Guild Wars 2: The Music of Heart of Thorns
These three have taken over from Jeremy Soule as music composers for the Guild Wars series. Now, Jeremy is a prolific and enormously accomplished composer who leaves very large shoes to fill and one might even say it takes three people to fill them(!). Having listened to the talent of Maclaine, Lena and Stan in complete ignorance of this change in composers it’s safe to say these shoes remain full.
A Story of Compulsion
I have always taken notice of music in games just as much as I have in films or any other format, and I love to share my favourite experiences with everyone. The tempo of gameplay in Guild Wars has always allowed for these moments of being highly aware of the music framing the experience at hand. Just sometimes, this means delving a little deeper into sound.
Now I’m one of these gamers who upon finding themselves listening to a piece of music in-game then has to go find the exact name of that track on YouTube or SoundCloud and listen to it some more. Maybe I’ll go look for an OST (original soundtrack) if I’m really blown away and listen to every single piece while trying to remember where I heard them in-game. Maybe I’ll even go and write about it on the internet. I know I’m not alone.
A Few Memories
This is exactly what happened to me in Tangled Depths, one of the regions in Heart of Thorns. There are two particular pieces that stick in my mind. One is the music for Rata Novus, because I particularly like the backstory of that abandoned city and the way in which I discovered it.
Theme for Rata Novus:
The other is the music for the Chak Gerent, a notoriously difficult monster that has a significant period of “tension time” before it turns up. During this time its theme music is playing and all the players are left to stew in it.
There is a clear case of Pavlov’s Dog going on with me now whenever I hear that piece: 99% of the time the gerent will win and the players will lose. Having experienced the 1% of times the players win, I now have some special memories that trigger whenever I hear its theme.
The Chak Gerent’s Theme:
Music to Accompany a Legend
Music has that magical quality of triggering memories. I recently watched a few interviews with Maclaine and Lena (Leif) during which they talked about the legacy both of Jeremy Soule’s music plus the decades of film and television that have preconditioned people what to expect from music when they’re in a jungle. The Maguuma Overture is a great example:
The jungle never sounded so friendly… right? Okay, so maybe the jungle wants to eat you instead and the music is setting you up for a brave foray into uncharted territory. Whatever happens next, it’s going to be epic.
The art of manipulating emotions with music is to avoid monotony by continually shaping the listener’s imagination with different sounds. There has to be a sense of journey. This is clearly demonstrated upon entering the wondrous golden city of Tarir, an oasis of beauty that bursts upon the senses.
Tarir, The Forgotten City
If only this sort of thing happened in real life. Well, I suppose this is one more reason to play video games: you will never see such a thing in real life, let alone have a bespoke soundtrack playing for it as you drag your jaw along looking around. There’s also the matter of all these golden people floating about and the adorable rat-folk screaming “Shinies!” at the top of their lungs, all while the epic score plays in the background. It’s quite a treat.
That’s a pretty decent introduction to the music of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and I hope you enjoyed listening to a few of the pieces.
If you want to go even deeper behind the scenes of ArenaNet’s audio department I have some truly excellent gems for you:
- Audio director James Ackley and composer Maclaine Diemer on how music is created for ArenaNet.
- Maclaine Diemer and Leif Chappelle
on their background at ArenaNet. (Since removed.)
- A short video I loved watching featuring Drew Cady, sound designer at ArenaNet on creating the sound of a fireball.
- You can see even more crazy antics of Drew Cady and fellow audio designer Jerry Shroder telling everything about the sound effects in Heart of Thorns here.
Updates for December! News and Original Soundtrack Release
Just when I thought I was doing my own thing in a vacuum, ArenaNet have posted a video on this very topic! Going behind the scenes with the Guild Wars 2 audio team, we catch up with what Drew Cady and the gang have been up to.
Original Soundtrack Release
Additionally, the original soundtrack is now available – link below.
Updates for January! Interviewing the Composers
Hopefully the final instalment for this topic for the time being, ArenaNet have given some more air time for the composers of the Guild Wars 2 music in this news item and video interview. They sure are busy.
As usual if you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you below!