Massive Interviews with the Diablo III Music and Sound Teams

An awesome article on Destructoid covers everything about the Diablo III music and sound effects. It’s a massive piece; four separate interviews on a single page, featuring numerous questions each for Russell Brower, Joseph Lawrence, Derek Duke, and Lawrence Juber. I can only scratch the surface with a quote so it’s highly recommended that you dig into it yourself. A couple of questions from the start with Russel Brower.

On the tools being used to creating Diablo III’s unique sound:
It was important to give Diablo III its own “sound”— not only via the compositions, but even in the way it was recorded. To complement the “bronze-age” sound of Warcraft, and the “space-opera” sound of StarCraft, we decided to record this score in concert hall that relies on the oldest acoustical traditions known to humankind. The Pacific Symphony performed the score in the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. All of the orchestral music was recorded live, with nearly 100 musicians in the space, playing together. This technique provides a subtlety to intonation, ensemble and timbre which is not achievable via modern studio multi-track recording.

We also record two choirs: one for The Heavens, and one for The Hells. Working somewhat against conventional expectations, Hell is a beautiful and seductive sound, provided by Dublin’s uniquely astounding choral group ANÚNA, while Heaven is represented by the powerful and mostly-male subset of the London Voices, which we recorded in the legendary Studio 2 at Abbey Road.

The Composers also performed a great deal of the music in the studio; I even took a turn on the great Segerstrom pipe organ!

On the hour-long guitar recording from Matt Uelmen used in the soundtrack:
If memory serves, it was late 2007 and Derek Duke and I had been witness to much of Matt’s early demo work on Diablo III. With the DNA of the Diablo music clearly so present in Matt’s mind, we invited him to pour his “musical stream-of-consciousness” into a microphone. What followed was a musical tour of the themes which were forefront in Matt’s mind at the time. He provided a running commentary as he played, noting the significance of each motif and even some clues to what changes he was percolating upon in the moment.

Prior to the BlizzCon debut of playable Diablo III content, then again during final music production in late 2011, I had the privilege of re-visiting these recordings, and creating an epic “mash-up” of both Matt’s and Laurence’s guitar musings.

Blizzard is a collaborative and iterative culture; I can’t think of a more fitting example than the Diablo III musical score.

Crazy the number of interviews and depth of info Blizzard has rolled out for us over the past couple of weeks, now that the wraps are off and the full game is nearly here. Remember all those months of DiabloWikiDiablo droughts™ we suffered through back in 2008-2011, when were excited just to see a new @Diablo tweet about nothing in particular?

As for the Diablo sound and music, I remain of the opinion that I have yet to hear any of it. I’ve heard some in sample tracks, but in the actual game? While playing the beta I turned down the volume on dialogue and sound effects and turned it up on background sounds and music, and still hardly caught more than faint ambient creaking sounds and wind. I’m curious to hear the musical presentation change (or not) in the final game.

It’s interesting to compare to Torchlight 2, which I’ve been beta testing for the past week. TL 2’s musical direction is in the style of Diablo I and Diablo II; not only because Matt Uelmen created them all, but because of how TL2’s music and sound is presented. In TL2, as in D1 and D2, the music is present and audible and feels like a big part of the game world, and does much to set the mood and tone and feeling of levels.

In D3, conversely, the music is sparse and used only in key moments, while most of the sound is ambient background effects. I think this was an intentional choice by the developers to focus the player’s attention more on the car crash sound effects of the skills, the monster noises, the sound of destructibles being destroyed, etc. All those sounds are fairly non-stop in D3, and a strong musical score would just clash with them.

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

59 thoughts on “Massive Interviews with the Diablo III Music and Sound Teams

  1. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but when playing D3 beta, the music, although it was at 100% volume, sounded very quiet. I actually had to turn on the volume on my speakers to hear it and lower the sound and voice effects in game settings to actually have a good balance between music and sounds/voice.

  2. This is one thing I continue to be confused about. When I played in the open beta I was surprised how much I noticed the music, and how much I enjoyed it most of the time (sometimes I even found the music too much). I left sound settings at default.

    • Oh please, most of us are ARPG fans.  Just because there’s hardly any competition, doesn’t mean i want my news sources to pretend there is no competition at all.  For e.g., i’m very disappointed that Rush et al have chosen not to post about the Path of Exile Open Beta this weekend.

      • LOL
        How come I don’t see posts on the counterstrike sites I frequent about how much better Call of Duty: Black ops 2 will be than CS Go.
        Well because they’re NOT CALL OF DUTY news sites

  3. second news now that either has broken link or no link at all.. if your not gonna have link atleast give full story on the page

    • Amen to that Brother. When Blizzard chose to go to orchestral symphonies and not use Uelmen to score D3 they lost all of the amazing intimacy and immediacy of his music. From the first second I’m turning off the music in game and creating a playlist with all my lossless Uelmen from Diablo and Diablo 2 music, now that IS Diablo 3 🙂

    • If only there would be a way to listen to his awesome music while you’re playing… 🙂

      I know what you mean though, I still prefer D1’s music to the sequels. Not the new soundtracks are bad, but I’m tired of hearing orchestrated and ambient music in most of today’s games.

    • Cause we all played Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 for years on end because of the music.  

      • A lot of people enjoyed Matt’s music in D1 and D2. It pretty much conjured up what your emotions were in-game.

      • The music in the Diablo games pretty much steered my musical inclination and career choice. I shall miss Uelman’s music in the franchise greatly.

        • Wow Amen to all you fellow Diablo Uelmen music loving brothers and sisters! I to wish there was a way to get them in game. I wont risk modifying anything that could get one banned however there might be a way to tell so sort of external hardware to play cued music depending on what act you are in.

          worst come to worst tailor your music for each act, so when your in act 2 town alt tab out and cue up your playlist for act 2 desert 🙂 something like that

      • Wow. Why don’t you at least give it a chance.  Just spit in the the faces of all the work these musicians put in the game why don’t ya.  

        • As I’ve said on this site 100s of times.  People seem to want D3 to be an expansion pack of D2.  If everything isn’t IDENTICAL to a 12 year old game,  it must be shit right?

  4. I heard plenty of music in the beta.  So much so that I turned it down a bit so I could hear the effects more.   I’m amazed you say you could barely hear it.  Wondering if your sound setup is all ok on your pc.   And no, I’m not trolling.  I really did have to turn the music down a bit. 
    I’m using a pair of $30 logitech speakers and an onboard sound card. (gigabyte mb)  One thing I do not have setup is surround sound or dolby5.1.  Just the standard sound output jack.   Perhaps you have a better sound system and it is what has issues with the game.   Perhaps an equalizer outside the game is to blame?

    • The music that plays when you’re on the login screen is quite loud, but the music is very quiet in game– or doesn’t play at all.  If it is an issue, tons of people are having it.

  5. I don’t get people who say that just because Matt Uelmen didn’t create it, they’re going to turn off the music from the start.  Maybe… just maybe you’ll actually enjoy the music. God forbid you then have to do the work of finding out the composer and becoming a fan of more than one artist.  I know it may be shocking that more than one composer can create good atmospheric music, but it can happen.

      • Oh there’s plenty of sound, and the spell effects and such are very loud, but there’s very little music. Just ambient noise and wind blowing and such. Which is not a bad thing, but it’s very different than the sound design of D1/D2 and other such RPGs. A stylistic choice, as I discussed in the OP.

  6. I thought at first “no way some new team is going to capture the sounds of D1/2. But those samples, even on my crappy laptop speakers, are impressive, really, really crisp symphonic work that just screams dark adventure, and seems well suited for what I expect to see in game. Nothing will take the place in our hearts of tristram in diablo and diablo 2, but really, we all know in 10 years when D4 is coming out, we’ll all be like NO WAY THIS NEW SYMPHONY HAS ANYTHING ON ULEMAN/WHOEVER DID D3 OMG D3 WAS SO MUCH BETTER

  7. It should be the music itself that matters, not the name of the composer.
    D1 and D2 both had awesome music – and guess what – D3 has as well. 

  8. People, you should understand that by D2:LOD Uelmen was moving towards Orchestration regardless, and if you read the full interview from above then you will notice that they picked his brain and continued with his thought process for D3 as well as branching out for some new styles and canvases. 

    • Yes exactly why Ulemen did an orchestral score for Torchlight! …wait….he didn’t

      • Listen to the music of the intro and Act V in D2: LoD… that is orchestral music, clear as day.

    • LOL poor man’s Uelmen.  Laurence Juber is by far the more well known artist, has 2 grammys,  Toured with Paul McCartney, has 19 critically acclaimed albums.  Billions have heard his music.  Matt is good and all but he isn’t Laurence Juber. 

      • Can you name one game soundtrack he’s done besides D3?
        How about just one soundtrack, off the top of your head?

        • No need to name it off the top of your head, when you can just do a google search!
          Also after checking out his IMDB link, it seems that he didn’t work with video games.

          • Interesting.  So he’s more of a recording artist than a soundtrack guy.
            Has he had any billboard top 40 albums or singles since the end of his short hitch with Wings over 30 yeras ago?

          • I guess your logic is because he hasn’t had a top 40 in 30 years that he just doesn’t match up.  Yeah that’s great, I guess Uelmen is better then Beethoven.  Lets turn your statement back on you.  When did Uelmen EVER have a billboard top 40?       Point being is Laurence Juber is not just some fly by night hack job.   The fact that ABarbarian called him a “poor man’s Uelmen”  is insulting to the Laurence.

          • Just wanted to add, I haven’t been a long time fan of Laurence Juber. I just started to get interested in him after I went to blizzcon and heard him play at the sound panel.  Listen to his music here,  and tell me what you think of the mans skill. Go look for Pass the Buck, it’s one of my favs.

          • Right, you had absolutely no idea who he was until you saw his Uelman impersonation.  Got it.

          • So did you know Matt Uelmen before Diablo?  Just because I didn’t know much about Laurence Juber before that blizzcon doesn’t diminish his accomplishments.

  9. I hated everything I’ve heard so far from D3 (cinematic, beta), with the exception of the ambient track in “the den of the fallen”. Let’s hope they’ve kept the best part secret…
    Even the sound design was not totally convincing to me: when you play the demon hunter, the sounds of arrows seem too noisy and agressive, not fit to be handled for considerable hours of gameplay. Maybe I’ll get used to it though, I dunno…

  10. Cool more choir and orchestra.  Because that hasn’t been completely overdone lately.

  11. Considering how laughably similar Uelmen’s work on TL2 sounds JUST like D2’s music – despite being a game with a vastly different tone – I suspect Uelmen’s creative peak has long passed. Bring on D3 (which has gorgeous music, FYI).

    • I guess composing in a similar style means that your creative potential has passed. Someone should inform Motorhead…

      • It’s not “a similar style”. It’s a borderline cut-n-paste of D2’s music (seriously, first time I heard it I thought it WAS D2’s music) for a game with a HUGELY different tone than D2. You don’t use the same exact music style for Avengers as you would for Batman. I find it kinda sad, really.

          • Funny, I see over 200 Uelman tunes on his page – yet vargas can’t find a single example of one that sounds at all like the above link.
            Interesting definition of “rehashing”.

        • And…? How is this being past your creative peak? What is wrong with using similar methods of composing for subjects of different themes? You can’t compose 2 songs with similar sound and completely different lyrics subject for each of them?
          Not to mention, how is traversing grasslands while killing stuff in Diablo 2 different from traversing grasslands while killing stuff in Torchlight 2? (I assume that you mean the similarities between those, right?)

  12. Just listened back to D2 music’s on youtube (all tracks) : it was absolutely stunning… Lut Golhein, Harem, … there’s no way on earth they were able to produce anything half as good…
    But I agree with the comment above, keeping Uelmen probably wouldn’t have helped either. Such inspiration doesn’t last forever.

  13. Don’t you guys forget that Matt Uelmen is working for Runic Games and his contract probably does not allow him to do much for Blizzard. It’s like Frank Klepacki doing a few songs for EA’s Red Alert 3 while being with Petroglyph.

  14. I love Matt Uelmen’s work with both the Diablo series and WoW: Burning Crusade, but I also think the new stuff is awesome too. Honestly, I enjoy orchestral music much more than the synth and drum saturated stuff so yeah… I can definitely hear Uelmen’s influence in these samples though. By the way, I haven’t heard much music from Torchlight 2, but the original Torchlight’s music was nearly identical to Diablo 2’s in many places (especially in town).

Comments are closed.