You thought playing Super Meat Boy was hard? Because making the notoriously difficult indie platformer sounds like pure hell, according to a Super Meat Boy post mortem that lays out what went right (fun design environment, Steam) and what went wrong (financial drain, Xbox Live Arcade).
Team Meat's Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes recount the ups and downs of making Super Meat Boy in the new issue of Game Developer Magazine.
In it, they tell terrible tales of bank accounts being drained—"There was one point where I had emergency gallbladder surgery that put me in the hole $US50k due to the fact that I couldn't afford health insurance," McMillen writes—to an endless, vicious cycle of bugs, testing and development crunch hell—"We were basically developing features during bug checking, which meant every single time I turned on the computer and checked the bug database, the work I did the night before was pretty much rendered irrelevant. I would work and fix 100 bugs in a night and get it down to 50, then wake up the next morning and have 200 bugs to fix."
Part of that crunch, Team Meat writes, was due to trying to squeeze the last four months of development into two in order to make Microsoft's "Game Feast" promotion for Xbox Live Arcade.
After scrambling to get the game out for the fall push, "We were told our price was too high, our visuals too rough and simply not as eye catching and flashy as the other Game Feast games Comic Jumper and Hydrophobia," McMillen writes. "Our hearts sank when we were informed that we were projected to sell as much if not less than Hydrophobia, which would be the second-highest grossing game of the Feast in their minds." The game launched alongside Costume Quest and without strong support from Microsoft.
Fortunately for Super Meat Boy, that wasn't the case, as the game was a word of mouth hit.
Team Meat says they never felt that Microsoft gave Super Meat Boy the attention it was promised and "in the end, we felt very confused and taken advantage of." McMillen concludes"the biggest mistake we made during SMB's development was killing ourselves to get into a promotion we would gain basically nothing from."