Where to get MMO soundtracks

Yesterday on Too Long; Didn’t Listen (you know, that podcast you so adore!) Dodge and I were talking about MMO and video game soundtracks, a topic which I quite adore.  I wanted to follow the podcast up with a quick post about some places that I’ve found legal ways to obtain these scores:

Free MMO soundtracks:

Amazon MP3 downloads:

Direct Song:

Blizzard Store/iTunes/misc.:

Let me know if I missed any and I’ll add them to the list (I’m not looking to list/link torrents and CDs, however)!

2010: Looking Back

As much as I love retrospective posts and Top X Lists of the Year, I suppose it’s almost time to tuck those away for another 364 days.  January 1st always hits me like a wall of normalcy after the hectic month that was December.  Once tomorrow rolls in, it’s back to normal schedules and normal objectives and no awesome holidays until President’s Day (party central!).

So instead of getting bummed about the 1st, I wanted to take a couple minutes to look back at 2010.  While it may have not been much for MMOs, I thought it was a pretty exciting year — announcements, betas, getting back into old games, and so on.  I actually played a lot of MMOs this year, including:

  • World of Warcraft: I wrapped up my interest in this game early on in the year, and was finally able to say goodbye.
  • Lord of the Rings Online: I got back into LOTRO in February and have had an utter blast getting a character up in high levels, being part of a terrific kinship, and participating in many non-combat events.
  • Global Agenda: Played it for about a week, it’s decent for what it is, but it’s not for me.
  • Star Trek Online: Despite numerous hiccups on Cryptic’s part, I’ve enjoyed STO off and on during the year, and have spent about 100 hours in-game so far.
  • Ultima Online: Finally got a taste of this classic MMO for a few days — nothing compelling, but cool to be able to say I was there.
  • Anarchy Online: Spent a few weeks revisiting this title and my memories from back in the day.
  • Allods Online: I liked the beta, but the launch cash shop ruckus turned me off of it.
  • Age of Conan: Yeah, spent a couple days going through the newbie zone.  Decent game, but I didn’t feel like sticking it out.
  • DCUO: Played a very little bit of the beta, thought it looked really nice but I wasn’t too thrilled about the consoleish feel.
  • City of Heroes: Returned for a couple weeks with the intention of seeing the Going Rogue launch, but a once-familiar staple of my gaming life felt really drab and meandering, so I quit.
  • DDO: Enjoyed it off and on, but ultimately it lost its grip on me and I let it go with a teary farewell.
  • EverQuest II Extended: Went through the intro zone and generally liked it, but was turned off by the graphics and the bizarre pricing plan.
  • Guild Wars: Been playing through the campaigns for the Hall of Monuments calculator, and although I haven’t been in-game for a month or so, I have plans to return.
  • Rift: Got into the beta, and have been slowly won over by this gorgeous and pretty dang fun title.
  • Star Wars Galaxies: Played it for a couple weeks for a column, liked it so-so but it just got me itching for The Old Republic after a while.  Cool space combat, tho.
  • Vindictus: Tried the opening level, it felt way too much like a mindless click-fest and quit.

Whew, in retrospect, that’s a LOT!  And I’m not including all of my off-line gaming, including Mass Effect 2 (awesome), Back to the Future: The Game, Borderlands, Secret of Monkey Island, Dragon Age Origins, Torchlight and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

On the homefront, it’s been pretty crazy too: classes, work, family life.  Back in April my daughter was born, a daughter who’s now standing up and holding her own in play sessions with her one-year-old brother.  Being a dad is better than any game out there, which is why MMOs don’t stand a chance if they’re awake.

In February, I was hired by Massively to be a columnist and contributing editor, and in a way, it was a perfect fit.  I’ve always wanted to be a part of the games industry in some way, and writing about it comes naturally.  The folks over there are just terrific, and we’ve had a great year of covering the news and talking about the games we love.  I don’t know how you feel about the site, but I can testify to the real passion that everyone there has for MMOs.  It’s not a job, it’s being paid for what we were going to talk about anyway.  Well, okay, on days I don’t want to write, it’s certainly more job-like than others, but all in all I consider myself a very fortunate guy who has two jobs he really likes to do.

2010 wasn’t perfect — I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted to (although I made a small dent), I let a few projects slip that I wish I would’ve been better about, and I know that dividing my writing interests have hurt Bio Break in some ways.  But you have to take the bad with the good, and I’m pretty darn satisfied with how it ended up.

2010 Flushies: Best Trailer, Dud of the Year, Customer Service Fail, Best Beta

Winner: Guild Wars 2 “Manifesto”

Bold.  Audacious.  Inspiring.  These were just a few of the words that popped into mind when ArenaNet began its Guild Wars 2 marketing blitz with a powerful “Manifesto” trailer that came out swinging.  After a series of strong statements — “Cause and effect, a single decision made by a player cascades out in a chain of events” — the devs shut up and let the game’s visuals and concept art speak for itself.  It’s one of those videos that made our little neck hairs stand up and an involuntary “heck yesss!” escape our lips.

Runners-up:

  • Global Agenda: Tired of Elves
  • Rift: Beta trailer
  • Star Wars The Old Republic: Hope

Winner: Final Fantasy XIV

Gah!  I feel so torn on this — partially because APB deserves it just as much, and because piling more onto FF14 feels like you’re picking on the weakest kid in the class.  But that’s how the cookie crumbles — no other MMO this year was as highly anticipated and failed as horribly as Final Fantasy XIV.  From out-of-touch developers refusing to listen to testers to a cryptically bizarre subscription model to terrible reviews to the sacking of a good chunk of the dev team, watching the launch of this title became sheer rubbernecking after a while.  I know that some folks love this game and appreciate it for what it is — and good for them — but it’s not a good sign when the company is still not charging a monthly subscription for a AAA title out of fear of the playerbase fleeing entirely.

Runners-Up:

  • APB: Winner of the shortest-lived MMO award.  By all reports, it wasn’t that great of a game, although it had a good character builder and some folks loved the concept of it.  But Realtime Worlds quickly went under and dragged APB with it, so it doesn’t really matter how good the game was or wasn’t.  The only positive news is that GamersFirst rescued it and will revive APB as a F2P title next year.
  • Allods Online: Unlike the other two games, Allods is pretty solid and polished — it’s just that it had a lot of promise and excitement surrounding the launch, and then the company shot it in the foot with a horrid cash shop prices that seriously crippled players unwilling to pay.  As a result, Allods went from golden boy to black sheep within a month.

Winner: Cryptic Studios

I’m not quite sure what went on in Cryptic’s Monday morning meetings, but it must’ve been massive bewilderment for the sheer vitriol that players kept throwing their way.  It was as if Cryptic didn’t quite understand just how much it was constantly putting its foot in its mouth with terrible customer service decisions, such as trying to charge players for additional content that should’ve been in their games in the first place, electing a small group of players to sit on a council and receive special attention over everyone else, or any one of the other 50 gaffes the studio made this year.

Runner-up:

  • Dungeons and Dragons Online: Turbine wasn’t exempt from a few wince-inducing decisions this year, from DDO’s ill-conceived offer wall to a glitch in a festival that caused the company to ban many players for “exploits” (and then tried to hush it up instead of dealing with it straight-on).

Winner: Rift

To be honest, I wasn’t in a lot of betas this year, but of those I checked out, Rift’s came across heads and shoulders more polished, more playable and more fun than any of the others.  So much so that I don’t want to play it too much more and spoil the launch.

/AFK: New Experiences Edition

Although nobody ever said anything, I’ve always felt bad about letting /AFK lapse on Bio Break.  It was my weekly attempt to highlight the awesome writing that my fellow bloggers do all the time.  Unfortunately, it just got to be super-stressful and time-consuming; my RSS reader numbers well into the multiple hundreds, and every morning I log on to see 500+ new posts.  Granted, a lot of those are for work (Massively) and not necessary reading, but on any given day MMO bloggers will account for 100-200 new posts to read.  That’s a lot to even just skim, although I do my best to stay up to date with it all.

So instead of reintroducing all of that stress, I’d rather bring back /AFK in a slightly different incarnation — a “whenever” column in which I’ll post a handful of blogs who are talking about the same thing, same game, etc.  I want to continue to give all of these excellent bloggers props, so here goes nothing.

Today’s topic is trying out new MMOs:

GuestBloggerMania’10: A Player-Driven World

Today’s guest blogger, Oliver, hails not from the land of MMOs but of online strategy games.  Even so, Oliver has a thought about MMOs in his pocket, as well as his Pulitzer prize.  Let’s give him a warm welcome!

A Player-Driven World by Oliver

First off, hello! It’s an honor to step in for Syp and share my random MMO thoughts with you. Personally, I come from a background of strategy games (Civilization, Travian, etc), and have just started to notice an overlap between these and MMORPG’s. One aspect that a lot of MMO’s really fall short on, that hopefully OSG’s can help with, is presenting a player-driven world.

Most MMORPG’s present worlds in which thousands of epic heroes are running around completing treacherous quests, none of which seem to have any impact. No matter how many times I save Iverron in the Shadowglen, he somehow keeps getting bit by those vicious Webwood spiders and needs more antidote. No matter how many times I recover the Gilded Scroll in Korthos, Linus keeps locking it back up in the storehouse, and resetting all the traps as well. Oppositely, even though Captain Calhaan says the Charr are preparing to attack the Great Northern Wall, they never actually get around to it unless I show up.

Of course, a certain amount of this is necessary. No one would want to play a game where you approached a quest giver who shrugs “I had lost my family heirloom in an awesome dungeon instance, but that other guy just returned it to me.” On the other hand, how satisfying would it be if a guild got together and was able to finally slay the necromancer that was responsible for all the skeletons plaguing the local town and then BAM: no more skeletons, some new areas open up to all players, and all the NPC’s in town recognize you as a hero and give your guild a special discount on all items. Granted, the game might grow boring as quests are slowly “checked off”, so there would have to be a constant stream of new quests and content.

A cheaper way to do this of course is PVP, and PVP that actually affects the world. Global Agenda has done this very well with their Agency system, which pulls a lot from online strategy games. In Global Agenda, each agency (i.e. guild) controls part of the persistent game world. With the land they control Agencies can build weapons, shields, mounts, etc. Agencies battle each other and can conquer territories, and eventually take over and win the whole server. Square’s latest free-to-play MMORPG, Fantasy Earth Zero, uses a similar system with it’s “Realm vs Realm”. Guild Wars 2 is attempting to accomplish a player driven world using Dynamic Events, where “if a character tells you ogres are coming to destroy a house, they will really come and smash down the house if you don’t stop them!” I have high hopes for that game.

Having player-action affect the world, in whatever form, really takes the game in a whole new direction. You’re no longer going on raids just for loot or experience, but because completing the quest or defeating the other alliance on the battlefield actually matters. It’s something that also helps with game emersion, when your character is actually involved in the world instead of, essentially, a very busy observer. This type of player driven-world is something I really appreciate in the few MMO’s that utilize it, and something I hope to see more of in the future.