Super Meat Boy PC Countdown:




No SMB 2!

Posted by Edmund on October 30th, 2010 in Super Meat Boy!

So, there have been a lot of news sites picking up on something we talked about in an interview recently,about there being no plans for a Super Meat Boy sequel, so
I'd like to attempt to address why.


Both tommy and i have talked it over many times and agree strongly that sequels tend to tarnish the original. Now there are always exceptions to this, mario for example, zelda and so on. but when you really think about it amazing games like, Tomb Raider, Mario Party, Tony Hawk and dare i say... Mega Man in a lot of ways have taken away from the original experience intended and muddied the memory of how great these games originally were.

I could go on and on about why making a sequel to Super Meat Boy isnt a good idea, but ill try to lock it into a small list.

|> '-'|>

- It's bad to over explain and over develop characters like the ones in super meat boy.
It seems like a weird thing to say, but there is more wealth in mystery then there is fully revealing and explaining things that are fictional, this is the reason why there isnt nor ever will be any back story to how meat boy or dr fetus came to be. Explaining orgins, furthering a story that has a clear ending and revealing more to the characters personality will actually ruin the experience for a lot of people, much like movies tend to ruin books.

Where did meat boy and Dr.fetus come from? what happened after the ending of the game? and whats up with the very end in the dark world?

these are all questions the player gets to answer for himself, it helps the player become invested in the story because it has an air of mystery they get to think about and add to themselves, furthering this will destroy this whole idea.

- We feel like we did it right the 1st time.
Currently there isnt anything id change at all about SMB, and if i even start to think about the idea of a sequel right away i know theres no way we could do another without doing the same stuff. We fully explored all the possibilities of the game.

- The book is left open.
The whole reason we made the internets for xbla and are making an editor and level viewer for the pc version was to be able to expand on the game without making a new game. This of course seems dumb to business minded folk because it means we arnt charging for tons of bonus content, but the majority of this content will be made by the user, and lets face it, Super Meat Boy isnt ours anymore, it's owned by the fans. it only seems right to give them the ability to control the content that goes into its expansion.

- it would mean we are just doing it for money.
If we made another SMB, its obvious that it would purely be to cash in on the success of the 1st game. Again this is probably something business minded people will call us idiots for, but we're mainly in this to make great games, and if a sequel wouldn't be great (and it wouldn't) then there's no point in making it.

|> '-'|>

Now to add some hope to this post to fans who love the characters, just because we say there wont be any sequels to super meat boy.. doesn't mean youll never see the characters again. if we come up with a new design that works with them and is awesome we would be more then happy to possibly revisit someone like Dr.Fetus in the future, but it wouldn't be a platformer.. and it for sure wont be our next game.

Hope this made sense :)

thanks again everyone for spreading the word, this week has been awesome.


Super Meat Boy tshirts are back in stock! (same shirts your avatar gets in the xbla version, BUT REAL!)
you can buy them HERE!




Whos the Boss? (get it!??!LOLZ)

Posted by Edmund on June 6th, 2010 in Super Meat Boy!

I posted the 1st images of C.H.A.D. the final boss in Ch2 "The Hospital" on our twitter the other day and i thought id make a more in depth blog post about him, and bosses in general.


So this is C.H.A.D., a giant contaminated mass of blood and tissue that simply loves Meat Boy too much to let him leave. The fight starts out how you see it in that pic, C.H.A.D. jumps around the screen splashing in and out of a lake of blood as you attempt to acquire a key which opens up the next floor. Whe you grab the key the pool of blood under you to starts to rise, and C.H.A.D. goes nuts.

There will be at least 5 bosses to take down when you play through the game.

When you start a new chapter, all 20 main levels are unlocked. The boss remains locked till you complete at least 17 of the 20 levels in that chapter, and once you defeat the boss, the next chapter is unlocked.


Originally level progression was going to be more complex, levels would come in sets of 3 and require you to beat 2 out of the 3 to unlock the next set. But after some testing we realized that locking levels really isn't needed and ends up being more frustrating when people get stuck on a level that's too hard for them at their current skill level. We also did this because 90% of everyone who's played meat boy starts from level 1 and plays through to level 20 without ever exiting to the map screen, so it just made more sense over all.

When a player starts a boss level, they are treated to a short cut scene that pulls things together, then when the boss is beaten the chapter ends with a more extended cut scene that concludes the fight and links that chapter with the next.

Heres a few shots of C.H.A.D.S. intro.


Even though im not a big fan of cut scenes, im kinda going all out on the ones in SMB. They don't ever get in the way, and can be easily skipped but one of the most important aspects of the game is the theme/humor and i felt the need to develop the stereotypically 1 dimensional characters in our small cast a bit more. Now this sounds totally retarded without having played or seen the games cut scenes but i personally think that the story (or lack there of) in SMB is compelling enough to keep the player wanting more as well as rewarding them for a job well done, so in a lot of ways the cut scenes are setup in a way to reward the player with story, and character development.

Every chapter of the game will have 4 cut scenes. One to start the chapter (video game intro parody), one to intro the Boss, one to conclude the chapter and one to start the hidden indie character warp zone of that chapter.

Tommy and i have also been talking a lot about creating mystery and "the unknown" in games. As an attempt to add these elements to SMB ive gone out of my way to add a large set of randomly chosen endings to retro warp zones, as a way to reward the player and also create an air of mystery to what other endings there are.


Ive also added a set of randomly chosen pickup animations for Dr.Fetus. The animation that plays when you complete a level usually references a popular video game attack sequence, ranging from a falcon punch to 100 hand slap (thanks for the suggestions twitter followers!).

Well back to work, we have one more day of crunch for E3, where we will be showing Super Meat Boy at the Microsoft booth. The 1st 2.5 chapters will be fully playable and feature 2 bosses, if youre there come by and say hello!




Extra credit!

Posted by Edmund on May 1st, 2010 in Super Meat Boy!

So I've decided to take a break from the endless frames of cut scene animation this week to write the 2nd installment on what im now calling "I think too much about game design, because i have no life outside it" (by Edmund McMillen).

Last week we talked about "Difficulty" something i might reference in this article so you might as well check that one out if you haven't, but this week's topic is risk/reward!


So what is risk/reward?

Risk/reward is a system established by the arcade generation that rewards the player for taking a risk that goes beyond what they are asked to do normally.

Pac-Man uses r/r perfectly in many aspects of its design, not many think about it but this is actually why the game is good.


So the first and most obvious aspect of r/r in Pacman is the blue ghost multiplier. When the player eats a power pellet the four ghosts chasing you become edible for a small amount of time and attempt to avoid you. Eating said ghosts will result in score points and with each ghost eaten after the first that score is multiplied.

The risk here of course is the fact that the ghosts will turn back to normal very quickly, so eating them becomes a race against the clock, if you're too close to one when they become normal you usually die.

So the risk here is a loss of a life, and the reward is higher score, but the substantial aspect of the reward is the fact that Pacman rewards the player with extra lives every 10,000 points, and this is what makes the r/r in Pacman important.

The player isnt ever required to eat a single ghost, its simply an optional risk the player can take to rack up score and gain extra lives in the process.


Super Mario bros. was the first console title to reinvent r/r in ways that had less to do with score, which had basically become irrelevant once games left the arcade.


The introduction of Coins as things to collect to get an extra life is an r/r mechanic introduced by Mario that was blindly copied by just about every platformer thereafter. The basic idea behind coins in Mario was to use them as r/r that usually put the player in a dangerous situation, if the player collected 100 coins they got an extra life.


Mario also used coins as a way to instruct the player on how to play giving them reference points on where to jump and also hints on where to explore, but i'll talk more about instruction through level design in another article.

The second example of r/r in Mario was the 1up mushroom.


Hidden within almost every level in Mario was a single block that when hit released a 1up mushroom. The introduction of the 1up mushroom was a great way to get the player to take their time and explore the levels a bit more. Exploring each level for that hidden 1up added more danger and also ate up the players time limit. 1up mushrooms were also usually rigged to run from the player and/or into kill zones, requiring the player to take an even bigger risk to acquire them.

But as most staple mechanics in games, coins and 1up mushroom became easier to get and more abundant as the years went by, and the reward for going the extra mile to get them became pointless when the player no longer needed to worry about lives (see previous article)


So how could r/r be applied to a game that had infinite lives?


Every chapter in SMB has 20 bandages to be collected, 7 in the main world, 7 in the dark and 6 in that chapters warp zones. The r/r formula with bandages is very similar to coins in mario, with a few minor changes.


So every level in SMB that has a bandage requires the player to collect said bandage then complete the level without being killed in the process. Bandages are placed in areas that would require more action from the player and put them in much more danger, most importantly the player isn't ever required to collect a single bandage to complete the main game.

What about the exploration aspect of 1up mushrooms, how can that be applied to a game like SMB?


So warp zones act as 1up mushrooms in the sense that the player needs to explore levels to find them and they are usually put in hidden/ hard to reach areas of the game. when a warp zone is found it is permanently unlocked in the level menu.

Now bear with me because this might get a little wordy.

Every chapter of SMB has 4 hidden warp zones, 3 in the main game 1 in the dark world.
There are 2 types of warp zones, retro warps and character warps.

Retro warp zone:
3 levels, 3 lives per level and 2 bandages to be collected.


A retro warp zone is a series of 3 small (usually single screen) levels with a retro visual theme. The player must beat all 3 levels in succession with a limit of 3 lives per level to complete it. Each level set will have 2 bandages to collect, but the player only keeps those bandages IF they complete the warp zone.

This was not only a perfect way to bring back old school r/r but also a way juxtapose the new established rules of difficulty (see previous article) with the retro formulas of the past.

Character Warp zone:
infinite lives, play as new character, beat the warp unlock that character.


Each Character warp in SMB starts with a cut scene introducing a new playable character from the indie community. The warp zone is again a series of 3 levels that must be completed to unlock that character to be used in the main game, but this time theres no life limit and the player will only be using that character to complete the levels.

Every unlockable character in SMB plays differently, usually having a unique ability like double jump, floating or flight. The levels in the warp are designed in a way that forces the player to use that character's ability in order to finish them, in turn teaching the player what advantages that character could have over certain levels previously played by meat boy.

When the warp is completed, the character is unlocked and can now be used in most main game levels (excluding warp zones, boss fights and other special circumstances)

And that brings us to reward, now that lives don't matter, how can we reward the player in a substantial way that adds more to the experience in the same way lives would in the past?


Reward = Content unlockables = playable characters / new levels

Every 10 bandages collected unlocks something that changes/adds to the current game. and as mentioned above 1 of every 4 warp zones completed also unlocks a playable character.

Substantial reward is very important to help motivate the player to push themselves to get better and try more difficult challenges. The difference between unlocking a new way to play the whole game or unlocking a digital badge, or hat for your character is quite large, but adding something as in depth as a new playable character also comes with its own set of difficulties, but this post has gotten quite long so next time ill go in depth about unlockable characters, exploration in platformers and the idea behind using characters from other games in my next article.





Why am I so... hard?

Posted by Edmund on April 16th, 2010 in Super Meat Boy!

So I'm going to attempt to write about difficulty in game design then talk a bit about the Super Meat Boy design process, namely when it comes to how we approached dealing with difficulty. This post probably isn't for everyone but we get a lot of questions regarding this stuff so here goes.... (don't worry there are pictures!)


Difficulty in a platformer is usually established by this very simple formula.

(% chance the player will die) X (Penalty for dying) = Difficulty?

Pretty basic stuff, the higher the chance the player will die and the bigger price they pay for dying the harder the game will appear to the player. This is a formula that's been around from the start, but the one thing that's changed drastically over the years is the "Penalty" aspect.

Penalty for dying in video games started in the arcades where the major penalty was adding a quarter.


This worked very well when it came to getting money from kids, but once home consoles became the norm the player no longer had the ability to add credits with coins and the formula had to change. The goal of high score had been replaced with progression to completion and the major penalty became going back to start.


This is also when "risk/reward" was heavily established. Risk reward was a way for the designer to give the player a way to gain more credits by taking bigger risks, in mario this risk was coin collecting and exploration to find 1ups.

The Mario formula was solid, but as video games tapped into a more mainstream market, penalty for losing had to become less frustrating and penalty = frustration. Companies wanted more people to be able to complete their games, and by the early 90s most platformers added the "continue" option.


As time has passed, lives systems and penalty have almost vanished from most games due to the amount of frustration they caused and difficulty had become watered down to the point of it not really being a factor anymore.

By the early-mid '00s the independent video game scene started to use a more direct and simple formula.


Removing lives all together let the designer base difficulty more on the actual level design and challenge and less around the penalty of losing lives and restarting, in doing so the formula for difficulty changed. The player no longer had to worry about dying, penalty for death basically turned into the amount of time you took to restart after death and the length of the current level.


So how could we take this existing formula and refine it and apply it to Super Meat Boy?

How could we make a seemingly aggravatingly difficult game into something fun that the player could get lost in?

When starting the development of Super Meat Boy these were the big questions that needed answers right away, and this is what we came up with.

1. Keep the levels small


First off it was very important that the levels in Super Meat Boy be bite sized, you could almost think of most of them as micro levels, thrown at the player in rapid succession much like the micro games in the Wario Ware series. If we keep the levels small enough for the player to see their goal, it lowers the stress of not knowing what's to come and the distance they will have to start over from if they die.

2. Keep the action constant


It was imperative that the action never stopped, even when the player was killed. The time it takes for Meat Boy to die and respawn is almost instant, the player never waits to get back into the game, the pace never dropps and the player doesn't even have time to think about dying before they are right back where the left off. This same idea was applied to the level progression, the player never leaves the action till they want to, the levels keep coming as fast as the player can beat them, and all the complete screens, transitions and cut scenes are sped up to keep the fast pace of the game flowing.

3. Reward


The player should always feel good about completing something hard, so what better a reward then a reminder of just how hard that level was? Early in development Tommy implemented the replay system, a replay mode that would start when a level was completed showing the player's past 40+ attempts all playing at once. This simple visual reward for taking a beating not only reminds the player of just how hard they tried but also shows a time line of how they learned and got better as they played.

So we had our basic outline, a hardcore platformer geared towards our horribly spoiled ADD generation, but how could we stay true to the extremely high difficulty par set by IWBTG, Jumper and N+ yet still be accessible enough for someone who was new to the genre to pick up and enjoy?

Was there a way to make something accessible and still hardcore?

This is where the Dark World system comes into play. The dark world is an expert mode set parallel to the main game. As the player completes levels they will unlock expert versions in the dark world if they complete the level under a set par.


In a lot of ways dark worlds difficulty starts where the main games difficulty leaves off. You could say that level 1-5 in the dark world is almost as difficult as level 3-5 in main game.


The goal here was to setup a system that allowed expert players to start the game experiencing high difficulty right off the bat, yet not require those levels to be beaten to complete the main game.

All in all the dark world system allows for Super Meat Boy to become 2 full games, 150+ main game levels for the average gamer and 150+ expert levels for the hardcore gamer, but set up in a way that an average gamer who completes the main game, can easily transition into the difficulty of the dark world levels, and the game will unfold even more.


The point i'm trying to make here is, video games are an exercise in learning and growing. The designer acts as the teacher, giving the player problems that escalate in difficulty hoping their "course" will help them learn as they go, get better and feel good about what they achieve.

When you are trying to teach someone something, you don't punish them when they make a mistake, you let them learn from it and give them positive reinforcement when they do well.



Tune in next time when i'll be talking in depth about RISK REWARD!!! (Bandages, Warp Zones and Playable Characters)
Edmund McMillen Edmund McMillen

Edmund draws stuff and designs things.. whatever

Tommy Refenes Tommy Refenes

Tommy programs and macs on the ladies.