How Music Solved My MMO Grind
I love video game music. It helps me write and ease my mind. Lyrics get in the way when I’m in moods like that. I begin to sing along or hum which takes my mind off just relaxing. Video game soundtracks are largely without words and it is not hard at all to find a certain tone to go along with your day. Be it light, medium, or heavy gaming music has something for everyone.
However, when I’m in the grind or need to keep churning out results, I turn to my own personal preferences in bands and musicians. When I really need to get the hype going during a long play sessions, I’ll switch off the music in-game and turn on an album. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Though, I really remember doing this a lot with MMOs. I started playing MMOs back in 2004 with Final Fantasy XI. Since then, I’ve had a new obsession every year as I move from title to title and continue to do so to this day.
I love MMOs. I’m not hopelessly obsessed with them and spend “too much time” on these titles. It’s just that I really enjoy that feeling of being in an ever evolving world with people running around. Which is ironic because I enjoy leveling alone. I don’t like to group up unless I really have to. When I hit level cap, I’m all for tough content with other players. I’m a raider. I like to rush into giant caverns or abandoned palaces to kill dragons, goblins, and other sorts. The bigger the adventure is in scope, the more I’ll like it. Watching some grandiose monster raise from the ground and deliver a beat down to me and the other 9, 14, 19, 24, or 39 people in my group is just badass to me. I really enjoy being a part of the big plot or battle.
That being said, since 2004 I’ve tried out a different game in the MMO genre. It is hard for me to stay dedicated to one game. Sure, my World of Warcraft account was created back in February of 2005 and have been played up to 2011 but I didn’t play all that much. I did enough to experience the content and move on. I don’t enjoy sitting around in cities and waiting for some idiot to come through in a random queue just to watch him leave after an accidental wipe. I want to play. I want things to happen.
This harks back to the leveling process. I get so anxious about endgame that leveling just doesn’t do it for me at all. I get bored and quickly. I need to keep myself moving or thinking. So I go to my sure thing that helps me keep up the pace: music. Unless the game has an amazing soundtrack that keeps me interested, I’ll turn the in-game music off but keep on the sound effects. Then I’ll hit up my collection and pick something to listen to. Not so much playlists but full albums.
I do this a lot and now when I begin to listen to these bands and the certain albums I turned on, I think back to my adventures in online worlds. I think back to 2007 when I got my first flying mount in WoW’s first expansion. I get memories of my first boss fight ever in Final Fantasy XI. These bands and their albums make me remember my MMO footsteps. I now correlate this music with my gaming.
Notes: This isn’t about my music preferences at all. It’s more about how we correlate certain things with our games. For me, these bands bring back memories of my hours in online games. If you have anything, maybe not even music, can brings you back to your gaming past please share it in the comments.
My first MMO was a tough one. Final Fantasy XI was ruthless and there was no hand holding at all. I remember taking quite a long time to reach level 10 and my first fight after that had me dead, on the ground, and de-leveled back to 9. It was not a pleasing experience. That was back in 2003 when XI first released. I quite playing after that but really took it back up in 2004. It took me a year but I got really into the game.
I was listening to Dio’s Master of the Moon at the time and XI’s music really isn’t that amazing. A lot of times I felt like it was too quiet and would get me disenchanted with my play session. So I brought Dio in with me one time and I found my productivity flowing. I kept listening to the album and now I can’t listening to it without reliving memories in Vana’diel.
Man, the songs Dorian and Beneath These Waves really helped me through zones like Redridge Mountains and Searing Gorge. The heavy yet calm sounds from some of the Crimson King album kept me going but not too hype to where I got bored from the crappy quests I was doing. I didn’t get the feeling like I needed more to go along with my music.
Vanilla WoW is my favorite version of the long running MMO. Sure, the leveling process was sooo boring but the endgame was incredible. Demons & Wizards, a band made up of members from Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, really helped me chug along. If I throw on this album now, I think back to when I was trekking through the world at level 23 trying to see all the sights while dying hundreds of times. Also when I was trying sneak around the Plaguelands trying to find the Blood of Heroes and surviving. Vanilla WoW was an unforgiving, merciless, and tedious game but the endgame and rewards really made up for your suffering. It’s music like this, at least for me, that really made the trudging adventure bearable.
While known as just Rhapsody back then, the symphonic medal group has some awesome tunes that give off a sweet fantasy feeling. Which is ironic since City of Heroes has nothing to go with the fantasy setting at all. I think I was just so used to swords, shields, goblins, and dragons that when I made the transition to capes and powers I needed something to remind me of where I came from. Triumph or Agony is a wonderful album that gave me a sense of adventure in the superhero MMO.
I enjoyed my time in City of Heroes but it didn’t last long. I wasn’t a fan of the instanced zones and loading so much. Going from World of Warcraft’s open world to this was somewhat unappealing. However, Rhapsody’s themes in their albums reminded me of the experience leveling in WoW and I kept at it. Without this album, I probably wouldn’t have made the trek through City of Heroes. I was glad that I did as the powers my guy obtained and reputation was really cool to see.
WoW’s first expansion brought a lot to the table but, in my opinion, really started the downfall of the game towards this hand-holding and casual crap. The essence of this game is lost. WoW is not the game it used to be. However, back when this came out the excitement everyone had hided that aspect and I played the crap out of this. Burning Crusade’s zones were much better than Vanilla’s with variety in atmosphere and some story attached to each zone to keep people interested. If Blizzard does anything great, it is learn from their mistakes. They bettered the zones but lost that feeling of accomplishment with easier leveling.
Enough of that, though. The thing I remember most about Burning Crusade was finally getting that flying mount and soaring the skies. I’m an exploration junkie. I enjoy finding new places, getting into areas I shouldn’t be in, and chilling out in those rare locals that barely anyone knows about. It’s even better when you run across someone in these areas and you just stare at each other from afar thinking the other is a GM and you’re about to get that menacing whisper.
Outland felt so exotic compared to Azeroth. The zones felt so different from each other going from desolate wastelands to fertile marsh. Kamelot’s Ghost Opera really went well here. Just from the scenery alone, Ghost Opera’s tone felt wild, untamed, and just burst out the door going. Which is basically Burning Crusade in a nutshell. You rush through that portal, enter the Hellfire Peninsula,
This is the last time you’ll see World of Warcraft on this list. Not just because I don’t play anymore but also because the soundtrack to Wrath of the Lich King was fantastic. In fact, I put Cataclysm’s music on mute and uses Wrath’s to supplement my adventures to level 85.
WoW lost my attention when I hit level 70 in Burning Crusade. The endgame in Outland was no where near as fun as Vanilla. Plus, the community had gotten so out of hand with elitist and whiners that playing in a group just didn’t feel fun anymore. I didn’t return until about half a year after Wrath released and I was invited to a friend’s guild filled with people I once played with in Vanilla. It’s funny how things like that can ruin a game for you. When you have put so much time into creating a character and making friends, and then a piece of that is lost due to some reason or another you’ll find it very hard to continue playing. None of those guys and gals play WoW anymore.
This entry may be long but it is worth noting why you won’t see anymore mentions of the MMO giant. There are reasons. The music may have stayed on but the reasons to play and the goals present weren’t enough to satisfy or justify the play time.
So I left Azeroth and washed up on the shores of Tortage. Age of Conan was a fantastic 20-level adventure. After you left Tortage, the fun stopped. It turned into a tedious, boring, and empty world. They’ve done a lot of work to it since then but my ambitions in Conan’s world were dried up. Funcom’s game was brutal, mature, and pushed boundaries. I needed something to accompany me through the game. I needed hype. I wasn’t just fighting alligators, undead, and pirates. I was, but these aren’t WoW enemies. These are Age of Conan enemies. They are tough and dangerous. Everything can kill you. Blood is flying and so are body parts. So where did I turn to get me hyped up and tossing my weight around? Megadeth.
Now, I understand that these musical choices aren’t for everyone but Megadeth gets my blood pumping. Metallica does a great job but something about Megadeth’s tunes and lyrics gets me running. Around this time Megadeth’s album United Abominations came out and it was very political. The lyrics got me a bit ticked off and the riffs got me rocking. It was the perfect blend for a game like Age of Conan. Tearing through a pirate outpost and then skinning deadly wolves go get with Dave Mustaine’s work in the background.
Don’t scoff at the name until you’ve listened to this album. I can’t tell you where I heard of these guys before but Fairyland is a great band. This album in particular gives off a great, epic feeling from the first to the last song. It went along great with Aion’s highly stylized theme, setting, and combat. The game may be free-to-play now and had a lot of humps but so do most Korean MMOs that make it overseas. We are two very different markets with different play styles and outlooks on grinding.
I fell for Aion’s style and combat. It was traditional in every sense but the way everything looked, felt, and moved was great. It was a shame that once you hit level 17 everything turned into a grind. The music I chose to work me through Aion got me more than half way. The other half, well, Aion’s grind turned me off. I may have left the world that NCSoft shipped overseas but the time I did spend was worth it to me. I enjoyed doing quests and killing in Aion thanks to its style. Fairyland’s album enhanced that for me and even now the songs on this still bring me back to the wings and glory Aion gave me for that time.
I was hesitant at first with RIFT. It basically takes what Blizzard messed up with in World of Warcraft and creates a more refined game. Then I got into the beta and loved the Soul system that represented the classes. The game has changed a lot since then. It doesn’t feel like the game I played during release. It is still doing pretty well, though. They even have an expansion coming. My time with RIFT was fun. Closing portals and stopping invasions kept my character occupied between questing hubs.
The feeling of the world and game itself wasn’t so much built on hyped up combat as much as the situations. It wasn’t like Age of Conan were every place you went to was up to its ears in conflict and turmoil. RIFT’s zones had its problems but it was basically the races fighting for their lives against the elemental planes. Towns were barricaded. NPC’s were frightened. However, there wasn’t open war until a Rift or invasion opened up. I needed something that was sometimes calm, other parts anxious, and at times hectic. Dream Theater’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings gives me all of that within the album. The tones of the different songs correlate so well to the happenings in RIFT.
Not every musical choice goes well with the game I mention. Sometimes the newest album out from a favored band is just playing while I adventure. Symphony X’s latest album didn’t exactly mesh so well with DC Universe Online but it wasn’t a terrible combination. Iconoclast featured a lot of heavy hitting, pulse pounding work while DCUO’s gameplay lacked a feeling of impact to go along with the songs. Still, the freeform combat and non-traditional playing mechanics of the game were fun enough to keep me occupied while Iconoclast’s expertly crafted tracklist was great to listen to.
The combination of both a fun game and a great album from one of my favorite bands made the experience through Metropolis and Gotham a better one. The combat and inclusion of familiar comic book characters was what kept me interesting in DC Universe Online. Iconoclast made me think back to some of the older Symphony X albums like V. It felt similar but evolved. Sort of like what DCUO’s combat felt like for me and MMOs.
The force felt strong with this one. I really believe in Bioware’s revival of online Star Wars. The Old Republic seemed so wonderful. When I got into the beta and my friends watched me play, they all got the game and for the first time ever my local friends and I were playing an MMO together. It was a great experience! It didn’t last, however. For me, the game fell flat after Chapter 1 of the stories I played (Bounty Hunter, Sith Sorcerer, and Trooper). The Chapter 1 experience was so sound and amazing in every regard but it just couldn’t hold up afterwards. Chapter 2 felt so slow moving, tedious, and boring. A lot of which had to do with the planets we traveled to.
The updates didn’t help, either. Bioware pushed back so many cool features to later patches, like the Legacy. When I first left, I said I’ll wait for the Legacy system to be implemented. When it finally came, I saw that it would take way too long to get anything worthwhile in it. All that work I did when I played solidly was for naught. SWTOR was done for me and it will take quite a lot to bring me back.
I migrated to TERA after that. I had received a beta invite and it was the first time that I played every available class and race and stopped at a certain point because I was 100% sure I was buying it. In fact, after the second weekend event, I pre-ordered and paid off my first month, the digital collector’s edition, and was ready to go. The combat system felt like a much more refined version of DCUO’s which felt similar but so much better. The effort felt like WoW-level and En Masse turned a Korean game into a US one that appealed to the audience it was coming out for. That is how you do it.
I still play TERA and am having a great time with it. I haven’t been on in a bit but you can chalk that up to Diablo 3. I’ll be back to Arborea soon and I’ll be listening to this Rush mix I put together. I didn’t go with an album here which differs from past experiences. The mix I put together for Rush really was a great mix of upbeat tunes that made me keep chugging along. I needed it for Star Wars. That leveling felt so slow and all I kept thinking was “four levels to a planet, 4 levels to a planet” to keep myself going. Taris itself was a chore and so was Hoth. Rush kept me going. I had tracks coming from all of their studio albums but the focus here was on the singles released for their upcoming album Clockwork Angels. Exceptional stuff was coming out of that with BU2B and Caravan. Not so recently but close enough we also had Headlong Flight release which really felt like a combination of old school Rush and this new, deeper stuff found in Clockwork Angels.
With the release of Clockwork Angels coming, I feel that the rest of 2012 will be kept to Rush, no matter where my MMO life takes me. I’ve been through a lot of worlds and a lot of music. My tastes stay the same but my experiences differ. I said before that the choice of music here isn’t the point. When I hear this music now, I get so nostalgic and think back to my travels. From Azeroth to Telara to Metropolis I’ve witnessed a lot, killed a lot, and grouped a lot. The music has enhanced my playing sessions and given me a great avenue to relive those memories through some of my favorite bands.