Today we are sitting down with ArenaNet
Lead Composer Maclaine Diemer
, who players might best know from his work on Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
and Living World Season 3. Diemer picked up the baton from Jeremy Soule
, the original composer for the base game, and has been pumping out terrific music for the MMORPG ever since.
Massively OP: At this point in your career at ArenaNet, how many pieces of music have you composed for Guild Wars 2?
Maclaine Diemer: I think about this from time to time, but I honestly don’t know. I’d say it’s in the “several dozen” range, between all the holiday festivals, Living World content, Heart of Thorns, and other miscellaneous stuff like cinematics and marketing videos. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!
After over a month of voting and counting down, we’ve arrived at the final six picks for your favorite MMORPG theme songs of all time. It’s been absolutely illuminating seeing the formation of this list and the placement of certain tracks, and I’m glad that everyone who wanted to got to participate.
Before I reveal the top six themes, here are a few honorable mentions:
Are you ready? I know I am! Here we go!
It’s starting to get serious now.
As we well know, people are highly opinionated about everything, but when it comes to music, there seems to be a (pardon the pun) higher pitch to the passion of those arguments. I’ve been doing an MMO music podcast for over three years now, and believe me when I say that there have been countless times when myself and my cohosts were aghast when someone hated a tune we liked and vice-versa, even though we shouldn’t have been surprised.
So as we head into the top 10 of the best MMO theme songs, as voted on by the Massively OP community, expect a lot of opinions and controversies. You may not like the picks, the order, or the comments, but hopefully one or two of these will make you happy (and there’s always room to be pleasantly surprised by a track you never heard before!). Suck it up and jump with me!
Last week we were off to a great start as we listened to the first batch of player-voted favorite MMO themes. As I said then, the results of the voting, in which I asked players to nominate up to 10 of their favorite main themes from online games, were both predictable and surprising. Nostalgia and familiarity obviously play a strong role in many of these votes, but no one was asking for objectivity here!
Today we’re going to continue our countdown to the top spot by looking at numbers 18 through 13 of your favorite MMO themes. I think there’s a good mix here, perhaps with tunes that I would have placed a little higher, but overall it’s gratifying to see each one of these make the list.
Enough jibber-jabber, let’s get to it!
What are the best and most popular MMO theme songs of all time? A couple of weeks ago I posed this question to the Massively OP community and encouraged fans to submit their own list of music themes in response. We saw a healthy amount of email votes and comment nominations since then, and I was able to compile a nice list of the top 24 MMORPG themes from it.
There were several surprises, at least to me, in the final results. I thought some games would’ve gotten more nods, while others seemed to come out of nowhere to demand a spot on the list. Each of the themes on this list was put out there by at least two fans, which is why we’re going to start with number 24. I’m thinking we might have an honorable mentions column as a post-script, but we’ll see how it goes.
Today we will begin our countdown to number one, looking at your favorite MMO themes with my own take on each. Let’s get started!
On a couple of past occasions, I’ve amused myself by posting countdown lists of my favorite MMORPG theme songs in this column. I was coming back around to the notion of doing that again when I decided that I should flip things over and have the readers create the countdown instead of me. After all, everyone seems to have an opinion as to which are the best MMO themes out there any time we’ve ever posted a Daily Grind about it, so why not hash it out?
So here’s the plan: Over the next two weeks, I will be accepting your votes for favorite MMORPG themes. I’ll then compile them and create a countdown list based on the most popular ones mentioned, which will be posted in upcoming Jukebox Heroes. If you ever thought that a particular theme didn’t get enough credit or simply want to share the theme tracks that get you revved up or make you nostalgic, here’s your chance!
Let’s go over some ground rules after the jump and then get to voting!
I have a confession to make: I was fairly underwhelmed by the original soundtrack release for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Sure, it did the job, hit some of those familiar Star Wars notes, and slathered the myriad of game worlds in music, but I found it either too weird (the cantina tunes, mostly) or too long and bombastic to enjoy. Wasn’t the worst I’d ever heard, but certainly not near what I would expect from a game bearing the Star Wars moniker.
Yet while I wasn’t looking, BioWare has produced some incredible musical chops for the past two expansions. My mouth was often agape when I was listening to Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne, because I kept thinking, “What is this! What is this! This is the soundtrack this game deserved all along!” It was quite the pleasant surprise, let me just say, and today I’m going to share some of my favorite pieces from these recent expansions with you.
I am of the opinion that there is something special and magical about getting to experience music in person, especially so when it is a large orchestra performing some of my favorite pieces of game soundtracks. I loved seeing Video Games Live several years back and felt happy at the time at seeing two of my interests meet together and earn some legitimacy as an artistic performance.
We can’t always be there to see such performances, of course, but a nice consolation prize for those wanting to simulate the experience is to watch musicians and composers filmed while they do their work. It adds another layer of appreciation and can even cause you to look at a piece in a whole new way, even if you had heard it a hundred times before.
Today let’s check out some live performances of MMO scores and see if we can’t get any goosebumps going!
For an avid fan of video game soundtracks, and of MMO soundtracks in particular, the most frustrating aspect of collecting and listening to these scores is how shabbily the OST is often treated. For every game like World of Warcraft or Aion that gives great respect to its music by creating and selling albums, there are two or three titles that have never seen a single official release at all.
This is such a shame and an aggravation that I need to call some of these titles out this week. I need to wag my fanboy finger in their direction and ask, “What gives?” There’s so much great music that is put into these ever-expanding games… and the fact that only a fraction of it is ever made widely available to the public to purchase and enjoy outside of the game is a loss (moreso if the game shuts down). I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the composers to see their work bottled up in a product that might go offline forever at any time.
Here are six such MMOs that drive me nuts every time I think about how awesome it would be if their studios would ever consent to an official soundtrack release.
I absolutely adore Christmas music — in moderation and in season. I keep to strict personal rules not to listen to it before Black Friday or after New Year’s Eve, which for me keeps it special and doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s just a sound about Christmas music, both religious and secular, that is so happy, hopeful, and unique. It brings out so many great emotions and coats the holiday season in an extra layer of musical joy.
As we downshift for the holiday season, taking a break from the routine to spend some extra time with friends and family, I want to give you the gift of a half-dozen MMORPG tunes that embrace the Christmas music genre. Some are new, some are traditional, and some are just plain weird.
If you’ve listened to Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys one too many time this season already, here’s something different that ties together your love of gaming with the holidays.
With all of the award madness going on at Massively OP this month, it’s the perfect time to unveil the 2016 Online VGM Awards! It’s been a great year of soundtracks from our favorite MMOs, and since I have the opportunity to singlehandedly dish out any awards I like in this column, I wanted to give some honor to terrific composers and tunes that we got to listen to this year.
As with last year’s awards, I’ll be fashioning each category and selecting a winner. Some of the categories are 2016-specific, while others have more flexibility to stretch beyond this calendar year. Unlike last year’s awards, this round will have categories that are more universal and can be carried forward in future years.
So who won? We’ve got six categories to go through, including best MMO soundtrack of 2016 and composer of the year, so let’s get started!
One of the most common questions that I’m asked from my adoring throngs on the street is, “Justin, where oh where can I get some of these marvelous MMO soundtracks that you talk about all of the time?” OK, that just never happens (on the street, that is), but people are often curious how they can go about starting to amass an MMO soundtrack collection or where to find their favorite album.
The sad truth is that so much music from these games is never officially released in any capacity, which is why I scour YouTube for fan rips of the music files. However, every so often I do discover a studio release somewhere, and I try to keep an up-to-date log on these to help others in their quest for video game scores.
So in the spirit of Christmas and sharing, today I’m going to show you how you can get your ears on more than 120 soundtracks and scores from MMOs, MOBAs, and other online titles — some of which are free and legal for the taking. You’re welcome; don’t mention it!
In my years of coverage of MMO soundtrack music in this column and on Battle Bards, I’ve clearly observed that there are games that are well-known and admired for their music. Most often, these are from popular MMORPGs — your World of Warcrafts, your Guild Wars 2s, and so on. Popular game plus good music equals widespread recognition.
Yet as I’ve pointed out in the past, there are plenty of terrific scores and individual music tracks from lesser-known MMO soundtracks that don’t get the attention they deserve, usually because of a fan’s unfamiliarity with a title. That’s not your fault; few people are as crazy as me when it comes to trying to track down MMO tunes and building a comprehensive library. It’s only slightly frustrating to see these game scores go overlooked because nobody really thought to listen to them in the first place.
So I’m viewing today’s column as an exercise in education, to share what I’ve learned in my journeys and discoveries of MMORPG soundtracks. I present here for your listening pleasure six pretty great tunes from MMOs you’ve probably never played.