The Think Tank: Listen to the music

Jupiter
When I logged into ultra-indie sandbox Villagers & Heroes a few weeks ago to explore its latest patch and arrival on Steam, the first thing that slammed into me was Jupiter. No, really: Holst's Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity, one of the iconic movements of The Planets suite that's been inspiring composers for a hundred years. I just wasn't expecting to hear it verbatim during character creation. It's... well, it's jolly and strangely annoying in a game context, even for someone who appreciates a good Holst-inspired game soundtrack.

For this week's Think Tank, I polled the Massively writers about their in-game music preferences. Do they turn it off? Do they listen faithfully? Are they raiding to Bieber? I bet they are.

Anatoli Ingram, Columnist
@ceruleangrey: It depends on my mood and what the game's music is like. Sound is a huge influence on how I feel about a game's world, and I can sometimes increase my enjoyment of an MMO by up to two million percent by replacing the music with tracks I think are more fitting. When I look back at my time in World of Warcraft, the first positive memory that springs to mind is always tied to the music; The Burning Crusade soundtrack is my go-to replacement for MMO music I'm weary of or not particularly thrilled with.

Bree Royce, Editor-in-Chief
@nbrianna: I usually leave MMO music on unless it's got an annoying hitch or repeats too much -- repetitive noises really bother me. Beautiful music by a smart composer can really enhance a game's mood, so especially if I'm just puttering around or exploring or not trying to talk on voice chat, I pay attention to it. There are some older games where I'll switch in different music, though, like Ultima Online; there, I sometimes prefer to run the old midi music instead of the newer orchestral pieces!

Eliot Lefebvre, Senior Contributing Editor
@Eliot_Lefebvre: It depends a lot on the game, my mood, and the situation. If I've been playing a game for long enough, the music goes off at least some nights so I can listen to other music, although even in old favorites, there are some tracks I absolutely have to listen to. Sometimes I'll even put on the soundtrack for a different game while playing; I've listened through most of the Final Fantasy soundtracks whilst playing Final Fantasy XIV. If chat is quiet and I'm just doing something repetitive like farming or fishing, I'll sometimes watch a movie and turn off game sounds altogether. All that being said, a new game or expansion gets a fair amount of time with its soundtrack on, and every so often I like to just turn it back on for the heck of it.

Incidentally, I'd listen to Final Fantasy XIV's mount music still if they'd put the right music in for the magitek mount.

Jef Reahard, Managing Editor
@jefreahard: I tend to keep the original game soundtracks on most of the time given how high-quality they are. On the rare occasions that I turn them off, it's almost always in favor of a similarly immersive custom playlist (i.e., substituting the occasional Howard Shore track in Lord of the Rings Online or firing up various popular tunes while wandering through The Secret World).

Justin Olivetti, Senior Contributing Editor
@Sypster: I do, although it's usually to listen to other game music. MMO gaming time gets the two-birds-with-one-stone treatment from me, as I can peruse entire soundtracks while I'm playing to stock up for Jukebox Heroes and Battle Bards. But when I'm not, yes, I turn on the soundtrack. When it's been off for a while and then I toggle it back on, I'm often surprised how much it lends itself to creating a richer atmosphere for the game.

Larry Everett, Columnist
@Shaddoe: Because the music in integral to the two major games that I play, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Elder Scrolls Online, I keep the music on when I'm just questing. However, because I can get into content ID issues with YouTube, I usually turn off the music if I'm recording or livestreaming. There are rare occasions when I turn on '80s rap music to PvP (not a joke). For some reason the timing seems to work well with the timing for my abilities. Plus the PvP needs more Funky Cold Medina.

MJ Guthrie, Contributing Editor
@MJ_Guthrie: I pretty much always listen to the game music, but I do tend to turn it down. Apparently as I get older my hearing gets more acute! Maybe I am just lazy, but I don't really bother with changing up music from what is already in the game. I do admit, however, to changing the music in my EverQuest II guild hall by using the harp or the drum because I get tired of that default music after a while!

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the most caring of the carebears, so expect more than a little disagreement! Join Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and the team for a new edition right here every Thursday.
This article was originally published on Massively.