Category Archives: Battle Bards

Off the Chest: MMOs are too cheap, Battle Bards Anniversary and my Black Desert Crib!

off the chest

There are too many small updates today, which is a perfect excuse for a quick multi-topic post!

After much consideration and more payment model debates over the past few weeks, I decided I really haven’t had enough of this yet – which led to this post on Camelot Unchained and Subscriptions (and MMO pricing) over at MMOGames. The recent MassivelyOP interview with Mark Jacobs tied in perfectly and from there, it was impossible not to take another look at MMO-specific free-to-play models. I don’t know how many more times this topic is going to occupy my mind, I suspect it will in 6-12 months time like all the other MMO evergreens, but am definitely holding on to this one: MMOs are too cheap and payment model shenanigans are here to stay as long as that’s the case. Solutions are easier said than done, but I would rather see higher pricing for buy-to-play / lifetime sub MMOs than what we’re currently seeing in terms of payment model hybrids.

The Battle Bards Podcast is turning 3!

After 72 episodes and many an MMO music argument, the podcast by Syp, Steff and myself is turning three years old, hooray! This is pretty wild and an occasion to celebrate because we never really expected to last this long, without an end in sight. We’re also getting back to some listeners requests on this special anniversary episode which was a very fun event to return to.


Casa de Syl in Black Desert Online

As Bhagpuss pointed out in his post of today, BDO is seeing content and seasonal events added at lightning speed ever since launch and with that have come additional housing items to decorate our cribs for more shiny! I’m starting to feel pretty happy with my home in Velia 2.3 which is why I decided to take a brief fraps the other night and take a tour. The basement isn’t nearly where I want it to be….but hey, I’m not in a rush, right!

I really look forward to what else will get added over time, as the furniture options in the game have started to feel fairly limited. The recent Mediah patch introduced a new, fairly ugly set of furniture in the cash shop and looking at the market place, there’s not much else to get right now. I should probably start crafting some of those curtains and pillows for myself and find out where to get that blasted owl cage from!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

I will love MMO music until the end of my days. It is the only thing about MMOs that has consistently made me happy over the past 16 years and has never let me down. Games come and go, so do posts, blogs, people – but the soundtrack is here to stay. It is a constant source of wonder and joy for me. Battle Bards, the MMO music podcast I share with my friends Syp and Steff, is turning 3 years old this April 2016 and we have a special anniversary episode upcoming next week. These three years, I have not missed a single recording and I regret not the times when I re-scheduled appointments or popped another pill so we could record together across the pond. Above all the things that I do in connection with gaming, the podcast has become my number one priority.

We recently did a second show on FFXIV on Battle Bards, with focus on the Heavensward soundtrack.  While slightly smaller in scope and narrower in focus, Masayoshi Soken has once more hit it out of the ballpark with Heavensward. The music celebrates everything that Final Fantasy means to people, treats its legacy with great respect and comes with a large variety of tracks for both day and night time. And as usual, the combat and boss music knocks you off your socks!

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV's Combat Music

King Thordan is very serious about kicking your butt.

The Cosmic Heights of Final Fantasy XIV’s Combat Music

Combat music is one of the most overlooked themes in most MMO soundtracks which is weird considering how often we do it. Many games don’t have any or only for special occasions, great raid bosses and such. Other games are so terrible at them, you get fed up after the first three times of hearing them. Only FFXIV cannot seem to respect its battle tunes enough; there are a total of 40+ tracks dedicated to different combat/grind/dungeon/raidboss occasions and even the standard field combat themes vary from greater region to region. Fates, leves, guildhests, exploration missions, dungeons….they all get their own dedicated music. As for primal fights, they are bewildering, unique arrangements players will either love or hate but never feel indifferent towards.

But enough gushing, let the music speak for itself. Here’s my very selective list of amazing combat tracks from both ARR and HW for you!

1. FFXIV ARR: Tenacity (Leve theme)
My favorite battle track from ARR, this gets you pumped from the first second and never ever gets old. Leves can be a grind but when Tenacity is on, I couldn’t care less. If you keep listening, you’ll even hear a bagpipe show up!

2. FFXIV ARR: Minstrel’s Ballad (Ultima Weapon theme)
Ultima Weapon is back and don’t let the choral intro to this track fool you, for it takes off at the 1:20 mark. This special story fight was the first time I lost my composure during my ARR journey – just how much more epic can a fight get thanks to the music?

3. FFXIV ARR: Good King Moggle Mog!
If this track isn’t a direct hommage to Jack Skellington and Danny Elfman’s “Nightmare before Christmas” soundtrack, then I don’t know – I’ll eat my hat!

4. FFHW: Ominous Prognisticks (dungeon boss theme)
If A Realm Reborn had great dungeons and raid bosses, Heavensward has taken everything to new heights both in terms of gameplay and music. This particular track comes up in various dungeons for boss encounters and is one of the greatest pieces of music in the entire expansion. I cannot sit still when I hear this!

5. FFHW: Heroes Never Die (Thordan Extreme theme)
The Thordan encounter is one of the most intense multi-phase challenges the game has seen up to now. I have only beaten this boss on normal so far and have been awestruck as he reigned down fire from the heavens while everyone was dying like flies. Such sweet death to such wonderful music packed with familiar FF cues!

6. FFHW: Ravana’s Theme / Thok Ast Thok
Unlike with so many other primal fights, there are only two phases to the Ravana fight as far as the music goes but boy, was I not prepared for that transition after 05:30! This boss fight is a condensation of what only Final Fantasy has mastered time and again, all at once: to be both grandiose and martial while very goofy and unserious at the same time. All hail Ravana, master of roses and death!

Looking for more? Thanks to the tireless work of Mekkah Dee on youtube, you can find a playlist of every single FFXIV combat track here. Enjoy and spread the love!

Invisible Audience: What your Podcast Stats Won’t Tell You


It’s 2.5 years now since I joined Syp and Steff on the adventure of podcasting about MMO music. Without fail, we have recorded two episodes per month – about 2.5 hours of time spent on Skype and a couple more hours to actually prep for the shows. Battle Bards is somewhat more time intense than other podcasts I have participated in because the entire concept is based on thematic challenges between the three of us, meaning research must be done in advance and picks must be shared and prepped. That sounds like a lot of work for a niche podcast but we’re obviously really into the subject matter or we wouldn’t be doing it. Same as for blogging, you have to podcast for yourself first.

Intrinsic motivation or not, it doesn’t mean you don’t hope for a degree of feedback and positive reception. Blogging and podcasting in a public space are social activities and about connecting with kindred spirits. So whatever content you put out, you hope it’s somewhat useful to somebody else, informative or entertaining. Most of us assume it is at least a tiny bit, but we rarely get unmistakeable “proof”. For one, much fewer people tend to comment on blogs than there are readers; no matter a positive or more critical comment, feedback is therefore valued and appreciated. About half of my frequent commenters are bloggers themselves who understand this very well.

In my humble experience, podcasting is a similar beast yet different from blogging. It takes time to establish a podcast, get the word out and build a backlog – that last part being a major factor both for blog traffic or podcast downloads. It’s very easy to misinterpret podcasting stats by mistaking monthly downloads for individual listeners; as long as you remain active in whatever you do, you’re bound to get more hits and/or downloads over time because of a growing archive. This is especially true for episodic and thematically narrow podcast formats where individual episodes aren’t subject to time / decay of interest. It actually takes dedicated services like Libsyn for more accurate analysis if understanding your podcast’s growth and audience are what you’re after. Often it’s all you can do and even then, you can’t track downloads from other platforms such as iTunes.

Battle Bards is maybe a curious case insofar that our first two episodes were both downloaded 1000 times when they came out, looking at libsyn. I personally did not expect this and put it down to several factors including the three of us being longtime bloggers (which is three times the advertising power) as well as novelty and curiosity (“let’s hear how these folk sound in real life”). Our initial numbers didn’t remain steady – they went back to an average of 300-500 downloads per episode in our first year. Today, our first ever ten episodes all range between 800-2000 downloads each which demonstrates what has happened over time. The backlog is still being listened to.

Roughly from Q1 of 2015, our average downloads per episode have now doubled from what they were in year one. This means there must be a bigger audience but it’s difficult to say how many regular listeners we have, joining from start to finish. Really, who IS our core audience? When do they listen to Battle Bards and from where? Cold numbers give no feedback.

We receive comments from time to time and emails which are always a highlight. They’ve become more rare of late which to me indicates that our more vocal listeners have already made themselves known. Podcasts don’t really inspire continuous interaction the way blogs do; our format certainly raises no big questions to be debated and there isn’t synchronous interaction happening in a comment thread. If someone leaves us a message, it can take up to a month before we reply on air.

So generally, unless you’re part of a super popular podcast with a huge following, you have to deal with the silence of an invisible audience. Stats can tell you that you’re still alive and going but they won’t tell you anything about who’s listening. They also won’t give you a thumbs up and say how much they enjoyed that last episode. Your absence may be noted but as long as you’re always on schedule, your listeners are counting on you silently. Or so you hope.

And that’s okay. It’s still really sweet whenever one of them steps out of the shadows to announce they’re still there, though.

Thanks, Scott!

Another Battle Bards Episode [#Blaugust 25]

Today marks the 57th episode of Battle Bards, the world’s so-far one and only MMO music podcast. It’s not an anniversary of any kind, it’s neither a round number nor an even one (in fact it’s a prime!) – to me however, it’s another episode I have loved recording for our fellow VGM aficionados out there. After 2.5 years, Syp, Steff and myself are still at it, enjoying the verbal pingpong we’ve developed over time in good spirit, as always. That makes me happy and that’s a reason to celebrate.

Today’s episode is dedicated to the music of Blade & Soul, that Korean NC Soft title we’ve yet to see launch officially in the west. The soundtrack is beautiful and diverse, not in the most elaborate sense but something I listen to ever so often. Check it out!

OTC – Good is Good enough Edition: Massive Opportunities, the TGEN Tribunal and Why I’m not playing WoW anymore


OTC is a multi-topic category on

By now everyone’s heard of the layoffs by AOL which will affect MMO community news hubs such as WoW Insider and Massively who have since been able to open up. Massively is to close its doors by February 3rd 2015 – that’s two days from now. The news of these shutdowns came with a peculiar, not to say unnerving timing for me personally, the type of uncanny jinx-sensation when you’ve just said or thought something that comes to pass shortly after. Only 2 weeks ago while recording the next Battle Bards session, did I bring up the topic of the future of MMOs and how that may affect places like Massively with Syp on skype: were there any worries on their front as to what may happen with the genre and by extension, the website? But Syp was all positive and cheerful – the genre might be going places but as far as Massively is/was concerned, the page has only ever known growth. For those that only care about numbers, Massively is doing better than ever. Too bad good ain’t good enough for multi-billion companies like AOL – because reasons- (insert generic corporate speech).

I’m sad to see Massively close its doors like that. I’m sorry for its staff that poured all their love, time and enthusiasm into keeping it running. I wasn’t the closest follower of Massively at times but it constitutes one of only few constants in the MMO community, graciously linking back to bloggers like myself. I would visit to read Eliot Lefebvre’s strong opinion posts and of course Sypster’s Jukebox Heroes or Perfect Ten. I always marveled at how Syp could juggle his Massively “job” with Biobreak, several podcasts, his real life job and a family – but such are the workings of a labor of love. My jaw dropped when he told me his monthly quota was 90 posts, which makes Syp the real superman as far as I’m concerned.

When one door closes, another opens. Sometimes life’s endings and goodbyes are just a great new opportunity we cannot yet perceive. What Massively doesn’t lack is a following and talented writers; I am more than positive they will be able to recover and build something new from here, with help of the community.

Introducing the TGEN Tribunal

Our network of gaming and MMO-related podcasts has just launched the first episode of the TGEN Tribunal, a quarterly exchange between different co-hosts from all eight shows. In this first episode we are discussing our individual experiences getting into podcasting, from the more technical aspects to general advice for podcasting newcomers. I happily consider myself a complete amateur in this field but it’s fascinating to hear others talk about the future of this particular medium. Speaking of which, this is the first show I’ve been the producer for, so if there’s something wrong with the editing or sound quality, you know whom you can blame (but hey, I think it’s good enough!).


Why I’m not playing WoW anymore

My recent FFXIV:ARR shares on the blog and twitter may have given away that my sudden, unexpected WoW-comeback of last November was somewhat short-lived. I had immense fun re-discovering Azeroth for a while, getting in touch with new old zones, my holy priest and the Garrison but after a few run-ins with the more toxic sides of its community, I have quickly realized why I’m over this MMO. Hell is other people and WoW is singular in amassing a crowd of elitist jerks, overbearing endgame achievers and forum kids ever since 2004. Even if you’re doing your best and focus on yourself only, someone is going to unload their frantic achieverdom on you sooner or later, trampling all the roses.

I’ve said it before – I am over this. And I feel ancient when met with the endgame crazy of raiders (in LFG too) and min-maxers. The hardcore vs. casual debate is alive and well in WoW and listening to some of the conversations or reading yet another condescending list of tips or srs rules written by a young person with lots of time on their hands and no notion of good is good enough, I find myself utterly disenchanted with the World of Warcraft and how it holds no escape. Maybe worse, there is that humbling self-awareness, never depicted with greater accuracy than in this recent Dark Legacy comic #471: A Decade of Love and Hate.


srs WoW players in LFG.

It is the horrors of full circle I am feeling whenever I venture too close to Azeroth’s deafening underbelly. We can have our rationalized “fun vs. satisfaction” and playstyle debates all day long on our blogs – it won’t change the fact that there was a time when I too made other players (and guild mates probably) miserable in WoW for wanting to play the game differently or not being as good or good enough according to an arbitrary measure, through an overbearing raiding queen attitude and caring for progress and riches over people. I know this and for that I am sorry.

This is not a message for those who are still in WoW striving for glory irrespective of cost; by all means, knock yourself out. You have your own path to follow and maybe it will lead you to a similar place, maybe not. But I am not that person anymore, I am glad that I’m not. Friendships are precious and fragile – many people are worth knowing and caring for outside our immediate realm of ambition. So long WoW, you have nothing left to teach me.

Bloggy Xmas Day 14: Transcontinental Kinship and the International Language of Music

Gaming and community is a very wide and open subject which is why I chose it for the #bloggyxmas event. Depending on whom you ask and where they come from, people have very different stories to tell but almost without fail, gaming folk will name the internet as the one big game changer, that amazing space of connecting across geographical boundaries and finding kindred spirits with more ease. A lot of geeks are lonely as far as their interests are concerned and living in a place that is all about stability and pragmatic productivity, I found myself in a fairly isolated spot too before the world wide web happened.


Ever since getting involved in a blogging community, my ride has been almost entirely a positive and enriching one: I’ve been able to find and talk to people who love the same things I do and worry about the same things. I’ve written about difficult subjects like geek pecking orders and gaming stigma, only to find my sentiments echoed by others. And I’ve been educated by smart and brave female and male bloggers on social issues I was struggling with myself in the past.

Besides this inner journey, I’d like to believe I have grown as a writer and thinker thanks to all the critical feedback and countless comments I have received over the years. I started out as a rather self-conscious second language blogger in this international but English-speaking blogosphere and few years later, I find myself confident enough to write long articles in one sitting and invited as a vocal participant to podcast round-table discussions. I never dreamed of making youtube videos or podcasting when I started writing but so many fellow bloggers have shown me nothing but support when it came to finding my voice (with the “funny accent”!). For such unexpected kindness I will always be thankful.

The International Language of Music

For my personal Bloggy Xmas post, I want to talk about Battle Bards and how this global neighbourhood has opened up new avenues for a very niche interest of mine: videogame music. Gamers are used to be counted among niche geek culture and certainly, MMO players have always been regarded as niche by the gaming mainstream. World of Warcraft has had a positive impact on this image but the way things are going, traditional MMOs are disappearing next to a mass of next-generation online genres.

Battle Bards, the brainchild of the inimitable Syp from Biobreak, is an oddity among gaming podcasts, no doubt a niche inside the niche. For someone like myself who has collected videogame and movie soundtracks since the early nineties, sometimes with a tape recorder, our podcast is in equal parts an enthusiast’s dream and labor of love. I was already happy to know of a handful of MMO bloggers who shared my musical interests, writing about them every now and then. But it is off-the-charts amazing that such a thing as Battle Bards exists and that I am a part of it! I enjoy each of our shows and recordings in the full knowledge of how special an opportunity this is and the fact that we have a die-hard core of listeners is, well….hard to believe and very humbling. With 400 downloads on average per episode, Battle Bards may be a tiny podcast compared to many others but it’s waving its geek flag loud and proud. We’d be doing it just for the three of us but knowing there’s somebody out there who shares our passion, makes our time spent all the more rewarding.

Our listeners have made us laugh, think and consider the things we share on our show. We’re not just talking amongst ourselves but to an audience that is as international as we are and who will hear our voices on their way to work, while preparing dinner in the evening, killing time on yet another airplane ride like Rowan or when in the car with their family, like my friend Redbeard. Knowing Red and his three musically gifted kids tune in to Battle Bards regularly because they love videogame music as much as we do, makes me want to put all the more effort into our podcast. For Christmas in 2013, I got a Xmas card with the three of them on the cover playing their instruments; I still keep it on my desk like a token – a reminder of all the great things that have come from gaming, blogging and connecting with other people’s lives since publishing my first post in 2010.

This is community for me. It’s a micro-cosmos, a niche inside the niche. It’s the people we let into our lives, select individuals whose strength is not in numbers but in the way they touch our life and give us hope. We all need to know we are not alone.

Thanks to all of you who have been interacting with me these past few years in the blogosphere and via other social media, all the readers and commenters of MMO Gypsy and my fellow bloggers and friends! Thanks to everyone who has supported Battle Bards and TGEN this year – we know you are there!

Introducing: The Gaming and Entertainment Network

There seems to be a natural transition of the gaming blogger into other venues, such as streaming, vlogging or podcasting. The MMO blogosphere has seen a good portion of its longterm residents take up new projects over the years, sometimes leaving altogether to write for bigger sites or then, creating their own independent channels and collaboratives. For a while now we’ve seen an increase of great MMO podcasts hailing from our own neighbourhood, some of which I feel closely related to. I am therefore very excited to announce the launch of The Gaming and Entertainment Network – a new podcasting network by gamers for gamers, bringing the following independent podcasts together under one roof:

TGEN is a collaborative relationship between like-minded podcasters and serves as an aggregator for general MMO/gaming themed podcasts that fit together from a synergistic perspective. It’s meant to make discovery easier for our individual audiences and helps spreading the word across different shows. All podcasts remain independent in their current form. In the future, TGEN may also host regular cross-podcast, round-table discussions between its members.

I want to thank Braxwolf for inspiring this collaborative and doing the lion’s share in terms of communicating between many different parties, conceptualizing and creating a shiny and functional layout for the TGEN homepage.

Another big thanks goes to all our regular listeners of Battle Bards who have been following our quirky little podcast since April 2013 and made this such a fun and rewarding experience: Thank you for your continued support and spreading the word about TGEN. We hope you’ll stick with us on our musical journey and discover some more great and new podcasts on the way!

Links: TGEN webpage and twitter account.

Introducing Totally Legit VGMs, Battle Bards Episode #23 and moar Music!

It’s no secret, I love videogame music. I love movie themes too and classical pieces such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Mozart’s Magic Flute. Back in the 80ies and 90ies great VGMs (I insist on pluralizing this!) were few and far between although some ear worms did exist; I am not going to deny the merit of the old Castlevania or Turrican scores for example. Yet, we really started talking with the mp3 era and it were giants such as Nobuo Uematsu (happy birthday!) for the Final Fantasy series, who brought the booming choirs and orchestras, forever altering the significance of videogame music and blowing a young audience’s mind.

The rest is history. Over the past decade videogame music has become a wonderful and inspiring part of gaming, still overlooked in too many cases, with the potential to be just as elaborate, complex and deep as much-praised classical music. Developers will budget for professional composers, even live orchestra when particularly serious about a title. MMOs in particular are a spoiled genre when it comes to memorable compositions and impressive effort.

Almost a year ago now (!), the Battle Bards podcast was formed by Syp to bring the beauty and variety of MMO music to a wider audience. We’re a niche-inside-the-niche podcast for sure, asking for the type of willing audience that will follow our musical expeditions for a full hour every two weeks. In return, we’ll share our pearls with you and hopefully convince a few more listeners that MMO music has a lot to offer. MMORPG music that is, because we keep a necessary narrow focus on the show. Which reminds me, Episode 23 on epic boss battles is out now, with a very special intro if I may say! We’re always having fun on this show and we are not afraid to make fools out of ourselves for entertainment’s sake (QED).

Introducing: Totally Legit VGMs

Doing a full-hour bi-weekly podcast on MMO music does a lot to quench my thirst for VGM rambling among fellow aficionados. Yet, for a while now I’ve been trying to find outlets for a wider spectrum of music too to spread some love across all genres and platforms, usually via my twitter channel (where I frequently spam “OSTs of the Day”) or the Tunes of Magic series. What is a quick and easy way to draw some attention to random videogame music? How to best reach more players who may shy away from longer shows or articles?


This is where the idea for “Totally Legit VGMs” was born – a new format spotlighting a different videogame OST every week, with only 5 tracks compiled in a 5minute youtube clip. The weekly spotlights will be featured on blogosphere buddy Liore’s Totally Legit channel, a cooperative of great fellow gamers and geeks. Episode 1 is out now on yes, World of Warcraft!

The whole point of TLVGMs is not to present an entire soundtrack so much as to say “here, this is good stuff and this is why. You should look further into it!”. I ask for 5 minutes of your time to present a sneak-peek into an entire soundtrack via 5 handpicked tracks! It doesn’t get much easier than this and allows me to share some of my most beloved tunes with ease. It’s safe to say, I have enough material for the next year already.

I hope this format manages to spread some more VGM love in the community. I don’t know how high the entry barrier is to VGM appreciation and obviously, it’s never for everyone. But really, what’s 5 minutes of your time, right?

Humble Rhythm Bundle

Coincidentally, this weeks Humble Rhythm Bundle is all about playing to the music! Not just game music mind but your personal library in many cases, so check out the current sale on different rhythm games (5 days to go!). My first ever such title was Vib Ribbon on the PSone whose controls I hated with a passion, however the fascination of a randomly generated gaming experience and to my favorite music no less, has never left me. There are many exciting avenues we have yet to travel and fully discover for this medium and I look forward to music being one of them.

A great weekend to everybody and happy listening!

Battle Bards Episode #22 – Guild Wars and a Winner!

This March is going to be a hectic time full of exams for me and therefore with fewer blog updates than usual. I can’t really control my blogging and social media intake (I’ve tried) – it’s either all or nothing and right now my evenings need to be filled with studying and last minute panic. This means the Battle Bards podcast will be keeping my seat warm in the meantime, with two brand new and special episodes for this month!


After a slightly longer break than usual due to holidays, the Battle Bards are back to old Tyria and the wonderfully familiar soundtrack of original Guild Wars. Having recorded a show on both the first game and Guild Wars 2 now, it was interesting to discuss how the music of Jeremy Soule has grown over time and as always, we are not quite decided which version we like best.

I am also declaring the winner of episode 21’s special speakpipe challenge in this new episode, so if you made an entry or are curious which MMO blogger won the pot, make sure to listen til the end of the podcast! Thanks to everyone who participated in this first (but far from last) Battle Bards challenge!

Episode 22 show notes

  • “First Light”
  • “Ashford Abbey”
  • “Over the Shiverpeaks”
  • “Under the Dark Span (Asura theme)”
  • “Eye of the Storm”
  • “Factions Theme”
  • “Festival of Lyss”
  • Mailbag and speakpipe winner!
  • Direct Download

Battle Bards Episodes #20 – #21 with a special Giveaway Challenge!

In this latest episode of Battle Bards, the bards are showing their true colors: we find out that Steff can’t ever make up her mind, Syl is a softie and Syp is hating on everyone’s picks. Well, almost.

Episode #22 is also an opportunity to hear us rambling and bickering more than usual (I think) and win a popular Steam game for sending us your voice via Speakpipe, in a special giveaway challenge. The race is still on – so it’s not too late to go for the trophy!

Oh and we were also talking about Flyff two weeks ago but then, surely everyone has heard of Flyff already? Happy listening!