When the original Xbox launched with its 10 gigabyte hard drive, one of the uses Microsoft touted was custom soundtracks. I was immediately enamored with the idea after having shoved my own music into several PC games in the past. But what I imagined for the console was more daydream-y than the reality that the Xbox, and even the Xbox 360, delivered.
All I really wanted was options: the ability to tell a game, “these are the songs I want to hear during a fight and these are the songs I want to hear when I’m at a shop”. Sadly, this kind of musical customization is so rare that I completely forgot how much I wanted it until I picked up Double Damage’s Rebel Galaxy. It’s an extra surprising feature to find in a game whose most striking stylistic design is its soundtrack. The typical trappings of interstellar, sci-fi ship combat are set to a melange of grungy rock and blues tunes and peppered with gruff vocals and plenty of slide guitar. It adds a rough ‘n tumble, space cowboy feel to the game which has earned it loads of praise as “Firefly: The Game”.
As good as that music is, when I load the game up and see the option for “Custom Music” I simply can’t proceed until I try out something new. It’s not as boring as “here’s my music library, play something”, that’s the stuff Xbox consoles have been able to do for years. Instead, you can define the music used during combat, when docked at stations and when idly flying around the universe; you can even set the title screen music.
Appropriately, the first thing I did was set the Firefly theme for the title screen. Fitting. Mark Mancina’s score to SPEED worked well for combat and Ghost Monkey’s soundtrack to Zen Bound perfectly set the ambiance of space cruising. Simply slotting in albums doesn’t always make for a smooth fit as I’m sure you can imagine. So now I’ve moved on to compiling a collection of songs fit for Space Business and I’m getting close to spending more time curating than playing.
It’s a fun obsession, though, and one I’ve been waiting a long time to indulge in. Ironically, I may have curated a soundtrack that’s more typical of the genre but it’s only my first attempt. It’s full of bombastic orchestral battle themes and twinkly strings and percussion. You can check it out in action above. Like the urge to create that Super Mario Maker inspires, the ability to bring my own creative touches to this game has sent my imagination running. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for new soundtracks to play around with now. Even if it only amounts to a handful of unfinished playlists it’s been fun playing a sound designer of sorts for the last few weeks.
What about you? Have you ever injected your own music into a game? Built a custom soundtrack on a console or swapped out the music files in a PC game? Leave a comment and let us know.