While attending last year’s EGX in Birmingham, I stumbled across a few games that really blew me away for their originality and just the sheer passion displayed by the developers creating them. Super Mixtape was one of those games. The game features a mix of challenging platforming and electronic music with the two overlapping to form the main premise of the game. You are able to swap between the two different sides of a cassette tape to change the environment around you; or for those born towards the late ‘90s, that probably made no sense whatsoever. I recently got in touch with Christopher Nobbs, developer of Super Mixtape - So we could talk about how the game was doing and what he had planned in the future.
From what I’ve played of Super Mixtape, I could see (and hear) inspiration from games like Fez and Hotline Miami, games in which the soundtrack takes centre stage. Are there any other inspirations?
Yeah for sure. There are so many great games out there that tackle different elements that I’ve tried to tackle myself with Super Mixtape such as: depth, and controls, breaking the fourth wall etc. Spelunky, Project Zomboid, the work of Pippin Barr, there’s so many. Even back in the Amiga and Commodore 64 games. I love these games that are fun, and that’s a core focus of Super Mixtape, fun gameplay.
One of the things I noticed when trying the game out was the difficulty curve, the controls are not what most people would expect. How are people finding it when they first try the game?
This is a really good point, when I made the game, the difficulty curve was insane. For the most part, unless you really ‘got’ the controls, then the game was unplayable. I made the cassette physics really out there and made the momentum a big part of the game. After testing, tweaking, testing and more tweaking, I started to really dial back some of the craziness and I planned to have a high difficulty level in the game, but still be fun and achievable. I dialed everything back a few weeks before EGX and thought that maybe 20% of people will get the controls and understand the movement, and I would be able to learn off the other 80% on where I need to improve and change things.
After EGX, I noticed that it was the complete opposite, and those that got it (over 80%), really got it; and those that didn’t, -it was clear I needed to invest time in making a clear and comprehensive tutorial showing them how the controls work. One of the small things that could make a big difference that I’m looking at implementing are having the rotate control ‘wiggle’ mix when he is static so that there is some player feedback. I think this would help a large percentage of the 20% of players that didn’t get it. It’s as if they were looking for some form of feedback from the controller, and unfortunately I wasn’t offering it in that build.
The game recently got voted to release on Steam via Greenlight, what is the next step?
The next step is crowdfunding to raise some money for the game. I wasn’t expecting the game to get the Greenlight so quickly, so it threw my plans off as I was planning on running crowdfunding at the same time, but I got Greenlit in under 8 days so I’m extremely excited about that. It does mean that I need to work on promotion and raising awareness that the crowdfunding campaign is now live. I launched an IndieGoGo mid-January, but I don’t know if I picked a particularly great time, given that Christmas wasn’t that long ago. I’ve made the campaign live until the end of February, so at least it spans a few weeks. After that, it’s getting a demo environment together so people can test the mechanics themselves. I think it’s important to let players get their hands on the game as early as possible so that I can get feedback from them and see what needs improving whilst I have the chance to make those changes etc. The internet is for the most part a brutally honest place to be, so where better to put a build than in the thick of it?
What genres of music are you planning for the full release of Super Mixtape?
With the release of Super Mixtape there will be a mix of genres, from jungle, electronic, hip hop etc. The idea being retro style music with a modern twist. There’s some exciting stuff in the bag for release and I think people will be excited about the audio as much as I am. The guy I’m using for audio is amazing, I’m hoping that I will work with him on future projects. As for specific genre’s, it’s quite hard to categorise, but I hope people are as excited about the music as I am.
What is it like being the sole developer working on the game? Do you enjoy the freedom?
Yeah of course, it’s one of the most enjoyable part about making computer games. Being able to make snap decisions in your mind and being able to run abstract forms of Agile for organizing freelancers and my own tasks. It’s just fast development, no hold backs and I can work on the game within my own time frames which keeps it a pleasurable journey. The only downside of working on your own, is you are on your own, but I quite like my own company, and I have made some great friends with other developers from going to EGX (Birmingham), Rezzed (London), A.Maze (Germany) and Indievelopment (The Netherlands). If anyone is interested on making computer games, build a support network around you, and get feedback from other developers. It’s healthy to challenge and share with each other whilst having the freedom to go crazy.
Are you looking to release any other titles through Polygrammatic?
I have a few things on the back burner. I have an idea for a market data tool for stock markets, and a small procedural generation mobile game that has the potential to be endless, but they are all pseudo dreams and weekend ‘tinkerings’ at the moment until I complete Super Mixtape. After Super Mixtape is released, I will be looking at doing DLC with different artists as an ‘artist special’ kind of thing with a new level etc. Just some small ideas. I really like the idea of linking
What games have you been playing, and what releases are you looking forward to this year?
So far? I’ve played a little bit of the new Diablo 3 season 5, but not much. I’m excited to see RPG Tycoon released this year, and I can’t wait to see what happens with Squad. I’m looking forward to playing Cities: Skylines when I get a chance. I hope ‘RIOT’ gets released this year, I want to pump a few hours into that game! I’ve got a massive queue of indie games on Steam that I need to get some time on, but I’m having to hold back until Super Mixtape is ready.
Do you fear younger gamers won’t understand what Mix is?
It hadn’t crossed my mind, but now you mention it, I have something extra to worry about now. Haha. Nah, it should be ok, I think for the most part, the ‘retro’ theme and style will always be kept alive, even with younger generations that never experienced cassette tapes etc. It’s a nostalgic element as well for many older players. One thing I noticed was by trying to give Mix a cute look, and a personality, younger players weren’t bothered what Mix was, other than a character that had a mouth and eyes that responded to your movements.
Super Mixtape is going to be released on the Xbox One, Steam and the Windows 10 store, what made you choose the ID@Xbox Program?
Whilst at EGX, I was told by many other developers I should reach out to Microsoft because of their support for ‘indie-developers’ is excellent, and I’ve got to say, it really is excellent. I had spent some time working on a project with another team whilst I was in incubation studio in 2014, and there was a lot of focus with working with Sony, so it was refreshing to mix things up as well. I’m really happy with Microsoft at the moment, and with future games I make, I will be approaching them again. I still deem Super Mixtape as my own first proper title.
Do you have plans for other platforms at a later date?
Yeah, I would really like to reach out to Nintendo and Sony to release on their platforms, but we’ll see. There has been a lot of talk of putting the game on a mobile device, but I need to do some tests as the audio files are very large. There was some banter back and forth at EGX about the possibility of making Super Mixtape work on a Commodore64, but the physics and the audio would massively restrict what could be done. I’m always up for doing something fun, and I like the idea of making games available to everyone. I don’t think someone shouldn’t be allowed to play a game because they didn’t buy into that platform, this is why I wanted to do Steam with Microsoft whilst I work on everything else.
We can see that you’re heavily influenced by the Commodore 64 with this game, is this the kind of game that you wanted to play growing up in the 8-bit Era?
Yeah, I played a lot of Commodore and Amiga games as a kid and I loved the pre-set rules and heavy focus on gameplay those games had. I never remember playing any of those games and thinking, wow, the graphics are amazing. My memory of those games was all about the gameplay and the fun I had playing them.
How is the music composed? Did you use real SID chips or is it emulated?
So the audio is made in layers in bars to a fixed BPM. The track specifics are level dependant but for the most part, it’s retro with a modern twist all made in Ableton live by a great musician from Wiltshire. He’s amazing to work with.
Finally, when are you looking to finish and release Super Mixtape?
I’m hoping to have Super Mixtape ready for an early Summer Launch, maybe late spring. I’m planning on not being firm with the deadlines, as I’m sure with the alpha and beta testing, there’s going to be suggestions made that I will want to incorporate.
Thank you for your time Christopher, we look forward to seeing more of Super Mixtape in the coming months.