It was November 2021 when I finally decided to take this SparkLine project seriously. Iris was one of the composers I contacted at the very beginning and for good reason! Given how I would like to shape the world of SparkLine, the theme song of the game must contain a strong story within and properly convey the game’s… theme. As I considered different names, I believe they are the most fitting people for the job and the rest is history.
Responsible for SparkLine’s theme song, and the system BGMs that compliment it, I cannot overstate the impact Iris has had for our project. Beyond these, I also consulted them in regards to legal matters as they have the experience with it. In many more ways than one, they have been a huge help for us.
It has been three months since the last interview, and I’m certain that you want to know more of the composers working with us. Without further ado, allow me to show you the interview with Iris!
First of all, thank you so much Iris for taking time off your busy schedule to agree to this interview.
Jointly producing since 2015, Iris is an electronic music production duo, striving to be a multi-genre artist. Through this husband-wife collaborative endeavor, we produce unique vocal and instrumental music by infusing soaring melodies, mesmerizing harmonies, and emotional lyrics to resonant electronic beats and evocative sound design. Our music does not fit strictly into any established styles as we wish to inspire hope and endless possibilities through our music!
We have had the privilege of writing music for major rhythm game companies and also supporting indie game developers with their upcoming games. Our brand, philosophy, and musical approach focus on a deeper understanding of the game development, gameplay, theme, and settings.
As such, Iris specializes in meticulously creating customized music that is distinctive and tailored to each game project and storyline.
Our influences and inspirations are extensive.
As we venture into a diversity of genres, we have drawn influences ranging from:
Also, there is a lot of internal influence and inspiration between the duo as well. We believe that our contrasting musical background and dual dynamic truly offer us the vocabulary to sound unique stylistically.
Very interesting answer! In contrast to Reku who cited DDR as an inspiration (although perhaps more as a rhythm gamer first), I don’t really see specific “otoge” inspirations from you.
When I spoke to Iris for the first time, I did have a prototype ready to show. In game development, you will learn to really dislike the “idea guy”. Sure, I could say blah blah blah my game will be like this and that, but nothing ever beats the actual working, implemented product.
The above screenshot is of SparkLine’s prototype, before the reveal trailer was even made! I didn’t show this particular song, and Ascend to Alpha’s initial chart was made quite long after my first discussion with Iris. But, it was the only song I recorded in this prototype version that was actually licensed to us.
Anyway, here’s the next question for Iris…
When we were first approached for commission, we were open to learning more about SparkLine and its current progress.
Additionally, we were curious about the storyline of the game. Hence, we proceeded to communicate with the dev team to better understand their goals and motivation for the game.
After getting to know more information about SparkLine and the current development process, we felt that many aspects of the game have been carefully considered in order for WizDream Games to succeed in the future.
For us, we also began to brainstorm musical ideas that can further enhance the concept of dodge-able notes in the charting of SparkLine.
I am glad that you think we are preparing well enough for success in the future! To be fair, the definition of “success” can vary and I believe it’s a relative concept. I could say that we have learned so much, and will learn even more as we finally release the game.
Overall, I suppose the onus is on us to make sure your faith is not misplaced.
When I gave the instructions to Iris to make the theme song, the instruction was literally “go nuts” (aka do whatever you want). In retrospect, I felt it was not helpful. However, Iris did ask about the world of SparkLine – is it futuristic, cybernetic, etc…
I thought of those… on the spot, actually. The most basic and important things I thought of are:
And so the concept of “World of Spark” is born where the story is about people playing a VR MMORPG game.
We truly appreciate the trust that was placed on us to set the genre and style for the theme song of SparkLine.
Many of Iris’s successful tracks and pieces are born from:
Naturally, we approached the production of “Light to Heed” for SparkLine with this same working method.
From our evaluations, we then established that the “World of Spark” online game environment should be pivoted as a distinctive feature of SparkLine. As such, we set out to produce a theme music that evokes the familiar feel of epic action-fantasy anime and its rock-themed opening/ending songs, which explains our focus on using intermingling styles of electronic, D’nB-inspired with rock elements.
The theme “Unity” (not the game engine!) was given as a direction for SparkLine’s story so we further explored ideas that promote unity and harmonious camaraderie. A particular principle stood out and was implemented in the lyric writing process – “Two are better than one…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”.
And so, with all these foundational points, “Light to Heed” was created!
I commented on it back then as well on the concept of the “cord of three strands is not quickly broken”, it draws parallels to Motonari Mouri’s Three Arrow lesson imparted to his children. It was a great concept that’s fitting for the game, and the direction of the story I want to see in my game.
Ultimately, Light to Heed’s usage in SparkLine took on a slightly different route. It depicts a reunion between two people that haven’t seen each other in a long time inside a VR world.
The illustrator assigned to the artwork, mireille, is also a “meta” choice, as I hadn’t seen her in almost a decade until she was open for commissions in a Facebook group. Both the song and artwork turned out as well as it could be overall, I think!
Perhaps to continue on LtH’s behind-the-scene…
We think that the narrative ideas that will be implemented in the game will be an important aspect of SparkLine. There are many possible directions for the stories with this kind of setting in mind.
For instance, themes that popped up during our analysis are:
To bring it further, the setting may also open the grounds to venture into the ethical dilemma of VR gaming, cyberbullying and the concept of escapism. No matter which direction SparkLine’s story may go, the teachable moments will be invaluable.
To build upon the game’s theme song, I also commissioned Iris to subsequently compose the system BGMs. For me, it is best that the system BGMs match the theme song for consistency’s sake.
We previously contributed to writing system BGMs for other games as well. With those experiences, we were able to further produce relevant BGMs for SparkLine.
The production process was very fun and we love producing music according to the development team’s vision! We believe in also applying careful analysis of the visuals and overall flow of the game. The perspectives we look at this from are as follows:
For example, the IAP shop should be relaxing and welcoming, while the Map Selection interface should encourage a sense of exploration in the listener. As this interview encourages a back-and-forth and we are allowed to questions in return…
As you may have noticed in the BGMs you have made (and more specifically, your own style of music), SparkLine’s BGMs emphasize calmness and coolness.
Rhythm games, by nature, have pretty intense music compared to many types of games (especially the “otogecores“), so it’s best that the BGMs do not add to the intensity, and let the ears rest. Aside from the Splash BGM which is meant to energize people, I believe all of the BGMs you made fulfill this purpose.
Since our ears are very attuned to human vocals/speech in general, we would say it is a technical challenge to make a loopable system BGM with the vocals singing the main part of the song.
Without distracting the listener, the loop point has to be natural while the arrangement has to also make sense. The various possibilities of the players’ interaction must be considered in order to determine ways we can ensure the vocals do not seem repetitive.
We tried various alterations for the splash menu music and ultimately decided to move forward with using the instrumentations from the drop in “Light to Heed” with some additional audio effects for transitions.
Most players new to rhythm games would be more attuned to vocal songs because it’s what they hear in mainstream media, so an opening with vocals is requested to give a sense of familiarity to the players.
If this was not possible, however, the Home BGM may persist through the end of the splash screen and in that case, the final Key Visual for SparkLine’s 1.0 release may have taken a different direction to suit that particular BGM.
Memes are something we have no control over — if it sticks, it sticks. We will embrace it if it happens!
This part is probably more about myself and SparkLine rather than Iris.
A few months ago I had my doubts about myself and the project.
You might think we shouldn’t think such things and maybe it’s true, but it’s human to doubt, after all. Perhaps in a self-deprecating manner (whether I realize this or not)…
To be honest, we do not have a lot of concerns since we do place our faith in the strong motivation of the game producers. While the rhythm game industry has indeed grown in the last decade, a breakthrough is still a good challenge and worth the while for any upcoming game company.
Also, as our music is also part of the game, we eagerly await the future growth and success of SparkLine!
It’s really reassuring to hear this. I am very thankful for the support!
Oddly enough, today I am feeling relaxed… too relaxed, even. It was the same “zen” feeling I had when I decided to embark on this project full-time. No time for the victory music yet, however.
We realize that you share the same passion and enthusiasm for the improvement of the rhythm game industry and are particularly moved that the company thoroughly pursues greater transparency for the benefit of artists and producers.
Surely, the laying of these principles on the foundation of WizDream Games may serve as a strength for SparkLine’s advancement!
It’s quite simple – I want your experience working with us to be as best as possible.
We allow everyone to take their time to carefully check our contracts’ contents and ask questions where they feel is necessary, but the transparency should hopefully cut certain questions that are asked very often. Usually, I get asked these questions:
To pre-emptively answer these questions, we have guidelines that are update-able here in our website:
As you can see, there are some overlaps between the two pages. So we’ll need to brush it up as soon as we can, in particular the former page. Hopefully we can do it after launch!
Currently, I am the one approaching people most of the time, so it’s faster that I can just point them at the draft of the contract made for them. As a nice side effect, perhaps it could be useful for everyone as a resource and point of reference when doing commercial works where contracts are commonplace!
As we approach the end of this interview…
For the dev team, congratulations on the recent release of SparkLine! We look forward to the progress and flourishment of your game development. It is an honor to join you in the beginnings of the project!
Thank you to everyone out there who is supporting and taking an interest in our work! May you enjoy our music on SparkLine!
Thank you so much as well, Iris. It has been, and is MY honor as well to be working with you.
Finally, to close off this post and interview allow me to show you two gameplay videos of Light to Heed. The first one was posted around a year ago, just some time after the reveal trailer was posted. The second one was during the last beta test.
You’ll be the judge to see how far we have come.
Please note that the note designs, even by the 2nd beta test, was not final as you are probably aware of already. More recent gameplay videos (Hi-Fi Story, Flozen Dahlia and Ascend to Alpha) feature them.