Sublime songsmith, at your service

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I rarely use titles for my MMORPG characters, but this one? Hell yeah!

When ArcheAche Unchained’s launch prompted our return to the world of Erenor last year one of the features that I was looking forward to re-engage with the most was its music system. It was one of the reasons I held on to the RNG- and P2W-riddled legacy game for longer than I should have in 2015. I’d built quite an extensive selection of songs and instruments over time that I had a lot of fun with, and I really missed it all once I’d quit the game for good.

Naturally the first few weeks in Unchained were all about questing, leveling and gearing up, but once that was more or less sorted I started, ever so slowly, to also take care of my Artistry skill again. To become a good musician you need to level that up, as it determines how many notes you can write on a piece of music paper (resulting in longer and/or more complex songs), and enables you to play those longer songs without hitting any wrong notes.

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Professions in ArcheAge are leveled up by spending labor points on related activities. You don’t need to spend any just to play a song however – fortunately, of course, but it’s also kind of unfortunate in this context – so pretty much the only way to raise Artistry is to craft music paper and, most importantly, to write down pieces of music, which consumes the paper and creates song sheets that can henceforth no longer be modified.

To craft music paper you need, among other things, regular paper. To make that you need lumber. In the early stages of the game you need huge amounts of lumber for all kinds of stuff though, so to ‘waste’ any on my artistic hobby could have severely hurt my other endeavours.

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“Where the hell is he?” “What do you think? In the woods again…”

Fortunately I’d already had the experience of going through this process once, so I had a plan. Song sheets can’t be recycled or sold to NPCs (not for a ‘real’ amount of money anyway), but they are tradeable and can thus be sold to other players. I kept all songs I’d made back then in .mml and .txt formats both, so I chose the ones that I knew had always been the most popular, revised those I weren’t completely happy with yet and started to make and put them on the auction house for just over production costs.

They sold. So I made new ones, which sold too. And on and on it went. For the last four months or so I’ve always had a selection of ten to twelve songs on offer. It wasn’t fast and didn’t make me crazy rich either, but it still paid off nicely in that my skill kept going up consistently while I was free to spend the bulk of my resources on other projects.

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I’m even one rank higher now than I’d been back in the day, so I can also craft Master’s Music Paper which can hold even more notes. My current ‘masterpiece’ is a 1,160 notes-, 69 seconds-long recreation of a popular TV-show’s opening theme (that shall not be named due to potential legal issues, slim as the chances may be), and I’m very happy with it.

“Sounds great and all, but do I need to actually be a musician to do this?” I hear you ask. Well, no, but it sure helps.

The notation used is called Music Macro Language, MML for short. I initially thought that it was created for the game Mabinogi, but as the wiki explains it’s been around for much longer and wasn’t specifically made for use in video games either. It’s quite suitable for that purpose though, as it is, unlike MIDI, a purely text-based language.

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In-game instructions for using MML and my aforementioned masterpiece

It really isn’t as complicated as it looks. If you can’t read music I still wouldn’t recommend starting a song completely from scratch, but luckily there are other options.

The best tool I’ve found to use in conjunction with ArcheAge is a great little program called 3MLE (I won’t provide a link, but it’s easy to find). It can import either .mml files or text from your clipboard, so you can for example start with a song from the extensive ArcheAge MML Library and go from there. Of course you can also paste those songs directly into the game, but if you’re like me and want each song to be just perfect it’s much easier to modify them in 3MLE than ingame.

What’s even better, 3MLE can also import MIDI files. As MIDI is much more widespread it shouldn’t be difficult to find your favourite song in that format and then convert it to MML. I will say that not every such conversion works perfectly though, so it does help if you’re proficient enough to repair small hiccups that might happen.

As a last resort you can save yourself all that hassle and just buy song sheets from folks like me of course, heh.

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Having a terrific selection of song sheets at your disposal is great and all, but what good are those if you don’t have cool sounding intruments to play them on?

More on that tomorrow.

Blapril 2020 post count: 13

2 Replies to “Sublime songsmith, at your service”

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