Blizzard Audio, Music, and Voices Interviewed

Thanks to Fmulder for pointing us to The Frontliner, which has posted a multi-part interview with several key creators on the Blizzard Audio Team. Answering questions are Russell Brower – Senior Director Of Audio, Derek Duke – Project Music Director/Composer, Joseph Lawrence – Lead Sound Designer, and Andrea Toyias – Casting & Voice Director. Many of the questions to Derek and Joseph are specifically about Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls, and the whole thing provides interesting insight into the voice, music, and sound effects of Blizzard games.

Here’s one Derek Duke talking about the Reaper of Souls music, which most fans feel is an improvement over the always-too-subtle music of Diablo 3.

You’ve stated in the past that you played most of your Diablo III’s music live. Does this mean you’re only dealing with audio? How do you feel about sequencing things through MIDI? Do you accomplish anything with that?
Derek: Yes, it was about capturing that realtime-performance musicality in the audio, to really bring the “organic” out in the music. We’ve taken that a lot further in “Reaper of Souls“. The majority of its score being orchestral, it was recorded without click tracks in order to maximize the musicality and get the organic tempos and dynamics from the players.

We recorded choir together with orchestra in order to better capture the energy of all the musicians. We also tried using some more specialized contemporary music techniques to invite random and controlled chaos into the score, where individual players could make certain musical choices in reaction to other players’ choices, though always to a very specific musical end. All this trying to maximize the organic musical energy that comes from a live/real performance. There are always sequencers and midi involved at some point, but that’s not where most of the editing happens.

Seems the Reaper of Souls publicity is starting to crank up, with this piece, than PCGamer interview last week, and no doubt many more on the way.

I found this bit about casting and recording the audio interesting.

How do you go about deciding which actors to cast for monster/creature roles? Do you have to listen to hours of audition tape of people making grunting noises?
Andrea: I’m so glad you asked this question. I don’t think people generally realize what goes into bringing our monsters and creatures to life. This is an art form unto itself, one that doesn’t get near the appreciation it deserves. Being a voice actor in general takes amazing talent and an unbelievable ability to play and create uninhibitedly in front of others. But creature actors are a whole other story. In a moment’s notice during a recording session, a creature actor has to come up with the craziest sounds you can possibly imagine. For example, during a creature session for Diablo III, I had to tell an actor to pretend he was — direct quote — a “demon goat warrior speaking faux Latin”. Huh? What? Yes, that was the direction. And that was exactly what the actor did and sounded like. It was amazing to experience that live. To this day, I have no idea how he did it.

Finding actors who can make such sounds is no easy task. I generally do open casting for our speaking, non-creature roles, meaning I send a casting call out to the voice acting community asking for auditions. I don’t tend to do that for creatures because it is such a unique “muscle” I am looking for. A lot of actors will give it their best shot and work really hard to create monster sounds, but it’s a unique breed of person who can come up with out-of-this world sounds and make them sound believable, cool, and scary.

Generally, I will find my creature actors simply working with them on other speaking roles, and suddenly hear something in session that tells me they secretly spend hours in front of the mirror or driving in their car making funny sounds—and sure enough, I’m generally right. I’ll pull them aside on break and ask if they’ve thought about doing creature sounds, and their face will light up because they do indeed have a secret passion for making crazy sounds. That’s how I find a majority of my “new” monsters — but of course there is a small cadre of amazing actors who really specialize in making unusual sounds and effects with only their voices.

Two actors who I am still to this day so humbled that I got to work with are Frank Welker and Dee Bradley Baker. Frank can have two completely separate sounds come out of his vocal cords at once. And Dee can make sounds that you would bet your life are absolutely not human in any way, shape, or form. And honestly, I’m not even sure if Frank or Dee are human . . . they’re that good.

So that’s Gharbad’s Ghost, right? The “demon goat warrior speaking faux Latin”. Either that or another flashback to my first marriage.

Related to this article
You're not logged in. Register or login to post a comment.

6 thoughts on “Blizzard Audio, Music, and Voices Interviewed

  1. too bad he puts all that work into creature sounds yet hardly any have memorable, distinct sounds. This always makes me sad since d1/2 monsters had so many awesome, unforgettable voices. 🙁

  2. I think the Latin part was the goat shaman that was guarding the Khazra gate. He says something Latin-ish.

  3. Too bad that for all his effort, there are almost no memorable, interesting monster sounds in D3. This makes me sad considering that D1/2 were filled with monsters with awesome, unforgettable voices. 🙁


    • As a kid playing D1, the sound of a horned demon charging scared the living bejeezus out of me.

    • Aint that the truth? Still think the sound of a Fallen One dying in Diablo1 is one of the most satisfying sound effects in video game history. The goatmen also had a particularly gruesome sound set too.

  4. I, Clavdivs, The God, returned to play PTR a while ago, and currently play patch 2.02. The sad truth is that The God godself play with ALL sound muted and cinematic skipped – and the game has much better feel. The constant chattering of annoying sidekicks or NPCs actually ruins the game – it feels far more ‘gothic’ and atmospheric with all Sex-and-the-City nonsense turned off.

    It was a worthy discovery, and divine being suggests other players to try it – Enchantress and Shen are the only characters that actually have something interesting to say, but probably everyone has heard it already.

Comments are closed.