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.
One of the lesser-known but still-running sci-fi MMOs out there is getting a massive upgrade for the modern era. Ever since its release in 2002, Neocron has gone through several iterations and owners, surviving all of these transitions. The current community dev team picked up the dormant game back in 2012, renamed it Neocron Evolution, made it free-to-play, and has been working on overhauling its creaky code and dated visuals ever since.
This Saturday, the Neocron Evolution team will release its 2.3 update. The patch includes a streamlined weapon system, reimagined shield mechanics, more setup choices, bug fixes, feature improvements, and engine upgrades that focus on "modularity and configurability." Better yet, the team promised that there will be more frequent updates going forward.
"Reaching this point has involved the writing and rewriting of thousands of lines of code," the team shared. "Huge chunks of Neocron’s underlying systems have been gutted and entirely reengineered from the ground up."
As with mainstream movies, it seems that the MMORPG industry has settled comfortably into the PG-13 zone for its approach and themes. Sure, there's a bit of blood, skin, and the occasional foray into adult themes, but for the most part these games are playing it safe by not pushing too many boundaries. After all, why limit the potential size of your audience when you're trying to draw in as large of a group of gamers as possible?
Of course, not every MMO out there deigns to appeal to the family market. Every once in a while we get a game that pushes well into the mature or even adult-only rating territory with edgier content. It's an uphill battle to get these games out, sometime: World of Darkness and Revival both promised a super-gritty world yet were torpedoed well before launch.
Today we're going to look at 10 games that don't just accept mature content as a part of the gameplay experience, they embrace it fully and have earned an M or AO rating from the ESRB. Parental guidance from here on out is suggested.