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Interviews

Blizzard's Russell Brower

The Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo composer reflects on his career...

If you've ever marvelled at a film score - and who hasn't - you know the dedication and talent that's needed to soundtrack a full story with original music.

So consider for a moment those that compose for video games - on average three times the size of even Hollywood's biggest blockbusters.

Now, allow CVG to introduce Russell Brower - a man who not only lends his musical skills to an MMO (as in, a never-ending story), but the biggest MMO in the world.

After working on the likes of Warcraft III, The Burning Crusade and Wrath Of The Lich King, Brower is now busy creating music for Blizzard's upcoming WoW: Cataclysm, Starcraft II and Diablo III.

Zoom

Here, we ask him about his life in games - and how on Earth you soundtrack a Warcraft player's non-stop world without getting irritating...



Warcraft is a nigh-on everlasting game - how do you keep your audience from getting tired of your compositions?
One of our most important tools in World of Warcraft is actually silence. You'll notice the music doesn't play continuously - and we have found that that's very potent, because it just makes it all the more special when it comes in.

Using silence allows the player to absorb the ambience of the space between the cues that much more - and it also allows us to reserve our larger cues for the bigger story moments.

What's the range of emotions within the Warcraft universe that you have to play with?
Well I think you pointed out one of our prime challenges, there. It's been really enjoyable to approach Warcraft, because everything we do here we like to use the words 'epic' and 'bold'.

That certainly describes a lot of the World of Warcraft music. On the other hand, if everything's 'epic' and 'bold', you need some contrast - it ceases to have meaning after a while, and in the worst case, you get annoying.

We have sometimes tried to play against what you're experiencing and what you're seeing, being a little bit ironic with the score. One of my favourites is Grizzly Hills where the music is represents the surroundings pretty literally - it's pretty pastoral.

However, the quests you're going on are certainly no less intense than in other zones. It allowed us to explore a different pallet completely - more of a kind of Americana sound.

Is the Wrath Of The Lich King the most lavish score that you've given a Warcraft game?
I think we try to outdo ourselves each time. Wrath Of The Lich King had even more music and a greater ratio of live music in The Burning Crusade and the free content updates that we've done for Wrath have been quite action packed with music.

How would you say the scoring for Warcraft has changed from the days of Warcraft III?
I think it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We're still in the Warcraft universe and there are some things which appear - especially in the Warcraft III series - which carry over into more recent games.

We have escalated our production values in keeping with the art and class design and it's a really big process and challenge just like everything else in the game.

The Warcraft music is rich, Hollywood-standard stuff. When you've written a piece of music for Warcraft, what process does it then go through?
Each of us who compose are individualistic to a great extent, we have our own techniques and our own strengths and weaknesses and we overlap quite a bit, so the first part of the process is determining which one of us should handle a different area.

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