Tape to Tape interview with lead game designer Hugo Julien

Hugo Julien, the Lead Game Designer on Tape to Tape, took some time to answer a few questions about his studio's upcoming roguelite hockey game.

Excellent Rectangle

Recently, I had the opportunity to send a few questions to Hugo Julien, the Lead Game Designer on Tape to Tape, an upcoming roguelite hockey game shaping up to be a breath of fresh air in the space. Hugo was kind enough to talk about inspirations that lead his studio Excellent Rectangle to create Tape to Tape, platforms we may see the game on in the future, and what it’s like entering the video game hockey space as an indie game. Enjoy the interview in full below, as well as the release date trailer.

Shacknews: For those that aren't familiar with Tape to Tape, could you explain what the game is about?

Hugo: Tape to Tape combines the addictive play loop of a roguelite game with the deep gameplay of a hockey game. You can hire unique players, discover synergies, tinker with your team, and battle all sorts of unique teams as you travel through our unique hockey world. You start from your hub, choose your path on the world map and prepare to build the best team each time you start a new run. 

Losing a game may mean the end of your current run but it’s only the beginning for your new team in the roguelite mode. Visit the blademaster between seasons and grow permanently stronger for your upcoming journeys. New opportunities await each time you begin a new campaign. Players met during your runs may even want to join your team permanently!

Shacknews: What video games, hockey or otherwise, inspired you to make a roguelite hockey game?

Hugo: Living in Canada, hockey is definitely part of our daily life here. My first inspiration will come as no surprise for people who’ve played the game, it’s NHL 94. I grew up playing it day and night, creating my own scenarios, seasons (there was no season mode yet!) and keeping track of all my statistics in my big pile of binders. As I grew older I became a huge fan of RPG and eventually indie games.

Some of my favorite games which greatly impacted the development of Tape to Tape are Hades, Slay the Spire, and Binding of Isaac. Hades for its insanely addictive gameplay loop. Slay the Spire for its progression system with the constant stream of choices you have to make either on the world map or by choosing different rewards and relics. Finally Binding of Isaac for its incredibly fun ‘controlled chaos’ type of gameplay!

A gameplay screenshot from Tape to Tape
One of the boss battles in Tape to Tape sees you take the ice against a team of referees, who cheat almost as much as actual NHL referees.
Source: Excellent Rectangle

Shacknews: Was it daunting to enter the video game hockey space or were you confident Tape to Tape would have its place?

Hugo: It was definitely daunting! We could have chosen the easier road and gone for a standard hockey game but we really wanted to bring the concept of hockey + roguelite to life which was a crazy idea if we look back. 

From the first day, we definitely felt like the video game hockey space was wide open. We, as gamers, were craving for a different hockey experience. You have the NHL series on one side which aims to emulate real-life hockey and on the other end more arcade-like games like Super Blood Hockey. We wanted to bring an experience closer that would take the best of both worlds gameplay-wise and add an addictive roguelite gameplay loop on top. 

Shacknews: Tape to Tape's art style is fantastic. Could you talk a bit about the inspiration and process behind it?

Hugo: Thank you very much for the compliment! My father was a huge fan of European comics, we owned every. single. volume of Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, etc... Very early on I found myself trying to create my own adventure and emulate their different drawing styles. 

In the game itself, we have a unique blend of hand-drawn 2D sprites and animations in a 3D environment. It’s a style that allows for uniquely expressive characters and animations. 

Side-scrolling games usually have the sprites move in two directions and most 2D adventure games will create sprites in four directions. For a fast-paced sports game such as ours, we wanted the sprites to move and animate in eight directions. To make sure that the 2D animations blend seamlessly we have created dozens of ‘interpolation’ animations to have them look as smooth as possible while still being 2D. It’s a unique process as far as we know for 2D skeleton animation which makes for a distinctive look! 

An image showing the world map in Tape to Tape
This image showcases the world map and Tape to Tape's incredible art style.
Source: Excellent Rectangle

Shacknews: Were you at all surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reactions to the game during the Steam Next Fest demo?

Hugo: Absolutely! We were really happy with the awesome feedback we received for our Kickstarter demo back in May but we never expected to have that much of an impact during Next Fest. Our community expanded by a significant amount, and we are so thankful for everyone that participated in sharing their feedback and ideas!

We are especially surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people who told us they never thought they would ever enjoy a sports game! The (video game) hockey community has been behind us from day one, which we are super thankful for, but to have non-hockey/sports gamers enjoy the game is completely crazy!

Shacknews: Tape to Tape is coming to Steam, but are there plans for additional platforms in the future?

Hugo: We definitely plan to launch the game on home consoles after the PC release. We will share more details post-launch!

We are looking at releasing it on Xbox and Playstation. But as a lifelong Nintendo fan, I have a special place in my heart for a Switch release. Of all the home consoles, it’s probably the one in most need of a hockey game! 

Shacknews: When can fans expect Tape to Tape to release?

Hugo: We can for the first time announce that Tape to Tape will be releasing in Early Access on May 3rd, 2023! You are all invited to join our amazing Discord community to share your experience with the game and chat with us!

As Hugo mentioned, Tape to Tape will be releasing in Steam Early Access on May 3, 2023. 

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

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