Super Meat Boy Forever is a follow up to 2010 indie platformer game that innovated with simplicity and ushered in a revival of challenging games akin to classic arcade titles and the NES era. Due for release in 2019, the sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, challenges players with new types of gameplay and challenges the world’s perception of what a Meat Boy game is or can be. See the video below for out discussion with Tommy from last year, followed by Sam’s discussion with Refenes at this year’s PAX East as the game nears completion.
Friday March 29th, 2019
Sam Carpenter, TYF Staff Writer: Can you tell us a bit about Super Meat Boy Forever?
Tommy Refenes, creator, developer, designer Team Meat: Absolutely. Super Meat Boy is just a very difficult platformer, but difficult in design, not implementation. So it’s not just gonna throw stuff at you and screw you over or anything, a mistake you’ve made in the game is a mistake that you’ve made. We engineered those games, Super Meat Boy and Super Meat Boy Forever that way so that it feels rewarding when you do something. People call it a rage game but it’s not actually a rage game. I mean you can rage out if you want, but it’s not treating you unfairly it’s giving you all the tools to pass, and if you fail it’s your fault.
In it you play as a boy without skin, in the first one you’re rescuing your girlfriend, Bandage Girl. In Super Meat Boy Forever you (both Meat Boy and Bandage Girl) are rescuing your daughter Nugget.
Sam: You already touched on it, but I wanted to ask you about this. There have been a lot of very difficult games coming out recently, a lot of them are very “rage inducing” but in a way that’s very different from Super Meat Boy, where you’re walking and something spikes up from the ground and kills you–
Tommy: Oh, yeah
Sam: … or just something where the controls are bad, but we’ve seen some *Good* hard games recently. How is it that you think Super Meat Boy can be hard, but without making you so unbelievably angry?
Tommy: Well I think it has a lot to do with, level design and controls. You mentioned controls being bad and that being a form of frustration, and it is very frustrating when the thing you’re doing on the screen don’t exactly match up to what your mind is thinking it should do. And that does happen a lot in games where you’ll feel like “Argh I don’t feel like I had the control to get here” and also, to that, with level design there are often times where you have to make literal pixel perfect jumps in order to get across something, and that feels frustrating because timing something like that doesn’t become so much of an action-reaction it’s more like memorization and trial and error. And that doesn’t really feel good.
Meat Boy, though, has great controls, in the first one you had great air control, in this one you have control over how you dive, but to that, we design levels that compliment those controls. So if we were to try to shoehorn in a level that felt weird and didn’t mesh with the control scheme that we had, then it would feel frustrating. But, because we care and we actively try to make things that compliment the controls, then you don’t have that amount of frustration. In the better Hard games, that’s what you see, still punishing, but not brutally, disgustingly punishing.
And some people love that kind of stuff, we do have some kind of aspect of that in Forever, but it’s an optional thing, like we have a mode called Brutal: it gives you three lives and you have to go through 50 Chunks and Chunks are what make up the levels of Super Meat Boy Forever. So, like eight Chunks make up a level, and you have to go through 50 in three lives on Brutal. Even that isn’t, y’know, “F-You,” you can still get through it, it’s just a difficult challenge. It’s not gonna throw a saw at you just to kill you, the saw is there, it’s not gonna spawn or anything like that.
Sam: So, because we’re following up from last year I was curious what you guys have been adding to the game and improving since this time last year?
Tommy: So, one of the big things is… the game is actually extremely large. I don’t feel like we’ve accurately portrayed just how large the game is. Because, when I was mentioned how the levels are made up of Chunks, there’s 8 Chunks that make up a level, 100 Chunks per level, that means that there’s about 7200 levels to make. So that take a lot of time and decoration and stuff. So, different from last year is just some improvements to stuff that was in the second chapter, more levels in the second chapter, more levels in the third, we actually have levels throughout the remainders of the chapters but we don’t develop linearly, so it’s not quite like “Oh we’re all done with the forest, let’s move on to the clinic.”
Another thing that we ramped up quite a bit this year is that there’s probably about 30 minutes worth of high quality animated cutscenes and I have quite a few animators working on that. To flesh out the story, because I wrote some things that were insanely over the top, it’s like cartoon quality cutscenes. Once this game comes out there will legitimately be a Meat Boy movie start to finish, if you edit the cutscenes back to back. So, we’ve been adding a lot of stuff.
Sam: and with all that stuff, you guys had previously mentioned it might be out in April, is that on track at all or…
Tommy: We’re not gonna hit April, I uh… grossly underestimated the amount of time… but we’re close. So instead of saying “Oh it’ll be May or probably June” Instead we’re just saying “It’s after April” it’s close but it is after April.
Sam: So you guys are thinking sometime this year?
Tommy: Oh, definitely. Definitely this year. And soon, I just don’t want to commit to a date because it’ll be a thing where I say it’ll come out in May and I go “Crap! Uhh… it’s gonna be July–Crap!” I don’t wanna do that… the next time that we make a clear announcement of when it’s coming out, that is when it is coming out.
Sam: In the video game scene in general, in the last year we’ve seen a lot of really good, hard, platformers like Celeste, Hollow Knight. What do you guys think of those?
Tommy: I say “You’re Welcome” to everyone, because nobody was making hard games *laughs* before Meat Boy ten years ago! I mean there were, but that wasn’t the thing that people wanted, the industry wasn’t trending towards that, it was trending towards stuff like Super Guy, games with less of a challenge so that investors could see the very end of the game. We kind of ushered in the hard games so you’re welcome everyone for Bloodborne, for Dark Souls, just… you’re welcome.
That’s really pretentious of me, I love that game, that’s great.
Sam: Well yeah they did all come out two or three years after Meat Boy’s release…
Tommy: They really did, look, realistically I feel like that’s a coincidence. *laughs*
I don’t think we’re responsible for the Hard Game Movement.
But I think we proved that you can make a hard game that’s not frustrating! I think Meat Boy is one of the best examples of that. Since then, yeah, you can have a super challenging game like Celeste that has a great story and people love it and it’s accessible to people? You can have that. You can have the best of both worlds, which is kind of what Super Meat Boy Forever is leaping towards.
Because not only is it not a hard game… anyone can play it because it’s two buttons. There’s no barrier of entry with dexterity, or anything like that. If you have just feet, you can play this game. If you are one handed, you can play this game. I actually tested this game with an adaptive controller on my desk with my left hand, because I’m right handed, and I just hit the buttons with just one hand, and that’s how I playtest everything.
So, we’ve lowered that barrier of entry without lowering the difficulty. My hope is that it also gets people to do that stuff later, like when I come back to PAX East in five years and we’re talking about a version of Dark Souls that’s two buttons, and I’ll be like “Yeah! Now we got a game where you just blink and it’s really hard but anyone can play it! Also it cures disease!” and everybody’s like “oh, wow.”
Uh.. I don’t think we’ll get there but, we’ll try!
Sam: In the presence of now a lot of hard games that have come in, what do you think that it is Super Meat Boy Forever is bringing to the table that no one else has captures quite yet?
Tommy: Well I think… there’s several things… the game is huge. And it’s randomly generated but not the random generation where we’re just gonna throw saws at you. As I mentioned before we have the levels that are made of Chunks, we design all the Chunks, so every time you make a new Save Game, that’s a new game, and it’s a new, designed, game that we’ve put together. So, that’s number one.
Number two, it’s accessible. Accessibility is important because video games, they should be enjoyed by everybody. There should be a low barrier of entry for enjoying a game. What Meat Boy does is it puts out a challenging game that isn’t baby-dumbed down for just anybody to play, There’s not a Meat Boy boy game out that exists that anybody can play, so that is what we’re bringing here.
Sam: Did I miss anything else that you like talking about?
Tommy: I do really love pushing those cutscenes. I watched the end the other day, it’s a bit of a tear jerker. It’s so stupid but I love it.
Super Meat Boy Forever is due out in Q3 2019! Keep an eye on TYF for future coverage of the game, and for updates from Team Meat visit http://supermeatboy.com/