. More accurately, it kicked off with several bangs and hums, as composer Bear McReary's orchestra warmed the audience up with a live performance of Kratos' theme from the upcoming God of War. This week, McReary explained some of the history behind the composition, as well as how he coordinated to mix live music with gameplay, and it's pretty fascinating:

Because the gameplay was live and not pre-recorded, McReary explained that traditional sync techniques such as click tracks and streamers would not work. "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," McReary wrote.

McReary also called scoring Kratos' fight with the troll "the single most thrilling video game experience" he has ever had, swaying in time with the monster's attacks as he conducted to keep pace with the battle. "The holy grail of video game composition is creating for the player the feeling of a conductor watching the gameplay and cueing an orchestra to follow in real time. I joked with Cory [the man playing the demo] later that we were spoiling him: he’ll never want to play a video game without orchestral accompaniment again."

Sometimes we forget about how much effort goes into making these presentations, and only remember the end result. But I think it's fair to say the God of War reveal wouldn't have had nearly the weight or excitement if not for McReary agreeing to conduct a live orchestra. Kudos.

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Sam Prell

Sam is a former News Editor here at GamesRadar. His expert words have appeared on many of the web's well-known gaming sites, including Joystiq, Penny Arcade, Destructoid, and G4 Media, among others. Sam has a serious soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and emo music. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.