Jukebox Heroes: Live performances of MMO scores


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!

EVE Online: Fanfest 2009 symphony

EVE Online players have this strange relationship with their game’s music that I can’t pretend to fully understand. Some of it is nice, sure, but for the most part it is ambient, atmospheric synth that’s more suited to the background than being in your face. But these players LOVE it for whatever reason, and CCP has put on several symphonies of the soundtrack, including one for the game’s 10th anniversary.

Age of Conan: “The Dreaming — ‘Ere the World Crumbles”

Speaking of soundtracks that have a cult-like following, Age of Conan’s theme is incredibly well-known, thanks in large part to the vocal talents of Helene Bøksle. You can see a bit of what Bøksle can do as she reprises her performance in front of a live audience with an orchestra and dancers at her side.

WildStar: “Systematic Domination”

One of the big regrets of my gaming life is that I was invited to visit Carbine Studios and listen in on a recording of the WildStar soundtrack… and I couldn’t make it out there. I have no doubt that it would’ve been a terrific experience, especially after watching videos like this and coming to a deeper appreciation of all of the work and talent put into this incredible OST.

Lord of the Rings Online: “Theme for Rohan”

In the field of video game music covers, Taylor Davis is a giant, having brought her skills as a violinist to bear on a number of classic soundtracks. To those she added her work on LOTRO in performing the Theme for Rohan. It’s a stunningly beautiful, haunting piece that is among the best the game has produced.

Of the track, Composer Chance Thomas said: “I have tried to convey something about the people of Rohan in this theme. Hardy people, individual and family tenderness, triumph and tragedy, crops and kinships, determined men and women, though wary and weary. Nobility, hope, sadness and uncertainty. As the theme approaches its apex, there is a triumphant modulation toward ultimate victory. And yet the resolve, though major, is a weak resolve (adding even a suspension to the chord) leaving a fragile uncertainty hanging in the air.”

World of Warcraft: “Invincible”

Video Games Live unfortunately mostly ignores MMORPG music for its roster, with the sole exception being World of Warcraft. I guess we’re going by mass popularity? I can’t complain too much, not when several of the game’s most notable tracks have been performed for audiences worldwide, such as Invincible starring Jillian Aversa. I would make one or two (hundred) other suggestions if they’re looking to branch out into MMO scores, of course.

Final Fantasy XIV: “Answers”

I’m nothing if not impressed and constantly surprised by FFXIV’s evolving soundtrack, and I have no doubts that in years to come it will be as highly regarded as some of the franchise’s older classics. Susan Calloway belts out this tune at Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary celebration, and it is hard to imagine that this is “just” video game music.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!

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