Tue 1st Mar 2011, by | Gdc2011
Here's some sage advice from a team that has been through the grinder!
Anyone even remotely thinking about making a game has to take advice from the Team Meat guys and learn from their hard earned experiences while developing their indie hit, Super Meat Boy. It’s kind of a sad story but it can definitely serve to aspiring game developers, not as a warning to 'stay far away', but as a clear message saying, "be sure to count the cost." Super meat Boy game programmer Tommy Refenes opened up the SMB 'post-mortem' session and then brought in game designer Edmund McMillen via Skype.
Super Meat Boy (which was a big hit at last year’s GDC) originally started as an online flash game on NewGrounds. As Meat Boy began gaining incredible popularity, both Edmund and Tommy contacted Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to see about bringing the game to consoles. Although Ed could never get a hold of Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime, he did post up a video on YouTube talking about his and Tommy’s project which got the attention of Nintendo for a possible release on the Wii through WiiWare. Unfortunately, neither one of them could afford the $3,000 cost of a Nintendo game development kit at the time to make this happen.
Eventually they got a hold of Microsoft and struck a deal to release the game on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Originally they planned on making it identical to the online flash game but as they continued work on the game, they began to fall more and more in love with the project and decided to flesh it out to the extreme. "It seemed like a shame not to go 'all out' for it" says Tommy. As any Meat Boy fan can tell you, the game did indeed have a month of exclusivity on Xbox LIVE Arcade before also being released on PC through Steam. However, these guys could not over emphasize the amount of stress and pressure involved. The whole reason why Ed isn’t even here is because he blames pressures of the IGF for sleepless nights and fits of anxiety.
Tommy also shares stories such as not eating, only getting a few hours of sleep per night, two solid months of no days off and no free time and having fever nightmares of the sheer insane amount of work that was involved. When attending last year’s IGF Awards, they shared “We didn't need to hear how people would not vote for our game for stupid little things.” In fact, when the game went into bug testing, all of the responsibility fell on Tommy because he was basically the only programmer on the game. At this point Ed felt guilty and wanted to just say "The hell with it, it's not worth it. I don't want to do it anymore."
As if the story wasn’t sad enough already, towards the launch they received very little support from Microsoft to popularize the game even further. Later they also ran into a roadblock with Nintendo; a size restriction is keeping Super Meat Boy from being a reality on WiiWare. Regardless, there is a silver lining to this story. The game sold great because of it's own Metacritic review scores. Tommy also comments, "When we see someone playing our game and they're not putting it down, it makes all the sadness go away." Edmund also brings a positive twist on the story, "We released on Steam and it did better than Xbox" which is, of course, a big nod to Valve! In closing, Edmund shared even more sunshine in this gloomy tale by giving us a glimpse of the retail packaging of Super Meat Boy which will be released for PC and, "will be available at “Wal-Mart". I’m not trying to be cute, those are Edmund’s exact words!