One of the lesser discussed features of Guild Wars 2 is the ability to add your own music into the playlists to play at certain times – ie, you can add some death metal into the “battle music” playlist and then when you enter battle in-game this music will play (and presumably turn back to the original game music when the battle is over).
We don’t know 100% how it’s going to work. As far as I’m aware, during the Beta Weekends so far most people have been more concerned with playing the actual game rather than fiddling around with the files in the background. We aren’t sure whether there will be an in game option to “enable personal play list” and whether this will replace the original score entirely, or if it will be random whether you get the original music or your own addition at any one time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this feature recently. Undoubtedly, ArenaNet and Jeremy Soule will have worked hard to produce a score which gels nicely with the environment and situation in hand. I wonder what type of new experiences we might produce when we start throwing our own playlists in willy-nilly. A large percentage of the experience of any situation is influenced by the audio in the background (just try watching a horror movie with the sound off, or even better, with Katy Perry’s latest hit blaring in the background). I’m sure we could produce some really interesting experiences simply by fiddling with the musical accompaniment.
Sometimes significant audio/visual juxtaposition can produce interesting effects, such as the disturbing torture scene in Reservoir Dogs – where Mr Blonde sadistically dances around a gagged and bound policeman, before viciously cutting off his ear, all to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Steelers Wheels. Or the interesting “To Zanarkand” sequence in Final Fantasy X; where your main character travels to the charred and ruined wreckage of his home city - battling terrible demons and monsters en route. The entire trip is accompanied by a haunting composition which, unlike other sequences in the game, doesn’t switch to the signature guitar-riffs when you enter a battle sequence. The effect is a melancholy and sombre experience which is somewhat at odds with the battles you face on the way.
My point is that for all of us who will be adding the LOTR soundtrack to the ambient music playlists, there are those who will fill their battle-playlist with the Vengaboys, Justin Beiber or the B52s (I’d suggest Rock Lobster and Love-Shack, I can totally imagine smashing the Shadow Behemoth to the tune of: “It’s the loooove shack, it’s a little love place where... we can get to-geth-eeerrr... love shack baaabyyyy... LOVE SHACK BABY!”)