Back in 2005, we received an email from a Czech musician who claimed to have recently participated in several symphonic recording sessions for the soundtrack of Diablo III. We could not confirm the rumor at the time, but all of the particulars seemed to match up (his name, email, and the fact that some of the Diablo 2 soundtrack was recorded by that same Bratislava symphony), and we posted the rumor on Diabloii.net. Here’s a quote from the email we posted, way back then:
I am musician in Czech Republic. I play not with one orchestra but with many depending on work. I have recently been to Bratislava in Slovak Republic for recording sessions with local Radio Symphony Orchestra, where we just recorded music for Diablo 3.
I did not find the people from Blizzard in the studio, but composer (Uleman?) was there and conductor was named Kirk Trevor, I think he is from England but he conducts in Bratislava much and also in some other cities in Czech Republic like Zlin.
The music is again, like in Diablo 2 expansion, very much based on Wagner. In Diablo 2 expansion there are many places in Act 5 that take directly from Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde”. This time for Diablo 3 there was music similar to Wagner operas “Lohengrin” and also “Siegfried”; from Ring cycle. But this is not so bad that he takes from these things, almost all movie composers borrow Wagner music, like Williams for Star Wars and others like Nino Rota who made music for Fellini’s films.
So now when Diablo 3 is finished I must buy, maybe I will hear all my mistakes (I play percussion instruments).
In the years since then it’s become common knowledge that Diablo 3 was under production (but never announced or shown publicly) at Blizzard North for several years before the “Big 4” left the company in 2003, and that the game was canceled with the closing of Blizzard North, before beginning essentially from scratch in Blizzard Irvine in late 2005. All of this is covered in great detail, with lots of citations, in the Diablo 3 History article in the wiki.
I bring it up today since Diablo 2 composer Matt Uelmen made some interesting comments about the recording of the Diablo 3 soundtrack, back in his Blizzard North days, in his interview with Gamasutra. A couple of quotes:
Gamasutra: For the four years prior to that, were you basically working on what Diablo III would have been, if Blizzard North had stayed around?
Matt Uelmen: I guess at this point I can say, yes, more or less. Blizzard has always had a number of projects, though, that may or may not see the light of day. Some of those have been talked about, but there definitely was more than one thing going on development-wise at the time.
I was really happy, though, that I did an orchestral session shortly before the studio was shut down, having that live orchestral stuff to draw on. That really was my life saver, and I was proud of the fact that I was able to motivate getting some orchestral stuff recorded despite the project and the team being in the kind of state where shutting down was on the table.
It’s also the largess of Blizzard that they paid for a session in that context, which is to be thanked. But it actually worked out really well to have that material to work with later on.
…Hopefully we can do it when it’s not freezing. The last few times I went up to Bratislava, [Slovakia, to record with the local orchestra] was when it was in the teens, Fahrenheit, and I had forgotten my thermal underwear. It’s a bad scene. But this time it will be a slightly warmer time of year, which will be nice.
So, rumor confirmed, 5 years later! The question now, is if we’ll hear any of that original D3 music in the new version of the game? We’ve heard from Russel Brower and Laurence Juber about their efforts on the Diablo 3 soundtrack, but neither of them breathed a word about using any of Matt Uelmen’s compositions and recordings from back in the Blizzard North days. We may have to wait to see the game credits before we know for sure?