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Jukebox Heroes

Jukebox Heroes: Guild Wars Eye of the North's soundtrack

Fantasy, Guild Wars, Opinion, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Buy-to-Play

The final Guild Wars soundtrack not only took the first game out in style but instantly became one of the best of the series to date. I'm not willing to put it above Prophecies, but it's not too far behind, either. As a whole, it's a wonderful symphonic journey through new lands and new themes, and just about every track is quite listenable.

You can't deny that this is Guild Wars to its very core, as composer Jeremy Soule only adds on to the franchise's legacy rather than supplants it with a different direction. Even so, it represents a mastery that wasn't quite there in past albums. If I listened to this soundtrack without knowing its source, I would have pegged it as a major motion picture release rather than a video game with angry bears.

It was definitely a difficult score to pick a mere six examples from; I'd recommend that soundtrack enthusiasts listen through its entirety. For a Guild Wars 2 player, it's really interesting to go back and hear the early versions of tracks that Soule would later reprise for the sequel.

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Jukebox Heroes: Dungeons & Dragons Online's soundtrack

Fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Jukebox Heroes

I've never liked the Dungeons & Dragons Online soundtrack very much.

Now that I've given you no reason to keep reading, please keep reading. It's an unsettling score that's heavy on discordant tracks and murky atmosphere but lacks a lot of memorable, earworm-worthy tunes. Plenty of it is done with a heavy-handed synthesizer in the mode of scoring a Saturday night B-movie. The Dungeons & Dragons moniker deserves better than this, I've always believed.

But I'm not one to throw out an entire score when there are a few redemptive pieces within. And amid the minefield of moody music, there are a few tracks that rise to being quite listenable indeed. In fact, much of the recent work done for the game's two expansions have clearly done away with slam-dancing on the keys in exchange for an honest attempt at a good score.

Listen for yourself; the studio's made 16 tracks available for free downloads. So let's see what makes it to the top of the DDO pile, shall we?

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Jukebox Heroes: Dungeon Runners' soundtrack

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Jukebox Heroes, Music

dungeon runners
Does anyone still remember Dungeon Runners? I do, at least. It was that quirky Diablo-style MMO from NCsoft that ran from 2007 to 2010, openly lampooning RPG and online gaming tropes while actually being pretty fun to play. I dipped in and out of it over the years, never being fully engrossed but appreciating its sense of humor -- and its soundtrack.

As Composer Tracy W. Bush put it in his interview with us a while back, "The music was a mish-mosh of straightforward Diablo-style dungeon crawly stuff in the exploration bits, but when it came to the boss fights, each of them was a specific sub genre of music. I did country and western, black metal, klezmer, an oompa loompa song, disco... I can't even remember them all. I had a blast."

I had a blast myself listening through the score, which lives on to this day, and have a selection of hand-picked tracks that I think nails the attitude that Dungeon Runners exuded.

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Jukebox Heroes: Guild Wars 2's living story soundtrack

Fantasy, Guild Wars 2, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Buy-to-Play

I'm going to make a bold statement here that might net me some haters, but here goes: I think that Guild Wars 2 is better off now that it's cast off Jeremy Soule and moved on to in-house composers. Soule's soundtrack was great in parts, but he's not the be-all, end-all of good video game music. And his company's unexplained decision to yank the soundtrack from its store (and not even offer a digital version) irks me beyond the telling of it. Good luck finding it!

So today I'm going to give tribute to the two men who have been forging ahead -- spectacularly, I might add -- with scoring Guild Wars 2's ongoing living story updates. Maclaine Diemer and Leif Chappelle have been whipping up a wide variety of tunes to go with the various story elements and events. To ArenaNet's credit, the studio has been posting these downloadable tracks for free on SoundCloud.

And while rumor has it that Diemer and Chappelle are already composing music for season two, I thought it'd be worthwhile to go back and share some of my favorites from their season one portfolio. I won't be dipping into Super Adventure Box, however, as we did that last year.

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Jukebox Heroes: A civil chat with Dawngate's Jeff Broadbent

Fantasy, Interviews, Free-to-Play, MOBA, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Dawngate
Massively: Today we have tea, crumpets, and the ever-so-delightful company of Composer Jeff Broadbent. Mr. Broadbent is here to talk about his work on the score for the upcoming MOBA Dawngate. So is working in the online video game world becoming a habit for you, going from PlanetSide 2 to Dawngate?

Jeff Broadbent: It does seem the online video games are becoming the norm! I am actually working on a couple of new online games also at the moment. The interesting thing about the game market today is that there are many different platforms including mobile, downloadable, online, and console, so it's quite diversified.

The Dawngate gig came about through audio director Caleb Epps. I was staying in touch with Caleb, and he let me know about a new project he was working on. He had me create a couple of demo tracks for the game, and based on that material, I was given the opportunity to score the game.

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Jukebox Heroes: Elder Scrolls Online's soundtrack

Fantasy, Opinion, The Elder Scrolls Online, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Subscription

The Elder Scrolls soundtrack is pretty well-known and highly regarded, even outside of our tiny field of video game music enthusiasts. That's what you get when you have smash hit games and a conductor who knows what he's doing. Jeremy Soule helmed the musical side of the franchise from Morrowind through Skyrim, but with the MMO, that streak is broken. Soule returned only for the main theme and then headed off for more SOEish pastures, leaving Brad Derrick (Warhammer Online) and Malukah to carry on the legacy with Elder Scrolls Online.

I think that they did a fine job. It took me a while to listen through the 47-track album (and how awesome is it that it got released?), and afterward I let it stew in my brain for a bit. During a discussion with friends, I realized that while it's beautiful, there's little here that really pops out the way that past Elder Scrolls scores did. I think the music here would do a great job to enhance the gameplay experience, but on its own, it is pleasant and often lukewarm.

It's also a soundtrack that I could play from beginning to end without it grating on my nerves, which is another testament to how it goes down the ear canals smoothly. There's a good sense of cohesiveness and atmosphere, even if it lacks the rabble-rousing tracks that I was hoping to hear. Let's dig in!

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Jukebox Heroes: Talking to HEX Composer Michael Shapiro

Fantasy, Interviews, Trading Card Games, Jukebox Heroes, Music, HEX

HEX
Massively: On today's column we have the composer of the upcoming TCG MMO, HEX. Now that's a lot of capital letters all in a row, so take a deep breath, get over it, and please welcome composer Michael Gordon Shapiro. Mike, can you give us a bit of your background in music?

Michael Gordon Shapiro: When I started my career I was only interested in film music. Game audio was just starting to emerge from the low-tech era, and there was a kind of stigma associated with it, much as there used to be with television music. As fate would have it, I was offered an in-house composer position at a game studio and was pleasantly surprised to find myself recording the same kind of live orchestral music that I loved doing for film. I also came to appreciate the high artistic effort going into both console and PC game scores.

So from that point, the stigma dissolved in my mind and my artistic palette widened. Today I love doing both film and game music, for both overlapping and complementary reasons.

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Jukebox Heroes: Talking with The Repopulation's Steven Coltart

Sci-Fi, Interviews, Sandbox, Jukebox Heroes, Music, The Repopulation

The Repopulation
Massively: Even in the far distant future on alien worlds, we'll still need music. This is why it's great that Composer Steven Coltart is providing The Repopulation with an original soundtrack, because otherwise the silence would be too much to bear. So Steven, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Steven Coltart: I'm a full-time professional composer based in the UK and was commissioned to be lead composer on The Repopulation in 2013. Previous projects include Outer Empires, the first MMO of its kind created for iOS, which went on to sell over 200,000 copies and boasted the largest ever network of players online at that time. 2014 has seen me complete the soundtrack for a soon to be announced iOS game, and I'm currently putting the finishing touches to US-based sci-fi film Downward. I've worked incredibly hard to get to this point, but I'm lucky to have what I consider the best job in the world. Writing music for a living and getting to work with talented developers and producers, it doesn't get much better for me!

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Jukebox Heroes: Hearthstone's soundtrack

Fantasy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Jukebox Heroes, Music, Hearthstone

Hearthstone
A new Blizzard game is a reason for soundtrack lovers everywhere to celebrate because if there's one thing this studio does well (other than take goofy races very seriously), it's creating incredible scores for its games. Even though Hearthstone is a smaller title with a smaller score, I welcomed it nevertheless.

Composers Peter McConnell, Jason Hayes, and Eric Dodds clearly had a lot of fun creating the whimsical, relaxing score for this game, and I must say that the music is perfectly ideal for the material. It hearkens back to the many tavern themes from World of Warcraft without being a complete copycat.

You can actually download the entire soundtrack for free on the Hearthstone official site, but before you do that, why not listen to my favorite picks from the score?

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #10-1

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, EverQuest II, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Ultima Online, LEGO Universe, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, Firefall, Jukebox Heroes, Music

We're finally here: my top 10 MMO theme tracks. I anticipate that out of all of the weeks, this will be the most controversial, since not only am I proclaiming the 10 best, but you'll realize which of your favorite games I've left out of the top 40 entirely.

A final reminder as to my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31, #30-21, and #20-11. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #20-11

Age of Conan, Darkfall, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Allods Online, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2, Defiance, Jukebox Heroes, Dragon's Prophet, Music

SWG
We're growing ever closer to my top picks for MMO theme songs, but we're not quite at the end yet. This week we are on to the third part of our Top 40 MMO main themes countdown. To repeat my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31 and #30-21. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #30-21

Aion, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, Free Realms, Mabinogi, Wizard101, EverQuest Next, Miscellaneous, The Elder Scrolls Online, Jukebox Heroes, Age of Wushu, Music

GW2
We're back with our second part of our Top 40 MMO main themes countdown, this time digging into the middle of the pack. To repeat my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game; I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed the first part, check out themes #40-31. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #40-31

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Opinion, RuneScape, Miscellaneous, Neverwinter, City of Steam, Jukebox Heroes, Music

RuneScape
MMO main themes hold the potential to be some of the most powerful and magical pieces of music, partly because we associate them with particular games more than anything else. A great theme will dredge up intense memories or euphoria by the third note, and I see composers putting in their all with many of these themes.

A long time ago I did an MMO theme countdown of 20 tracks, but since then I've heard a lot more and have wanted to do the list all over again. So this week in Jukebox Heroes, we're kicking off a countdown of the top 40 MMO themes -- in my opinion, of course. I listened to over 150 themes and spent hours ranking them to create this list.

Because these choices are bound to be a little controversial and stir up debate (which is encouraged!), I set down a few rules that I wanted to share here. I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So no points added or subtracted based on the love of the game; I'm counting down the best music, period. Let's see what numbers 40 through 31 have in store for us!

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Jukebox Heroes: Allods Online's soundtrack

Opinion, Allods Online, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Allods Online
I'm particularly excited about this week's journey through MMO music because we're going to touch on one of those scores that doesn't get nearly enough of the respect it should. Like Runes of Magic's excellent OST, Allods Online's music is largely overlooked because the game itself isn't treated as a "serious" or "original" title. But one shouldn't be so quick to throw out the soundtrack with the bathwater (that is both messy and noisy!); Allods Online has several top-notch tracks that should be recognized no matter what you may think of the game.

Composers Mark Morgan (Fallout, Planescape: Torment) and Vladislav Isaev (Prime World) collaborated on the large project. "The music in Allods Online combines lots of different elements and styles," they said in a 2009 interview. "These range from dark ambient and ethnic music, symphonies and rock music, as well as various industrial noises. Some tracks in the game retain a Russian melody spirit combined with high a quality production and its own unique sound."

I think it's the Russian flair that sets this apart from being yet another fantasy soundtrack. Anything different and yet still catchy is welcome at my dinner table. Let's partake, shall we?

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Jukebox Heroes: Elf music

World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge, Jukebox Heroes, Music

LotRO
As probably many of you know, I am no fan of the Elven menace. I won't rehash the reasons n this space, but I mention that because I do try to be a fair man. When I'm not trying to eradicate any pointy-eared immortal know-it-all tree-hugger in sight, I have been known to appreciate the Elves' musical culture. That doesn't make me a hypocrite. It just gives me slight pause before ganking the next Drizzt or Legolas.

For whatever reason, Elves bring out the magic and talent in MMO composition. Elven themes are quite often among the best that a particular OST has to offer, particularly if you like airy, magical, ethereal tracks that are big on imagination and almost devoid of percussion. I've been noting the trend of excellent Elf music for years and figured I might as well devote a week to it here before going back to my Elf-bashing ways.

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