Archive for July 16th, 2010

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SWTOR Sounds And Music

July 16, 2010

I haven’t been paying much attention to Star Wars: The Old Republic news or been active on their forums for the last few days, so today’s Friday update was a complete surprise to me when they revealed a developer blog for Sounds of the Old Republic, and a developer dispatch for the Music of the Old Republic.

I know I’ve gotten excited for many updates in the past, but nothing really compares to this. Game music is something I’ve always pondered and written about. Yes, it’s personal and yes, it’s important. For me it’s such an essential part of immersion and the gaming experience, you’ll never catch me substituting the in-game score with my own playlist. I also like to listen to it offline, especially while I work. If a game soundtrack exists, you can bet I probably own it. My iPod is filled with gigs and gigs of music from the games I’ve played, everything from Aion to Zelda.

Oftentimes, audio cues touch me emotionally in ways that visuals can’t. Watch Titanic with the sound down low, and I’m laughing at the plight of Leonardo DiCaprio as he sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. But add music, and suddenly it’s the saddest, most touching thing I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m bawling my eyes out screaming, “No, not Jack! Why!” Granted, I’ve never reacted so candidly to any of the Star Wars movies, but so much of the Star Wars experience is arguably fixed into the mood created in part by the brilliant music of John Williams. To paraphrase a quote from the developer dispatch video, I want what’s happening in front of me to be felt. Doesn’t matter whether I’m watching a movie or playing a game, music contributes so much to the emotional picture…and that’s why I adore soundtracks so much.

There’s going to be some stock music in SWTOR from the movies and the Knights of the Old Republic games, but there’s going to be a lot of original music too. Lead composer Mark Griskey talks about the challenges of capturing that distinctive Star Wars-y feel, but they also want to inject a flavor to the music that’s unique to the Old Republic. I have to admit, I was a tad disappointed at first when I heard that Griskey was going to be working on SWTOR, because I was secretly hoping for Jeremy Soule. But after getting to hear his work on KOTOR II, I have a little more faith. Griskey’s style is a little darker than I’m used to hearing in a Star Wars game (actually, I thought the same about his work for The Force Unleashed) but who knows, maybe that will end up being good for SWTOR.

I was also pleasantly surprised that they included interviews with some of the actual members of the orchestra, as that’s a point of view we rarely get to see. Hearing the enthusiasm for their project was pretty cool. Anyway, if the background music in that video is any indication, I think it’s all going to work out just fine (some of what I’ve heard so far literally sends shivers up my spine) and I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to be ALL OVER this soundtrack. Package it with the Collector’s Edition, pretty please?

As for the Sounds of the Old Republic blog, first I have to remark on the irony of the opening quote from George Lucas. Out of all the asinine “updates” he made for the digitally remastered edition of the original trilogy, the thing I’m most sore about (yes, even more so than “Han shot first”) is the changes he made to the music, especially to the scenes in Jabba’s palace and the Ewok celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi. Those were songs I’ve loved since childhood, and if you recognized that audiences are “moved and excited” by what they hear in your movies, then why did you have to go and screw with it, you ass?!!! But that’s a rant for another day.

The blog once again touches upon music as well as the creation of ambient sounds, but what really struck me as I read the developer blog was appreciation for the sheer amount of effort that must go into making a fully-voiced game. You hear it over and over from Bioware that VO’s going to be “big”, it’s going to be “epic”, but you don’t really know until you realize it takes more than just some dude reading out script in a recording studio.

I hope it’s worth it, I really do. I was skeptical when I first heard about full VO, and I still am. It’s clear that they’ve pumped a lot of money into this part of the game. And watching my husband play Mass Effect 2 last night and seeing him read the subtitles and skip past the voiced dialogue, I can’t help but think this is how most people are going to play. While I can’t fault Bioware for their ambition, I just hate to think about those vast amounts of resources going to waste if they’ve underestimated the patience and attention spans of their players.

Nonetheless, the developer insights revealed this week were a treat. The video is a must-see if you have any interest in game music at all, and the dev blog is a monster, but it’s worth the read.

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