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IGF 2010: Team Meat

By Drew Sikora, Oli Wilkinson | Published Feb 12 2010 05:23 AM in Interviews

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About the Independent Games Festival

The IGF Awards take place on the evening of the third day of Game Developers Conference, and are a major celebration of the best in indie gaming, with thousands watching the award presentation before the Game Developer's Choice Awards are presented. The 2009 IGF Awards, including custom interstitials from Mega64, are available for online viewing. All GDC visitors can attend the awards. [From IGF about page]


About Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is a tough as nails platformer where you play as an animated cube of meat who's trying to save his girlfriend (who happens to be made of bandages) from an evil fetus in a jar wearing a tux. Just your standard everyday run of the mill video game.

Our meaty hero will leap from walls, over seas of buzz saws, through crumbling caves and pools of old needles, Sacrificing his own well being to save his damsel in distress. Super Meat Boy brings the old school difficulty of classic Hardcore retro titles, combines them with current generation graphics technology and stream lines them down to the essential no BS, straight forward, twitch reflex platforming.

Ramping up in difficulty from hard to soul crushing SMB will drag Meat boy though haunted hospitals, salt factories and even hell itself. And if 200+ single player levels weren't enough SMB also throws in multiplayer game modes, a level editor and tons of unlockable secrets, warp zones and popular indie characters like Gish, Alien Hominid and Tim from braid to play as. [From IGF info page]


Interview with Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes


Who are you and how are you involved with Super MeatBoy!?

Tommy: My name is Tommy Refenes and I am the programmer for Super Meat Boy.

Edmund: I’m Edmund and I’m the artist.


How did you become interested in game development?

Edmund: I started doing interactive flash work in 2000 and it progressively turned in to actual game dev. I wasn't aware of the indie scene till I met Alex Austin in 2003 and started working with him on Gish.
Tommy: One day I was putting Rhinestones on my sweet ass denim jacket in a scorpion-like pattern and I ran out of stones. So I was like "SHIT" and started making games.


What is the special significance of the scorpion-like pattern?

Tommy: It’s the symbol for the Mexican street gang I used to roll with when I lived next to Jennifer Lopez's grandmother.


How and when did the concept for Super Meat Boy originate?

Tommy: Super Meat Boy was a flash game a while ago, then Ed was all like "hey, we should do Super Meat Boy on the Wii" so we teamed up.


Cool so, was the Flash game the first inception of SuperMeat Boy? Where did SMB as a character come from?

Edmund: I had been working on a new "world" of characters to pull from for games. It was a set of super heroes with not so super abilities, Dr Fetus and Meat boy were 2 of them, Spewer was another.


Over the course of development, what was Super MeatBoy’s most serious issue and how was it resolved?

Tommy: Super Meat Boy development has been very easy, so far we've had no problems.


What do you think is the reason for this? Experience? Easy platform? Utter awesomeness?

Tommy: I'm a God of programming, and Edmund is a God of art and design. Together we form this sort of fleshy blob of disgusting yet incredibly efficient game development wisdom.


What’s one thing you did wrong (individually or as a team) that you feel could have been avoided? How?

Tommy: Ha, no comment on that one!


You’re seriously going to be the only developers to wimp out of this one?

Tommy: Fine, the only thing I truly regret is faking Ed's sickness and using that money to buy myself implants.


Okay sorry I asked. If there was one thing you could look back on during development and say “that was really cool” – what was it and why?

Edmund: SMB has a really improvised design structure, we try not to stick with any design doc and just make it up as we go, so far that's giving the game a lot of character in my opinion and a lot of those improvised ideas that we have added have been "really cool" like Boss's, Warp zones and the replay system.

Tommy: I would look back on the game and go "That's really cool" because it really was.


Was this the first time you tried to “just wing it”? What made you decide to do it this way?

Edmund: Honestly almost all the games I’ve worked on in the past year were mostly improvised as we developed the game. I think most designers will find their best work tends to be the ones they were most open with when starting development. We can let the mainstream stick to rigid design docs, once you block out the basis of what you’d like to make, its best to play around with the game as it develops and find out what fun is to be found within each new addition to the game, in a way its rapid prototyping as we develop.

A good example of this was the 1st boss of SMB, its actually something we are still working on because it doesn't feel perfect yet, but the only design we had to go off was that I wanted dr fetusto set fire to the forest. As we talked about it more we thought it would be cool to get some squirrels into the mix somehow because Tommy had already made their AI. a few days before we submitted our final build to the IGF I decided to go with this walking chainsaw machine i had sketched up early on and we simply designed around those key factors.

Dr Fetus sets fire to the forest and gets in a walking chain saw that chases you, you explore the area and find packs of squirrels that you chase towards blade mech, clogging ups its gears and eventually blowing it up. This all came together in game in about 3 days, we never really planned it all out till then.


How long has Super Meat Boy been in development? How much development time remains?

Tommy: Super Meat Boy has been in development for about 1 year now, we still have a few more months left.


What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

Tommy: I use C++ and Direct X, and I wrote a Flash Exporter so Edmund can export his animations on his OWN TIME AND NOT GET INTO MY PERSONAL TIME.

Edmund: Tommy


What's the main thing you think makes your game fun?

Tommy: Me and Ed.

Edmund: Aside from the obvious response (Me), we have put a lot of thought into making Super Meat Boy fun and what makes games fun in general. A lot of this has to do with the rewards given for tasks that actually add to the game (like unlockable expert levels, warps zones and playable characters) instead of a simple digital prize that has nothing to do with the game what so ever (like achievements).

It may appear to some that we are simply rehashing an existing platformer formula with a new skin on it, but in reality there is a lot of planning as far as how we can make a difficult game enjoyable without it becoming boring and or frustrating. There are many tricks I’ve learned from making platformers over the years that I use in SMB. I could go on and on about this for hours but basically what I’m saying is it was our person goal to make a very fun game, that's not always a focus when it comes to indie games but something we are trying our best to make our top priority.


Hours and hours huh? So I can bug you at GDC for an article on that? :)

Edmund: Once I’m not losing my mind working on this game ill for sure talk about its design more in depth. its been a very interesting experience re working a formula that was established so many years ago, especially when the new Super Mario Bros just recently came out, there’s a lot of strange things platformers still seem to hold on to that mean nothing now (lives, score, lives as reward) I tried my best to think about things as logically as i can.

I love the feeling you get when you complete something difficult, but I also hate feeling defeated and discouraged by those same games. the tricks used in SMB are simple but effective, its not something you can really appreciate till you play the game but the ADD or Warioware style of the quick pick up and play levels, the removal of instructions/story that you already know, the ability to see your goal in front of you, the extremely quick respawning coupled with the visual reward of seeing all your attempts in the level all effect the over all fun factor of the game.

I don’t want the player to be pissed off, but I still want a bit of that emotion to be there, it has to be to experience the reward for completing something difficult.

I hope you'll leave me alone at GDC now!


Didn't you see the very tiny print when you agreed to do this interview? I'm contractually obligated to bug you. So - besides the IGF, what else have you done to get your game before players? What’s worked the best?

Tommy: We had a WiiWare/DSi London event. We had a bunch of people play it at TIGJam too, that was awesome.

Edmund: When it comes to simply getting the name out to people I think our approach to marketing has done wonders for us. I decided to make a comic book as an ad for the game to give out at the London event Tommy mentioned above, we also sent these comics out to magazines and websites as a press pack. We basically approached advertising in an indie way, we tried our best to innovate the ideas behind getting press and making a comic book that not only showed the humor, theme and characters from the game but also gave the reader solid info on it i think was a very good way of getting the name in front of people.

The response to the comics was extremely positive and we were able to make back the money we invested on the comic in the 1st month just by selling 50 signed comics off our twitter and newgrounds.com.


Is there anything about Super Meat Boy that you would like to reveal to other developers?

Tommy: No.


Surely it’s more awesome than that. Or are they trade secrets?

Edmund: I got a trade secret. If you go to Staples and buy an office chair, if you buy the replacement plan (16.99) and take the chair home wait 3 days and contact Staples online telling them your chair is defective, they will ask you to recycle the chair yourself and send you a store credit for the chair, then you can go buy another one so Tommy doesn't have to sit on the floor.


How did you feel about the judge’s feedback for your game?

Tommy: The judges seemed to really love the game.

Edmund: Yeah the judges response was really good, on this that I found interesting was the fact that SMB scores the highest in audio, and another game I submitted (Spewer) scored lowest for audio..this was strange to me because the audio was not only identical in terms of quality and innovation but also done by the exact same people.. but maybe it was the sound of a little cute animal puking that turned people off.


That’s an interesting look at how context can affect people, no?

Edmund: I think its more the judges personal preference, i was also informed that Spewer was simply just a run of the mill web game that's been done a million times. Everyone has their own opinions, I don't think this is a problem that can be fixed. But i really love the way the IGF dealt with the Nouvo award judging, I'd love to see more of that in future IGFs.


I won’t name names but some guy with the initials Andy Schatz was found on some website saying, and I quote, “… if that stupid Super Meat Boy wins. I hate that game and the developers are smelly and unattractive.” What is your official response to this?

Edmund: I heard Andy Schatz is famous for making burritos. For those of you who don't know this, making burritos is a popular pervert activity where said pervert eats a lot of beans, inserts his ***** into his own **** and farts on it till he reaches climax. Andy does this, Andy is a pervert.


What’s next for you?

Tommy/Edmund: Finishing Super Meat Boy





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