I’ll admit that I have a particular fondness for older video game music. I still scour the archives of NES and Genesis libraries for catchy tracks, listen through Amiga and Commodore 64 playlists, and seek out MIDI tunes that trigger memories of great PC adventures. There’s a charm in the simplicity and cruder sound hardware that is, for me, a welcome change of pace from the modern pitch-perfect orchestral scores.
Today we’re going to hop into a musical time machine and travel back to the 1990s to listen to what MMORPGs sounded like back then. The soundtracks, when present, weren’t as pervasive or as (ahem) instrumental to setting the mood, but even back then you could see some passion and skill being poured into the occasional score.
Maybe these won’t all be masterpieces to your ear, but they should provide some insight into what gamers back then heard as they were exploring these magical new MMOs for the first time.
Interestingly enough, there are a few types of video game music that don’t often pop up in MMORPGs for various reasons. One of these are victory fanfares or mission completion tunes, for obvious reasons. While your standard game might congratulate you for completing a level or winning a single battle, MMOs tend to give you a brief pat on the back for a job well done and send you on to the next task.
Yet this isn’t to say that MMORPGs are completely devoid of victory themes. Every so often I come across one, usually from non-standard titles. I kind of wish we’d get more victory fanfares, to be honest, perhaps after downing a boss or winning a battle by the skin of our teeth.
Prepare to get pumped up and celebrate your mighty accomplishments as we herald them with these themes!
“Wait a minute,” you say out loud to your computer. “Western MMORPGs aren’t a thing, except in my fondest dreams. How can you write an entire column on music from these imaginary games?”
It is true, there really aren’t many (if any) “wild west” MMOs, but that isn’t to say that we are lacking for western areas and themes in our games. The American west makes for a great backdrop when its fictionalized into games, whether they be fantasy or sci-fi, and composers do love to sneak in a western-sounding track or two into their albums as well.
Today we’re going to be listening to a wide range of MMORPG soundtracks that would be comfortable on the frontier. So pull a log up to the fire, take our your harmonica, and think of a home on the range!
When a beloved MMORPG is canceled, it doesn’t entirely vanish without a trace. After all, there are thousands (if not millions) of eyewitnesses with long memories, screenshot folders filled to the brim, videos, articles, and — of course — music.
The way I see it, the enduring soundtrack is one of the most pure aspects of the late game. It can be enjoyed today the same way it was back then, albeit with fewer visuals and furious mouse-clicking. This orphaned score holds a torch for the game that was by triggering memories and keeping the atmosphere and story beats alive.
Today I’m going to look at great tracks from deceased MMOs, some of which aren’t even that cold in the ground. I’m also going to try not to rehash the most popular (and perhaps overplayed) tunes from these games but instead branch out to others that are terrific if not as recognized.
In the history of MMORPGs, City of Heroes might well go down as having one of the most passionate communities in the genre. People didn’t just like or love this game, they lived it and rallied to defend it when it was taken down. And even four years after its premature conclusion, the spirit of City of Heroes soars in the hearts of its fans.
Last week, the superhero MMO celebrated the 12th anniversary since its 2004 launch. Even though the game no longer exists, the music does (as do a chat program and various spiritual successors). For me, City of Heroes’ sound was inseparable from the game experience. Watching old videos and hearing those familiar power sounds go off triggers all sorts of happy memories.
The soundtrack was a bit of an odd beast, to say the least. The core game and its companion title, City of Villains, mostly utilized short musical cues (around 20 seconds to a minute long) whenever you would transition into a new zone. Later patches and the expansion worked in full pieces, but it’s these stingers that really exemplify the game for me. Today we’re going to see if we can activate any dormant feels in your brain through the power of soundtrack!
There’s a dedicated subcommunity of video game music afficionados out there that love these soundtracks so much that they devote considerable effort to producing all sorts of cover songs of their favorite tunes. In a weird way, you kind of know that your game’s soundtrack has made it if it prompts fans to start producing covers.
And believe it or not, this extends to MMO soundtracks as well. I never thought to check to see if there were covers of MMO tunes, mostly because I thought that the niche was too tiny to prompt such interest. But I was quickly proven wrong by how many I stumbled over.
Today we’re going to take a survey of six fan cover songs of popular MMO tunes. Do you know any others? Post links to them in the comments!
I am in love with the night. No, I’m not an emo vampire or Batman (although…); I’ve just always appreciated the quiet and peacefulness of a night scene, not to mention the utter transformation it enacts on the world around me. Walking under a starry sky, listening to the crickets chatter, and feeling wrapped up in shadows is a strangely comforting thing.
When you think of MMO music, chances are that the tracks that leap to mind are exciting, bombastic, and above all, bold. Music that belongs in the daylight, in other words. Yet there are plenty of tunes out there that play to the peaceful night, especially in games with a day/night cycle.
When the sun goes down in your MMO world, what music comes out? Today we’re going to explore six tracks that are perfect for a nighttime excursion.
Music doesn’t just speak to emotion; it often evokes it, conjuring it out of thin air with notes and tones and those squiggly lines on the staff that always confused me in band. If you don’t like being emotionally manipulated, you probably should never listen to music, since it is downright underhanded in tweaking how you feel at the moment. Of course, once you’re aware of it — and you all are — you can use that manipulation to your benefit by altering or enhancing your mood at will.
Maybe it’s the most innocent drug of them all: Just pop a music pill and wash it down with a little boogie. Feeling down? Here’s a tune to perk you up! Need some energy to get going? This track has 180 bpm of pure adrenaline! Want to write some college freshman poetry? Put on an album that distills inky depression into a vortex of black notes.
While I do like a wide range of emotional compositions, I am certainly partial to MMO tracks that positively exude unabashed joy. Today, in no particular order, I’ve put together a playlist for you of six MMO songs that make your heart happy.
If you’ve been hiding in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears and your social media feeds on the fritz, you might not have heard about this little game called ARK: Survival Evolved. This survival sandbox has taken the gaming world by storm thanks to its crazy hodge-podge approach to tossing dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures onto an island and then allowing players to shoot them in the face or tame them.
Who would have thought that having your own T-Rex minion would be so appealing? Seems kind of blindingly obvious in retrospect.
Today we’re going to explore some of the music from this early access title. The soundtrack is being composed by Gareth Coker, who’s also worked on the Minecraft OST. If you’ve never played the game (and I haven’t), I think you’re about to be pleasantly surprised.
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.