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Destructoid Interview: Super Meat Boy's Edmund McMillian and Tommy Refenes

10:00 AM on 02.18.2009 // Jonathan Holmes

I recently got the chance to catch up with Edmund McMillian and Tommy Refenes, two out of the three men on the development team working on the upcoming WiiWare title Super Meat Boy.

This isn't the first time that Destructoid has gotten to talk with Edmund, but it is the first time that we've talked to him since he got totally rich and famous. Thanks for remembering us little guys Edmund, and please, next time you see Reggie, kiss him "hello" for me.

Oh, and before I forget, that up there is the "teaser trailer" for the game. It is supposed to make you feel "teased." This right here is the official site for the game. It is supposed to make you think about Super Meat Boy.

Now that? That down there is the jump that leads to the full interview with Tommy and Edmund. That's the thing you want to hit if you want to find out how weird Tommy and Edmund really are. 

What is the premise of Super Meat Boy?

Edmund: Super Meat Boy is about a boy made of meat with a girlfriend made of band aids who gets kidnapped by a fetus in a jar wearing a suit and monocle. It's a huge throw-back to the cliché irrelevance of early 90s videogames; it's the greatest game you will ever buy.

What kind of game is Super Meat Boy?

Edmund: SMB is a hardcore platformer that scrolls vertically. It's a game that will bring back that frustration you felt when you first played Mega Man or Ghosts N' Goblins. SMB is a homage to every game that made you throw your controller at the ground when you were a kid.

Are there any features you have planned for the game that couldn't have been done in Flash?

Tommy: We are going to do Co-op and versus play, and add some more stuff to the game... which could be done in Flash, but would have been a pain in the ass. We're also going to improve the controls so it doesn't feel like a Flash game anymore.

Why did you choose WiiWare as the platform for Super Meat Boy?

Edmund: Shortly after I posted that video of me attempting to call up Reggie I was contacted by the head of WiiWare. He seemed very interested in what I was working on and asked why I wasn't making anything for WiiWare. Me and Tommy saved up some cash, ordered a kit, and got to work. SMB is a perfect fit on WiiWare because I think Wii users are very accepting of retro-themed games, the edgy aspects that make Meat Boy stand out are something I think isn't represented at all on WiiWare.

How do you want people to feel when playing Super Meat Boy? Grossed out? Amused? Both?

Tommy: Personally I want them to be amused more than grossed out. I hate gross out stuff. Ed will disagree, but I think Garbage Pail Kids were stupid. I hated those things.

Edmund: Tommy's a little girl when it comes to gross out humor. :)  Ideally I want people to be intrigued and amused by the more strange aspects of Meat Boy. There are definitely aspects of it that will have people talking, but you cant get away from the fact that Meat Boy is extremely cute. It's like on America's Funniest Home Videos when a baby accidentally throws up in its parents mouth when they are playing airplane. It's gross ... but the baby is still cute, so it defaults back to amusing in the end. Where as if Tommy and I were playing airplane, and I puke in his mouth people would probably think that's pretty gross...

The character of Meat Boy seems incredibly vulnerable. Not only does he have no attacks, or clothes, but he's seems to be bleeding at all times. What inspired you to create a character like this?

Edmund: I've recently been told I have a strange obsession with making the lead characters in my work very vulnerable and ugly. But I'm not about to lay back in a psych chair for this game.

I design characters that are interesting to me. I find strange things intriguing. The unlikely hero has always appealed to me, I'm a big fan of the underdog, and the idea of a small skinless boy repeatedly sacrificing himself to save his girlfriend who's made of band aids seemed pretty awesome to me.

A lot of people think that 2008 was the year that "old school" videogames really came back to the home console market. Castle Crashers, Mega Man 9, World of Goo, and some would even say Super Smash Bros Brawl were all games that, from a gameplay perspective, probably could have been done on SNES. How does Super Meat Boy fit into this "old school revival" movement?

Tommy: Since the first Xbox came out, games have become way too easy
and they hold your hand WAY too much. I remember renting NES games
back in the 80s, and you would barely ever get an instruction booklet. Instead, you sat down with the game and figured out the controls. There were no in-game tutorials, the controls made sense, and the games were challenging. World of Goo, Castle Crashers and Mega Man 9 all fit this...Mega Man 9 especially. I've had more fun with MM9 than I have with any recent console game.

I remember bragging to my friends about NES games I had beaten over the weekend ... now days who cares if you beat a game? SMB is going to be the type of game that you not only brag about beating, but you feel like a total bad ass when you do beat it.

Do you play home console games? If so, any recent favorites?

Tommy: I don't play many console games. I'm a huge fan of Metal Gear
and really enjoyed MGS4.

Edmund: I played through Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead, I'm looking forward to Resident Evil 5. Me and the wife played the hell out of the demo. I'm of course a big fan of World of Goo on Wii as well.

Have you kept track of how well WiiWare games are selling? Are you expecting to get a lot of money from Super Meat Boy?

Tommy: I think it will do alright. It would be nice if it sold World of Goo numbers, but honestly, all I want is a beanbag chair, the ability to buy food, and a house made of solid gold with an army of hot women ninja maids.

Edmund: Yeah seriously, I'd just like some damn health insurance please. Half of every dollar made from SMB will go to the "Edmund Hasn't Had a Complete Physical Since He Hit Puberty" fund ... money would help, yes.

I'd imagine that Super Meat Boy would be a vastly different game if the game had an unlimited budget. If money was no object, what kind of game would you make?

Tommy: If Meat Boy had an unlimited budget, I don't think it would be much different than it will be. We'd maybe have some disgustingly long cut scenes with Wilford Brimley as the voice of Dr. Fetus, Seth Rogan as Meatboy, Jennifer Tilly as Band Aid girl, and Peter Cullen narrating the story in Optimus Prime's voice.

Edmund: If SMB has an unlimited budget I'd pocket it all and make the same game we are making now. :) Honestly lack of a big budget isn't something that will hinder this project; Meat Boy is a labor of love.

Any advice for indie developers that want to bring their games to home consoles?

Edmund: Yeah, make awesome shit that YOU love. Just make games you'd love to play and try your best to be different and push yourself and people will notice. Almost anyone out there can do what we are doing, it's all about how much you're willing to sacrifice to get here. If you make something fucking amazing, people will play it ... that's a fact.

How much would it cost me to get you to put Mr. Destructoid in Super Meat Boy?

Edmund: How much does health insurance go for these days?

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Jonathan Holmes, Bad Joke Uncle
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