Time for a Patron only interview!
This time our developer interview is with Matthew Taranto, co-founder with his brother Michael of Bitfinity Games. Bitfinity Games are the developers of Tadpole Treble Encore which I had the pleasure of reviewing as you can read in my review!
Can you tell us a little about yourselves and Bitfinity games studio!
Sure! We’re a couple of Louisiana-based brothers who’ve always enjoyed playing games and playing music, and wanted to combine those aspects in a fun way.
What’s behind the name of your studio?
We wanted to convey the infinite potential of games, alongside our upbringing on systems like the NES and SNES (where the term “bit” was much more common as a sort of abstract unit of power). Thus, “BitFinity”!
How did you start out as game developers?
I (Matthew) started a gamer webcomic in 2008 called Brawl in the Family that quickly gained a following. After a few years, I thought it’d be feasible to branch off into developing games, so I enlisted the help of my brother Michael and a handful of programmers to help make the game a reality. In 2013, our Tadpole Treble Kickstarter campaign succeeded in hitting its goal, paving the way for a 2016 launch on PC and Wii U and a 2021 rerelease on Nintendo Switch.
What was the inspiration for developing Tadpole Treble Encore?
I got the idea for this game when I was a teenager. My dad’s a composer himself and would write out various parts of songs using programs like Finale. I remember thinking when I watched the little playback line scroll across automatically, the right-to-left action reminded me of a platformer! From there, the idea of a game using its own soundtrack’s notes as the level design began to take shape.
Since I wanted to take advantage of the full staff and not being dragged down by gravity, that’s how I decided to have swimming be the main mechanic for moving through the stages. And the humble tadpole was picked as the star solely because I couldn’t think of any well-known tadpole characters!
Lastly, Composition Mode was heavily inspired by the music maker mode in Mario Paint (with a few extra bells and whistles), which is something I spent a lot of time with as a kid.
Early Versions or Prototype
What is the biggest challenge in making the game? How did you overcome it?
The largest, most pervasive difficulty through the process was timing everything correctly: timing notes to their corresponding beats, timing creatures and events to the song, and even timing things like Baton’s swim speed and tempo changes. If anything was even a little off, the illusion of “playing the music” would be broken, so this aspect took a ton of time to smooth out. There was no real magic formula for fixing it; we basically just had to test it over and over again and keep scooting things around.
What did early versions of the game or prototypes of the game look like?
Our very first private demo of the game was of Tadpole Pond and was nearly unplayable; the camera was way too fast and too close, and poor Baton kept smashing into the numerous stage obstacles! It was a very valuable first look though, as it helped us refine aspects we didn’t consider much, like the scrolling speed, character/stage size, and whether environmental pieces should do damage or not.
The Composition Mode is a really fun feature in the game, why did you decide to add the mode?
Being our first game (and a budget-priced one at that), Tadpole Treble isn’t the longest adventure in the lake, even if we aimed to make every stage count and stand out from the pack. So Composition Mode was a feature I really wanted to add to increase replayability and give the players something to do to take a break from the fast-paced, score-driven action of Adventure Mode. And seeing how big customization modes in games like Minecraft took off convinced me to have it available from the start (rather than a post-game unlockable like I’d originally planned) so people could get to writing songs right away.
What part of Tadpole Treble Encore sparks the most joy for you?
I’m most proud of the game when the music and action onscreen comes together to make for a sort of “cartoon musical” feel! I think the game probably does this best in some of the vocal stages such as Midnight Bayou and Thunder Creek.
What kind of cool game(s) would you love to make in the future?
We have a few ideas but they’ll have to remain secret for now! They’re all little twists (or combinations) of existing genres though, as we want to still march to the beat of our own drum.
What advice would you offer aspiring developer working alone or in a tiny team?
I think you should come up with a handful of game ideas that you feel passionate about, and decide on one that can best convey your vision while also being marketable to modern gamers. I’m proud of how Tadpole Treble turned out, but it’s not always the easiest game to market to people without a little explanation of how to play! If you’re a small team or on a small budget, don’t be afraid to make a small game if priced accordingly! You may be surprised at how people will still recognize the effort and care you put into a game, and that sort of thing really speaks to players. Good luck!
Many thanks to BitFinity Games, Matthew and Michael for agreeing to take part in this interview for LadiesGamers.