It’s one thing to put a lot of music in your MMORPG or even to release that launch-day album. It’s another thing entirely to throw the full weight of support behind your score as the months and years accumulate. Alas, it’s something that many studios put on the backburner — or ignore entirely. Considering the sheer volume of music that is made for MMOs as they develop, this is a crying shame.
The other day, composer Big Giant Circles tweeted something I can get behind: “Dear Developers: Please release your game’s soundtrack […] There is literally no practical reason to not release a game’s soundtrack.”
Fortunately, there are some MMO studios that do support their composers and music-loving fans with regular album releases, music spotlights, and even full-blown concerts. Today, I want to give kudos to those studios who are doing their best to deliver music to our ears.
If you’ve been on Mars or in a cave for the past decade or so, you might be excused for your ignorance about Aion’s majestic soundtrack. All the rest of you, no excuse. That goes doubly for the fact that NCsoft has released multiple full albums and continues to push major patch music to YouTube and other sources.
Final Fantasy XIV
There are few (if any) MMORPGs that see their soundtrack lavished with such love and support by its studio than Final Fantasy XIV. It helps that the MMO makes amazing music that everyone adores, too. Not only has FFXIV seen many, many album releases (even for its incremental patches) but its score has been the subject of massive symphonies.
World of Warcraft
I’m only slightly hesitant to include this on the list, mostly because Blizzard still hasn’t released its (promised) patch music — which, if you know World of Warcraft, is even more extensive than the base expansions. That said, I’ll give props to the game for being constant with its expansion soundtrack albums, which are always a good ride. I just want more, you know?
While I agree that EVE has a few standout tracks, I never have understood the love for what is, in essence, a massive ambient electronic soundtrack. What I can’t deny is CCP’s ongoing support for its score, which includes constant releases on SoundCloud and elaborate concerts.
Lord of the Rings Online
Even though SSG has become a much smaller outfit than the Turbine of yore, it has remained dedicated to getting its expansion soundtracks out to fans. Even more than that, the official YouTube channel has been releasing sizable patch albums over the past couple of years. And the new stuff is pretty good, too!
Guild Wars 2
While the base Guild Wars 2 soundtrack is kept from purchase thanks to Jeremy Soule’s tight-fisted tyranny, at least all of the expansions and living world soundtracks have been bestowed upon fans to enjoy. Music is such a huge part of this MMO’s storytelling toolset, and it’s great to be able to enjoy it out of the game as well.
Not only does Lineage II have one of the best — and most underrated — soundtracks in the business, but it’s really accessible thanks to many, many album releases. I do wish that we would see more stuff from recent years, but I can’t complain about the bounty that we currently have.
Elder Scrolls Online
While I wasn’t too keen on the base game’s score, Elder Scrolls Online has only gotten better with each passing expansion. Good on ZeniMax and Bethesda for giving each of the three chapters so far their own official album release — it’s more than most MMOs can say.
If any studio gives Square Enix a run for king of soundtracks, I’d have to propose Jagex as a strong contender. RuneScape has a gigantic soundtrack (the biggest I’ve found so far), it allows players to “collect” pieces of music in-game, it regularly highlights music on its official site, and, oh yeah, it pumps out albums. Even albums on vinyl (I have two in my office)!
Final Fantasy XI
Finally, I don’t want Final Fantasy XI to get overlooked for the fact that it released an astounding 14 albums over the years. Never underestimate the draw of Nobuo Uematsu and his contemporaries!