“Obsessively” Learning From Nintendo & How Lemmings, ChuChu Rocket Inspired Tempopo

Music and Rhythm in Tempopo

Right, and it ties into what you were saying about messaging and making it clear. Music is kind of the universal language, isn’t it? Everybody understands rhythm — even if you don’t have rhythm, everybody can follow a beat, generally.

We really lean into that consistent heartbeat that underpins everything across Tempopo through the different soundtracks, and the actions that the characters take occur on and off half beats or full beats. They synchronise perfectly and the flowers within the levels are singing and pushing towards that rhythm. It all plays back into itself in such a way that even if you’re just watching the visual reactions, you can almost feel the timing, you know.

We have really strong accessibility goals with our games. Anytime we have an audio element, we make sure that there is a visual element that accompanies it with an equal level of weight. It’s wildly unnecessary to build something where you’re excluding a bunch of people. That’s why this game is musical, but it is not a music rhythm game.

And though there isn’t actually a visible three-dimensional grid, I think that this audio-visual sync helps you conceptualize a grid. The game can be beautiful and not have to be segmented up and look like a two-dimensional thing, but it can still have that sense of delineated space because of how everything syncs up.

The Relationship Between Music and Nature

For us, nature and gardens came about because we wanted to unify all the elements in the game. Once you have music and magic and characters and movement and collection and all these things, ‘How do you actually bring this together?’ We tried to think of real-world concepts that tie these disparate elements together.

Gardens are a perfect fit. They’re wonderfully calming places full of big personalities that have to coexist together and support each other. They’re feeding nitrogen into the soil that the other one uses. A garden is a very diverse place with different elements, but everything is working together. So we thought, ‘Why not lean into this element of nature where we already have this place where people feel calm and relaxed?’ Gardens are a place that people design and they want to make feel like their own, so we brought that into the game as well.

Even Mythbusters showed that the flowers respond to music and grow faster when music is playing, right? Like, why wouldn’t plants want to jam out like the rest of us?

Gameplay and Mechanics in Tempopo

These are what we’re calling “instructions” for now, so you’re placing them down to try and create a perfect plan. Every level is a rescue where you’re trying to collect the flowers that have been lost and take them back to your garden. Then, as the player, you can design your little musical garden.

Like, why wouldn’t plants want to jam out like the rest of us?

Essentially, Hana [the main character] is conducting the music and the Tempopo are following the beat. They’re great at moving, but it’s up to you to tell them what to do. We started coming up with different actions that would help with cooperative elements. I guess this is where I was inspired by some of those classic puzzle games like Lemming, where you’re telling one to be like a blocker or build a bridge or do something like that and work together. It all comes back to the idea that this game’s theme is harmony.

Emotional State and Gameplay Experience

Tempopo is really a game about the emotional state that you are going to be in while you play it. And I think that’s largely where I want to push it. We have self-described it internally as a very soft game; it has this softness about it that when you play it, you feel connected, not judged.

Yeah, and we’re really hoping that there’s more to it than just solving the puzzles as well for where people will want to stick around because of the experience. There’s this other element to it which is not just about solving puzzles. I think it’s super important to give the player a chance to unwind and do something that’s entirely within their control.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Thank you to Sanatana for speaking to us, very late at night. Tempopo is due to launch on Switch in 2024.