How To Create an Instant Freeware Classic: Interview with Ryan Melmoth

Interviewing Ryan Melmoth, the creator of the game Mibibli's Quest, an artsy but hardcore retro platformer, that was made in 2.5 years.

Some context: This post is originally posted on my blog. I'm Talha Kaya. Together with Tarık Kaya we formed Kayabros. We make games, and are currently known for Into the Box and Sleepy Time. What I'm Playing is the series in which I write about cool games. This time I interviewed Ryan Melmoth, the genius behind Mibibli's Quest, to ask all the questions on my mind.

If you haven't played Mibibli's Quest, stop reading this right now and go play it. It's completely free on You won't regret it. I'm saying this at the very beginning of the post, because if you die while reading this post, you will regret that you died before playing Mibibli's Quest, and instead just read about it. I hope you don't die, but we can't deny statistics.

Now that we've got that out of our way, let me tell you that this is a VERY SPECIAL episode, because of two reasons.

1) Mibibli's Quest is an instant freeware game classic. It's that good.
2) I interviewed the maker of the game, Ryan Melmoth, which you can read below.

Mibibli's Quest is a Megaman-like retro platformer, in which we play as Mibibli and do crazy stuff. It's very hardcore, meaning that it's not a very forgiving experience like most of the games we play these days. And if you're like me, that makes it even a better experience. The tension of "I'm running out of lives" is very rewarding when you beat a level.


It features a quirky story with a lot of twists and very interesting, funny characters. The theme of the game is more than funny though. The game will surprise you with very expressive and artistic scenes. For example, there is a city full of unhappy people in the game that you can talk to, to learn what they are thinking. I enjoyed this kind of personal/artistic touches. They reminded me of Space Funeral, another very expressive game. I feel like going on "the full expressive road" is also what I want to do with my games, so I have a lot of lessons to get from Mibibli's Quest.

The game features a lot of enemy types, weapon types, and things that kill things overall. There are a lot of unique challenges. You can see some of them through the GIF's on this post.

Look at those effects. Those shiny retro explosions. Those transitions. This is beauty. This is Mibibli.


Although Mibibli's Quest hasn't reached millions (yet), it was appreciated by a lot of successful game designers and game journalists as a very special game. The sheer amount of love put into this game makes my tummy feel funny with awkward pleasure. Even though it's not a hugely popular game at this point, it's definitely a game for game developers. Ryan Melmoth is a game developer for game developers, meaning that he is appreciated in game developer environments causing great awe and inspiration, but is not getting the same reaction from modern gamers as of now. This is sad to some extent, but it's also something to be proud of. If Ryan Melmoth continues to work like this (which he does) he'll be a name that's constantly referenced and talked about among other game developers. These kind of people (developers of developers) tend to go hugely successful at some point of their career, some past examples being cactus and Edmund Mcmillen.

So without further to do, I'm going to let you enjoy the interview.


Talha: First of all, congratulations because you've completed and released a huge project, Mibibli's Quest, in 2.5 years (correct me if I'm wrong), that also happens to be one of my favorite games. Can you describe how much time you spent on different things like level design, coding, and drawing compared to each other?

Ryan: Thanks! Level design was the biggest time sink, I didn't have the foresight to know the way I was designing the game meant I'd have to spend a LOT of time making adjustments and testing and re-testing because the tiniest differences would considerably change the difficulty of a room, and everything had to be just right because you generally can't skip things or spend resources to make parts easier. I don't know how well I succeeded in good level design, but I put a lot of effort into it. So level design was most of the time probably, coding was also quite a bit of time, and I spent very little time drawing. Looking back I wish maybe I spent more time on the art, maybe it would have attracted more people. Music didn't take too long for me either and was the most fun and effortless part, sound effects were really quick too.


Talha: Mibibli feels like a game that's improvised from the start of the development to finish. Is that true? How much of the game did you plan when starting the project?

Ryan: Yeah, that's definitely true. When starting the project, it was part of an experiment for myself to see if I could make an unpolished game the length of an NES megaman game in only a week while just improvising everything. I was able to make 5 of the levels that are now in the game, plus the levels' 5 bosses and some powerups. I ended up expanding on or changing some of that but it's mostly the same as back then. So I planned none of the game when starting, except for the basic idea that it would be like Megaman. As the game got bigger later, and I was taking it more seriously, I definitely did plan a lot more. Not in a super structured way, but I had ideas that I knew I wanted for a long time before I actually made them, like the ending.


Talha: How important do you think the theme / story in the game for you? There were some very interesting characters and scenes in the game that were both funny and telling deeper things that one would be expecting playing a hardcore platformer.

Ryan: It was a lot more important than I expected it to be. Going in it wasn't something I gave any thought to, now that the game is done it's the creative and unique bits and deeper bits that still resonate with me (though they also make me feel insecure sometimes). In my future work I'm really interested in having a huge focus on theme and story, whereas I'm pretty sick of making hardcore twitchy gameplay stuff after working on Mibibli.

Talha: Has anyone finished Mibibli on the highest difficulty? We were only able to beat it on "very easy", and it wasn't VERY EASY! What is your fascination with hard games?

Ryan: Yeah, people have finished it. First time I knew someone did was a couple days after release by reading a comment on a site. Other people have since told me they beat it. It seems like people either really struggle with the game, or they can blast through it pretty fast even on the hardest mode, depending on the person.

I love difficult games, for example I just played 1001 Spikes recently and I think it's fantastic. I really enjoy when games feel like they're leveling YOU up as the player. You go in completely sucking and then the more you play it becomes a radically different experience because you're improving and the change is all internal, that feels great to me. I think part of it too is that what's impossibly hard for others in platformers and retro games might be fairly easy for me because I've been into those games since a little kid, and for other genres I don't really play, like FPS's or RTS's, my "hard" would be someone else's "easy".


Talha: I've never played Megaman games before, but I've watched some speedruns lately. As I understand it, Megaman is the biggest inspiration for Mibibli's Quest. Is that true and is it safe to assume that you're a huge NES fan who played Megaman games through all his childhood? How was your relationship with gaming when you were a child?

Ryan: Yeah, HUGE inspiration. When I was a young kid when we had just an NES, Megaman games were probably my favourite (I remember really loving StarTropics also). I played a LOT of games growing up, that was basically my entire life outside of school and other mandatory activities. I also spent a lot of time with level editors for the games that came with them.

Talha: How much do you play games these days? Do you play them for inspiration-game analysis practice or just to have fun during development breaks? What are you playing these days?

Ryan: Sometimes I'll play a lot, sometimes barely at all for weeks. I never go into a game planning to analyze it, but if it turns out to be exceptional in some way then I certainly will later. Games that stand out that I've played recently are 1001 Spikes and The Swapper. I play a lot of various small, free games from indie devs, which is great for finding bizarre and weird and inspiring games. I play Binding of Isaac when I feel stressed and it relaxes me, I put way too many hours into that game. Spelunky is a game I'm really into and has significantly changed the way I think of games and how I design them (though I haven't actually played it in a while).


Talha: Do you have basic game design/game mechanic principles that doesn't change much from project to project? Things that you believe that make your games distinct from other people's games?

Ryan: I believe that will be true in the future. I don't want to make more games like Mibibli's Quest, it was painful to make and the game wasn't even very "successful" anyway. But there are a lot of design principles I think about over and over now, some of which I learned because of doing things the wrong way in Mibibli, that I feel is going to be present in a lot of my future work and might connect my games together and be a part of my flavour as a creator.

Talha: Somebody on twitter defined Mibibli's Quest as "Megaman + Space Funeral". Space Funeral is the favorite game of Jonatan "cactus" Södestrom. Have you heard of it and was it an inspiration?

Ryan: I fell in love with Space Funeral right when I first played it. Originally NPC's weren't a part of Mibibli, but because of Space Funeral I figured that I could just add a bunch of strange NPC's and dialogue and it would give the game way more personality than the generic platformer it was becoming.


Talha: How do you stay sane through long development cycles?

Ryan: I don't!

Talha: How many hours do you work per day? Do you have a regular work day plan?

Ryan: It really fluctuates, from nothing to all day. Most days I don't do much, unfortunately. I don't have a work plan, I've tried planning my time many times before but it just makes me resent working and I get burned out. And forcing is awful for creativity.

Talha: Do you have a method for creating color pallettes to use in your games? How do you pick a color? In Mibibli, we have seen some radical colors.

Ryan: I don't have a conscious method. It's just doing it, and having some practice or sense of how things go... or something. I was really inspired by NES games that have bizarre "nonsense" colours and I really love that look. It's something that's unique to retro or retro-aesthetic games that doesn't exist in games with better graphics, and it gives a lot of flavour and personality that "normal" colours won't have.

Talha: Would you like to explain the inspiration behind one of your other games, Mond Cards? What made it so that you'd find enough inspiration to make a game about a psycho man who likes card games that he makes up and his psychedelicly weird pets?

Ryan: I was inspired by scenes in movies and shows where the hero and villain play cards against each other, and a couple specific examples of that where there was a really nonsensical twist at the end. The rest is I guess just what happens when I need to use my imagination to fill in the rest.


Talha: I know you've been working on a new big project, that has some rogue-like elements. Do you want to give any details? How is the project going so far?

Ryan: I don't know, everything seems to be changing a lot in my head and I haven't put a lot down on the computer yet. I'm not sure if it even is one project or I'm working through more general stuff that I'll base a ton of future projects off of. I'm kind of lost right now, even though I do have some unchanging general ideas of what I feel I have to make.

Talha: Have you ever collabrated with some other people on games? What do you think about working together with other people in the future?

Ryan: Never have done a game collaboration before. I generally don't work well with others and I like doing everything myself, I think any collaboration I'd do would have to be with other people who make whole games themselves and we'd make separate but connected parts.

Talha: Game development requires a big commitment, and it's a hard thing to do overall. What is it with games that make you want to develop them so much?

Ryan: I feel I need to make a living doing something creative or else I won't be happy, and games seems to make the most sense for me. I think I'd develop games regardless though because they've been such a giant part of my life and they're a great way to express myself creatively.

Talha: Wanna play a game? I'll give you three words and you'll come up with a game idea. The words are: Sea, running, carrot.

Ryan: A running sea carrot?


Well that last question wasn't a great idea I guess! So this concludes our interview. Thanks to Ryan for all the answers and thanks to you for reading!

You can follow Ryan at @RyanMelmoth, check out his games at, and send your love (money) to him at his



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