If you\’re a Nintendo fan and you\’ve ever had exposure to ye old internet, then you\’ve probably come into contact with a hilarious Nintendo-centric web comic called \”Brawl in the Family\” at least once or twice. Or if you\’re something like me, you\’ve been following along for years. Comic illustrator Matthew Taranto has been in the limelight for many years as his comic grew from cult status to a household name. Now he\’s gone from strength to strength, and has unveiled an exciting new project: a Kickstarter campaign for his very first video game, called Tadpole Treble. While he handles the creative/artistic/design parts of the game, his brother, Michael has joined forces with him as the game\’s lead programmer. Together they are \”BitFinity\”.
And now they need your support to help fund their game.
They actually sent me a preview build of Tadpole Treble on PC which I got to sample. The first thing I can tell you is that it\’s always a good sign when you can\’t get past the start screen for a few minutes while you listen to the catchy theme song. It\’s an especially good sign when the game is in the music game genre. In regards to gameplay, the game plays like a mix between Bit.Trip Runner and a music game, while taking place on the actual sheet music. The sheet music integration with the environment actually makes for some really hectic and challenging level design that is harder than it looks. From the brief taste I had with Tadpole Treble, I can sense that it will be an addictive, challenging little game with lots of charm.
Michael and Matthew granted me the opportunity to ask them some questions about themselves and their first game:
1. How long has Tadpole Treble been in development?
MATTHEW: The original idea is actually something we came up with around a decade ago. More recently, we decided to hire Pixel Dash to help us make a proof-of-concept demo that we worked on throughout last year. Once we got some feedback for that, we revamped the engine this year to make everything flow more smoothly.
2. Which platforms do you have planned for release?
MICHAEL: Mac/PC is the default platform, but we\’re hoping to hit our Wii U stretch goal to be able to have the game playable on a Nintendo system! Beyond the Wii U, we\’re also considering mobile devices and Linux right now.
3. What were the games that inspired Tadpole Treble?
MATTHEW: I feel like the tadpole being the main character of a music-based game was subconsciously inspired by games like Super Mario RPG and Majora\’s Mask. The concept itself was actually inspired by watching my dad compose music through Finale, though. In terms of making the game feel like a fully-realized world, it\’s designed very much with a Nintendo-ish mentality in general. The music itself is inspired by a lot of my favorite video game OSTs, particularly Super Mario Galaxy, Mega Man, and Banjo-Kazooie.
4. Please tell us more about the game for those who haven\’t heard of Tadpole Treble yet.
MICHAEL: Tadpole Treble is a music/action game! You play as Baton, a tadpole, who travels through a variety of colorful environments to make her way home. The hook of the game is that the actual sheet music of the area is what determines the level design; the notes themselves are your obstacles, and you\’re controlling Baton on a giant musical staff to avoid them. The end result feels very much like the player is fully intertwined in the music.
5. How long will the game be?
MATTHEW: This depends a little bit on how well we\’re funded. We want the main adventure to not feel too short, so we\’re doing our best to have a good variety of songs and stages throughout Baton\’s journey. In addition, there\’s going to be a solid number of unlockables and additional challenges to encourage replay beyond just clearing levels. We\’re just a couple of guys and this is our first game, so it won\’t be HUGE, but still fun, professional, and with plenty to do. I can\’t give you a solid level count just yet, but I can say that it\’ll be a double-digit number, at least.
6. When did you both create BitFinity?
MICHAEL: BitFinity came to be a couple years ago as the company that handled the Brawl in the Family merchandise. The plan was always to expand to games, though. Matthew started the company and I joined him soon afterward.
7. Are both brothers involved with Brawl in the Family?
MATTHEW: Brawl in the Family is just me, while BitFinity sort of grew out of that. Michael had a drive and persistence for making games, so I felt he\’d be a great help to have onboard. Plus, he\’s-a my brother! Mama mia!
8. How did your famous comic strip originally get started?
MATTHEW: Humbly! BitF was originally just a series of silly sketches I made in an art history class in college. A few months later, I transferred the drawings to PhotoShop and posted them on a couple message boards. The response was so positive that I decided to stick with it and make a site for them!
9. What do you think was the secret to its success?
MATTHEW: Ultimately, BitF has always been the kind of comic that I\’d want to read. When it was made, there weren\’t really any Nintendo-centric webcomics out there (and I\’d argue there still pretty much aren\’t). I find Nintendo\’s cast and world to be both really interesting, and very funny, and I think there\’s plenty of humor than can be derived from the characters and their worlds colliding. Ultimately, BitF is written by Nintendo fans, for Nintendo fans, and I\’ve always wanted to keep that target audience in mind. I think the family-friendliness helps, although that\’s sort of a by-product of the characters acting in-character, since Nintendo\’s games are pretty clean.
10. What elements from the comic are also present in the game?
MICHAEL: Matthew\’s unique drawing style is prevalent throughout the levels, and he\’s also handling all of the game\’s music.
MATTHEW: There are also comic-style scenes that tell the story between stages, so readers of BitF should feel right at home.
11. How do you feel about Nintendo as a gaming fan?
MATTHEW: Pretty strongly! It\’s Nintendo that actually made me love games in the first place, and I actually think I wouldn\’t play games at all if they didn\’t exist. I love that they do their own thing and don\’t try to cling to market trends, and I think their game design philosophies are exemplary.
12. What other developers do you really appreciate?
MICHAEL: Besides Nintendo, we have enjoyed plenty of developers over the years: Capcom, Rare, Square-Enix, Retro Studios, and Next-Level Games are among our favorites.
13. Have you ever made any other games or fan projects?
MATTHEW: Nope, Tadpole Treble is our first game! As far as fan projects, I was actually heavily involved in the Phoenix Wright musical (\”Turnabout Musical\”) several years ago–I wrote around 10 songs for it and voiced Phoenix. The project is sort of in limbo right now, but the team is working to get all the songs on CD at the moment. While it was great to be a part of that community, by far the best element of doing that was meeting my wife, Sarah.
14. There are many different takes on the music game genre, from Guitar Hero to Rhythm Heaven. What are the ones you enjoyed most and which ones do you not like?
MICHAEL: I was into Guitar Hero for awhile. Our favorite music game would have to be Daigasso! Band Bros, though (aka Jam With the Band). We\’ve both spent a ton of time in that game\’s multiplayer mode and edit modes
15. What has been your interaction with Nintendo so far in regards to becoming approved as a developer and getting dev kits?
MATTHEW: They\’ve been very inviting to new developers like us. While some of their requirements can be a little strict (we were initially rejected a year ago from getting a dev kit because of a lack of experience), they\’ve encouraged us to keep trying and stay focused. And it worked, as once we contacted them with the new demo, they allowed us to announce the stretch goal.
16. Have you begun doing any research and development into doing the Wii U version? What Wii U specific additions do you hope to make?
MATTHEW: We\’ve been in talks with Nintendo for awhile, but we\’re waiting on the dev kit to make sure we can afford it. If the Wii U version becomes a reality (yes please!), we\’d love to use the GamePad in cool ways. First and foremost, there\’s definitely going to be off-TV play, because I love it. But we\’d also like to experiment with some multiplayer functionality using the GamePad\’s touchscreen. That\’s about all I can say for now, since I want to make sure it\’s feasible first…
17. When do you estimate the release?
MICHAEL: We feel we can have the game complete and ready to play by next December.
18. Do you think Nintendo is on the right track to improving sales for Wii U?
MATTHEW: I think they\’ve made some solid choices for this season, although I think if they wanted to deliver the KO punch, it would\’ve been great to have Mario Kart this year. The games have been good, but some of the marketing is still kind of lacking (I feel like a lot of people still don\’t really know about the Wii U). That said, I\’m happy with their output lately and I think they\’ve got a good shot this season as long as they get the word out.
19. Who will \”win\”? PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U?
MATTHEW: CONSOLE WARRRS! Right now, it seems like PS4 and Xbox One are vying for the same market, like last gen. Between those two, I think Microsoft sort of botched their reveal for the Xbox One, so I think the PS4 has a leg up on MS. I\’d never count Nintendo out, though–after a rocky start, the Wii U has been getting momentum, and they\’ll always have their core fanbase. I expect them to do especially well once Smash Bros and Mario Kart land.
So yeah, either the PS4 or Wii U.
20. When you\’re done do you have any thoughts of making more 3DS or Wii U games in the future?
MICHAEL: Certainly! We\’re lifelong Nintendo fans, so Nintendo\’s systems will always be among the first things we consider with future games.
MATTHEW: Yep. The only thing that\’d keep us from developing more games for 3DS or Wii U would be cost limitations, but Nintendo will be getting our highest priority otherwise. Thanks so much for the interview!
And a big thank you to Michael and Matthew for allowing us the opportunity for the interview and preview of Tadpole Treble.