Super Meat Boy has taken the gaming world by storm, and many fans are curious about the faces behind the game. Meat Boy’s creators, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, recently chatted with Brutal Gamer about Nintendo, college, and of course, meat.
BG: Super Meat Boy has a rather..unique storyline. What was your inspiration (other than lunch, that is)?
Edmund (E): I’d say the inspiration is old school, mysterious, seemingly random storylines like Mario. I mean, the plot to Mario originally just threw you away and you were a plumber in this mysterious land, trying to save this princess from this turtle dinosaur thing. And you eat mushrooms to get bigger, and you pick up flowers to shoot fire, and there’s a bunch of mushrooms everywhere in the game that are good and evil. And it seems that that’s something that everybody doesn’t question anymore, it’s just that’s what Mario is. But that’s basically what we’re going with with Super Meat Boy-something that’s newly absurd.
BG: The game so far is getting really great reviews. Did you expect it to be such a huge success right off the bat?
Tommy (T): We didn’t really expect the reviews to be as good. We believed in the game, obviously, but we honestly expected to have a rating of about..8.5 to 8.8.
E: I thought reasonably 8.5 was what we were going to top out at. I was hoping for 8.7, 8.8.
T: We didn’t expect we’d be hitting 9’s.
What can you guys tell us about the upcoming chapters, and when will they be released?
E: We’re going to release one with the title update, which will be as soon as we can get it up there. We didn’t realize we’d actually have to go through other approval process once we finished the title update. Microsoft has to go through it, approve it, make sure everything’s good. Then that goes up….Then there’s another one shortly after that that will go up. That one is the “Sewers of Dross”, which will be a Gish exclusive chapter which is custom built for Gish specifically. You actually have to use his abilities to get through the entire chapter which will be completely unique, because there’s no levels that actually cater just specifically to him in the game. shortly after that, around Christmas time, we will release a remixed version of the prototype in Super Meat Boy. Those are our 3 releases for this year. That’d be 4 total, so it’ll bump it up to around 400 levels in the game by the end of the year. For free.
BG: You surprised a lot of people by offering a launch sale at 33% off the regular price. What inspired you to do this, and do you think that other developers will follow suit?
E: It was basically a conversation we were having with Microsoft where, usually during the holiday season they will do sales. There was already talk about including Meat Boy in the sale for Christmas, and it seemed like a shitty thing to do to fans who had bought the game. The first people who bought the game would be ones who have been following us from the beginning, and we thought that it would be better if we could somehow give them the discount right away. This wasn’t something that Microsoft had ever done. So it took a little convincing, and they took the risk and we took the risk to see how it would do. We’re not really in this to make shitloads of money. We’re in this to try to push boundaries and to question why are we doing things. Being independent we have the ability to take big risks, and this is just one of many risks that we took to see how it would work. We couldn’t tell you how it’s working yet, but it seems like a more responsible and respectful thing to do for fans.
BG: Do you have any interesting projects in the works to follow Super Meat Boy, or are you just relaxing and enjoying your success right now?
E: We’ve got 3 more platforms to launch on so we’re working on all those, and we’ll be working on Meat Boy for those platforms for the next 3 months, probably. So it’s not over yet. I mean, the hard part is over. The game is essentially done, we just have to customize it for each system. But there still a bit of a road ahead of us, so that’s kind of all we’re really doing right now and thinking about.
BG: In honour of Super Meat Boy’s upcoming WiiWare release in November, what is your favorite Nintendo game of all time? Just one.
T: I’m going to have to say Mega Man 2.
E: I’d have to go with Legend of Zelda, cause I think it’s the greatest game of all time.
Super Meat Boy is a bit different from the usual Nintendo fare. Were you shocked when they requested a Meat Boy game for WiiWare?
E: No, I think that’s a big misconception about Nintendo. They actually have made some of the most violent video games ever. I mean, their more recent games would be like, they put out Manhunt. They put out Resident Evil 4. They put out Madworld. These were all like, notoriously violent, over-the top games. Eternal Darkness, every once in a while they’ll throw out something that’s very mature, and our game’s not even mature. I mean, we’ve got a teen rating so it’ll fly easily with them.
BG: As an independent developer yourself, what kind of advice can you offer for aspiring game developers?
E: I’ve got great advice. As long as you stay as honest as you possibly can, and realize that you’re not as good as you think you are, and that you have a lot of learning to do, and just throw yourself into your work and don’t worry about money, I believe you will be a success. It’s hard to do that, but I think once you stop worrying about money and….just start trying to push yourself as much as you can and think of it more as a learning experience and not so much as a“I’m going to do this game and it’s going to be it” or whatever else. Just keep pushing yourself. Be as honest as you can, and accept that you’ll get better in time, and you’ll be fine. It’s just persistence and drive, dedication and honesty. You’d be surprised how far that actually goes.
T: If you want to be a programmer, do not go to college.
E: I’ll second that and say if you want to be a game designer and or artist, don’t go to college. You will get 4 years on everybody else if you just do it yourself. This only works if you are a driven person who passionately loves what you’re doing, and would do it regardless. But if you’re going to college, and doing what you’re told, you’re already going against the grain as far as when it comes to independence in general. You’ll have a huge head start on everybody else if you come out of high school making independent games or making independent art and pushing your own boundaries and making your own rules. As long as you really push yourself and love what you’re doing, you’ll do much, much better in much less amount of time. And it will also cost a lot less too.
T: You can’t teach critical thinking.
E: Yeah, and creativity. Those things aren’t teachable. You have to experience them for yourself, and you have to learn them hands-on.
BG: And finally, my last question is a difficult one. What *kind* of meat is Super Meat Boy?
E: (laughing) Meat Boy, should not be thought of as a meat that you would eat or a type of meat, but more as a character that has no skin or is very vulnerable. He has nothing to protect him from the elements except his lady love, who happens to be made of bandages. So that’s what Meat Boy should be thought of as–a very vulnerable hero, and not as something you’re going to cook on the grill and make a burger out of. But I do understand the need to want to know what meat he is, but he is Meat Boy and that is the type of meat he is. He is Meat Boy meat.
T: I like that answer.
Edmund and Tommy, the men behind Super Meat Boy, are interesting characters who were very fun to chat with. You can check out the full interview in an upcoming Brutal Gamer podcast.