The thrilling sonic world of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons
The Music of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons
Guild Wars 2 has been incredibly popular since its release in 2012. Starting in 2015, three expansions added a huge amount of great content. The latest is End of Dragons, which introduces a new area called Cantha. As with all of Guild Wars 2 – and games and other media in general – music plays a huge role. It not only emphasizes emotion and combat, but goes a long way in making each area culturally distinct. Longtime Guild Wars 2 composer Maclaine Diemer explains how this happens.
The eclectic Maclaine Diemer
While not the only composer for Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons, Maclaine Diemer has been a part of the MMO since the first game. Diemer began his musical life as a rock and roll musician. According to his biography, “After graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, I entered the rock and roll rat race. I climbed speaker towers and performed to sold-out crowds in the United States. United and in Canada with several bands Diemer started writing for video games fourteen years ago.
Some of his notable credits include ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 and Harmonix’s Rock Band franchises. Riot Games’ League of Legends and Amazon Game Studios‘ first major original title, Crucible, also include his work.
The musical team
For End of Dragons, composer Maclaine Diemer led a team of talented writers to create an enormous amount of music. I asked Diemer how the composition tasks were distributed. “In general, things start with me. I will have a meeting with the design, narration or audio teams to discuss the musical needs of things. It could be a large area of a map, a specific point in the story, or a boss encounter. I’ll see if that’s something I can do or if it’s better for someone else to lend their voice.
In the case of End of Dragons, the songwriting team also included “Michael Choi and Sojin Ryu. I knew they would be able to capture the essence of Cantha. For things like battle music, I asked their help to Andi Roselund and Bryan Atkinson. Andi is a very talented composer. He also has decades of expertise in the study of traditional Korean music, so he brought a real authenticity to his work.
“For the final boss encounter, we were fortunate to have Lena Raine returning to Guild Wars 2. She’s written some of the most memorable boss encounter music since the game’s launch, and she really outdid herself with that last bit!
Exotic colors and instruments
In Guild Wars 2, Cantha is an exotic hybrid of ancient and futuristic. As Diemer explains, “The world of Cantha draws heavily from traditional Korean culture, so we have to incorporate that into the music. Cantha has become a highly advanced technological society in the 250 years since we saw it for last seen in Guild Wars: Factions, so the studio asked to have more synthesizers and electronic elements in the music to reflect that.
To achieve this rich blend, Diemer used both electronics and the sounds of traditional Korean instruments, played by exceptional soloists. “The soloists were all recorded live in Seoul, South Korea, in the studio of Andi Roselund (one of the additional composers). he studied this kind of music.
“There were a handful of other soloists that we had the chance to record stuff for the score with. Kristin Naigus, a fantastic and very versatile woodwind player (who has probably played one or more of your favorite games) recorded a type of Balinese flute called defile on a track. A handful of tracks feature solo cello, performed live by the incredible Ro Rowan.
A global recording effort
Once upon a time, soundtracks were recorded in the same place. This is rarely the case now. Although the music for End of Dragons is performed by live musicians – only a few instruments were sampled – the recording took place in several locations.
“We recorded the orchestra in Nashville, TN at Ocean Way Studios Nashville, a beautiful, sonic space built out of an old church. We recorded the Korean soloists in Seoul, and the additional soloists recorded at home, Kristin in Orlando, FL, and Ro in Los Angeles. Steve Pardo’s piece is a small ensemble that he also put together in Nashville.
The End of Dragons soundtrack includes nearly two and a half hours of music. Some of them reference old Guild Wars themes. Diemer said, “There are definitely a handful of references to past music from Guild Wars 1 and 2. It’s something I’ve done over the years when needed. The melodic motif of the Guild Wars theme should always make an appearance or two. We are returning to a part of the game that players have already seen, so it is inevitable that some elements will be revisited.
Challenges and rewards
“This soundtrack was truly a worldwide effort. It’s put together from a lot of different parts and touched by a lot of different people,” Diemer said. “The hardest part was really trying not to lose sight of what I had originally envisioned for the music. I’m happy to say we made the landing, and it really depends on the team we have. built along the way and the confidence the studio had in me.
Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons was released on February 28. Special thanks to Maclaine Diemer. Interview edited for length.