Sunday, 26 May 2013

PC Gaming and Me: Memorable Music (part 1)

There was a time when PC games had to rely on the on-board "PC Speaker", which would make a lot of noise but rarely anything you would want to hear. However, such is the constant progress of the platform, it wasn't long until gamers could afford dedicated sound cards and speakers to go with their beige boxes. The difference it made was huge, even in the early days. A few small pieces of music and more realistic sound effects added so much to the experience.

Soon, sound became as integral to a game as the gameplay and graphics. Music can add mood to a game, evoke feelings and expand upon an experience. You could even craft entire games around it! But my love of music in gaming really comes down to those catchy tunes that stick in your head all day, and the soundtracks that beautifully capture the mood and style of the game.

We begin as ever with our old friends over at Sierra. As I have probably previously mentioned, I grew up with Sierra adventure games. For a while, the majority of games that I played were produced by Sierra and it wasn't until a little later on that I branched out a bit more. First up is the introduction music to King's Quest I, which was my first proper adventure game:

You might recognise this music as a rendition of "Greensleeves", which was supposedly written by King Henry VIII and such a fact would make it wholly appropriate for a game about a King. Unfortunately of course the link is a myth, but considering the King's Quest series is steeped in myths and legends, it is still an appropriate choice of music for the game. I never actually completed the game as a boy, but have completed it many times since then. The series comes under a bit of flak for being a little dull, but at the time this sort of graphical adventure game was a wonder to behold.

King's Quest was a big success for it's time, and spawned many sequels, not to mention all the other Quest-associated games. The Space Quest series was a much more comedic take on adventure gaming, and poked fun at science fiction tropes and characters in a way I'd not seen before. I've always felt it took until the third game in the series to really hit it's stride, and fourth and fifth games will always be favourites of mine.
Space Quest III intro music:

It was the next game, Quest for Glory (originally known as Hero's Quest) which was my first real attempt to play an RPG. It had a greater range of music than many of the games of the era, with specific music for certain locations and battles. The series has some of the best music Sierra ever created, and one of the continuing themes throughout the series are the safe locations created by the mage Erana. In the first game, you find Erana's Peace in the northern forest, and of course it has it's own musical theme:

From this point I was hooked on Sierra, and I'll always be a fan. So much so that I've backed kickstarters by former Sierra employees (watch out for those on my continuing kickstarter postings), and even backed projects by those amazing folks that made fan remakes of classic Sierra games. The early-to-mid 90s were a golden age for adventure games, and Sierra was no exception. They released King's Quest V in 1990 (with a CD-ROM "talkie" version released later) and continued their other series too.
Here's one of my favourites from KQ5, the theme from Mordack's Castle. I still find it creepy!

Space Quest IV is by far and away my favourite of the Space Quest series, despite it's flaws. It has some great music, varying wildly depending on your locations. So since we've had a castle, here's a fortress, Vohaul's Fortress:

And to round off this trip through Sierra memory lane, it would be poor form if I didn't select a track from the best Quest for Glory game too, Shadows of Darkness. Here's the theme for the poor Rusalka:

I think we can all agree that's enough Sierra music for now, so next time I'll find something a little different, and delve into some of my favourite RPG music.

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