What does "RPG Soundtrack" mean to you?
To many, the phrase conjures up a collection of fond memories about many a childhood hour spent playing on your home console of choice. To others, it draws familiar and distinctive melodies to the forefront of consciousness—even without a specific memory to attach them to. These reactions are common when thinking about music. Just as with visual imagery, music is encoded together with the environment upon listening. We all react to music differently, and yet those reactions occur in common patterns.
To the players of video games, music is an integral part of the interactive experience. Much has been written on the topic of video game music, and although, like most subjects involving video games, there's no serious research examining its function in-depth, those of us who play games understand its importance. Many of us can't even really verbalize it—not satisfactorily, and not in ways that we can consistently and accurately describe to anyone else what we feel. Such is the nature of art and its subjective fate.
But there is one objective truth about music, and the arts in general: if you really want to appreciate it, you have to experience it.
Because this isn't an essay, and because this topic all to easily veers toward the tangential (no matter how structured we attempt to be in our discussions of it), I'm going to cut right to the chase. Some of us like RPG music so much, that just listening to what's there isn't enough. We need to make more.
In the Spring of 2011, I came up with a crazy idea. I wanted to make an RPG soundtrack. Without an RPG. Of course, any amateur composer can do this: with enough planning and motivation and just stubborn refusal to give up, it can be done, and the end result can be extremely rewarding.
Then I thought, well, it would be fun, and certainly rewarding. But I want to make a big RPG soundtrack. Like a "100-tracks-long" kind of big. Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? No, and the proof is here!
The project began at the RPGamer.com forums. Here I appealed to the creative members of the board who dabbled in story writing. I wanted ideas—character ideas, location ideas, miscellaneous ideas. Of course, we're all RPG players over there, so we all know what an RPG is supposed to look like. The modest thread yielded a wide variety of ideas, yet none that were necessarily incompatible with another. After the brainstorming, it was time to form something coherent out of the mix of contributions. I set out to arrange the ideas and concepts into a framework, and expand that framework into a consistent and interesting narrative. The resulting scenario tells the story of the fictional RPG A'deo Chronicle, and is the foundation for this project, dubbed "Project VGM".
Following the scenario's development and accompanying tracklist, I searched high and low for composers interested in contributing to the project. My rules were generally lax: pick as many tracks as you like and have at it! I offered some guidance here and there, and certain pieces did need to sound a certain way. Still, I wanted the project to be highly open to interpretation: just as I had gotten story ideas from experienced RPG players, I also sought music from experienced RPG players. The resulting set of compositions varied widely in content—again, just like the story concepts!—and as a result represented a wide range of RPG soundtrack influences. I can safely say that this soundtrack truly does have something for everyone: from Japanese and Western styled music, to old-school and modern.
I want to give a special "thanks" to everyone who contributed to this project, whether it was a story idea, music, website design, or our beautiful logo. I appreciate your patience and stamina in helping to make Project VGM a reality.
To the listener: Project VGM started as a thread on a forum. Thirty-five composers and 100 compositions later, we're finally ready to tell the story of A'deo Chronicle. Enjoy!
Joe Schwebke, Project Director