In a recent issue, Niner Times featured an “Indie Spotlight” piece on “Mail Mole.” This 3D platformer came courtesy of a small development team of recent college graduates based in Barcelona, Spain known as Talpa Games. It’s an all-around simpler experience than much of what can be found in today’s gaming market, but that works much more to the game’s advantage than anything. Angel Beltran of Talpa Games discussed topics ranging from his personal experience with gaming, inspirations for “Mail Mole” and the challenges that he and his team faced with bringing the game to market.
From a young age, Beltran garnered a fascination with games as a medium. “I’ve always been interested in video games. That passion pushed me to start studying for a game design degree,” Beltran recounted. “When I was a child, we didn’t have any console at home, so I remember sneaking into my cousin’s place to play the brand new Super Nintendo titles and being blown away by them.”
Beltran’s knowledge of games affected what would eventually become his first full-fledged gaming project in “Mail Mole.” He mentions the development of “Mail Mole” being conducted from a gameplay-centric perspective. “We were 100% focused on gameplay. We always tried to keep in mind the famous anecdote from when Miyamoto first started working on Mario 64,” Beltran said. He referred to Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto’s determination to design Mario’s movement controls in 1996’s “Super Mario 64” first, refusing to move on to other areas of the game until the control was deemed to be perfect. “We kinda followed that same design philosophy...focusing on gameplay and game-feel first to achieve a great user experience and then building everything else around that,” said Beltran.
Beltran also divulged some behind-the-scenes insight into the project’s creation. “We used Unreal Engine 4 as the main engine to create Mail Mole, mainly because we already had experience with it from previous projects...I think the most important thing when starting a project like this is being comfortable with the tools you’re using… so you can focus on the creative aspects of the development and not on the more technical ones.” That’s not to say that development went off without any hitches, though, as Beltran recalls, “one of the greatest challenges was getting the game to run at 60fps on Switch, both on docked and portable mode.” A high and smooth performance target was a high priority for Beltran and his team, and their efforts allowed them to achieve their goals. “It took a while to achieve that good performance, and the most demanding levels...were tough, but it was worth it, and the best decision we made was to start designing with Switch in mind, so porting it to more powerful consoles was an easy task.”
The challenges for Beltran and his team did not end with technology. They also faced the difficult task of getting their game published and distributed. Luckily, Beltran and his team did not have to conquer this alone. “We were lucky to have Undercoders (publisher) as a partner…so we could avoid many of the usual mistakes you make when trying to publish your first game,” he said. However, the process still came with its fair share of challenges. “I was surprised by how difficult it can be to prepare everything for the console stores; getting the approval for the game itself wasn’t all that hard, but preparing all the trailers, localized to every language, getting the correct ratings, the OK for all the promo content, etc. was tougher (and slower) than we expected,” Beltran said.
Beltran ended by explaining what aspect of “Mail Mole” he was the proudest of, and the answer he provided was two-fold. “I’m very proud of having a ‘finished game’ on the market…” said Beltran. “As a student, I worked on tons of small projects, but I never went through the process of actually releasing them, and I learned a lot from publishing Mail Mole.” Honing more closely on the content of “Mail Mole,” Beltran continued, “I’m very proud of the depth of the move-set. We see many speedrunners take advantage of the more complex techniques to gain speed, and I think the game is best when you really get into it and try to achieve all gold medals. I’m proud of seeing players dig into the game we’ve been working on for years.”
Above all else, Beltran seems to embody a complete affinity for the medium of video games. Now, he and the rest of the talented people at Talpa Games have taken that passion and turned it into a full-scale, market-ready project to be enjoyed by people worldwide. Beltran stands as a strong example of how people of all kinds can take their passions and turn them into fulfilling careers, sharing their passions and leaving behind their own creative marks.
*Mail Mole is currently available across PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series Consoles, Steam, and Nintendo Switch