I love game soundtracks. I’m one of those who doesn’t see the point to playing with the music off, and who finds it vaguely discomfiting playing with other soundtracks in the background. To me, each piece of music carries its own history – history that shouldn’t be shoehorned into other settings.
And I love soundtracks to games with lore I care deeply about. So when I plumbed LoTRO’s, way back when, I remember how perplexed I was when I couldn’t find certain tracks I couldn’t get enough of in-game.
Google bridged that gap. It didn’t take me long to discover the Unreleased LoTRO Soundtrack Project, run by TesalionLortus: a LoTRO player and fan who mines the game for those great tracks Turbine chose not to release. It’s still going strong, and perhaps the best place on the Internet (apart from a couple of YouTube channels) to find hidden LoTRO musical gems.
Recently, I caught up with TesalionLortus, some two years after our initial correspondence, to find out more about the project and the person behind it.
1. Could you share with us a little about your background as a gamer?
I grew up with real-time strategy, point-and-click, and other genres, although the most memorable game of my childhood is Yume Penguin Monogatari. I really loved this for some reason… the peculiar style, the music, maybe the final bosses?
Anyway, my long lasting passion for strategies began with The Settlers II. I played a lot of them, including The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth. However, my first campaign in Rome: Total War was completely life-changing. Things escalated quickly. Because I was always fond of military aspects rather than economy or politics, I ended up playing mainly Total War titles plus various modifications for those amazing games. They seemed incredibly amazing at the time and some of them still do!
2. Was there anything in particular that motivated you to start this project? Tell us a thing or two about the early days and any feedback you received.
Nothing in particular. Well, I simply fell in love with LotRO music. I was very disappointed that the official releases skipped so many wonderful and unforgettable pieces (Evendim’s theme, for example).
Seriously… how could they? We can find many examples of games that didn’t get such releases, but fans ripped music on their own and shared it with the whole Internet community. Some of these tracks might even be of middling quality (from weak Nintendo games, for example), incomparable with the passionate work on LoTRO, and they still get fan releases. That’s why I couldn’t believe there were no gamerip soundtracks of LoTRO.
And that’s how I started my own project. I received many joyful comments under my old YouTube videos as well as some private messages with very personal appreciations of my work. One of them included awesome album cover art that is currently part of my third package.
3. What is the development process like for each release?
The process is different than what it used to be at the beginning of my project. At first, it consisted of scrolling throughout thousands of .ogg files, listening and picking up desired tracks.
But somewhere after the Isengard expansion Turbine changed the structure of newer .ogg files so they are no longer accessible with this method. Fortunately, there is always a way. Every time I enter a new region and experience a new kind of music, I simply write a short reminder in my notebook – short characteristics and the in-game location of the track.
After I’m done with the quests, I have a complete experience of the quest pack. That means I may proceed to recording sessions.
This consists of relaxing, swift traveling and recording desired tracks in-game, in the best possible quality, using Audacity. The process takes much longer because everything happens in real time. Also, I need to rearrange some of my recordings and choose proper filenames. Oh, and yes! Let’s not forget the symbolic value here – my special trailer, the final seal of each release.
4. LoTRO’s player music system is one of its big draws. Do you think this overshadows the game’s soundtrack? Why or why not?
To be honest: I don’t really use LoTRO’s music system. Well, in fact, I haven’t used it even a single time… hmm, or perhaps once. Very unprofessional and random stuff at the beginning of my adventure. I’m not really sure if it counts as ‘music’.
Anyway, I don’t think it overshadows the game’s soundtrack. The music system serves social purposes. The game’s soundtrack serves your perception of the game: the storyline, the visuals and the places you visit. Totally different functions.
5. Quite a few players play games with the music off, and/or roll with their own playlists instead. Any thoughts on this practice and how it relates to your project?
People can do whatever they like. Let’s be clear – I have nothing against it. I can even understand this practice sometimes.
But in my humble opinion the game’s soundtrack is an incredibly important part of the game, not only in LoTRO but in everything else too. It serves a certain purpose, as much as graphics, battle systems or zones, not only influencing our imagination but also tuning our souls to the lore. We can definitely feel that some places are meant to be ancient, menacing, idling or peaceful.
With the music off? We might lose this effect. And yes, some soundtracks aren’t necessarily the best of all time and it also depends on what we like. That’s why I can see two separate kinds of game music. Memorable, nice, powerful or simply genius tracks you wanna listen to on your mobile or IPod. And all other tracks that are usual, bearable, maybe genius too, but they somehow serve their purpose and that’s it – you just don’t love them so much!
No matter what category they belong to, no matter what your personal preferences are… personally, I always try to stick with the original tracks, even if I get a bit annoyed by them. You know, positive changes tend to happen when you don’t even expect them.
And how does it relate to my project? Well, I think it doesn’t. After all, the majority of players who play with the music off or use their own playlists instead don’t really love LoTRO music, right?
6. It’s been some years since you got started. Mordor is close now. What are your thoughts on the future of the Unreleased LoTRO Soundtrack as we near the endgame?
I’m not really sure about Mordor. I guess some portions will be available but I doubt we’re gonna see the whole thing… at least not yet. I’m pretty sure we will get the ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ chapter and the Grey Havens.
Besides, after the War of the Ring is ended… it might be another great chance for this game to shine even brighter. And that’s exactly what I saw in one of LoTRO’s forum statements. And it makes perfect sense.
Because… what about the lands of Rhûn and the evil sorcerers who dominated the tribes? Anyone remember that friendly Easterling warrior from Rushgore in the Great River region? What about Harad? Jajax and his struggle for freedom in Umbar? What about the remaining orcs? Their various tribes? The population of Mordor? Remaining servants of Sauron? Tolkien doesn’t say much about it, except for some limited information concerning the peaceful era of Aragorn’s rule.
But it surely didn’t happen automatically… any peace needs to be negotiated. Minor threats need to be dealt with. And well, can someone else do the task better than we, the players? So I don’t really believe in ‘endgame’. All we need is the LoTRO MMO to remain profitable, then everything is possible.
Turbine plans to release a big update for their in-game store and I doubt they would be putting in such an effort if the game wasn’t really going to last much longer. That’s why I stay positive. Can you imagine the massive amount of new tracks, in completely new settings like Harad, Khand, Mordor or Rhûn? I’m sure it would be delightful!
7. Any plans to raise awareness of the project outside of YouTube alone?
Not really. After all, it’s not about popularity. Besides, people might stumble upon my project using Google.
8. What about doing unreleased soundtracks for other MMOs?
Well, I often wonder how many great tracks remains hidden in Dungeons & Dragons Online, also Turbine’s game. I stumbled upon a small package of tracks and guess what? I found out that some of the minor tracks which appeared in Shadows of Angmar were in fact original DDO tracks (Angmar, for example). And sure, many other DDO tracks did not appear in LotRO, although I don’t have any intention of finding them.
I guess, in the first place… you need to regularly play a big game if you really intend to find its best tracks. But I don’t really play games so much. The Lord of the Rings Online is the only MMO (and one of a few games) I’ve ever made serious time investment in, and that’s only because of Tolkien.
9. If you had to choose one unreleased LoTRO track in particular as your favorite, which would it be?
I don’t really have favorites, although ‘Deathlands’ and ‘Garth Agarwen’ (editor’s note: the former is found in his first soundtrack package, and the latter is on the OST) used to stick in my mind for a while. I don’t know. They just fit so perfectly into the environment, I guess. Or maybe they’re just so memorable because Agamaur was the first time when LoTRO really gave me the creeps?
10. Before we sign off, any message for all the LoTRO soundtrack lovers out there?
Yes, of course. I would like to thank you all very much for your wonderful and encouraging support. I just experienced a bunch of wonderful tracks in South Ithilien, not so long ago! I don’t know yet how many there are or if I make the next release so soon. But you can be sure to expect some updates on my Tumblr.
Meanwhile, I wish you the best gaming experiences!
Thank you for your time, TesalionLortus, and look forward to seeing more of your efforts!