Making Up the Game
Baton Rouge brothers design new music-inspired video game
By Jake ClappPosted Aug 22, 2012
The last few years have seen a spike in the number of full-length, independent video games produced and released online, either for free or cheap. Free software is helping amateur game designers develop quality games they can then spread to a hungry audience. Two local brothers are the latest to take a shot at game design, with their side-scrolling, musical adventure game, Tadpole Treble.
Michael Taranto and his younger brother Matthew are preparing to release a demo of their game in September, and with an interesting premise, whimsical cartoon style, and addictive gameplay, Tadpole Treble is worth a try.
“We’ve always enjoyed video games, it’s been one of those dreams to actually make our own,” Matthew said. “It’s never been that feasible, until recently when there have been more digital, smaller games produced easier.”
Meeting in a small office in Michael’s Prairieville home, the Taranto brothers take me through Tadpole Treble. The idea is to guide the main character, a tiny tadpole named Baton, through the constantly side-scrolling environment, dodging obstacles along the way, in an effort to get back home. The gameplay is simple: you control Baton, moving him up or down to avoid the blocks, but the more interesting part of the game happens as you move past the obstacles. The black blocks are musical notes, and as you speed past them the music is played. As the level becomes harder, the music becomes more complex, and instead of dodging one or two notes, you’re dodging entire piano runs, or a three-note chord.
The environment changes with the music and the small details in the background really bring out the unique style of the game. Those paying close enough attention will notice the notes falling in their proper places on the staff.
It took me four tries to get through the demo level, and when I did I still scored a “D” rating. Michael and Matt are both able to make it through on the first try, but neither score above a “B.” This is the type of video game that is quite simple, but keeps pulling you back until you get that high score.
“The key is, we share a passion for music that comes from our family, and, of course, video games. So with this, we could really combine the two to make what we like to think is a unique game,” Michael said.
Matthew, a church pianist, is also the creator of the video game-inspired web comic Brawl in the Family. Michael manages the restaurant Jasmine’s on the Bayou. They plan to release the demo on the Brawl in the Family website: BrawlInTheFamily.KeenSpot.com.
Though they’ve had the idea for Tadpole Treble for years, it wasn’t until mid-2011 that the Taranto brothers could put their idea into production.
Matthew composed the music and created the artwork, while Michael created the game’s sound effects and level design. They then began looking for a company to help program the game. After a Craigslist posting, Michael and Matthew found Pixel Dash Studios, a Baton Rouge digital media developer.
The game runs on Unity, a free game engine available through Unity3D.com, and, according to Michael, is becoming easier to use. He and Matthew can make simple changes to the game without going back to the programmers, Pixel Dash.
“There were a lot of problems we didn’t expect to crop up,” Matthew said. “For instance when we got the first demo, Baton was way too close to the screen, so when you played the game it would go by too fast. It was a strain on the eyes. We just pulled the camera back and it became much more playable.”
Once the one-level demo of Tadpole Treble is released, Michael and Matthew will monitor feedback and hope to release more levels quickly. It’s been many hours of work, but it’s been worth it, Michael said.
“It’s always ever changing. This is a field we’re new to,” he said. “First off, it’s exciting, and second, it’s always changing. I will say math is very important.”
Beginning in September, you can find Tadpole Treble on the Brawl in the Family website: BrawlInTheFamily.KeenSpot.com.