More than Game Music: Making Warsongs

By Rumtumtummers

Music has the power to tell incredible stories, and we’ve always been interested in finding new and exciting opportunities that harness this power. Smite and Ignite was a celebration of all things metal. DJ Sona was our way of exploring music that impacts gameplay (and vice-versa). So when we finished work on The Music of League of Legends, Vol 1. and started thinking about our next project, we knew we wanted to go big.

Riot Records, our internal name for “the team that does album stuff,” had just the idea: an album that could serve as the soundtrack to the 2016 ranked season.

Playlist origins

Warsongs is meant to be music that amps players up for League and puts them in the ladder-climbing mindset. Riot Records producer Tyler Eltringham explains its origin: “We released a metal album, and a soundtrack. So then everyone started thinking, ‘Okay, what next? What’s the next big idea?’” Those conversations took the the team toward the idea of an album designed to evoke a feeling of competitiveness and forward momentum. “What, we asked, would inspire players to push harder, to queue again?”

    ...Riot Records actively looks for musicians who love games and can find inspiration in League for these cool collaborations.

Electronic music felt like the natural choice, both because of its popularity in the League community and because of the number of EDM artists with close ties to games and gaming culture. “We’ve seen so many streamers listening to EDM while they stream,” says Eltringham, “and we knew there were tons of artists in EDM who are either huge League fans or huge gamers. It already feels like a natural part of the game.”

Dev manager Toa Dunn adds, “A lot of EDM musicians trace their influences back to hearing music in games—it seemed cool to have it all loop back around on itself this way.”

“Besides, part of what makes Riot Records unique as a team,” says Eltringham, “is that most of the effort is focused on finding people to work with externally. We have amazing in-house composers working on music for the game, but Riot Records actively looks for musicians who love games and can find inspiration in League for these cool collaborations.”

With the genre decided, the Riot Records team was ready to move into production.

For games, but not for a game

The team started by building a list of potential artists for the project. Says Dunn, “It was basically a blue-sky collection of people we’d love to work with.” From there, the team vetted each artist based on their gamer creds, musical style, and understanding of the project. Dunn says that the team asked questions like: “Do they play League, are they part of gaming culture, do they ‘get’ the League community? Will this person be accessible, and does it feel like an authentic fit?”

    What would be the point if artists were forced to match some sound the team imagined? It would be an insane waste of talent and probably would limit the album, quality-wise.

Eltringham emphasizes the importance of finding artists with genuine connections to gaming, saying, “It wasn’t about finding big names for the big names. It had to be musicians who really connected to what Warsongs was trying to do, who had a sense of ‘This is how music gets me excited and hyped when I play games I love.’” The team also placed a big emphasis on the idea of variety—with “EDM” being more of an umbrella term than an actual genre, it was important that Warsongs run the stylistic gamut from big room anthems to dirtier dubstep, progressive house, and more. “Good gaming music to one person might be the opposite to another,” says Dunn, “so the team focused on sound diversity within the album.”

The Riot Records team also stresses the importance of letting each artist’s sound shine through in their tracks. “It was tricky,” says Dunn. “A lot of artists are used to working with companies who are like, ‘Take this and make a video game song.’ That wasn’t the goal here.” Artists needed to take the core idea and run with it for Warsongs to hit its full potential.

"What would be the point if artists were forced to match some sound the team imagined?" Eltringham adds. "It would be an insane waste of talent and probably would limit the album, quality-wise.”

Getting hype

Riot Records designed Warsongs from its foundation to be something that exists outside of League while still being inextricably connected to it. “It would be so cool if players take the album and bring it outside of the game, to their workouts or wherever they need to feel amped,” Eltringham says, “and to have this very League thing end up in places far beyond a second monitor or tab.” Riot Records, as a team, is just hopeful that players like the album as much as they do, and that it provides players the extra energy they need to climb the ranked ladder.

“If you go to a basketball game, you hear jock jams, right? Those songs say, ‘It’s game time.’ Hopefully, Warsongs can be that for League—fuel for the fire,” says Dunn.

9 months ago