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Road to the IGF: Team Meat's Super Meat Boy

In the latest Road to the IGF interview with IGF finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, co-developers of multiple award-nominated 2D platformer Super Meat Boy.

January 21, 2010

4 Min Read

Author: by Kris Graft, Chris Remo

[In the latest Road to the IGF interview with 2010 Independent Games Festival finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, co-developers of multiple award-nominated 2D platformer Super Meat Boy.] Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes are old hands when it comes to making independent games, with years of experience across numerous games. Now, the two have teamed up to create upcoming WiiWare and Windows title Super Meat Boy, a followup to the original Flash-based platformer Meat Boy co-created by McMillen. Then they teamed up to answer some questions in our ongoing series of interviews with finalists in the Independent Games Festival, where the duo -- christened Team Meat -- was nominated for two awards, Excellence in Audio and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. In this interview, McMillen and Refenes borderline incoherently discuss their development history, their relationship as a team, and their thoughts on the indie scene. What is your background in making games? Edmund McMillen: I've been making indie games exclusively for the past six years. My first published title, Gish, came out in 2004. Since then I've been doing mostly personal projects in Flash, like Coil, Aether, Spewer and Time Fcuk. Tommy Refenes: I was an engine programmer at a studio that just recently went bankrupt. I left that studio in 2006 and started a game called Goo! with my friend Aubrey Hesselgren. It was an IGF Finalist in 2008 for Technical Excellence, but those mean-spirited guys at 2D Boy stole it. Then they beat me up and stole my wallet! I HAD JUST OVER 15 MILLION DOLLARS IN THAT WALLET!!!!! What development tools did you use? TR: Visual Studio. I wrote a Flash exporter for Edmund so he can take his Flash doodles and codify them for my engine. These are all technical terms. I don't expect all the readers to understand. EM: I used Flash for the art, and Tommy for his body. TR: I've known what this was from the start. How long has your team been working on the game? TR: I think we officially started Super Meat Boy when Goo! didn't get in for the 2009 IGF, so just about a year. That's when we got our Wii kit and I started coding. How did you come up with the concept for the game? Why meat? Did you think of any other solids? EM: Meat Boy started out as a Flash prototype i did with Jon McEntee in late 2008. I designed Meat Boy around a little red cube we had in as a placeholder. It kind of looked like a little cube of meat. I always thought it was cool to have a character that left a trail so you could see where you had been, so meat was perfect. Also, we choose meat because we aren't communists. This is a cross-platform game made by two guys. What challenges did that present? TR: Oh, the main challenge is maintaining my extremely torrid, sexually-pleasing relationship with my very hot, young, sma... Uggh... I can't even finish that sentence without crying. I have no life, so I wrote this engine to be easily portable to other platforms, so the actual porting and maintenance process of X number of platforms has not been too difficult. It is kind of a pain to juggle all the tasks that are associated with keeping X code bases up to date, but I'm in the swing of it. Do you feel like you're trying to answer pent-up demand for hardcore, difficult twitch games? EM: No. I think we are just trying to remake Mario Bros. Super Meat Boy is basically what the original Mario would have been if we designed it. If you could start the project over again, is there anything you would do differently? EM: Somehow have gotten health insurance. TR: Somehow have gotten Ed health insurance. Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you particularly enjoyed? EM: Hell yes! Enviro-Bear 2000, Star Guard, Today I Die, Closure, and Tuning are all amazing games that I enjoyed very much. TR: All the ones Ed said. I will not play anything by Andy Schatz! What do you think of the current state of the indie scene? TR: Yes. EM: No offense, and I know indies, I like indies. I've been to GDC. With that being said, you are a writer. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way. [Previous 'Road To The IGF' interview subjects have included Enviro-Bear 2000 developer Justin Smith, Rocketbirds: Revolution's co-creators Sian Yue Tan and Teck Lee Tan, and Vessel co-creator John Krajewski.]

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