God of War composer’s cameo required game’s most complex mocap work

We know there are quite a few impressive God of War Ragnarok characters in Santa Monica Studios’ Game of the Year nominated action-adventure game. However, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing is the Svartalfheim side character Ræb. Not only is this character a Dwarf playing the hurdy gurdy, which is one weird musical instrument, but this character is actually played by the game’s composer Bear McCreary. If you’re still not impressed by this easy-to-miss cameo, McCreary has actually revealed that his motion-capture performance as Ræb is the most technical bit of mocap in the entire game – and he wasn’t even expecting to need to do it.

In a PlayStation Blog post discussing the composition of the Huldra Brothers theme and his work on God of War Ragnarok, McCreary explains how he was “dumbstruck” by concept art for Ræb and the invitation to become the character based on his likeness in-game.

After spying artwork of “a stout Dwarven fellow holding a beautiful hurdy gurdy, with a familiar, and perhaps even dashingly handsome face”, McCreary soon found himself stepping into Santa Monica Studios “not as a composer, but as an actor” for God of War Ragnarok – joining the other talents on the God of War Ragnarok voice actors cast list.

McCreary explains how he was initially “struck by how barren it looked” when walking onto the mocap stage. However, he quickly found himself “delighted like a kid playing with new toys” when he noticed that Ræb was mimicking his every movement on-screen.

Interestingly, McCreary reveals that the motion-capture for Ræb was so detailed “because so much of [his]motion-capture work involved playing a musical instrument.”

“Typically, one or two sensors are placed on the hands to capture the motion of the arms, but all that detailed finger movement is typically animated later”, McCreary explains. However, getting Ræb’s hurdy gurdy playing accurate in-game required a new level of detail when it came to the mo-cap – Santa Monica Studios “had never done this before”. This level of detail was achieved by attaching multiple sensors to McCreary’s fingers and the instrument itself to better record his movements as he played it.

As exciting as McCreary found this advanced motion-capture work, though, “it did not prepare [him] for the thrill of recording Ræb’s dialog a few weeks later.” From how McCreary describes the process, however uniform to his co-stars, he makes it sound like something of an eye-opening experience.

“Though I had never properly acted before, I found that my creative process as an actor working with Matt was the same as working as a composer with a director or producer when I am scoring narrative… As I drove home from the recording studio, I was giddy, and my heart was pounding in my chest. I can safely say the few hours I spent recording Ræb’s dialog rank among the most exhilarating creative experiences of my life.”

Ræb might only appear in one of the God of War Ragnarok realms available in-game, but he’s an important part of Kratos’ journey and shouldn’t be overlooked. We know that we’re going to be paying close attention to his hand-work going forwards.