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By Jessica Brown On 10 Sep, 2017 At 09:12 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For quite some time, “wait for Vega” was the rallying cry of many AMD fans. After the R9 300 series of cards (with the 390X and the Fury cards offering quite a punch) in 2015, AMD backed off of the high-end market for a while. In 2016 they released their Polaris architecture under the RX 400 product line with the RX 480 capping things off for a very reasonable $250 USD. Having had a 290/X and a 390/X in the previous generations, many fans were wondering what AMD had in store for the unannounced RX 490 card. Was this the mysterious, high-end Vega architecture that would replace the year-old R9 Fury cards? As the months wore on, AMD remained mum on the topic and by the end of 2016 it became pretty clear that Vega would not be released as part of the 400 series of products. April of this year saw the release of the RX 500 cards (a modest refresh of the Polaris architecture), but once again there was no RX 590 offering in sight. Soon, though, AMD made it clear that Vega would be released as its own product category.

As far back as mid-2016, fans were saying that Vega would be the card to finally put NVIDIA in its place. Rumors were running wild about supposed specs for this next-generation card. It was clear that the card would make use of the next-generation High Bandwidth Memory 2 interface, but how much memory would be present and at what speed the GPU would be clocked to were all pure speculation at best. The Polaris cards, while great for the money, were designed to appeal to mainstream PC gamers wanting to play at a solid 1080p or dip into 1440p a bit, but these GPUs were not meant to trade blows with the higher-end Pascal cards. Even the RX 580, which was marginally better than the R9 390X (though, to be fair, coming out almost two years later), would only compete with a GTX 1060. “Don’t worry,” fans said, “Vega will stomp the 1080. Vega will be a Titan-killer!” The problem was, though, that when Vega was finally on the horizon this year, its performance claims were pitting it against cards that were nearly a year old, taking some of the wind out of their sails. Even though NVIDIA did refresh Pascal a bit this year with a faster GTX 1080 (featuring 11Gbps GDDR5X), Vega’s performance claims would pit it against the architecture from the previous production cycle.

But now that Vega has actually been released, how does it hold up against its main competition?

Honestly, things aren’t looking that great for Vega. As the release of the consumer RX Vega cards was getting close, performance showcases showed that Vega would trade blows with the GTX 1080. Knowing that more than one flavor of Vega would be released, it was unclear which version this was that was being shown. Some held out hope that it was more of a mid-tier Vega, with the “full Vega” being able to go toe-to-toe with the GTX 1080 Ti, but ultimately this turned out not to be the case. As it stands, the “full Vega” (referred to as RX Vega 64) was designed to compete with the GTX 1080, while the more cut down RX Vega 56 was designed as a GTX 1070 competitor. On paper, things actually looked pretty good. RX Vega 64 promised an MSRP of just $499 USD, meaning it would compete with a card that was $50 to $100 more than it, giving gamers some strong performance for their money (which has always been one of AMD’s goals). In the case of Vega 56, it would mean a $399 alternative to the GTX 1070 (which is a monster in the 1080p, 1440p, and VR markets) with a faster HBM2 memory interface as opposed to GDDR5. Unfortunately, though, on paper is where everything ends.

Ultimately, RX Vega 64 does trade blows quite nicely with the GTX 1080, overall across several benchmarks, even though the RX Vega 64 has many individual games where it can be a GTX 1080, it also has a few where it comes in a good bit slower. Overall, it seems like the GTX 1080 is around 10% faster on average than the RX Vega. “But hey, that’s not too bad – GTX 1080 performance for less money!” This statement may seem like a valid response, but once you factor in the next two things, it’s really not. First, there’s the obviously higher power-draw of the RX Vega 64 versus the GTX 1080. Vega 64 has a TDP of 295W while the GTX 1080 comes in at just 180W. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you consider the fact that it’ll draw a lot more power than that if you attempt to overclock it. To drive this fact home, PC Gamer concluded that you could run two GTX 1080 cards in SLI and draw less power than RX Vega 64 under heavy loads.

Then there’s the unavoidable fact that you can’t find Vega at anywhere close to its promised retail price. Vega production was exceptionally limited (something we knew would happen given the limited stock of HBM2 modules) and what few cards could be purchased at launch were immediately snapped up by cryptocurrency miners and after-market resellers. On NewEgg, it’s possible to snag an RX Vega 64 as part of the “Radeon Black Pack” that comes with a few extra goodies (intended to cut down on purchase from miners who didn’t care about gaming), but even this costs a minimum of $679.99 as opposed to the $599 MSRP suggested by Radeon.

Ultimately, it comes down to the question of whether or not you need to upgrade your GPU right now. If you already have a GTX 1070 or 1080 (or beyond), you’re good to go: no reason to think about upgrades right now. If you’re dealing with older architecture (a GTX 900 series card, or an older AMD model) it may be a different story. Also, if you own an RX 480 and want to jump into the realm of higher resolutions, you may find yourself shopping around for a new card.

At the end of the day, though, if you have nearly $700 to spend on a graphics card, RX Vega 64 doesn’t really offer a compelling reason to purchase it. You can get a GTX 1080 card for around $549 and not only will it draw much less power than the Vega 64, it’ll also outperform it around 10% of the time. If you are truly willing to spend $700 and think that you can stretch your budget a bit more, you may want to consider getting a GTX 1080 Ti – Vega 64 can’t even touch the performance of the Ti, and the Ti still consumes less power than the Vega!

Still, as disappointing as Vega is in many ways, it’s kind of par for the course for AMD lately. The R9 290/X and 390/X were rather power-hungry cards, yet they had the advantage at least of being priced competitively with NVIDIA cards while offering some very solid performance. In this way, Vega feels like a bit of a step in the wrong direction even despite some of its more advanced technology that’s powering it.

On the plus side, though, AMD has shaken up the CPU market with its Ryzen processors and in that case, if nothing else, it should make pricing more competitive for those wanting to pick up a new CPU in the near future!

By Jessica Brown On 10 Sep, 2017 At 08:44 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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The GeForce GTX 10 Series is still going strong, even 16 months after its release. In May of 2016, NVIDIA released the first cards of its newest consumer GPU line built around its Pascal microarchitecture. Pascal was a pretty solid leap for the company, making use of a 16nm fabrication process, lower power consumption, improved memory performance, and exceptionally-high clock speeds. The high end GTX 1080 and Titan X (Pascal) cards also made use of a new memory format known as GDDR5X, which allowed for a faster memory interface compared to “regular” GDDR5 while being comparable to, yet cheaper than, High Bandwidth Memory (featured in AMD’s R9 Fury cards and now HBM2 in the Vega cards). This year, NVIDIA rounded off the top-end of the Pascal product line with the ultra-enthusiast GTX 1080 Ti and the new Titan Xp, the fastest consumer GPUs ever produced to date.

While some people suggested that there would be an intermediate refresh of the Pascal cards under a new numbering system prior to the release of the next major architecture, this turned out not to be the case. NVIDIA did, however, refresh their GTX 1080 cards with newer 2017 models that featured faster GDDR5X, clocked in at 11 Gbps.

The bottom line is, though, that with the newly refreshed GTX 1080 cards and the flagship GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp (both of which also feature 11 Gbps GDDR5X), NVIDIA has had no reason to push out an intermediate line of cards. Pascal still remains the best choice when it comes to raw power and energy efficiency and AMD’s lackluster release of their new RX Vega cards only served to reinforce this fact. The RX Vega 64 (AMD’s current top offering in the gaming space) manages to trade blows with the GTX 1080 quite well, but overall falls about 10% short of the GTX 1080 in terms of overall performance. Additionally, Vega 64 has a TDP of 295 watts, which is considerably more than the 180 watts of the GTX 1080. Round that all off with a higher asking price since Vega can only be bought from after-market sellers now and the picture for AMD in the enthusiast space looks pretty grim.

While rumors suggested at one point that NVIDIA’s newest architecture, referred to as Volta, might make a late-2017 debut, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang has said that gamers shouldn’t expect to see Volta-based GTX cards this year. It’s possible that rumors of a late-2017 NVIDIA launch were based on the assumption that RX Vega would offer a strong enough competition to force NVIDIA’s hand. Ultimately, this just wasn’t the case. Pascal is still going strong and does incredibly well in the high-end space.

No release date for Volta gaming cards has been announced yet, but if I had to guess I’d say we might see them sometime around March of 2018 (given that the GTX 1080 Ti, the penultimate GTX 10 Series card, made its debut in March of 2017). These new cards might be called the GTX 20 Series (e.g. GTX 2080), to show more of a major generational improvement rather than a smaller, incremental one which might be implied if they kept with the current numbering scheme and called them the GTX 11 Series (e.g. GTX 1180). Ultimately, that’s up to the marketing team, so there’s really no reason to speculate on that.

At any rate, if you’re looking to pick up a new GPU, don’t play the waiting game or you’ll always be waiting for the next big thing. NVIDIA has some great offerings on the high end starting with the GTX 1070, but if you’re wanting something a bit more mainstream, AMD’s RX 580 and 570 offer plenty of performance for your money in the 1080p to 1440p space!

By Jessica Brown On 12 Jun, 2017 At 02:01 AM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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The Radeon Vega GPU has been a rather mythical thing until the past couple of months, but we are finally approaching the new architecture’s release…Well, sort of.

The Vega graphics processor will be making its first public release on June 27 with the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a powerful professional-grade workstation GPU featuring 16 GB of HBM2. However, as noted, this card is aimed at professionals, game designers, and scientists and is not aimed at PC gamers. Enthusiast gamers will need to wait a little longer for the gaming-grade RX Vega card.

However, it appears that the RX Vega cards will not all be releasing at the same time. Right now, we know that the first RX Vega cards will be released around the time of SIGGRAPH 2017 (July 3 to August 3). Yet, it appears that this will be the release for the most powerful of the gaming grade cards, but those operating on more of a budget will have to wait later…Much later.

According to some sources, the “high end” (non-enthusiast) and mainstream cuts of the Vega architecture most likely won’t be available until early-2018. Until then, Radeon fans that aren’t wanting to push to the bleeding edge will want to check out the RX 500 series of cards that launched back in April.

Time will tell what AMD’s official Vega plans will be, but thankfully SIGGRAPH isn’t that far away now and we should have more concrete answers by then!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:03 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD will be bringing its new Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to the masses sometime this summer in multiple flavors. These will most certainly be ultra-enthusiast grade processors, geared towards those that push their systems to the absolute limit and need the most threads that they can possibly get. Yet, despite the ambiguous “Summer 2017” release window, we don’t have all the details on these new chips just yet.

What we do know, though, is that Threadripper (sometimes referred to as “Ryzen 9”) will feature a 16-core/32-thread behemoth on the top end, bringing with it a massive 64 PCIE 3.0 lanes with it. Sources say that this top-tier chip will clock to 5.0 GHz and beyond. While not officially confirmed just yet, rumors suggest that 10, 12, and 14-core variants will also be released within this new line of processors.

Threadripper will offer quad-channel memory support and will require a new motherboard socket (referred to as TR4).

These new processors will trade blows with Intel’s upcoming Core i9 series of processors, and while prices have not been announced just yet, based on AMD’s history I’d imagine that the Ryzen chips will offer better price-per-performance ratios.

Hopefully we will get more answers soon!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:12 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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AMD has revealed that its upcoming enthusiast graphics cards will be here within the next two months. The “professional” grade Radeon Vega Frontier Edition is due to release on June 27 while the enthusiast gaming RX Vega cards are set to release during SIGGRAPH 2017, which runs from July 30 to August 3.

Whether or not it’ll be too late for AMD to successfully compete with NVIDIA within the enthusiast space remains to be seen, but the longer AMD holds out on releasing its newest cards the more tempted PC gamers might be to hold on a bit longer and see what NVIDIA has to offer with its next-gen Volta line of GPUs.

Regardless, we’ll keep you updated as we find out more about these new graphics cards!

By Jessica Brown On 31 May, 2017 At 08:43 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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We already know some information about AMD’s upcoming “Threadripper” line of CPUs, but Intel will soon be trading blows with its competitor by launching a whole new tier of processors: Core i9. The Core i9 denomination is a new thing for Intel. Previously, the Core i7 tier of processors included both the high-end processors and the more extreme, very expensive offerings. For example, in the 6th Generation series, the i7-6950X was a 10-core Broadwell-E processor that retailed for a whopping $1723 USD. This time around, Intel wants to separate those ultra-enthusiast processors from the more mainstream offerings.

This new 7th Generation Core i9 series will come in a variety of offerings ranging from $999 for a 10-core CPU all the way up to $1999 for an 18-core monster:

  • Core i9-7980XE: 18-cores/32-threads @ $1,999
  • Core i9-7960X: 16-cores/32-threads @ $1,699
  • Core i9-7940X: 14-cores/28-threads @ $1,399
  • Core i9-7920X: 12-cores/24-threads @ $1,199
  • Core i9-7900X: 10-cores/20-threads @ $999

For the more modest enthusiasts out there, though, Intel also will have a new Core i7 X series available:

  • Core i7-7820X: 8-cores/16-threads @ $599
  • Core i7-7800X: 6-cores/12-threads @ $389
  • Core i7-7740X: 4-cores/8-threads (4.3 GHz) @ $339

All of the chips above are part of the “Skylake-X” family, except for the 7740X which is a Kaby Lake processor.

It looks like we’re in for quite a competition between Intel and AMD for the first time in quite a while. If nothing else, hopefully this healthy competition will help drive both innovation and a reduction in consumer prices!

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 11:28 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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Recently, AMD announced that the professional version of their upcoming “Vega” family of GPUs, the “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” was going to launch in June while the consumer cards would follow sometime in Q3 2017. However, at the J. P. Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference on May 22, AMD President Lisa Su announced that the gamer cards would be releasing right after Vega FE.

Vega FE, she said, is set to release in the second half of June and we can expect the RX Vega cards to release this July.

While details have yet to be completely confirmed, we know that there will be three flavors of this new enthusiast architecture:

  • RX Vega Core ($399): Competes with the GTX 1070
  • RX Vega Eclipse ($499): Competes with the GTX 1080
  • RX Vega Nova ($599): Competes with the GTX 1080 Ti

How well these cards will compete with their competition from NVIDIA remains to be seen, but these will be the first enthusiast grade cards released since the R9 Fury (Fiji) GPUs in 2015. There are rumors that AMD is working on “Vega 2.0” which will be aimed to compete with the NVIDIA Volta GPUs in 2018, but nothing is official on that front yet.

By Jessica Brown On 26 May, 2017 At 12:22 AM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For a while now we’ve known that AMD’s new flagship GPU, powered by the 14nm Vega architecture, was set to release sometime in the first half of 2017. Tech analysts had suspected a formal announcement at Computex (May 30 – June 3), followed by a release sometime in June, but as it turns out that’s only partially correct.

Last week at a Financial Analyst Day live-stream, AMD revealed its upcoming “Radeon Vega Frontier Edition,” the first formal presentation of a card in the Vega family. However, one thing was quickly made clear: The Vega FE cards are geared at professionals and scientists, featuring a whopping 16GB of HBM2 and a premium price to suit. Vega FE is set to release in June, meeting AMD’s “1H 2017” deadline, but consumer Vega is still a bit off yet.

On May 31, AMD is holding a press conference where they will finally reveal some real details about the upcoming enthusiast RX Vega gaming cards, but unfortunately those will not be coming in June. No release window has been announced just yet, but I’d expect them to start arriving later in Q3 2017.

So what do we know about the gaming-level Vega cards?

Well, we know that the “RX Vega” models will be optimized for gaming performance (a key difference between them and the professional-grade Vega FE) and will come in three tiers: Core, Eclipse, and Nova. Nova, which will be the top-tier of the RX Vega line, could possibly have similarities to the Vega FE, although whether or not it will have 16GB HBM2 will remain to be seen.

With Computex 2017 just around the corner, though, we should know more real soon!

 

By Jessica Brown On 14 May, 2017 At 05:20 PM | Categorized As ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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For quite some time now, PC gaming enthusiasts have been talking about AMD’s “Vega” line of GPUs. Last year, there was speculation at several tech sites that Vega would make its first appearance as the theoretical RX 490 graphics card. However, as time went on it became quite apparent that AMD had no plans to release a 490 graphics card, capping off the RX 400 series with the RX 480 card. The 400 series was powered by the company’s 14nm Polaris line of graphics cards, offering great performance per dollar for the mainstream market (where the majority of the money is to be made, honestly).

This April, Radeon refreshed its Polaris line of cards and released the RX 500 series, offering around a 10% boost in performance versus the previous iteration. Again, Vega was excluded from this numbering. However, AMD has stated that the upcoming Vega GPU will simply be called the “RX Vega,” releasing as its own product line. This is a bit of a different move from the enthusiast Fury cards from 2015, which were branded as being in the top-tier of the R9 300 series of cards.

So far, there has been a lot of speculation about the upcoming graphics architecture accompanied by quite a few benchmark leaks. Presumably, Vega will be released with at least a couple variants, all of which will make use of the new High Bandwidth Memory 2 format, a successor to the original HBM that was found in the Fury cards. The cards should come in a 4GB and 8GB variant with a 16GB dual, liquid-cooled GPU having been teased.

Early leaked benchmarks have suggested that at least one of the models tested performs at just around the level of NVIDIA’s GTX 1070. The problem with leaked scores like this is that we have no idea which Vega model was being tested. Also, from experience we know that engineering samples and pre-released versions of a card very well may not represent the performance seen in the final consumer versions.

However, the RX 580 is generally seen as a competitor for the GTX 1060, so it makes sense for a “low end” version of Vega to compete with their rival’s 1070 card. Higher versions of Vega will most likely go head-to-head with the GTX 1080 and possibly the GTX 1080 Ti (although many believe that the highest variation of Vega will actually come in somewhere between the 1080 and the 1080 Ti). Yet, it all comes down to price. Even if the best Vega card can only trade blows with the GTX 1080, if it comes in at a more affordable price it may very well steal a bit of the market place from the graphics giant.

There is one problem, though: TweakTown has suggested that there may only be 16,000 total Vega cards across all variants available when it first releases due to limited quantities of HBM2. If this is true, it keeps NVIDIA even safer in the enthusiast field of GPUs for a good bit longer.

Regardless, we should know more after the AMD press event at Computex on May 31. Stay tuned!

By Jonathan Balofsky On 25 Apr, 2017 At 10:03 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, Otaku Music, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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I recently had the chance to interview video game composer Stephen Cox.  His most recent work is the upcoming VR game Farpoint .We discussed his influences, and how composing for a VR game changes things. Please enjoy.

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JB: What are your biggest influences in music?

SC: They are all over the place. In the early years it was definitely all things classical including film music – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart especially John Williams. But Stevie Wonder was also in the background growing up, so I love groove oriented anything. Then Steve Vai, Mr. Bungle and most 90’s rock/metal/grunge pushed me through the high school years.

 

Once I was in college, my influences became totally schizophrenic… Coltrane, Mike Patton, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Erik Korngold, Aphex Twin, Stravinski… One of my new film scoring favorites is Jóhann Jóhannsson. His score for Arrival was outstanding. Can’t wait to hear what he does in the new Blade Runner! I love anything John Powell does and there are so many modern pop, rock, hip hop and R&B artists I’ve left out. I honestly listen to everything (even Country music) and sometimes study the hell out of it, depending on the gig.

 

JB: Who inspired you to go into music?

SC: It’s hard to say when that seed was planted and who planted it. Music was always part of my life growing up. However, there is one instance that stands out back in the early 90s… I was in the middle school concert band (playing trumpet at the time) and heavily into rock music, especially Steve Vai and his genius guitar playing. So this guest speaker comes in to do a talk about his music career and maybe selling Berklee College of Music, where he studied. I’m not sure who this guy was and I wasn’t really paying attention to anything he was saying… until he mentioned Steve Vai. He started talking about life at Berklee and the famous alumni who were there in his day. I don’t remember this speaker’s name, but I think what he said stuck with me in a big way. Years later I ended up at Berklee totally focused on doing music from then on out.

 

JB: What have been some of the challenges for composing music for video games?

SC: The fact that you aren’t scoring to a locked picture, like a film or show, can be tough initially, yet so much more freeing! I found myself really loving the nonlinear process. Also writing chunks of music or overlays that can be triggered at any time while fitting into an underlying loop was a fun challenge. But again, I love that part of it as well.

 

Deliverables are more complex in a game compared to TV or Film. Handing off organized sessions and countless files to give the engineers as much flexibility as possible (while still retaining your sonic vision) requires a certain degree of technical skill and planning. You always have to think about the guy down the production pipeline, making sure you are not making more work for the implementers and engineers. If they’re happy, we’re all happy.

 

JB: What styles do you like to experiment with for your work?

 

SC: I love having the chance to pick up a guitar and rock out. My ongoing work with CBS Sports usually fills that need, but there is not a lot of room for experimentation. If I ever get the opportunity to experiment, like we did in Farpoint, it would be the process of crafting new sounds from organic sources, textures… stuff no one has heard before. Being a part of that ‘world building’ process sonically was such a thrill.

 

JB: Related to the above, what styles would you like to bring into your work?
SC: Being able to mix up styles in new and interesting ways is something I always try to do when given the chance. It seems like our work with trailer music usually gives us opportunities for mashing up orchestral writing with sound design, synthesis and even rock. Music for trailers is usually bombastic, shock and awe, but they are a lot of fun. I look forward to any opportunity to do some modern composition, experimentation with rhythms and microtonality. Film and games are usually the best fit for this style. I can’t wait for the next one!

 

JB: What are some of your favourite video games soundtracks?

SC: My all time favorite is Grim Fandango composed by Pete McConnell. I know it’s old, but the music was the primary reason I was hooked on that game for years. I still play it with my kid on PS4. The score to The Last of Us composed by Gustavo Santaolalla was a big inspiration for Farpoint. Aside from his amazing theme music, some of the in-game music was so lush and rich with organic sound design… he is a true craftsman. The most recent game I can think of is Sarah Schachner’s work on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which was killer! Her work with modular synthesis is super impressive… and it makes me want to go out and buy a bunch of toys. I know I’m leaving someone out…

 

JB: What would you like to see done with video game music going forward?

SC: I would love to see a “choose you own ensemble” scenario. Complete user control over the music engine itself. With VR, you might have the flexibility to place your chosen instruments in the world, add effects, who knows! The act of listening to music can be so much more with this technology. I know for a fact record labels are working on similar ideas for albums and artists currently. These next few years will be very exciting in the world of music and game music within VR.

 

JB: Do you feel video game music is held back still by anything?

SC: Only our imaginations. At this point I see no difference between the production quality of the biggest games compared to the biggest films. My kid and I just finished Uncharted 4 last night and Henry Jackman’s score totally knocked me out, Niagara Falls. I forgot to mention Uncharted 4 in the previous question. The emotional content and gameplay was supported perfectly by the music, just like his best film scores. If anything, film music is held back because of the static medium. Game music can be ever changing, evolving with the action taking place and there’s no longer a limit on how ‘big’ the music can be for a game. Kudos to Sony and Naughty Dog for the most amazing implementation of game music I’ve ever seen or heard.

 

JB: What are the challenges of composing for a game that is in VR?

SC: The biggest challenge is immersion, or keeping the player immersed in the VR world. There seems to be two schools of thought in terms of sound and music within VR: The first is Full Immersion, where the space and reality is represented as accurately as possible using sound effects only. And if there is music, it is source music, meaning it is coming from within the world itself. The other approach treats audio and music closer to a cinematic experience or even hyper-cinematic, almost like a theme park ride. We were always walking that fine line. When my writing partner, Danny McIntyre, and I realized that VR experiences (including Farpoint) are closer to a theme park attraction than a standard game, we found our stride and the music cues started clicking into place.

 

JB: Does the game being in VR change the way you go about composing?

 

SC: In terms of writing themes and cues, not so much. In terms of the sound palette and instrumentation, very much so. The way the instruments interacted with the space is very important. We tried to keep the score very wide and reverberant as if it was a part of the background ambience, which it almost is at times. We found that less could be more in terms of ensemble size even though some of the cues are very thick.

 

JB: Do you feel that VR offers new ways to experience the music?

 

SC: Absolutely. Mainly because of the space. The use of reverb and panning is so much more important in VR than it is in any other medium. Things can be focused or spread in a way that wouldn’t make sense if it were played back on speakers. Because the VR experience is inextricably tied to headphones, we ended up doing a lot of testing using them. I worked closely with Sony Interactive’s music team under Senior Music Manager Jonathan Mayer (along with music engineer/implementer Anthony Caruso and Rob Goodson) to figure out the right balance of instrumentation, reverb and placement. Those guys did amazing work.

 

JB: What are some of the innovations VR brings to game music?

SC: Because the experience is so immersive, I think it may change the way we approach sound design and scoring music entirely. Using music in a way that increases that feeling of immersion is an innovation in and of itself. I think we did very well with that in Farpoint, but we are all trying to reinvent the wheel together.

 

JB: What would you like to be able to do differently with music that cannot be done yet?

 

SC: I hear music, intervals, rhythms and pitches everywhere when I walk outside, wash the dishes or just sitting in my studio writing this. It’s kind of a sickness for most composers and audio pros. I want to create an experience for the listener that takes that to a new level. Where the pitches and rhythms of normal, everyday ambience can be compiled and processed in a way to make true music… in real time. Maybe I’ll get cracking on that right now, unless someone has already beaten me to it 😉

 

Also being able to craft and compose music in a VR space as if you were using the interface from Minority Report. VR could be the bridge to creating and composing music in entirely new ways and Farpoint is a very important first step in the world of VR innovation. I can’t wait for you all to experience it!

 

Thank you again Stephen for taking the time to talk to ROG!