Designing Dragons and Internet Orchestras with Maclaine Diemer from Guild Wars 2
If you’re new to the world of Tyria, let me quickly clarify what Guild Wars 2 is. Along with the awesome achievements, battles in the mists, and some pretty despicable gods, these are Dragons. Players going through heroic years for the first time faced the Elder Dragon Zhaitan when he threatened to raise the dead and invade us all, and since we’ve worked hard and torn our way through unimaginable obstacles, all with the shadow of these colossal suspended beasts. we.
While it’s easy to flip through an art book and watch the detailed description of these overwhelming monsters, there is more to bringing a dragon to life than just filling your eyes. The recent release of Aurene’s version of Virtual Video Game Orchestra, Dragon Full of Light, highlighted the power of music in portraying these foundational Tyria creations, so we raid some of the time. by Maclaine Diemer to talk about the evolution of a dragon.
Play Space: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. It’s clear that dragons are a formidable force, more than just a boss battle or some other NPC. They seem to be those two things and always at the heart of the story. How to marry that and write music that works on all of these levels for a dragon.
Maclaine: That’s a good question. So I would say that the first time I thought about writing music for dragons, it started a bit accidentally. It was at the start of Living World’s first season and the studio was starting to put together this larger arc of what was going to happen with all those ancient dragons. I had written a piece of music for an event called the Tower of Nightmares and there was a little motif in it that I thought was cool. A few months after releasing this content, I kind of took a step back as we started discussions about setting up Heart of Thorns very early on and decided that this should be the start of the Mordremoth theme. At that point, I just wanted to start piecing together the musical story of this expansion. And you know, since Mordremoth is such a big part of it, you take a little bit of the classic Star Wars motif, so every time you hear that music you think, “Oh oh, that’s Mordremoth”.
It was the very first time that I really conceived of dragons musically. Since then, it’s been a combination of thinking about these characters and then thinking about how events would unfold in the world. All dragon themes actually have some sort of connection with this first Mordremoth theme. It’s very scary, very dark, and it has a half-step movement that connects all of the ancient dragons together. It’s kind of like Jaws and that’s where it all starts.
Interviewer’s note. We asked if Bubbles will feature the jawbone theme, but like everything about this adventure at sea, we just have to wait and take to the seas.
Play Space: How does it work for other dragons that aren’t as disturbing?
Maclaine: Well, even the Aurene theme has the same connection to the Mordremoth theme, although it’s kind of like a happier presentation of it. It was like the foundation of all dragon music. Despite this, it is still possible to have a light and tender sound. Like every new dragon needs their own music, it just depends on the content, you know. With Dragon Full of Light, it’s something where one of the content designers, Cameron Rich, came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I have this crazy big event that’s the finale of this season and I want to make it musical. . So can we talk about doing something cool with the music. From there, it became a big production. So from humble beginnings it evolved into something bigger and more complex.
Play Space: Despite this underlying theme, it seems like you’re building a very distinct personality when you create each of the dragons we come across. The recent release of the Primordus theme on SoundCloud makes me think that there will be no negotiation and that this thing is just a force of nature that is about to reign chaos in Tyria. Is this the intention?
Maclaine: You sort of succeeded. It is the intention to give a musical perception of each dragon, not only to give them an identifiable melody, but to give them a defining characteristic and some kind of underlying emotion that the music expresses. With Primordus, that was exactly the idea. The studio described him as some kind of chaotic fire elemental, and they wanted it to look like chaos. For Primordus, the musical examples they gave me were less about rehashing some pre-existing sort of epic Guild Wars orchestral-like themes. Instead, it was stuff like The Last of Us and Donkey XL’s Mad Max that were all about energy, distortion, and some kind of barely controllable energy.
Gamespace: What was the response to something so bizarre?
Maclaine: It was great. It’s some of the craziest music we’ve put in the game so far.
Play Space: Experimenting like this doesn’t feel entirely new either. Heart of Thorns was so unexpected, not just Mordremoth but the whole jungle. How did you come up with something so distinctive?
Maclaine: You know, this was the one that was the first time I really felt like I thought I went too far. Rata Novus is very present and Chak Tunnels is almost a horror piece, but I felt like I had built enough confidence at this point. There are hours of lush orchestral fantasy soundscape in Guild Wars 2, moments that really underscore just how dark the forest can be. It’s not like the Grove or Sylvari areas where everything is beautiful and merges with nature. It’s almost like nature is against you, so it must be very dark and very heavy.
Play space: Where do these ideas come from?
Maclaine: It’s almost like my past life as a sound designer in some ways. You start to think about these things and wonder what it would be like if you were in this forest and if it’s really that big, you’re going to have echoes almost like you do when you’re in a city with tall buildings. You clap your hands and the sounds bounce between the buildings. I was thinking that instead of being a force that is above you and oppressive and it feels very dry and close, I want it to be intimidating and that’s why we used a lot of elements of repetitive percussion to somehow emphasize the fact that the sound could be echoing. With Rata Novus, because it’s tied to the Asura, it’s a bit as close to science fiction as it gets. There’s a bit of synth gear, but it’s mostly tons of heavy reverb. Think of a signal coming back to you after bouncing back for 1,000 years. Usually it’s about trying to hang on to an idea of whether it’s a work of art or a moment in history and then figure out what that means musically. .
Play Space: Can we expect to see more soon?
Maclaine: Yeah. The last track I finished will be released in the next episode, Balance. It’s less chaotic than the last one, but there are still some interesting instrument choices with a lot of processing to make them sound like they’re stepping out of the underworld, all warped, crunchy and aggressive.
Playing space: which is the strangest, which is the strangest instrument or technique you have had to use?
Maclaine: It’s called a Jouhikko which is a Finnish instrument.
Maclaine runs away and grabs an instrument that makes a noise that can only be described as a Swedish horror film soundtrack. A long, buzzing dead crow that seems to scratch the joy of the room.
I’ve used this before, a few times on northern music, but when it came to Primordus it made so much sense. The tone is so ugly and rough while giving off some squeaky undertones and it gives it some edgy energy. When I picked it up I wasn’t really sure how to play it at first and just decided to do something until I did something that sounds good and I hope I can repeat it.
Play Space: Did it come from the fact that you were a sound designer earlier in your career thinking about music this way?
Maclaine: I never really connected the two as a sound designer, but it’s definitely part of it. If I can learn just enough about it to be dangerous and make something cool and usable out of it, I’ll try and hope to find some new and unusual sounds. For Guild Wars 2, the orchestra will always be the base as it is because of the genre and because of the tone that is already established. But if you’re looking for a new way to express a new part of the story and the character, you need something more than just strings, woodwinds, and brass.
Play Space: With the choir being one of those most traditional fantasy MMO instruments, how did you get involved with the Virtual Video Game Orchestra?
Maclaine: It goes back to a composer named Eric Whitacre, who’s sort of a first choral composer of the last 10-15 years. He rose to fame by doing what he called his virtual choir. He organized the people and he found a system to sync everyone on your phone, on a webcam, whatever. He takes those tracks and puts all of those recordings into this great, cool community event.
the Virtual video game orchestra started during lockdown, with the intention of doing the same thing where everyone, you know, would pick a song to work on for a few months. They are all very talented musicians, many of them playing in community orchestras or semi-professional groups, or maybe in a college studying music. They take a track and they transcribe it or find the score. Everyone will record from their home, then they will mix it up and release it. One of the band members was a huge Guild Wars 2 fan and it was his idea to say, “Hey, let’s do this piece because it’s so pretty.” They took it and went further. They added more parts to it, adding a richer variety of tones. In the end, they just wrote what I think was even more interesting and ornate stuff around it and I think it went well. So you know, my hat to them if I wore a hat.
I think they did a great job and even asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and if I would lead it. Basically if I wanted to play Eric Whitacre in this situation and guide them with the music. So I sent them a video of me doing this, and they put together something really cool.
More than human
It’s odd to think that while we might consider Tequatil or Jormag’s Claw as another chewy daily event on the way to the last achievement for another alt, there’s a lot more to Elder Dragons than even a lot of ‘other. human elements of Guild Wars 2. Without the ability to simply call out like Taimi, or to introduce himself and say their piece, the influence of the Elder Dragons runs through Tyria and the music around us. It’s something to think about the next time you line up to defeat Mordremoth. Find out more about The Last Dragon, or even listen to a preview of Maclaine’s latest work on the all-new Icebrood Saga Episode 5 trailer ahead of its release next week.