If you haven’t heard the praise of the game “Super Meat Boy” then you’ve been living under a rock. The award winning, tough as nails, platforming, 8-bit adventure took the indie scene by storm and now one year later still enamours fans to this day. New Gamer Nation had the privledge to sit down with Team Meat Co-Founder Edmund McMillen to talk a little but about Super Meat Boy and the future of the franchise. The written transcript is below or you can listen to the interview using the toolbar below.
Note the responses below have been edited from their original version, for the uncut version listen to the interview
NGN: What do you think has made “Super Meat Boy” so popular, one year later after its release?
EM: I think what made it so popular was a combination of a lot of different things. I think one of the main things is that a lot of the core audience were basically people that grew up around the same time as me and Tommy. We are basically making the game that we wanted when we were young and I think a lot of people share that idea of what a perfect, really hard platformer would be. I think that just jived with a lot of people around our age or people that have gone through the hay day of video games and just wanted that, wanted what was missing from games now in the mainstream. I’d like to think the other main reason is because it is pretty fun. I think people really want a challenge and they are probably tired of being talked down to by the majority of games out there when it comes to difficulty and they appreciate the challenge.
NGN: What are your personal feelings on the difficulty of video games today considering the level of difficulty implemented in Super Meat Boy?
EM: I think challenge is very important in games because if the game is not challenging it doesn’t really feel like you are doing anything and I guess you can get away without a lot with a majority of people. I think people just want a movie experience with video games and those kinds of people don’t really want anything difficult they don’t want anything to hamper their start to finish, that’s what they want basically. I say most mainstream games are all beatable and they purposefully do that because it’s a marketing thing. Business-wise you want everybody to experience everything you put into the game because then they might not be happy with it when they don’t finish it. Then the next game you put out they will say “Well I couldn’t beat the last game so I didn’t see the ending so there is no point”. It a very story driven video games for that specific majority but that’s not what video games are. They are really not movies and a lot of people in the industry use them as movies to tell a story but when you boil it down to the core gameplay wise it’s important to have a challenge or something feels empty. You don’t run a marathon or climb a mountain or enter a competition because it’s easy and you are always going to win. You do it because it’s challenging and then if you win you feel really rewarded by doing it. I think that is missing from a lot of games, it is coming back for sure you will notice there are a lot of difficult games. It’s pretty funny now that games that are titled “The Most Difficult Game of the Year” are considered really good games that a lot of people want to play. That is a new thing that that you want to have on your box. “Hardest game of whatever” that is an actual positive at this point now because there is a large number of people that want that challenge and that is not something you would see as a positive back in the NES era because games were already really fucking hard. There is a difference between something being challenging and something frustrating. I think sometimes even with new games that are trying to be challenging, they miss the mark a bit and end up making something that is more or less frustrating than challenging. It is hard to walk that line and that was the kind of goal with Meat Boy. That goal was to make something difficult but not that frustrating. We tried our best to make sure it wasn’t frustrating.
NGN: Did you feel that Super Meat Boy filled a void, at its time of release that other games were lacking in terms of filling a hidden market?
EM: Yeah I think it did. I think it was just a culmination of people growing up in the NES era wanting that challenge that was missing for the past 10 years from games. So I think it was going to happen regardless, its leading back into that. I think most designers will agree that challenge is very important in any game.
NGN: What special events do you have planned to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Super Meat Boy?
EM: The biggest one is the sale that we are going to be doing on Xbox. We are going to be doing a steam sale as well, which will be pretty big, but the Xbox one took a while and took some talking in order to get it done. We started out with Halloween contests, we had a bunch of those, and then we just started the “draw us nude and win a table that made Meat Boy” contest which has a lot of really cool entries. We just put up a record breaking Meat Boy run; it was like 19 minutes to complete the whole game. We will probably do a Reddit ask us anything. We have two sales that are big and have a bunch of extras to the game. We did a developer commentary video that is going to be going up and a few other little things. That is basically what we have planned and probably a little contest to give some stuff away and then that’s basically it.
NGN: Now that the game has been on the market for a year, is there anything that you would change about it looking back in retrospect? For example, have any fans requested features that you thought would have been a good idea when you released it?
EM: Yeah, there were some aspects to the game that were cut due to time constraints to finish the Xbox version. Things that were originally planned were bosses in the Dark World and little features like racing against ghosts and things like that. That stuff got cut but I don’t know if it would have added that much to the game. It might have added a very slight amount but I would have liked to been able to spend more time on the bosses and make them better because I think that is where the game could have been improved. It is one of those things were we both talked about it after we did the Xbox version where we asked ourselves if we should add those things to the PC version. After you work on a game that much and go through that much, it was grueling finishing process, you are so over it and it was like the editor that we wanted to release a month after the game came out on PC took us 6 months because we were just so over it. It was hard to work on a game that you finished already and you just want to be done with. Those are definitely things that I would have liked to add but other than that I think we did a pretty good job. If the editor never came out I would have said the editor in Super Meat World but we added those. For the update we are going to be unlocking all those for everybody so you don’t have to. Only 25% of people who own the game actually play Super Meat World because it is locked. We are going to unlock it for the anniversary so everyone can play it because there are thousands and thousands of really, really well made levels in it and it’s all automated. A lot of time was spent on it so we want everyone actually experiencing the work we put in. We put an extra 6 months of work into something only 25% of people saw. For me looking back, our games only take a few months to finish because they are small but with Meat Boy it was a 2 year period. I really thought that I would look back and say that I really wish that would look better and I do wish the graphics looked better. Little stuff like that, I am still happy with everything else and I wouldn’t change anything about the game’s levels and flow and story or anything like that. It is kind of surprising because even with Isaac right now it’s hard for me to look at it because there is stuff I want to improve but with Meat Boy I think we got the job done and there is not much I would do to it.
NGN: Why do you feel like 8-bit style graphics appeals so much to gamers in a world of modern realistic graphics?
EM: I think there are a few reasons why. There is obviously the nostalgic factor for sure for older gamers. I think a lot of people default on that but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal. Seeing an 8-bit video game speaks to the majority as this is a video game and I know what to expect from it, like this is a more traditional video game. Games now are in 3D a majority of the time. Right now when I see a game with a lot of 3D in it, I expect that there is a very in depth story and that is probably what drives the game. With a 2D game, story usually doesn’t matter and it’s usually gameplay focused. If a game is 2D and it’s fun then the gameplay is usually the reason why. I think people normally associate 2D graphics with video games. When you see a 2D sprite you think of Mario or a classic game and I think that is a video game for most people. I also think that it is becoming more diversified and mainstream and soon people won’t associate themselves as gamers because everyone plays video games. Now you have hardcore gamers that are into all types of gaming but everyone plays video games in some form or another now. I think 2D graphics just connect with people now and it has a certain appeal that makes people want to get that game and they know the kind of experience they are going to get. Games are also a lot easier to make in 2D and you don’t need a shitload of people.
NGN: Now that it’s been a year since its initial debut, where do you see the future of Super Meat Boy going?
EM: I don’t want to make a sequel. Mostly because of what I said before and because if I can’t find a way to improve it now or think “I wish I added that before” then there is nothng in my mind that’s untapped for Meat Boy. So I never want to make a sequel because it will just be less than the first one and it would end up cheapening the first game. Unless you got a genius idea that changes everything for the sequel than there is no point to doing it and it just waters down the first game. I think you can go through a lot of video games and see that where developers will juice an IP for whatever reason. It just cheapens the experience of the initial games unless you got a new idea like how the Zelda games typically improve greatly between sequels. We have been talking about doing an iPad version of Super Meat Boy but we aren’t sure about doing it because we don’t like the controls for a touch screen and especially for a twitch platformer. I never played a 2D platformer on an iPad that had good controls. It was always frustrating and I hate those touch controls. We did talk about doing the iPad verison for a really long time and we were trying to look at it from a new perspective and see how we could possibly remake Super Meat Boy in a way that would work on a touch pad. We did have a couple ideas that we may prototype soon and see if it works but if it doesn’t work we won’t do it at all but if they work then we’ll put it out. That might be the only future for Meat Boy that I know of or can think of now for the next 5 to 10 years. This isn’t something we are going to work on next and we’ve closed the book on Meat Boy about 6 months ago. We just want to keep this as, what we hope will be, a classic game down the line. We definitely don’t want to ruin the memories people had of what they once played.
NGN: What are you planning on doing with your 3DS developer status?
EM: We talked about it but it’s sad to say it has become scary to develop for Nintendo consoles. It’s a horrible thing and I’ve been having major conflicting feelings about it. My Wii died a while back and I never bought a new one becuase there was no point. Now that Skyward Sword is coming out and I’ve been hearing really positive things about it but yet I don’t have a Wii and I don’t think I will buy one. That is weird to me because I grew up being a huge Nintendo fan boy and I bought the Wii. I had all the faith in the world with the controls and the system but I soon lost a lot of faith in Nintendo over time. It just seems like they are boiling down the same kind of ideas and not giving the fans what they want. I feel like they don’t make games for me anymore and it’s kind of sad. That is just from a gamers standpoint. From a developer’s standpoint I would love to develop for one of thier systems but Team Meat will never develop a title exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS because it is too risky. It is scary to develop something for a system that has had so many problems starting up. The console doesn’t appear to be incredibly lucrative. As an Indie, even where we are now, it doesn’t make sense to develop for one system. With the 3DS there are a lot of things that are unique to it, as it is with the new system too. Team Meat will only make games that are cross platform and games that can be played on the PC as well. Touch screen controls or wiggly remote controls and that kind of stuff is never going to be what we do because we want to do a universal type system or a more traditional type video game. Some aspects of the new system worry me and scare me with Nintendo as a developer. We haven’t talked a lot about doing a game for the 3DS and that is how it stands. Hopefully in time more stuff comes out and we feel more comfortable developing for the system. Could we do a game for the 3DS for our next game? I don’t know because it is just not something we talk about anymore and the system itself is not talked about that much anymore. Our focus is PC and that is our number one priority and if what we do can be done on other systems then we’ll totally do it. I don’t know if we’ll ever put the 3DS as a top priority system to develop for. We will have the ability to do it once we get our kits and we might but it also depends on Tommy and I am sure he would say if the 3DS was fun to program and develop for he would be way more into it.
NGN: You mentioned back in June that you were working on a new title, what can you tell us about the status on that project?
EM: We were bounching around ideas and there were two games that we thinking about doing for the past couple of months. Last month we decided which game, of the two we were going to make. We wanted to start working on a smaller project first but I ended up doing The Binding of Isaac which was a small project. Tommy saw the development and said that he didn’t want to start working on something and release it a few months later. He wants to put a lot of time into one game and enjoy that experience. From there we decided that the larger project was the project we both wanted to work on and this one will take quite a few years. Tommy is reworking the engine and the exporter so we can do vector exports. With Meat Boy we had resolution issues where things would look a little blurry during cut scenes or when you zoom really close in the game. Those issues will be completely gone in the next game and you will be able to scale things in dramatic ways and it will always look really crisp because it is all vector renderings. So Tommy is working on that and he is also doing some OpenGL stuff for the Mac version of Super Meat Boy. Once that is finished that will also be used in the next game so when we release the new game we can release on Mac and PC at the same time. It is mostly tech stuff but this is how it went with Meat Boy. The first 6 months of development of Meat Boy was Tommy making the engine, tweaking things, making the exporter for flash and working things out so it can be multiplatform. Originally Super Meat Boy worked on Playstation as well and we were going to do it on Playstation 3 but then Microsoft wanted exclusivity. So it did run on all platforms and that is what he is doing now just to make the release easier getting everything in place. As for me, I am just working on ideas and writing things down, sketching things up, getting basic design and structure down so when we start we can just ease into it. So right now it is just an idea and early tech phase. It will be a while and the game will probably take a couple of years to finish and it will be longer than Meat Boy.
We would like to extend our thanks to Mr. Edmund McMillen for his time for this interview. We hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for more coming soon.