Living World Season 2 has just returned to Guild Wars 2. The journey back to Dry Top is something of an opportunity to look back at how far Tyria has come and the individuals that guided the commander to the End of Dragons. After raising kicking off Wintersday, meeting the Asura, and fending off Mordremoth, a vital member of the Krew left the game in a much larger sense this year. Stan LePard passed back in February 2021 and as we chase Caithe out into the sands again and seek out the seeds of truth, I had an opportunity to speak to ArenaNet about exactly how influential Stan’s work has been to all of Tyria.
The first time I really noticed Stan’s work on Guild Wars 2 came round about the introduction of Mad King Thorn. This candy corn tyrant brought an eerily boisterous track in Court of the Mad King, and Stan’s own experience clearly shines through here, bounding into the holiday spirit with a jaunty dark edge to the orchestral piece that still strikes home as one of my favorite reasons to get in the spooky spirit every year. We spoke to Maclaine Diemer, who worked extensively with Stan on Guild Wars 2, and asked what their favorite’s from Stan are.
Maclaine: Stan’s first musical contribution to the game actually started with the first Halloween festival in 2012 shortly after the release of the core game. His music has been there for pretty much every release since then, whether it’s the Living World or the expansions. There’s no telling the story of the music for the game post-launch without mentioning Stan at every turn. Most recently, he really carried the bulk of the load for the Icebrood Saga’s music, ramping up the aggression and spiky sound for the Charr and the frosty elder dragon Jormag.
Court of The Mad King is still one of my favorites as well. I also think his music for The Lost Shores is severely underappreciated. That batch of content came out between the first Halloween and Wintersday festivals in 2012, and I think it’s largely been forgotten by players, which is unfortunate. I think his piece for the Edge of the Mists map is also awesome and a masterclass in telling a story with music and making it feel grand and epic.
Out Beyond The Edge Of The Mists
Stan’s influence reaches far beyond Tyria however. Delving into my own back catalogue of gaming, it is clear to me that Stan’s been lurking around my own life longer than I realised. For those of you that are old enough to remember the evolution of home computing, the PC video gaming market, and the whine of the 33K baud modem, Stan might have crossed paths with you long before you logged in to defend Tyria or took control of Master Chief. Remember MSN and setting up Windows XP for the first time? Yep, Stan kept us company while the loading bar slowly installed, when we logged off of Windows 98, and backed us in Age of Empires III. It’s a career that led to playing a lead role in the Halo Series, a sound that still resonates today in the era of the newest Xbox.
Between then and the finale of the Icebrood Saga, Stan did more than craft epic live recordings at ArenaNet. His own experience both in and out of gaming was instrumental, pun intended, in giving us some of the high points in Guild Wars 2’s musical journey. Back in 2014, ArenaNet splashed out on its first live orchestra recording and Maclaine described quite how important that experience was in putting together the very music we’re heading back to as Living World Season 2 creeps back into ArenaNet’s MMORPG.
Maclaine: I was incredibly nervous in the run-up to the first live orchestra recording session for the game back in 2014. I was terrified of the session being a disaster, wasting the studio’s money and the musicians’ time. Stan was basically my safety net, offering me advice and even some reassurance with my music. Fortunately, the session went well and we’ve been able to do a lot more since then. Even as I got more confident in my writing, I still valued Stan’s feedback. His musicianship and experience were invaluable to me and made me push myself to become a better composer. The game’s soundtrack simply wouldn’t be the same without him.
While the return to Living World Season 2 is something of a nod to the helping hand Stan had in shaping Guild Wars 2’s sound, the team at ArenaNet chose a very different and more high profile memorial to Stan Le Pard. If you caught the news, or if you go looking, you’ll find a Charr NPC named Van Leopard loitering in the background of Grothmar Valley, as well as a statue in Lion’s Arch, where you can listen to some of the great Van Leopard’s music. It’s somewhat similar to Maclaine’s initial ideas for an in-game tribute, as he describes.
Maclaine: My initial suggestion for a memorial was to just have some sort of area where players could go to listen to the best of Stan’s music and just appreciate it. The team was on board for that, and what started as a plaque and maybe some props from various areas in Tyria he wrote music for eventually turned into a statue. That sort of kicked off the idea of having an NPC in the game, which I was also all for. Given how involved Stan was in the Icebrood Saga, I thought having him be a Charr in-game would be appropriate. Stan had a great, dry sense of humor, and I thought he would be amused by the idea of a giant cat version of himself. Given the heavy nature of the Metal Legion’s music, the team decided to make the NPC the band’s manager, giving him the name “Van Leopard”, referencing both some great real-world bands and being a fun play on Stan’s name.
And in case you figured that a Metal Legion addition isn’t in character for somebody who tolled the bells of Wintersday, well it turns out it was more fitting than many Tyrians would know. Thanks to the memory of Joseph Clark, Lead Sound Designer at ArenaNet.
Joseph Clark: A little known fact, but Stan used to be in an industrial band back in the 90’s, called “Steel Porn Rhino”, with two past members of our ArenaNet audio team, (Jerry Schroeder and Jason Wolford.) So, I would write up a Metal Legion track and then send a rough mix over to Stan, who would make it sound heavier and professional. Stan’s diverse musical background and experience programming drums really helped shape the sound of Metal Legion.
Having had such a huge influence in video games, and digital audio in general, it seems fitting that Van Lepord’s legacy continues beyond the realms of Tyria. Maclaine set up a fund and memorial in Stan’s honor, which you can give to if you wish.
Maclaine: The life of a professional musician is often unpredictable and doesn’t come with a lot of the safety nets you might get when working a more stable job. I thought it would be a good opportunity for Stan’s friends and fans to show their appreciation for him and ease the burden on his family as they dealt with such a sudden loss. The outpouring of support has been incredible. I’ve been in touch with Stan’s wife the entire time, and she is also deeply appreciative of everyone’s kindness and generosity. The memorial fund is open-ended, so if anyone is curious, they can learn more here:
Stan was also an amazing presence in the Seattle game audio community, and after his passing, I heard stories from many people about how he was welcoming to them when they first arrived in town and were trying to kickstart a career in-game audio and composition. I wanted to make sure the spirit of his generosity carried on, so I got together with a few other notable game composers who worked with Stan to create a scholarship fund for the Game Developer’s Conference. This year, we are sponsoring three passes to the audio track for the conference in an effort to welcome new faces into the amazing game audio community and give them a chance to learn from the industry’s top professionals. Applications for the passes are open until July 2nd, and I’m hoping this is something we can continue to do every year. More info can be found here:
Stan LePard might not have actively caught my ear until the Mad King kicked over the cauldron but his legacy is clearly written on the soul of Tyria. Thanks for the music, Stan.