Matt Uelmen let me know that a new interview he did with Square Enix Music has now been posted online. The questions cover Matt’s entire career, and in virtually every answer Matt reflects on his time at Blizzard and his work on Diablo I, II, and III. It’s an excellent read, and here’s a quote from the end, with the most specific mentions of his work on Diablo III that can be seen in this interview.
Simon: Before leaving Blizzard, you had already started working on Diablo III and at one stage recorded an hour-long guitar session with your ideas for the game. How far had you progressed with your work on the game before leaving the project? Could you elaborate a bit on what material that guitar session included, and in which direction you were planning to take Diablo III, particularly after Lord of Destruction had turned out a lot more symphonic than previous Diablo scores?
Matt Uelmen: I did do a fair amount of work for Diablo III, but almost all of it was repurposed for World of Warcraft in the time I worked there. At that point, the MMORPG was adding something like a hundred thousand subscribers every week, and the audio team was in a state of flux. We had recently lost a few veteran composers, Russell Brower was just hired as lead, and Joseph Lawrence and I had just arrived from up north. So, our main priority was World of Warcraft and getting the newer guys in Irvine, including myself, integrated into a good flow and much of the material I had previously worked on was a fairly natural fit, especially for key content like Naxxramas and Nagrand.
The guitar material was recorded in literally my last week at Blizzard, in January 2007, and I did absolutely no editing work on it, though I was pleased to see it integrated with the work of a real master like Laurence Juber all those years later. I assumed that I was going to come back to Blizzard by the end of that year and use it as the rough basis of material, but, obviously, fate had different plans. I have no idea what the game would have sounded like had I worked on it, but it would have been great to have had a chance to work with that team in their current incarnation. They have hired some really amazing talent in the past few years.
Simon: Part of last year’s The Music of Diablo: Diablo 15 Year Anniversary album were two concept pieces that you wrote for Diablo III, which provide a rare work-in-progress insight into the making of a game soundtrack. What stage of the composing process do “Hydra” and “Lord” represent — were they relatively early drafts or closer to fully-fledged compositions?
Matt Uelmen: “Hydra” was the only significant piece from the January 2005 sessions which wasn’t reworked into World of Warcraft content, and I actually worked the orchestra pretty hard when we recorded it. I think it is safe to say that the anvil is to action fantasy music what the cowbell is to rock and roll. I think it stands up fairly well, and was flattered that Russell seemed to reference it in what ultimately became his excellent title theme.
“Lord” had a few problems, and I was a little shocked to see it released. I used the final chords for the Outland intro piece, but, otherwise, considered that piece to be deep in the recycling bin. Of course, if it makes for an entertaining curio, that’s great.
You see something in that quote that you probably didn’t know, since (AFAIK) this is the first time Matt’s publicly revealed that most of the music he originally recorded for Diablo III, in 2005 and thereabouts, was repurposed for use in The Burning Crusade. When I first learned that interesting tidbit some years ago, I subtly asked some WoW-playing acquaintances what they thought of the WoW:BC music, and if any of it was very reminiscent of Diablo type music. Responses were mixed, but no one was like, “OMG it’s totally ripped off from Diablo and sounds like something that should have been in Diablo III!” which was kind of what I was hoping they’d say.
Speaking of Sir Uelmen, for months and months he and I have been planning a lengthy interview on all his career, his work on Torchlight, and all kinds of behind the scenes details about D1 and D2 and early D3. That conversation has been repeatedly postponed due to TL 2’s leisurely progression towards a release date, but with that event finally beckoning, the interview should take place in the not too distant future. As it draws nearer I’ll make a forum thread in our D3 community forum to solicit questions and topics you guys would like to hear Matt discuss, so check back for that.