Uplift Games
A bright pink egg icon with the letters A and AM in white is in the center of the image, framed by a pink circle represeting music waveform. The background is blurred but depicts a serene spring setting.

The Music of Adopt Me!

Complementing themes and composing playful pieces... I chat to Composer and Sound Designer Mark about his process

By Beebee / Published 4/24/2024

Mark Sparling is the celebrated composer for game soundtracks like the award-winning A Short Hike and Shantae & the Seven Seas, and has spent over three years composing music & SFX for Adopt Me! I got the chance to ask him a few questions about making music for the game.

What does your process look like when making new music for Adopt Me?

I typically begin with a vague idea of the feeling or mood I’m trying to convey. Once I've established that, I usually move to the piano, guitar, or some sampled pizzicato strings (a staple in Adopt Me music). I spend a considerable amount of time improvising chords and melodies, recording the ones I believe hold some potential. The most important part about this process is that I force myself to write quickly without thinking or judging my output too much. I've found that lingering too long or judging an idea in the initial phase leads to doubt and increases the likelihood of me discarding it. By recording ideas and revisiting them a few days later with fresh ears, I often discover potential in ideas I would have overlooked initially.

Once I've identified a few promising musical approaches through those fragments, I select my favorites and start expanding and arranging them into rough samples. These samples are then shared with key members of the team. They’ll give me feedback and help me decide which is the best approach. From there, I expand the chosen sample into a full piece of music, arranging, mixing, and mastering it to ensure it's ready for use in the game.

The image shows a screen capture of the music software Ableton, where the initial creation of a new music track is in progressThe whole process begins with a sketch of different sounds and vibes

Adopt me regularly has themed updates and recently had a 2 week event for Easter! What are the most important considerations when creating music for a themed event?

When creating music for a themed event, it's important to compose pieces that complement the theme, while still resonating with the overall vibe of Adopt Me. Take Halloween, for instance: it’s important that the music is spooky in some way, while also retaining the playful essence found in all Adopt Me tracks. It has to sound like Halloween and Adopt Me.

Additionally, for themed events, I try to integrate elements that I see coming from the visual art side of the team into the music I create. For the Christmas event in 2023, I wanted to create a Christmas-y vibe while incorporating a sense of momentum (to complement the train that transported players to the event area that year).

On this topic, what inspired your Easter soundtracks?

I often jot down adjectives to help figure out the desired sound for a final piece. For Easter, I wrote words like "bouncy," "fresh," and "lively." Lately, I've been aiming to conceive a rough idea of how the music will evolve over its duration. So for Easter, I envisioned something that begins with a lively bounce, transitions into a more flowing and relaxed feel, and moves back into a lively bounce before looping back to the beginning. This, combined with the wonderful pets and set dressing, gave me lots of inspiration when composing the Easter music.

A pink bunny avatar stands holding a wicker easter basket with red and pink bows. Behind them stands three brightly pattenered aggs with feet! The background is lush green hills and flowers, giant eggs and a white picket fence. A tall tree stands on the left of the image. The Easter event was full of colour and fun, quirky designs

The music really helps give life to the events! How many individual pieces do you typically create for an event like this?

It ultimately depends on the duration of the event, but for longer events like Halloween or Christmas, which run for about a month, I usually compose three pieces. The first and second are for "Daytime" and "Nighttime," respectively, playing in most areas of the map during their designated times. The third piece is for music that accompanies the various minigames. For a four to five week event, I usually write three pieces of music. For a two week event, I usually write one or two songs.

another screenshot of the Ableton software, this time showing a completed arrangement in coloured rows of audio samples. Mark will make multiple different arrangements for a single event!

What tools do you use to create?

I primarily use Cubase for composing music, along with various virtual instruments for recording all the orchestral instruments in the game. Additionally, I have a couple of guitars that I record when necessary. For most sound effects, I use Ableton Live.

A large keyboard sits on a desk underneath a computer monitor. Either side of the monitor is a pair of large audio speakers. Various mixing and audio equipment surrounds the desk, and two small plush toys, a beaver and a mouse, watch the process! Don't be fooled by the size of the setup! This space is the powerhouse behind some of the music you hear in the game

Do you have a favorite part of the process?

My favorite part is undoubtedly the early stages, where I'm exploring ideas and figuring out how they'll translate into the game. It’s really fun to think of and experiment with all of the different sounds and possibilities. The later stages are also fun, but in a more measured way, where I’m trying to figure out the best way to present some of the musical ideas that I’ve come up with.

Do you have a favorite piece of music you've created for Adopt Me?

I'm fond of everything I've composed, but one piece that stands out is the Springfest music from last year. At that time, I was in a bit of a rut. I was getting a bit too formulaic with my writing. So, I deliberately pushed myself out of that comfort zone for Springfest. While it was daunting initially, I believe the resulting music turned out great, and I've strived to maintain that level of exploration in every piece since then.

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