Featured Articles
Stay Awhile and Listen to the Story Behind Diablo's Creation

David Craddock | 31 Oct 2013 16:00
Featured Articles - RSS 2.0

With the storyteller's name set in stone, all that was missing was the storyteller himself. Kelly Johnson, by that time finished with his work on NFLPA Superstars, eagerly volunteered.

Erich Schaefer said, "We need a guy in town who's going to be a storyteller." The only thing I was told was, "He's a storyteller." A lot of times we just went off a word. We'd get a word or two that described what Dave, Max, and Erich wanted, and they trusted us to come up with something. And we did.

I made Deckard Cain, from thin air. Erich assigned me to make Deckard Cain and all I was given as a description was that he was going to be the storyteller for the game. I was given no physical description to work on, so I made him black.

Back in the mid-90s, there were almost no black characters in games, so when given the opportunity to make a character, I made him black. For the time, it was considered very radical.
-Kelly Johnson

"The style of it was really more created by what it couldn't be."

The sagely storyteller always greeted players warmly, inviting them to "stay awhile and listen." Soaking up Cain's myths and legends in the heart of Tristram's perpetual twilight went a long way toward setting the proper mood, but it was the soundtrack Matt Uelmen composed for the town that clinched it.

I told Ken Williams [Condor's business manager] I needed actual musical gear. It [composing Diablo's soundtrack] was really a process of grinding until things stuck. The first couple of months of attempts were pretty bad, though I think I knew I wanted to have acoustic guitar as a centerpiece for any kind of town setting.

The main piece of gear was an Ensoniq ASR-10 [keyboard sampler]. That was the core tool for the making of that soundtrack, and we actually got a good discount on it, because Ensoniq was trying to market sound cards in that era, and so developers could buy their musical gear near wholesale prices.
-Matt Uelmen, composer, Condor

Using the sampler, Uelmen could record himself playing different instruments, then rearrange the recordings into custom tracks. To get an idea for the mood he needed to set, Uelmen studied the atmospheric disparity between dungeons and towns. Down in the dark, danger reared its head at a moment's notice. Up in town, players let down their guard and moseyed around.

Daily, Uelmen walked the shore along the marina. Stretching out with his twelve-string, he watched boats bob along the water and strummed, playing with different sounds and moods.

I think the sound of the 12-string dictated a good deal of the approach Tristram's tune ended up having. The style of it was really more created by what it couldn't be: it couldn't be too overtly country or bluegrass, it couldn't be too obviously Latin, and I didn't want something that was too faux-medieval, so it ended up somewhere in between all of those things.
-Matt Uelmen

This sounds dorky, but music is almost spiritual, a soulful movement that resonates with all of us. Having music that sets a mood will ensure pushing an experience over the top. It can either make or break something.

If you were to go into Tristram and hear happy-go-lucky music, it just wouldn't work. It's like a horror movie: it's all about the atmosphere, the music, the sound, and how that creates feeling.

I thought Matt did a perfect job of balancing dark, eerie, moody, and a little bit of light because of the string guitar. It's got kind of that feeling of lightness to the tone, but it's also kind of sad and disturbing, kind of haunting.
-David Brevik, co-founder, Condor

Uelmen's final product washed over players each time they set foot in Tristram to repair armor, hawk goods they didn't need, browse new wares, and let Pepin heal their hurts. Inevitably, they would have to leave Tristram's fading daylight and descend into the dungeons beneath the church.



Stay Awhile and Listen: Book 1 is available now on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes e-reading platforms and apps. You can view the book's official website here.

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on