The Soundtrack of MMOs

There’s something most gamers probably don’t think about when playing a MMO, and that is musical score. This is mainly due to the fact that, despite being pretty good, very few MMOs have great soundtracks that will get you blood pumping like the music from Gears of War 2 or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The exception to this rule is, and I can’t believe I’m writing these words, World of Warcraft. The first time you enter Stormwind and you hear that loud choral theme, you just can’t help but feel like, “Hell yeah! This is my city!” When I used to play WoW, back in the day, one of the major draws to the game was that it felt like a living, breathing world. In retrospect it’s clearly pretty stagnant, as NPCs are always in the same place and nothing you do actually affects anything in the world. What made it feel real was the soundtrack in the background, whether loud or soft, that just matched the area you were in. The music completely complimented the setting and it added a lot to the experience. Sure, the end game raider probably doesn’t give a crap, but for someone who was new to the genre, it was a major hook.

And this is really one of my major problems with LOTRO. The soundtrack is by no means terrible, but the only time I’ve ever felt moved in the slightest by the music was when I finally exited Moria and looked down on Lothlorien as this dramatic elvish music was playing. There are no themes you can really associate with a zone because so much of the music is used in more than one place and by the time you reach the top of the ravine that leads to Rivendell, you’ve heard the Rivendell theme so many times while questing that it makes absolutely no impact. That and most of the tracks have no intensity or personality. They’re absolutely mild when there’s no need to be. It’s sad that the tune to the pre-Moria capital city’s theme was a single guitar being strummed with people clapping in the background. On the other hand, since Moria it’s much improved, but the repetition haunts it everywhere. Turbine need to get Chance Thomas (their orchestral composer) and their synth team to get off their asses and write more stuff, because I’m tired of hearing the same song in five different zones.

Now that I’m done complaining, I’m just going to express my hopes that as MMOs get more popular, the quality of music in them will increase and therefore, so will the experience. The day an instance’s music will get me as excited as the Crysis combat song or the Halo theme will be a great day indeed for MMOs. It adds so much to the experience and the joy of playing a game that it is really a shame not more MMOs have excellent soundtracks.

Hmmm… BioWare games have good music…

2 Comments to The Soundtrack of MMOs

  1. March 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink


    WoW hands-down has the best MMO music. Okay I’m not an expert, but I love the music in that game, and it only gets MORE of it with each expansion. Mark can quote you the number of hours of music it has now, as to what it launched with– we’re all big music geeks to varying degrees at Channel Massive.

    And the music is a major problem I have with Warhammer. I should’ve known it would suck when I watched that pre-release video of the main composer putting something together for the game, and I was thinking, “Wow, that’s *it*?” The melody composition was totally primitive and he was just layering other crap on top of it to make it sound slightly more complex. The opening theme’s alright, but there’s next to no music let alone sound effects in the dark elf zones, just this annoying “spooky” whistle sound that shows up once in awhile. Totally lame and totally detracting. City of Heroes had more variety and interesting stuff than this, and that was from one city block to the next! Get some real music, Mythic! (not epic fail level here ;) )

  2. March 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I think the total number is like 28 hours now, with 7 hours of music in WOTLK alone. Here’s an article to help you understand the level of talent and skill of the WOW composers: They’re talking about 7/4 time signatures for instance. Also BlizzCast episode 4 has a great interview and the exact number of hours of music in the game.

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