Muzak To My Ears

I’m guessing that the majority of MMO players don’t pay much attention to in-game music. You either ignore it, mute it, or have other sounds playing in the background. But sound design can be immensely important to the overall media experience. Imagine the movie Conan the Barbarian with cheesy 1980’s synthesized tunes instead of Basil Poledouris’ majestic score. In my opinion, the music made that movie the cinematic icon that it is.

Music within a game should invoke a certain tone or feeling that coincides with the overall theme of a particular area. If an MMO contains a race of people that are known to be war-like, militaristic and ruthless, the sound design for that area should be complimentary – with heavy drum beats and a steady, marching rhythm. Or at the very least, a piece of music that suggests a sense of foreboding or dread.

So what were the developers of Allods Online thinking when they used this [.mp3 file] as the looping background music for the capital city of their EVIL empire?

Go ahead, listen to the entire thing. I dare you.

Allods, like many MMOs of similar ilk, has two waring factions: the ‘good guys’ of the League, and the ‘bad guys’ that make up the Empire. The races of the League include humans, elves (with fairy wings, no less) and teddy-bear looking creatures called Gibberlings. Although not up to the standards of video game composers like Jeremy Soule, this area of the game contains light, airy music that is appropriate – if not a bit forgettable – with oboes, strings and flutes.

Conversely, the races of the Empire consists of humans, an undead variant called the Arisen, and Orcs. Their capital city, Nezebgrad, belies the developer’s Russian roots: Stalin-esque statues are everywhere, and the overall art design suggests a steampunk Moscow. While I applaud the developer’s attempt to break from the standard fantasy genre, their efforts are completely ruined by their bizarrely chosen background music.

According to the website, Astrum Nival spent over 4 years and $12 million dollars creating Allods Online. For a free-to-play MMO, it does have above-average production values. Which makes this choice of sound design that much more inexplicable. Maybe the lead sound designer was the CEO’s brother-in-law?

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8 Responses to “Muzak To My Ears”

  1. RKG says:

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

    This is so what i would expect to hear in an elevator. I always mute the sound since my taste in music is more on the heavy side and therefore, understandably, seldom catered to.

    Funniest post yet 🙂

  2. SatansBestBuddy says:

    … please tell me that there’s no specific town music, that it’s all just the same cheery tune regardless of which town you’re in, and that’s why it’s so out of place.

  3. Leslee says:

    Sorry SatansBestBuddy, but that lovely elevator music is specific to the Empire’s (the evil guys) main city.

    As far as I know, it does not exist anywhere else in the game.

  4. Heron says:

    It reminds me of something from Dragon Warrior VII or Chrono Cross, during a festival… at any rate, hardly appropriate for an evil empire. Maybe the empire is run by a self-centered ten year old girl who likes… “happy” music?

  5. Daf says:

    I’ve always played MMOs (and stand alones) with the sound on; music, ambience, effects, everything. On top of Vent.
    The background music in Nez is pretty hilarious. I’m swapping between Alli- I mean League on Zak and Empire on Isa and it certainly helps distinguish between the two. I’m not sure it’s fitting, as you’ve said, but I’ve found it has it’s own measure of usefulness.
    I would have gone with something more Blade Runnery my own self, but since it’s free I can’t make myself complain. Much. 🙂

  6. Jarenth says:

    They might be an evil Empire, but that’s no reason to be all down and gloomy all the time. Even evil Orcs need to relax every now and then.

  7. Amarsir says:

    I was going to say that they probably got the rights for cheap (or free). Until I got to your last paragraph. Music can be expensive, but not so expensive as to be worth distracting from your $12 million project.

  8. The Magnificent Zhang says:

    Wow! That sounds like ambient Musak that should be playing the background of a bar circa 1965 where Kate Archer is going to meet a drunk and grabby contact in the next installment of No One Lives Forever. Nothing says EVIL like the high end of the xylophone…..

    Oh, and 100% spot-on on the score for Conan the Barbarian. It elevated the movie from meh to whoa! Very evocative and stirring. The disc is in my car as I speak. (Yes, I am a Luddite with actual discs still in my car…no mp3 player yet).

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