Jukebox Heroes: The 2015 Online VGM Awards

With another year coming to a close, I thought it would be an opportune time to go back and give out flippant awards to some of the MMO and MOBA soundtracks that released in 2015. Not every game gets an official album release, of course, but if there was a new game on the scene, rest assured that I was all over its music.

So read on for six awards that celebrate the highs and, yes, lows of the video game scores this year!

Quirk Embodied: Trove

Trove’s soundtrack contains a unique sound that is both childlike and magical, calling back to earlier video game eras while being its own creature. It’s far more relaxing and ambient than exciting and epic. However, if there was one term that I would apply, it would be “quirky.” There’s an impish spirit at play here that I appreciated. I hope that we get to hear more out of this soundtrack in the future.

All Grown Up: Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

I’ve been beating on this particular drum for a while now, but it bears repeating: Guild Wars 2’s in-house music team is actually churning out a soundtrack that’s superior to Jeremy Soule’s base score. Hearing the goosebump-raising work that came out with this year’s Heart of Thorns reinforced my opinion that this team is all grown up in the music department and able to throw down on the same playing field as one of the industry’s top composers.

Best Superhero Anything: Infinite Crisis

It was a tragedy to see Infinite Crisis tank this year for several reasons, one of which was the fact that few players would get to hear the incredible score that Matthew Harwood produced. Seriously, I’ve played every superhero MMO out there, and this one MOBA had a better score than any of them. There’s such sheer variety, power, and creativity on display in this OST that I haven’t been able to stop recommending it to friends. At least it got an official release, which is more than I can say for some games!

Fantastical: Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

Sometimes you want to settle into a nice comfy couch made of fantasy music, and if that’s the case, then Heavensward had you all sorts of covered this year. Final Fantasy XIV’s amazing score grew with the expansion this year, adding a wonderful variety of epic and moving tunes. I also particularly liked the reprise of a classic Final Fantasy track, Matoya’s Cave.

Greatest Disappointment: Elite Dangerous

I don’t think I’ve ever been let down as hard as I was by the Elite Dangerous soundtrack. When I saw that it was releasing a massive 3-CD set, I was overjoyed with visions of a wide body of potential awesomeness. Instead, I got scads of incredibly boring, understated synth that might be serviceable for ambiance but did nothing for me while listening to it other than make me fall into a deep and irreversible coma.

Best Bargain: League of Legends

I was doubly amazed by League of Legends this year. It not only released the first volume of its soundtrack (which was flat-out terrific), but it made it available for free. Which it still is, by the way, even though the studio is also selling it through digital platforms. No matter what you think about the MOBA, League of Legends’ OST is a treat to be experienced — and at a price that can’t be beat.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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12 Comments on "Jukebox Heroes: The 2015 Online VGM Awards"

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Xephyr
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Xephyr

The Heart of Thorns soundtrack is freaking fantastic. While Jeremy Soule did a good job with vanilla GW2 music, it all sounds sort of the same, I don’t know whether I’m listening to a track from GW2, Morrowind, Skyrim, or anything else he’s done. It’s just kinda generic.
This is my favorite track from the HoT OST: https://soundcloud.com/arenanet/gw2-heart-of-thorns-tarir-the-forgotten-city?in=arenanet/sets/gw2-heart-of-thorns-ost

Fangride
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Fangride

While you can’t purchase the tracks, I just wanna shout out to Jagex’s music with RuneScape this year. The whole music team there has been releasing some absolutely stellar music tracks for the past few years with each of their updates, and it’s given players loads of reasons to actually turn on – and keep on – their music and sounds in full.

Loopstah
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Loopstah

Goose.
Bumps.

MithranArkanere
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MithranArkanere

Siphaed And they also release many if not all living story tracks in their Soundcloud.

zoward
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zoward

Thanks for including League of Legends on this list – I was really impressed by the quality of it and rather surprised that a free-to-play game would put a soundtrack of this quality up on the net for free.

zoward
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zoward

No “Soundtrack Of The Year” award this year?  Or is it coming later?

AnastashsKontostergios
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AnastashsKontostergios

The GW2 soundtrack gives me the chills

Siphaed
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Siphaed

FoxBat 
It is not just about their aftermarket sales. It is about reputation.   Jeremy Soule and his Brother’s little platform DirectSong didn’t deliver many soundtracks for years…not just months, but YEARS!  Unaware customers were faulting the entire blame on ArenaNet for that.

    iam8bit might be slow right now on delivery because ..hello? Holidays!   But I highly doubt it’ll be years before they’re able to deliver unlike the previous. 

Maclaine Diemer isn’t a designer, he’s an actual composer brought on for several song pieces.  He did LS1, LS2, Wintersday, Shadow of a Mad King, and Lost Shores working with Stan LePard. I think the person you’re thinking of is Lena Chappelle.  She’s a designer with a Bachelor’s degree for music Composing.    She’s done many pieces for the game including those for the Bizarre of the Four Winds,  Wintersday, some LS:S2 stuff, and even the music in Tarir, the golden city in Heart of Thorns.   
Soule’s exclusivity for SOE MMO soundtracks didn’t hit until 2014, well after the LS1 had began and ended.

Roke
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Roke

It’s funny, the middle part of the GW2 HoT theme sounds like an alternate WoW Classic theme.

FoxBat
Guest
FoxBat

Yep now they can short people of their records w/iam8bit too.
Seriously, the pittance of aftermarket sales is pretty far down on their list compared to other considerations, like Soule signing an exclusivity contract with SoE, and them needing more agile music creation back in LS1, that they tapped one of their game designers (McClane) to write something just because.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

“This video is not available.” When I click on the Elite: Dangerous embed :/

Siphaed
Guest
Siphaed

A.Net most likely did their own in-house soundtrack for GW2:HoT because they wanted to eventually be able to sell their own instead of having Jeremy Soule sell it on a horrible platform while not delivering to customers who purchased it there.  So now A.Net has it available on digital through Amazon, iTunes, and -for some weird reason- iam8bit on vinyl too.

Ya, the LoL soundtrack is a great bargain and has some really nice pieces to it too.  The absolutely fantastical ‘tank girl’ punk rock style of Get Jinxed or the dreary Curse of the Sad Mummy.   The really great one is Lulu and Shaco’s Encounter, which sounds like something straight out of The Nutcracker.

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