Music Highlight: Realmz Music Highlights category

Music Highlight

Realmz has distinctive, sonorous sound design. The sound effects resonate, and they sweep, like a fast-moving magical aura. It fit excellently with game’s ornate sword-and-sorcery theme, which makes it stranger that the soundtrack is mostly house music.

The Realmz soundtrack seems to have been taken from demoscene tracker music, a homemade computer music style that leans towards techno. The music selected by developer Fantasoft straddles the line between wizards and club bangers, which can be jarring depending on the scene. The shop theme is one of the best of the bunch – a laid-back, trip-hop groove that, from the description, sounds really wrong for a shop in a role-playing game.

This piece, originally titled “Balthasar,” was composed by Antti Kujanpää, a member of the Finnish Amiga demoscene group Banal Projects. It was written for the Finnish demoparty Assembly 1995, where it placed 11th in the 4 Channel Music competition. (None of the composers appear to be credited in Realmz, which raises concerns about whether their music was used without permission.)

In its second life as background music for Realmz, “Balthasar” fits better than it should. RPGs shops are a place to regroup, and the music matches up with that mood. The main melody noodles with a calm, jazzy electric piano, while the dirty drum loops build anticipation for whatever comes next. “Balthasar” cools down and pumps up at the same time.

The game’s upbeat electronic soundtrack is a risky choice, but this track makes a case for the times when it can work. It helps that “Balthasar” is super smooth. Who can deny that keyboard break?

One comment

  • JP

    My recollection is that tracker scene music was most of the time treated as basically public domain among Mac shareware game fans. I have no real knowledge on if Fantasoft themself treated this with any more caution… but probably not, seeing how they got also sued by Wizards of the Coast at one point for cloning D&D a bit too closely: classes, spells, etc. were massively renamed, and a few last remaining assets directly pulled from tabletop figurines were replaced by original art.

    (In the initial 1994 release of Realmz, basically *all* monster, environment and PC art assets were cut & pasted from photos of figurines, fantasy art magazines, and the occasional manga. They figured fast enough though that this at least was a bad idea and hired an actual asset artist by version 2.0 the next year. Some mismatches in art style still remained there for many versions.)

    Realmz first included music in version 3 IIRC, at which time it was just a single piece called “After the Rain” for the whole game (and yes, it was already demoscene EDM). The bigger soundtrack came around version 4, with music customization options too: each area could either disable music, continue playing the music from before, or have its own music set. Fanmade custom scenarios could also define their own music. Hence I got the impression that the included soundtrack was more of a suggestion than canonical. I for one had a decent-sized library of .mods, retooled my own soundtrack for the game entirely with picks from popular tracker scene names like Bjørn Lynne or Cirdan, and even ended up releasing one soundtrack version for circulation among fans.

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