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.
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 Diablo 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.