Hello folks. It’s Maclaine Diemer, back again with another post about music. For this month’s Dragon Bash content, we wanted to have a recognizable theme, and the idea was brought up to incorporate a song, written by ArenaNet’s own Matthew Moore, called “Spawn the Dragon.” I’ll let Matthew explain its origin.
In 2010, when ArenaNet was ready to let fans get their hands on Guild Wars 2 for the first time, it was no small effort. While two dozen of us went off to Cologne to unveil the demo on the floor of gamescom, the rest of the studio stayed in Bellevue and prepared for the ultimate all-nighter: To simulate the experience of full servers, ArenaNet staff at home flipped their schedules to play the game alongside attendees in Germany.
During the week, I was working in the gamescom business center and driving demonstrations for press. I always had one ear on my presenter and the other on a Ventrilo channel with the command center back at home. Our conversations went something like this:
“We’re exiting character creation in two minutes.”
“Roger that. We have escorts in the tutorial.”
“The elemental is down. What events are running in Shaemoor?”
“Bandits are in the field with five waves to go.”
“Alright, I just got the signal that we’re skipping to the Shatterer. Spawn the dragon.”
“The dragon is up.”
“And we’re about to wrap up; tell the team to hit him hard.”
“Shatterer is down. See you in 15.”
Following each session, the other demo drivers and I made all-channel broadcasts so the folks at home would know about the incredible reception we were receiving. But there was an equal amount of excitement on the other side of the mic. Let me tell you, it’s fun to take a break from making games all day to play games all night. It can be especially fun to play eight hours straight of Guild Wars 2. But after repeating the same 30 minutes of content 50 times in a row, even our most devoted devs got a little punchy. Checking our email revealed a regular stream of messages circulating around the office reveling in treat deliveries, trading picture memes, and running contests to do the largest single-shot damage to ambient creatures.
As the week went on, I started looking for a way to encapsulate the experience of meeting enthusiastic fans, in-jokes, lost voices and personnel, weariness, joy, and a sense of unity that stretched across the ocean. The penultimate night of the gamescom, I put pen to paper in an attempt to do just that.
After our final press demo, I did one last all-channel broadcast and let fly with an a cappella song called “Spawn the Dragon.” When I later recorded an MP3 for those who missed the original, it found its way into a few forums and podcasts, but for me, the song had already fulfilled its purpose of capturing and celebrating the spirit of that first show.
You can imagine my surprise when Steve Hwang pinged me a month ago to ask if his team could use “Spawn the Dragon” as the musical theme for the Dragon Bash festival. I didn’t need much convincing to rewrite the lyrics; who wouldn’t want their song played in the streets of Lion’s Arch? After some direction from Steve and Maclaine, I came up with a reimagining that I think celebrates the spirit of perseverance at the core of the festival. But my pleasant surprise of revisiting an old tune was nothing compared to my delight with just how far Maclaine wanted to take it.
I always thought that Matthew’s song was very catchy, and it had clearly stuck with other members of our studio. To me, the chorus always sounded like the sort of thing you’d hear in a pub, perhaps being sung by rowdy patrons. So, I figured, why not make it precisely that? Matthew’s new lyrics fit that vibe perfectly. It’s the sort of song that everyone in Lion’s Arch would know and love.
First, I needed some help from the rest of the company. I knew I wanted to have heavy foot stomps and claps in the chorus. That sort of sound is a difficult thing to fake, so at our bi-weekly company-wide meeting, I recorded everyone in the room stomping and clapping. Then, with the help of a small team of volunteer singers, I slapped together a demo.
We were originally going to ask Troy Baker, the voice of our very own Logan Thackeray, to sing for us. The idea would be that Logan would walk into a pub, someone would strike up the song, and he would lead the crowd in singing it. For timing reasons, we weren’t able to pull that off, so I decided to flesh out the demo with a bigger crowd of people singing – but not without a slight change first.
The song was originally in the key of C, which sounded fine, but in the course of working on it, I had acquired a new toy:
Because of how mandolins are tuned, I needed to find a different key. We switched the song to the key of G, which put the melody in a range that gave a little more life to the vocals. The song should be rousing and joyful, as you would expect from a crowd of singing pub-goers, and switching keys helped to give that effect.
Now it was time to record the real vocals. I assembled a large group of volunteer singers in our game room, and they had a blast running through the song while I stood on a table waving my arms around in an attempt at conducting.
Throw in some pub ambience and an appreciative audience, and you have what sounds like part of a very fun Friday night in Tyria.