I have often thought it grossly unfair that a video game soundtrack is linked, for better and for worse, with the popularity of the game in which it appears. Sure, music is a crucial part of the experience and in many ways emblematic of it, but only recognizing an OST because the game has hit it big is a burr in my saddle.
Let me put it plainly: There are terrific MMOs with terrific soundtracks. There are great MMOs with subpar soundtracks. There are plenty of terrible MMOs with what I can only assume is a serial killer’s recording of chalkboard scrapings for a score. And — in light of today’s topic — there are quite a few incredibly good soundtracks that came from MMOs that are somewhat forgettable.
Maybe these games are far past their prime or only really took root in a certain region, but I keep coming across titles that have surprisingly robust soundtracks that get (pardon Rodney Dangerfield) no respect, no respect at all. Today I want to share with you six scores I’ve unearthed from games that have been all but forgotten by the modern MMO community.
As an MMO fan, there are few things as sad as a promising game being killed in development without seeing the light of a full release. Those nagging “what if?” scenarios can drive a fan mad and keep one up through the wee hours of the night.
And while I don’t have the power to resurrect these MMOs through my sheer force of will and present them to you wrapped in a bow, I can perhaps deliver a consolation gift by pointing you in the direction of some of these games’ soundtracks.
Many MMOs that were nearing completion or in development for a long time already had work done on their in-game music. And some of that music has escaped the long, cold fingers of cancellation thanks to composers and fans who wanted to preserve the score. So while it may be bittersweet to listen to the following six games’ scores, it’s also a small triumph that we can do so at all.
One of the great things about the EVE Online soundtrack, other than its perplexing popularity despite being mostly an ambient synth score, is that CCP Games has made all of it free to listen and download on SoundCloud. I truly wish more studios took the effort to continually release music that goes into each update like this.
I got inspired the other day to listen through the entirety of EVE Online’s login themes from each of its major expansions and releases. And boy, let me tell you: There are a lot of them. EVE’s had many releases since its 2003 launch and virtually a different theme for each one. Some, I found, are pretty forgettable, but there are more than enough interesting ones to fill up a top 10 list.
So today I want to share with you my personal top 10 favorite EVE Online themes (in no particular order).
Lately, a friend was asking me where he should start with collecting MMO soundtracks. “Pretty much anywhere and everywhere” was my initial reaction, although that was not quite as helpful as he needed. So we started talking about grabbing all of the free soundtracks out there as well as snapping up particular albums as a backbone of a good collection.
Frankly, if it’s an online game and it’s released a soundtrack, I will buy it. I don’t care what kind of MMO it was or how popular it might have been; often the quality of the music is divorced from whether or not I would play that particular game. So while my collection is pretty expansive, I understand that a beginner collector can’t just buy all the things right away.
So that created an interesting thought exercise for me. If I was starting out and had the funds and desire to purchase, say, six albums off the bat, which ones would I pick? It was tough, but I came up with the following list to recommend to any MMO OST fan as “must haves” for a good collection.
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!
Now that we’re into the thick of December, I’ve given myself permission to finally turn the radio station over to the all-Christmas-all-the-time channel for the duration of the month. I love Christmas music — love it — but I also try not to overdose on it and by so doing ruin it for years to come. So one month of the year I give myself permission to gorge on sleigh bells and drummer boys, and for the remaining 11 months, I try hard to forget it exists.
One disadvantage of the radio station, however, is that it generally plays the same 40 songs by the same 40 artists, eschewing newer and different tunes. I don’t like that, which is why I’ve been trying to expand my Christmas music collection to include such deserved hits like “Christmas Vacation” and “Toy Packaging.” Another aid in my collection quest? MMOs and their propensity for churning out lovely holiday tracks.
Today, let’s sit back with a hot cup of cocoa and sip on these seasonal serenades.
Game soundtracks like this are the reason why I scrounge outside of the well-known MMOs for hidden gems. As I’ve often said before, the quality (or popularity) of a game and its soundtrack aren’t always equal. So while Ragnarok 2 might not be the MMO on everyone’s lips these days, its soundtrack is certainly worthy of being poured into our ears.
While the original Ragnarok Online’s score is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me, the sequel is a treasure trove of delightful tracks and energetic melodies. Ragnarok 2’s score was composed by Yoko Kanno, who is well-known for her works in many anime projects including Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop. She’s also had her fingers in Continent of the Ninth (C9), which now puts that game’s score on my to-listen list.
Whether you’ve played Ragnarok 2 or not, I hope you join me for this brief tour through its musical highlights!
Halloween is upon us, that spooky and magical time of year that exists both in real life and in many of our MMOs. While Halloween tunes won’t ever earn their own radio station the way Christmas music seems to, it is a sub-genre that exists and is kind of awesome.
Today I’m drawing up a playlist perfect for crackling dead leaves, eerie houses, sinister Jack-o-lanterns, and costumes hiding the true monsters within. From MMO halloween events to other creepy zones, here is a selection of music perfect for October 31st!
I’ve been a sneaky columnist, my friends. Oh yes I have. In my last Jukebox Heroes I posted my top six favorite MMO soundtracks, partially because I wanted to share, but also partially because I wanted to see the responses. I judged — correctly — that music fans would come out of the woodwork to champion their own favorite scores.
Quietly, I began collecting your comments and even favorite tracks, extending this secretive poll to include a Daily Grind I proposed on this subject. Compiling all of the information between the two, I came up with a list of not my, but your favorite MMO soundtracks without opening it up to vote manipulation.
So do you want to know what the collective Massively Overpowered audience thinks are the best MMO soundtracks to date? Read on as I list the the top 20 (in order) that you nominated!
In ranking MMO soundtracks, there are a lot of ways to do it. You can pull out individual tracks or praise a game for its sheer quantity of musical material. You could even give props to well-known composers such as Jeremy Soule and Inon Zur. You might point to certain game soundtracks as triggers for powerful nostalgia.
Today I want to share my top six favorite MMO soundtracks, but I want to make it clear that the biggest criteron here isn’t whether I’ve played the game or like the composer or have a fondness for a specific track. No, each of these six (and it was agony to choose) is on the list because the overall quality and breadth of each soundtrack has impressed me. Track for track, these OSTs offer a higher ratio of hits to duds and have acquitted themselves well over time.
So what are they? In no particular order, my favorite six are…
Aion is a game that’s well-renowned for both its visual and audio beauty. Among my fellow MMO soundtrack enthusiasts, the title’s many soundtracks stand out as some of the best in the business. So it goes without saying that we wouldn’t mind a bit more of it, right?
Happily, we got just that. With the advent of Patch 4.8: Upheaval, NCsoft added 18 new music tracks to the game, and for the most part they are spectacular. The score carries the task of selling the atmosphere and wordless story to several new regions and locales, and I had a difficult time picking just six tracks to share.
So here we are with an exclusive first listen to the Aion Upheaval soundtrack. Enjoy!
I love a really good superhero score. Some of my favorite pieces include John Williams’ Superman theme, Danny Elfman’s Batman introduction, Brian Tyler’s Iron Man 3 score, “Favela Escape” from Incredible Hulk, and of course the stellar, amazing, and unforgettable title to Condorman. What? I can’t be the only person who watched that as a kid.
So my expectations when it comes to superhero music is high: It has to be well-done, be highly memorable, and get me so pumped up that I can’t help but fantasize about gaining powers myself. Unfortuantely, I’ve found superhero MMO scores to be a much more mixed bag than their movie counterparts, with good tracks here and there but few consistently great OSTs. It took a MOBA, Infinite Crisis, to show the rest of the field how it should be done.
I’m deeply impressed with Infinite Crisis’ score through-and-through. It was composed by Turbine Audio Director Matthew Harwood and has an amazing amount of variety and personality, not to mention a few of those must-have pump-me-up pieces. I think it reflects well on the “anything goes” attitude of the game’s diverse roster, and it’s earned a spot in my superhero music library.
You know what gets me righteously angry? I shall tell you. I shall tell you, and then you shall share in my anger, you will. What gets me angry is when I get tremendously excited because a new MMO is actually doing a soundtrack release with a whopping 86 tracks across three discs… and then that soundtrack turns out to be about as exciting to listen to as the old dial-up modem noises. I had to drink so much coffee to make it through this score, you have no idea.
Seriously, Elite: Dangerous, you had 86 tracks and pretty much all of them are completely forgettable synthesized noise? I know that “space” usually equals “ambient synth” for soundtracks, but I had hopes that there would be more than a small handful of tracks worth my time. This was — by far — duller than EVE, and I am not the world’s biggest EVE Online soundtrack fan.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, it’s often unfair to decouple a soundtrack from the game and not understand it in its proper context. Then again, other MMO scores have made the transition to a solo listening experience with aplomb, so why not this one?