Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Music in Virtual Worlds

July 27, 2007

Having not posted for a week I missed the two big pieces of news; World of Warcraft crossed the 9 million player threshold, putting to silence all the ‘is WoW going down?’ posts from last month. The other, less positive (for Linden Labs), news is that gambling has been banned in Second Life, surely one of the more popular and lucrative activities that took place there.

In other news, and perhaps more interesting in the evolution of real life/virtual world crossover, is the deal EMI have struck with Habbo Hotel which will see Now 67 (a[n awful] compilation of chart music) played at the specially opened Summer Beach Cafe.
Some will say it’s a sign of the music industry’s desperation, the only information I could find on compilation sales was from 2005 where there was a significant drop (15.7%) in sales, the BPI putting the blame on DIY compilations and, erm, piracy. Personally I think it could work, even though from my understanding little came of the launch of boyband 365(?) in Habbo last year (I think the problems with that one are fairly obvious).

I was planning on writing a post on the subject of music in virtual worlds anyway, so this is a good opportunity to elaborate. When I’m working I like to listen to music, but sometimes music with lyrics breaks my concentration, so I like to listen to soundtracks, the odd bit of classical music or electro/techno type stuff. Naturally the soundtracks to World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade are albums I regularly turn to on these occasions.

As WoW players will know, most zones have music that is unique to them so unless you choose to turn it off, you’re hearing for however many hours you spend in that zone. So when you listen to the music on the soundtrack albums you find yourself having vivid flashbacks of the experiences of your time in that particular zone. As soon as I hear the opening notes of ‘Stranglethorn Vale’ my heartbeat speeds up as I recall the heightened excitement of being in a zone where I’m rubbing shoukders with enemy players. Of course this is no different from real life where you associate certain songs with people, places or a time of you life. My point is that these songs become more important because of this association.

The other factor is that people can spend a great deal of time in virtual worlds, so when it comes to music they’re potentially captive audiences and the more they hear a song the more they’ll associate it with the great time they’re presumably having in which ever virtual world they happen to be in.

What I think EMI have done right this time is to take music that many people will already be familiar with and that they are likely to hear in real life as well as in Habbo Hotel. The problem with music in virtual worlds, like the World of Warcraft soundtracks, is that it’s easy not to notice it’s impact, it becomes little more than background ambience. Hearing it in a different, real life context reminds listeners how significant that track is which hopefully translates into a purchase. The one problem is that with a compilcation album people might just download their favourite tracks…

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An apt analogy after all…

May 27, 2007

This post ‘cleverly’ weaves three of my interests together; MMORPGs, Heavy Metal and Fantasy Literature and all begins with a quote I read on Last.FM in regards to a track by the (incredibly cheesy) metal band Blind Guardian.

I recently picked up ‘A Twist in the Myth’ by said band and noticed that one of the tracks was called Otherland, a name shared by a series of novels by Tad Williams about a super-life-like virtual world. Reading the lyrics to the song my suspicions were 90% confirmed but I just wanted to double check so I did a Google search and came up with a few relevant links. The one that caught my eye was a comment left on Last.FM that said “I know it’s based off the book “Otherland” but the lyrics also describe World of Warcraft quite well”. Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics he’s referring to:

They rule the land
They are in command
They hold all strings in hand
They are invisible
Out of sight
They’ve designed
A secret place
To play their games
A world they’re in control
Divine law
Divine law
Be aware
Now
Mind your steps
We are uninvited guests
They may find and catch us
Don’t forget
Do what I say
Now connect
Don’t even ask
Until we’re out of it
Everything’s at highest stake
Come take a look
We are in
Take a breath
But don’t forget
It isn’t real
It isn’t true
An illusion
Nothing more

You’re part of the game
You’re slave to the grind
Oblivion
Is your key to the Otherland
You’re part of the game
You’re cursed
You’re damned
By now you understand

You’re part of the game
You’re slave to the grind
Oblivion
You’re welcome to the
Otherland

I think it’s safe to say that Blizzard won’t be using this song in their next advertising campaign.

My first thought was that this guy is an ex-WoW player who bitterly resents the hours he whittled away in Azeroth. Then I remembered what so many of my guildies have told me about their continued attraction to WoW. Many openly acknowledge the psychologically addictive nature of WoW, but continue to play anyway, the reason being that they’ve made close friends there.

“There is no end point – no end story for me to reach. Only the next epic item after item after item.”

“The key question for me tho is ‘What keeps you playing WoW?’ to which I respond ‘The people I play along side’. If it wasn’t for TT (the guild)… I would have quit ages ago.

In the first book of the Otherland series (I have yet to read the second, third and fourth volumes, they’re all f**king huge) one of the main story arcs (there are several) features Renie Sulaweyo, whose younger brother is left comatose after some rather unsavoury virtual world experience. Renie ends up getting caught up in some very nasty business in her efforts to help her brother, but she gets through it (well the first volume anyway) because her friends (one or two of whom end up giving their life) are there to help her.

So, while Blizzard might not be quite as evil as those in control of Otherland, maybe the comment the guy made on Last.FM referred to the fact that often only your friends get you through WoW.

Here’ s Blind Guardian in all their glory: 02_blind_guardian-otherland-amrc.mp3