Saturday 17 March 2018

World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, DIablo III and more - Music at Blizzard with Eimear Noone

Eimear Noone
Eimear Noone
Frank Whelan

Frank Whelan

Eimear Noone has worked on pretty much all of Blizzard's top titles of the last few years. Fan favourites such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III sit on her CV with much anticipated upcoming titles such as Overwatch.

The excerpts below are from a much longer interview that Eimear gave to You can read the full interview here: Eimear Noone Interview - The Irish Queen of Games Music.

You’ve been involved on pretty much all of Blizzard’s big titles, and they’re all known for their massive die-hard fanbase, how is that fan reaction? Is it different coming from a classical background, is it something new?

It is different and it’s very very interesting. It’s also very rewarding. The fans are so excited by us going the extra mile to bring them something extra, they’re so appreciative and it definitely informs how we work, because we know things are going to be looked at in such detail and the music is so important to so many people and it really fills you up. I truly believe an artist is a servant of those in their community, so it really is a pleasure to serve this audience, and by serving I mean working really hard at honing our skills, our art, being on the cutting edge of technology, being constantly looking for new and interesting sounds, constantly challenging ourselves, constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible. It’s having this incredibly vigilant, passionate fan base, I definitely feel that it pushes us to be the best we can be and inspires us. We’re also very close to our fan base, we’re all very accessible and we listen to the fans, we talk, we interact with the fans and that’s unusual, I mean that comes with social media but it’s a new environment for composers and conductors, where we’re very readily available to interact.

 It’s been interesting, it’s definitely informed me as a creative and a performer and it just goes straight to my heart when an audience of gamers treats the orchestra like rockstars. I mean, straight away it’s completely inspiring and it just makes me love them all the more. I’ve had concert masters walk out on stage and get such a cheer from an audience of gamers that they look behind them to see if somebody has come on stage behind them.

In terms of Warlords of Draenor, at what point does the music enter into the creative process?

This one was a very collaborative experience. We did something very unusual in that we were just given some 2D art and we had a group of concept recording sessions where each composer went away and we looked at all the artwork and went towards whichever environment spoke to us the most.

Shadowmoon Valley spoke to me a lot because there’s all this sort of Celtic style symbology in there and things that reminded me of ogham writing, Celtic spirals and things like that. Even some of the writing inside of that environment reminded me of the Millenium Spire in Dublin, so I was very much drawn towards that. Then our audio director, Russel Brower, he’s so intuitive and he really wants us to be our individual artistic selves so he kinda would see us going towards a certain direction and he knows all our personalities very well and we’re all very compatible with each other but very different, and he let us go with it. His musical direction was “I want you to tell me a story through the music” and that’s like the best gift you can give any creative.

Eimear Noone recieving the 2014 Hollywood Music in Media Award for
Eimear Noone recieving the 2014 Hollywood Music in Media Award for "Best Video Game Score" for The Warlords of Draenor.

So we all went away to our little dark holes with this artwork and came out with what the artists’ work drew from each of us. And it was so interesting to be in the recording session and hearing what everyone else had come up with. Russell’s devious plan also was to have each of us by hearing what we’d come up with in isolation, bringing us into an environment where we’d heard what all the other composers had done and mixing it up a bit and then we went away and all created something that was a little bit influenced by everybody else as well. And then Russell’s job, not only as a composer himself but as the audio director, is to gently guide us towards certain environments in the game and then if he thinks “y’know you may have intended to go in this direction, but I think that really works better over here” or maybe “I want you to work with this person and come up with something for this,” he’s very very good at that and he’s known for it.

We’re very spoiled at Blizzard as well to have him and to have Chris Metzen and to have the people that we work with. They give us free reign to come up with something different, and it’s OK. The other thing is we feel safe if you step a little too much over the line in one direction or if you trip and fall, that’s OK because you might go out on a limb and create something incredible the next time. Draenor was an incredibly creatively stretching experience, and I’m grateful for that.

And once the music is created, is that fed back into the other creative departments?

When we do the concept sessions, first thing we do is create mock-ups in our sequencers, the mock-ups aren’t whole, they’re just creating a kind of a vibe and then we’ll go and write the whole orchestral and choral piece. They aren’t always whole, for the cinematics they will be because there’s a lot of precision editing involved but for the in-game music they may not be.

The artists, designers, writers and everybody will be listening to what we’ve done in the concept sessions, they’ll be given that to producers, directors and everybody. And then that becomes a whole collaborative loop and then Russell can come back to all of us and say “this is going down really well, people are really reacting to this” and he can lead us in a certain direction very subtly, based on what people are feeling.

It starts with the concept, with the stories, the writing, the artwork and it’s constantly evolving and constantly there are different levels of collaboration going on. It’s quite a unique way of doing things and Blizzard is known for pushing the creative boundaries of gaming and I take that on very seriously as well. It’s very exciting.

So onto the last and usually hardest question: What’s your favourite video game?

Oh god. Oh my god, so... ok, there’s so many . I will have to throw in one I didn’t work on, just to show I’m not towing the party line, I do love Skyrim. I mean Zelda is just so special to me, I just, it’s it’s, y’know, it’s, it’s... Zelda is a different part of your gaming experience. ..

So you know now you have to pick your favourite Zelda

Twilight Princess. I really love Twilight Princess. Skyward Sword has a special meaning for me as well.

I love Diablo and I just find the whole drama of it is so intense and I just love the artwork. And Malfiel is so incredibly crazy, it’s just the characters in Diablo that I love and I love Leah and I love when they’re positive. But then again I do love Kerrigan in Starcraft, I love cool female characters. I’m not just toeing the Blizzard party line, but I do love Diablo, it’s just visually so crazy deep, it’s just stunning .

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