jukebox heroes

Jukebox Heroes is Justin Olivetti’s mad project to review all the MMO music in existence, one soundtrack at a time. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

Jukebox Heroes: Vanguard Saga of Heroes’ soundtrack

It may be hard to believe, but it has already been about four years since SOE decided to close down the troubled yet cult favorite Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. On July 31, 2014, the game world went dark, and many players found themselves saying farewell to Telon for good.

While I was not a regular player of Vanguard, I did admire the game for its interesting concepts (like its diplomacy system), its gorgeous visuals, and — pertinent to this column — its soundtrack. There was a lot of artistry involved in this title, and while it was hampered in many ways for many reasons, Vanguard left a legacy that is still fondly remembered by some.

Part of that legacy is its music, and other than screenshots and recollections, it is the only part of Vanguard that we can still experience today. The soundtrack was composed by Todd Masten, who has worked on many other video games such as the Age of Empires series. So let us take a trip back to this fantasy MMO and hear the music of a dead world brought back to life.

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Jukebox Heroes: Five great YouTube channels for MMO music

As a collector and reviewer of MMORPG soundtracks, I owe a great debt to fellow music lovers who take the time to somehow extract files from the game directories and make these tracks available to the world at large. YouTube has been an invaluable treasure trove of MMO music, thanks to these devoted fans, and I thought I would give some of them props today for their hard and continuing work.

While there are plenty of channels where you might see a person post a playlist at one point for a single game, there are a handful of YouTubers who see their mission to continually post new music for ongoing online games. Today we are going to look at five channels and the game soundtracks that they cover. We’re talking hours and hours of music at your fingertips here, so set aside your plans for the rest of the day and get listening!

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Perfect Ten: Why I (grudgingly) put up with Secret World Legends’ reboot

Less than a year ago, I faced a crisis as a fan and player of The Secret World. Funcom abruptly announced that it would be throwing the current game — the one I had spent about five years of my time playing and leveling — into maintenance mode and then rebooting the title as a free-to-play quasi-MMO called Secret World Legends.

It was an obnoxious, brute-force decision that greatly alienated many TSW players, and in my opinion, did not pay off as well as Funcom had hoped. Without allowing us to port over our characters or perhaps figure out a way to transform the old MMO into a free-to-play model (like so, so many other MMORPGs had), the studio forced us into a Sophie’s Choice. Did we say goodbye to the game we knew and loved (or worse, remain in a stagnant game forever), or did we start over and put up with the changes?

Grudgingly and not gladly, I started over. I spent a half-year leveling up a brand-new character just to get to the same place that I was before all of this started. And now that we are on the verge of the start of season two, I have time to reflect on why, exactly, I put up with the reboot and didn’t bid this game universe farewell. Here are my reasons.

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 5

And here we arrive at last in our multi-week countdown to the final seven. It has been a fun and delightful journey through World of Warcraft’s soundtrack, and I have eagerly anticipated getting to the end so that I could share my absolute favorite tracks with you.

As we wrap up this look at WoW’s score — at least, until the next expansion arrives! — I would love to hear from you about this soundtrack. What pieces are special to you? What have the most nostalgic value and why? Let me know in the comments!

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 4

We are getting right down to it in our look at the top 32 best World of Warcraft tracks. In today’s column, we’ll be breaking into the top 10 with some of my absolute favorite pieces that have been added to this long-running (and extensively scored) MMO.

If you’ve been going on this journey with me this far, I want to thank you for your patience and interest! For me, it has been a great reminder of the game’s musical journey so far and has also served to whet my desire for Battle for Azeroth’s score.

Let’s get going!

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 3

In our third part of this five-part countdown of World of Warcraft’s best music (at least, you know, in my opinion), we’ll be heading into the teens and some of the most iconic music of the MMORPG to date.

I think we’re getting a bit of everything in today’s list, from vintage Vanilla WoW to the Legion era, from silly to serious. One of the more difficult aspects of putting together this countdown is considering the “old” and “new” versions of songs, especially when Blizzard has remade or revisited areas, characters, and themes. I find that some people are heavily biased depending on which era they played the most, and thus that music means more to them than the others.

I’d like to hold myself up above that bias horizon, but alas, none of us can escape it. So I’ll endeavor instead to be as fair-handed as is gnomingly possible.

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 2

Probably the most challenging aspect of creating a “top 32” list of the best World of Warcraft music isn’t coming up with a track list. Heck, that’s the easy part, considering how many great tunes Blizzard’s composers have added to this MMO over the years. No, the difficult job is taking those 32 tracks and then ranking them as part of a countdown.

What makes one track better than another? Do I go by perceived popularity or by my own preferences (hint: I went with the latter while remaining influenced by the former). Is it a slight to put tracks further down on the list? What happens when we count down to the number one spot… and still haven’t included a track that a fan considers essential to such a list?

I’ll have to get over these worries and fears. That’s on me. For your part, all you need to do is enjoy the next batch of World of Warcraft’s best tunes as we travel through the 20s!

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Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 1

A week ago, I started to engage in an interesting thought experiment. I started jotting down what I thought were the best World of Warcraft music tracks to see if, I don’t know, I could come up with a top 10 list or something. What would those tracks be, anyway? I drafted good prospects from my own collection, scouted around on various soundtrack sites to see what others said, and even polled Twitter.

The list grew. And it grew. And it grew some more. That top 10 list became a top 20, and before I knew it, it had topped 30 tracks with no signs of slowing down. While World of Warcraft has a surprisingly large number of filler and forgettable music tracks, Blizzard has put so much care and effort into creating the game’s score that dozens of masterpieces have been added to the soundtrack (which is somewhere around 600 pieces, depending on how you count them).

So I drew a hard line and decided to count down from my personal 32 favorite tracks over the next five installments of Jukebox Heroes. Some of these are definitely popular hits while others might only exist as my guilty pleasures. Let’s get started with the countdown — and let me know what you think should be included in the weeks to come!

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Jukebox Heroes: Black Prophecy’s soundtrack

With just about a year of live operation to its name before closing, Black Prophecy wasn’t really here long enough to cement itself into the minds and hearts of most MMO players. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you never heard of this 2011 spaceship game. It didn’t offer much depth and failed to draw attention to itself even though it was a member of a relatively small subgenre of MMO.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, of course. For 2018, I’m working through all of the soundtracks that I have yet to feature in this space, and Black Prophecy will be the first to fling itself out of an airlock and into your heart.

The soundtrack itself is fairly decent, if short, and was composed by Dynamedion, a European company that specializes in video game music. Four composers, a 70-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and “great expense” was used to make this OST. I think it’s well worth your time to explore, so let’s dig this one out of the historical archives!

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Jukebox Heroes: MMO carols for your gaming joy

If someone — and we are not necessarily suggesting you — were to create an MMO Christmas carol album, what songs would be included? “Raiders from the Realms of Glory” would definitely be one. “The 12 Dailies of Christmas” is a possibility. And if “Grandma Got Run Over By a Wildly Oversized Mammoth Mount” got cut, then the album might as well pack it in and call it a day.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about making this happen, because MMORPGs already contain a surprising amount of winter holiday music. These range from the traditional Christmas ballads to adventurous tracks that incorporate the sound of the season.

So as you make some gaming time this holiday week, here’s a half-dozen Christmas tunes from MMOs to keep you company (even if you’ve been naughty this year!).

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Jukebox Heroes: The 2017 Online Video Game Music Awards

Oh, I can hear all of you out there, mewing with frustration that Massively OP hasn’t yet announced the truly important awards yet this season. Well whine no more, because the 2017 Online VGM Awards are here (here are 2015 and 2016 for educational purposes)!

Not only are these the only awards that you’ll find on MOP that deal with the greatness that is MMO video game music, but these are also the only awards that are chosen solely by me. It’s a total power trip that Bree allows me once a year, and I do not squander it. Sure, perhaps I go overboard with the heralds and the flinging of glitter in the faces of my coworkers, but I need it. Oh how I need it.

Without further ado, here are the six awards that I will be handing out from my throne of speakers and keytars. Get your amazed faces ready now to save you the effort later.

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Jukebox Heroes: Kritika Online’s soundtrack

It’s kind of a sad commentary on 2017 that Kritika Online is one of the most significant MMORPGs to launch during the calendar year. No real disrespect to Kritika meant, just saying that in past years we might not have even noticed such a release. It’s been a meagre year for new launches, is what I meant.

Still, this odd but plucky import got the backing of En Masse (TERA) and managed to carve out a small niche to operate in the west. Instead of presenting itself as a generic or cutesy MMO, Kritika Online decided to embrace a hair metal aesthetic to match its over-the-top combat style. It’s loud, brash, and frantic — and its music complements that direction.

While there are a couple of Kritika tracks that I did enjoy a lot during my review of the soundtrack, there weren’t as many standout pieces as I had hoped. I would imagine that listening to what amounts to nonstop boss battle music would get a little old after a while, but perhaps this game is meant for small but intense play sessions. Let’s give it a listen today!

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Jukebox Heroes: Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire’s soundtrack

I feel comfortable in saying that I hold the Guild Wars franchise’s soundtrack in high regard. There’s excellent music across the board from a variety of composers, and in my opinion, it has only gotten better over time. The Guild Wars 2 Living World season 3 and Heart of Thorns scores knocked it out of the park, and I could not wait to listen through Path of Fire when it released earlier this year.

That is why, to continue using an awkward baseball metaphor, I was let down when this expansion’s score was a mere double instead of a home run. It’s not bad, mind you, but it’s certainly not as great as the previous expansion or what the team has been putting out in the meantime. Perhaps some of this stems from the desert theme, which I’ve always found to inspire somewhat stereotypical “desert music” that sounds samey and not that thrilling. Guild Wars: Nightfall was my least-liked score of the original game for this reason as well.

Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t hate Path of Fire’s score, I just don’t like it as much as what’s been done before. This time around, four composers put together the album: Maclaine Diemer, Wilbert Rogett, Brendon Williams, and Stan LePard. This team did produce several highlights that I prefer to mention rather than talk about what didn’t work, so let’s give those pieces a listen!

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