PlayStation VR Worlds: Doing More With the Score

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PlayStation VR Worlds: Doing More With the Score

Hello everyone, my name is Joe Thwaites and I’m the composer for PlayStation VR Worlds. The audio team has just finished doing the final mix of the game and it’s sounding amazing!

I’ve been working with PlayStation VR for nearly three years now and it’s been a lot of fun. Virtual reality is a really exciting new medium, and as a composer it’s thrown up all kinds of interesting opportunities that haven’t been possible in the past. VR gives access to a whole new dimension of immersion, but also challenges some of the approaches we take for granted in traditional game development.

PlayStation VR Worlds, Concept and Design

When we first started making PlayStation VR Worlds there were lots of discussions about the importance of simulating the real world and that threw up concerns about the relevance of non-diegetic (off-screen) music. But as it turned out, we needn’t have worried.

Virtual reality is a powerful medium to create immersive experiences that come in many different forms. Abstract worlds can be equally as convincing as more realistic 3D environments. The player will suspend their disbelief and become immersed in a game as long as the content being delivered is both audibly and visually consistent and presented in a believable way.

Writing the music for PlayStation VR Worlds has probably been one of the most difficult and fun projects I’ve worked on to date. At the start of the game development I spent a lot of time with the Creative Director Russ Harding and Audio Lead Joanna Orland working on a style guide that would encapsulate the vision of the project.

PlayStation VR Worlds, PS VR

The game features five very different experiences, from controlling a gangster in London’s East End, to playing the futuristic face-paddle sport Danger Ball. At the beginning of the project, this seemed like a gargantuan task!

The biggest challenge was creating distinct styles that complimented each experience whilst also maintaining a consistency that brought everything together as a whole package. Among other things, one key element in achieving this was to use a single theme throughout. This gave a sense of togetherness by musically linking all the experiences even though each of them use very different sound pallets.

Here are a few things that you can look forward to hearing when you play the game:

  • Ocean Descent uses a combination of synthetic and orchestral colors to create a sense of awe and excitement as you descend through the underwater environment. Listen out for the jellyfish that play binaurally positioned tones when you look at them!
  • Electronic tones are used to create an arcadey feel of Danger Ball; they’re also used to help build a sense of tension as you score more points.
  • Scavenger’s Odyssey is a full-blown orchestral epic, using Wagner tubas and a big string section to capture both the alien nature of the environment and the drama of the combat.
  • VR Luge is primarily percussion, bringing out the raw adrenaline of the sport as you speed down the mountain dodging between cars. The faster you go the more percussion you hear!
  • The hub brings everything together, with elements of each experience adding to the mix as you scroll through the games.

PlayStation VR Worlds, Scavengers Odyssey | PS VR

After demos of each track in the game were created, the immensely talented orchestrator Jim Fowler turned them into scores to be performed at Air Studios London. Using world-class musicians we spent four days recording with a 60-piece orchestra and a four-piece punk band.


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