Obsessively learning from Nintendo & How Lemmings, ChuChu Rocket is inspired by Tempopo

Right, and it goes back to what you were saying about texting and making it clear. Music is a universal language, isn’t it? Everyone understands rhythm – in general, even if you don’t have rhythm, everyone can follow the beat.

We really rely on a consistent heartbeat as the foundation for everything throughout Tempopo through the different tracks, and the actions the characters take happen on a half-beat or a full beat. They synchronize perfectly and the flowers in the levels are singing and moving to that rhythm. It all plays back in such a way that even if you just watch the visual reaction, you can almost feel the time, you know.

We have a really strong outreach goal with our games. Whenever we have an audio element, we make sure that there is a visual element that goes with it that is of equal importance. It’s absolutely necessary to build something where you exclude a group of people. That’s why this game is musical but not a musical rhythm game.

And although there isn’t actually a visible three-dimensional grid, I think this audio-visual synchronization will help you conceptualize a grid. The game can look good and not need to segment and look like a two-dimensional object, but it can still have a sense of delimited space thanks to the way everything syncs up.

Nature is another important part of this game. What do you think is the relationship between music and nature and how do you think it applies to Tempopo? Or does that come across in the game as one of the big themes?

For us, nature and gardens came about because we wanted to unify all the elements in the game. Once you have the music, the magic, the characters, the movements, the collectibles and all this stuff, ‘How do you actually put this together?’ We tried to come up with real-world concepts to tie these different elements together.

The garden is a perfect fit. They are wonderfully mellow places filled with great personalities that have to coexist and support each other. They are adding nitrogen to the soil that the other species uses. The garden is a very diverse place with different elements, but everything works together. So we thought, ‘Why not immerse yourself in this natural element where we already have this place where people feel peaceful and relaxed?’ The garden is something people design and they want to make it feel like their own, so we included that in the game as well.

Even fictional story shows that flowers respond to music and grow faster when the music plays, right? Like, why don’t plants want to grow like the rest of us?

What a perfect answer! Entering the game, you have a small command wheel that looks like a flower, with petals that allow you to give different commands. Where did that idea come from and can you give us some examples of how to use it in the game?

Now, these are what we call “guidelines,” so you put them down to try to create the perfect plan. Each level is a rescue in which you are trying to collect lost flowers and bring them back to your garden. Then, as the player, you can design your own little musical garden.

Like, why don’t plants want to grow like the rest of us?

Basically, Hana [the main character] is conducting the music and Tempopo is following the beat. They are very good at moving, but you have the right to tell them what to do. We started thinking of different actions to support the collaborative elements. I guess this is where I got inspired by some of the classic puzzle games like Lemming, where you ask someone like a blocker or build a bridge or something like that and work together . It all comes back to the idea that the theme of this game is harmony.

Tempo 3
Image: Cult Games

Harmony and bringing people together through video games is important. That’s what you did in Unpacked. You will have a real sense of harmony when you put everything in its right place. Here it has the same feeling in a completely different way.

A big part of that in Tempopo is where you can just press the play button, the controller will start progressing, the music will play and the characters will move around and do things, and then you can press that button again and that’s it. reset everything back. How people play and interact with the game is about this approach — do they spend a lot of time looking at something and thinking carefully about it, or do they just iterate and make small changes every now and then? and feel like I’m making progress. come closer to the perfect movement of this symphony of elements working together?

That helps a lot in not wanting people to feel frustrated or intimidated by the game because I don’t think there’s much value in a puzzle game that evaluates how you solve a puzzle. It doesn’t seem like a very interesting thing to me.

No, you want to take it with you [players] and make them feel smart. The problem is not how difficult it is. That’s about how satisfying it is. You don’t please anyone by saying, “Oh no, you did it wrong.” It’s not that there aren’t any wrong answers, but there’s no way to punish you if you get them wrong.

And it’s a really tough thing going from a game like Unpacking that essentially has no fail states to a game like Tempopo, which has a more pure puzzle theme running through it. What’s really important to me with Tempopo is the emotional level for the player. That’s probably where we spent the most time developing — using the music, the interface, all the tools to help you feel calm as you play. If you can help people calm down while solving the problem, they will have a much higher sense of satisfaction.

That’s why this game is musical but not a musical rhythm game.

I think the worst case scenario for me is when I play a puzzle game and I feel really stressed about everything and I finally solve the problem but I’m scared of what will happen. next. I want everyone who plays this game to sit back and enjoy their time with it. We asked playtest participants to sit there, press a button to play music, listen, and sit back for five minutes while they watched things happen around them. It goes through cycles of all the different tracks and everything and they’re looking at the space and thinking, ‘What should I do?’

So is there still an element of trial and error at some levels?

Absolute. It’s trial and error in a purposeful way. We call it “plan and execute”, the idea is you press the button, you have a plan, you’re watching it happen and you’re [thinking], “Is this the right plan?” To that end, the game is trying to help you stay in the right mindset, and it doesn’t judge you nor tell you that you’ve restarted 300 times.

Tempo 4
Image: Cult Games

‘Plan and execute’ is a much better term – we are allowed to make mistakes. You just have to keep trying things and you’ll get there eventually. It’s fun to watch it happen and know that people will just sit there and listen to the music, go through the motions, and not feel pressured. That’s really important for this genre.

Yes! And we’re trying to build more accessible tools around the interface because that’s a big part of trying to make a game that works for both younger and older players. This is a puzzle game so we’ll have challenging puzzles for people to engage with but we’re also trying to create a really easy curve to explain all the mechanics and options. Select additional accessibility to allow people with less experience solving puzzles than the game to tackle things differently. [I’m] Not sure I want to go into the specifics of all of that just because we’re still testing and rolling things out. But there are options there to make the game really work for younger players as well as more experienced puzzlers.

Tempopo is truly a game about the emotional state you will experience while playing

Tempopo is really a game about the emotional state you will experience while playing it. And I think that’s largely where I want to push it. We’ve described it internally as a very light game; it has such a softness that when you play it, you feel connected, not judged.

Soft and cozy is good, and it must have something that will keep us coming back to it, whether you have experience playing puzzle games or not.

Yeah, and we really hope that it brings more than just solving puzzles and where people want to stay because of the experience. There’s another element that’s not just solving puzzles. I think it’s really important to give players the opportunity to relax and do something that’s completely within their control.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Thank you Sanatana for talking to us late at night. Tempopo will launch on Switch in 2024.


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