Music can be the Cornerstone of a Good Game

I have always had an affinity for music that seems to bring a game to life.  What I’m talking about goes beyond a tune being catchy or fun, or even simply well put together.  Some of the strongest feelings of nostalgia are brought on by listening to some of the older songs that were nothing but midis.  Even the midis to this day remain a defining characteristic of those games.

More emphasis should be placed on the music in the games we play. It’s a form of expression unlike anything else. I’m guilty of forgetting that there’s more to a game than the mechanics and graphics. Now that I really stop and think about it, maybe games can and should be designed around more than mechanics — perhaps even entirely around something like a song.

Ultima Online – Stones
Stones is from one of my first graphical MUDs (old school MMO) called Ultima Online. Listening to this song reminds me of entering the city every day with my character and thinking about living in a quaint little medieval fantasy town. It reminds me of simplicity and how deep the simple things can be in a game. Music doesn’t need to be grand or sweep you off your feet to imprint itself upon you.

Morrowind Theme
Listening to the Morrowind theme evokes a feeling of ‘beginning’ for me. I never even played the game! I always just watched Graev play, but I remember the hundreds of hours he put into exploration and loving everything about it. As the music begins to swell I can visualize the world of Tamriel and how infinite the possibilities are for the player about to begin his or her story.

Civilization – Baba Yetu
I think Baba Yetu was the first (only?) song for a video game to win a Grammy. Watching the video associated with the song adds to the experience, but even without the visuals you can just ‘feel’ the progress.

Keen’s lesson for the day: Take time to notice all the subtle things in the games you play. Whether they be MMORPGs or strategy games, when you look back 10 years from now it won’t be the items or the combat you remember.

  • I think the music in Wildstar has been excellent, at least what I have heard so far from both factions. Other than LOTRO most MMO’s I blank out the music but in Wildstar I want to turn it up.

  • That UO intro clip really brought me back. Another all time favorite from UO is the Brit city theme. That was my main city, especially when I was really learning the game, and before I turned music off after a couple years of hearing it 🙂

    Funny this post was written this week. I went to Video Games Live, a live orchestra featuring video game songs played to clips of the games last weekend. It was great and really awesome to feel the energy in the crowd. The concert featured everything from old school NES to WoW and Halo. My two favorite were Secret of Monkey Island and Skyrim. I highly recommend everyone checkout their website and see when it will be coming to your town. You definitely need to get a ticket when it does!

  • The theme that plays as you cross West Karana is the one that always does it for me. Also the Ahgram music in Vanguard. Just two highlights among hundreds of gems.

  • @Baba Black Sheep: Funny you say that. My original version of this had 4 songs from The Realm but I thought it was overwhelming haha. I love the character selection song.

    @H: Jeremy Soule is amazing.

    @Bhagpuss: West Karana music is indeed nice.

    @JJ Robinson: I’m desperate to go to VGL! I’m waiting for them to come to the LA area, but they’re only coming during E3 and that’s a no-no time to downtown.

    @Blargh: EQ definitely has permanent place. It was on the short list.

    @Imem: I’ll have to pay more attention to WildStar’s music. I was already loving the attention to detail in the world.

    @Shutter: I’ll give those a listen, thanks!

  • I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Rivervale theme from EQ. I was bound there for awhile while I played and while we would wipe on bosses I’d sit naked on the bank roof jamming to the theme. It was a nice upbeat tune and I could always imagine little halflings gathering vegetables and doing chores to the tune lol. Also the EQ theme song is great.

  • Fully agree.
    People often think I’m mad when I tell them I don’t listen to music when I game.
    They try and stream me music over skype or get me to watch their youtube playlists “I’ve got 50k hits, its good, listen”

    No thanks, game sounds trump all.

  • Wow does that UO music cause a major rush of nostalgia for me. I miss that game.

  • Awww all I need is the UO music in the blogpost and staring at the cover art.
    It calls for adventure and makes you Imagen.

    I still have a cd case of UO somewhere, but I can no longer have the cover art as shown in the video of the music. I do remember it though… (I am not THAT old)

  • I never played UO, but didn’t you find Iolo the bard playing Stones back in the single-player Ultimas? I think there may even have been a music puzzle relying on it.

    And yes, indeed, good ole Age of Conan.

    Although I guess I just like drummy martial music, since I love the Orgrimmar theme too.

  • FTL (faster than light) has one of the best game soundtracks ever ! Really adds to the atmosphere of the game ! As far as MMOs go, WoW still has a great soundtrack. The Timeless Isle has one of the best asian flavoured tracks I can think of.

  • A couple of years ago at work I had a large nasty spreadsheet full of items to build- I put on the Starcraft and Morrowind soundtracks and it was amazing how much better it made the work go by.

  • You nailed it with UO stones. Never has there been a more nostalgic song for me.