How Songs are Commissioned in Rhythm Games

During last Gamescom, there was an interesting question that came from Digipen students:

What’s the process of adding a song into the game?

The answer is actually pretty simple, but my explanation probably ended up a bit complicated at that time. But in short, you get the song first before anything else, and then you start thinking of the artworks and charts. After you get the artwork, then you can animate it. The animation thing is something that’s so far not done much so most games can skip that part.

I made a super crude diagram in to illustrate the process.


A bit of a waterfall process, isn't it? But not so difficult so imagine, I hope.

I do like to have some posts I can draw upon to help the artists imagine how the artworks should be made, so… let’s make a series of post detailing this process. Starting today with the music!

Finding the Right Person

First things first, you will need to find the right person for the job. Keep these questions in mind as you find your composers:

  • Does their music style(s) fit into your game?
  • Do you have the money to pay not only for them, but later on the artworks as well?

The next question after this, is how and where to find them?

In our case, SoundCloud has worked great for us. For a grand total of $0 they will recommend new composers for you to listen. Aside from that we do take a look at composers who have contributed to other games and events. 

After you find whom you feel is the right person, just go out there and DM or email them. I do understand if you are nervous about this… because I was nervous too. If the composer is interested, they will usually give their prices, the genres they can makewhen they can start working on it, and reference music (if any). I would also like to note that vocal songs generally take longer to make and cost more, since they will have to write the lyrics and invite the vocalist(s).

Most of the time they will also have questions on how they can use their own works (aka their usage rights), so usually I will give them the commission guidelines to let them know in advance. Speaking of which, I really need to update the page with the actual contract templates…

Get the Contract Out!

"Listen, Man Utd might not thank me but get the contract out, put it on the table. Let him sign it, let him write whatever numbers he wants to put on there, given what he's done since he's come in. Ole's at the wheel, man. He's doing it.”

Well, you probably don’t expect to see Rio Ferdinand in a rhythm game development blog, but yeah.

Once everything is agreed we can get the contract out (haha) and have both parties finalize it. The numbers, however, are determined by both parties. I probably should point that out in light of the meme above.

A random thought – Honestly, commissioning composers is so addictive. There are so many untapped potentials out there, waiting for that one chance to prove themselves. I try my best to find them but I have to be responsible – I can’t put all of them in. But I hope other games will also take a look at the vast sea of talents out there!

The Waiting Game

While we are waiting for the composers to finish the song, there is nothing we can do at the moment. To make this segment less boring, let me tell you the story of the first original song completed for SparkLine – MYUKKE.‘s Horizon Ramblue.

Horizon Ramblue

Composer: MYUKKE.

Art: mashuwashu

He gave me two drafts for the song – one at 50% and another at about 80%. I have uploaded the drafts here, go out there and have a listen!

When the first demo was given, well… no words can describe it.

“This song… will be an original song in my game… This is really happening.”

A dopamine rush coursed through my veins. I was so excited, already imagining what the chart and artwork should be like. Especially the part at 1:52… oof. I just know I have to make the chart match the quality of the song, and later on the artwork as well.

This is perfectly hit-able by the way. Have fun figuring this out once you get your hands on it!

A week or two later, the second demo came. My perception of the song was a little bit distorted when I listened to it – “I really liked the previous demo, it should sound more like it” was in my thoughts. But keep in mind, that was the first time I got original songs. MYUKKE. said that I will get used to it and yes I did! These days it becomes more and more normal for me to hear significant changes as the next demos are given. However… The dopamine rushes whenever I received the demos are never gone, and should never be gone.

As for why this song is named Horizon Ramblue in particular? I will let MYUKKE. explain it himself.

My original idea was to feature Sophia getting the club/lounge experience for the first time, with the background’s color schemes matching her own colors (pink, purple). The song is named Horizon Ramblue, so that idea has to be shelved. The first-time club/lounge experience is still retained to a certain extent, but we featured Lune instead, whose color schemes are blue, white, and black. The story had slight alterations too as a result.

All in all, I was super satisfied with the result and it was an honor to work with him and have one of his original songs featured in our game.

In the final game, you will be able to play this song after completing about 50-60% of 1.0’s story. We just won’t give something as hard as this in the beginning, haha.

Anyway, if you haven’t done so yet, you can listen to this song in MYUKKE.’s medias already. For example, in Youtube. Why not start listening to it right now in the embedded video below?

And of course, you can get this song in our mini-album too for FREE by signing to our newsletter yadda yadda.

Some Words on Time Management

I believe that when we commission people, we shouldn’t need their work on a right here right now basis. To do so would have been bad time management from our side. To be fair, yes sometimes I do fall into this trap too. But on the other hand, everyone taking commissions do have their responsibilities to complete their work by the agreed dates.

Many of the songs you see announced today in rhythm games may perhaps be made about at least six months ago, perhaps even more. A lot of different fields of work come into play into making sure you have the best experience.

SparkLine’s targeted release date is Q2/Q3 2023. By the time the reveal trailer is posted, you have heard one of them (Light to Heed) and three more are visible in that trailer. Imagine if we only announce them during the release date – your first time listening to those songs would have been at least one year after they are completed

We are also preparing for post-launch content exactly because these things take time. Unfortunately, these won’t be announced until we are at least beyond our launch date. So yes, some of the songs in post-launch are completed at least a year ago.

Then of course… it is our responsibility to ensure the game arrives on-time so that these songs, along with everything else don’t take too long to reach the surface!

Other Things - Media Write-Up on SparkLine

We would also like to thank Andreas and his team at VirtualSEAsia for their write-up on SparkLine! Take a look at it below.

We met Andreas during Gamescom Asia, and of course it was a pleasure to meet him. Aside from them, we did meet some other media too that were interested in writing up about us. Hopefully this is the first of many!

To close off this post, let’s look to the future.

  • We’ll continue this series of posts in the next 2 weeks.
  • The monthly twitter poll we do for this month will be to select which existing song will be given a gameplay video.
  • Other gameplay videos too will be posted that’s outside of the polled songs, we are also open to give them to media people if they want it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!