Behind the scenes with the creator of the first official Dota 2 music video
On Feb. 8, one of the first official video game-remakes of a music video was released—and according to its creator it took four weeks to assemble the three-and-a-half minutes worth of footage.
Although creative renditions of popular games, shows, and books have long been a staple in online fandom, its not often you see it seep into mainstream culture.
A scene-for-scene remake of North American rock band Awolnation's song "Seven Sticks of Dynamite," the video succeeds in expanding Dota 2's often sidelined lore.
The video was created by Maxime "MaxofS2D" Lebled but Red Bull Records, Awolnation's label, actually were the first to reach out to Lebled. "They told me that they asked Valve about making a video first, but their [Valve's] reply was 'ask this guy instead,'" Lebled said.
This is, perhaps, not all too strange, as Lebled is a three-time winner of Valve's annual short film competition. The competition sees creators using Valve's Source Filmmaker software to create short videos involving the Dota 2 universe. The best submissions are then presented at Valve's International Dota 2 championship.
Despite Lebled's experience with Source Filmmaker, however, the music video project took close to two months to finish completely. "I was contacted in October, and I started production in mid-December, with the majority of work having happened in the last 3 weeks."
While Lebled handled all of the character movement, including the very detailed lipsyncing, he got help from fellow Steam Workshop veteran Shaylyn "Chemical Alia" Hamm, who designed the unique environment as well as props featured in the video. "We've collaborated many times before, and this time, we tried to 'optimize' our process, technical overhead, and workflow friction by doing some things differently."
After being contacted by Red Bull Records, Lebled was presented with two major guidelines: adapt the existing video of Awolnation's "Seven Sticks of Dynamite," and make each group of characters featured in the video visually distinct. With a cast as diverse as Dota 2's, this didn't end up being a major restriction. Given the fact that the source material featured quite a bar brawl, the roles of the central characters became obvious. Both Tusk and Bristleback are, in Dota 2's lore, arch-nemeses. In the video, they slug it out in the game's Sundered Moon tavern.
"Outside of a few dialogue lines every so often in the game, there's not much [lore] to go on. That's also why I believe it's pointless to animate super sick teamfights; there would be little point in doing that when any fight that you would see in a tournament, or performed by yourself in a match, will always be more exciting than 99 percent of what a video can convey," Lebled said.
"In my opinion, it's a lot more interesting for Dota 2 animated videos to explore what you don't see in the game while playing it; how characters interact with each other outside of hitting each other with spells and other gameplay mechanics."
Although the video is impressive in its own right, there were some elements Lebled was unable to recreate in Source Filmmaker. The biggest example of that was the mirror behind the bar, Lebled said. "Mirrors in most games are tricky to make. I investigated a few possible solutions but none of them involved not increasing the workload of each mirror-featuring shot by at least ~50 percent."
As a compromise, he replaced the mirror behind the bar with a digital painting which referenced another music video by the band.
In only a week, the video has garnered more than 130,000 views. But it's still a mystery what Awolnation thinks of the video.
"I don't think they've seen it yet," Lebled said. "I would be curious to hear what AWOL [Aaron Bruno] himself thinks, given that he co-directed the original video. I also wonder what he'd think about being turned into Tusk. That said, I would guess that anyone who doesn't know anything about Dota would find it quite weird."
Fans of the video will soon be able to see how Lebled created it, as he plans to release a behind the scenes look at the process. In the meantime, enjoy Bristleback beating up on Tusk!