Almost Insideout Ninja
April 14, 2011 4:47 PM   Subscribe

A postmortem at gamasutra on the independently developed game Super Meat Boy. On their design philosophy that in part makes the game so popular: "It was vital for us to bring back the difficulty of the retro age, but also reinvent the idea of what difficulty meant. Frustration was the biggest part of retro difficulty and something we felt needed to be removed at all costs, in order to give the player a sense of accomplishment without discouraging them to the point of quitting. At its core, this idea was quite basic: Remove lives, reduce respawn time, keep the levels short and keep the goal always in sight. On top of these refinements, we added constant positive feedback, and even death became something to enjoy when you knew that upon completing the level you would be rewarded with an epic showing of all your past deaths. The replay feature was a way to remind the player that they were getting better through their own actions and reinforce that feeling of accomplishment of doing something difficult and succeeding."
posted by SpacemanStix (18 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
All I have to say was that they totally nailed it. Super Meat Boy was metaphysical platformer perfection. I loved the hell out of it, and I never even beat the whole thing.
posted by Askiba at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't played Super Meat Boy, not owning an Xbox or booting into Windows often, but I think VVVVV is similar: it's insanely hard at times, but doesn't punish the player. You respawn immediately, and checkpoints are placed liberally.
posted by zsazsa at 4:54 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I haven't played it either, but it reminds me a lot of N (or N+ for Xbox) with spiffier graphics. Probably the finest (and most insanely hard) puzzle platformer I've ever played.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:58 PM on April 14, 2011

There has been a trend away from Gaming Masochism in general, and as a gamer I think this is a good thing.

In particular, I recall having to spend hours tweaking Memmaker to get my sound and mouse drivers to load in upper memory. Specifically configuring the Dwango client to give the modem the correct commands to forget the error correction and gimme the low pings. Then there was the stupid "find this one key, hidden in this secret door, in this secret hallway and no, there is no clue anywhere just find it" game levels.

But for all of the progress made against those forces, I still spend hours writing and configuring addons to fix flaws in the WoW client. Finding, downloading and installing Modules and Mission packs for Armed Assault 2, or Civ V. Programming my mouse, and keyboard.

I look at all that of that, and recall that my father could waste an entire weekend being eaten alive by mosquitoes to catching fish and letting them go, and I gotta think...

Some people just love punishing themselves just to prove they could do it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can, you imagine Civilization showing you a bunch of ways you supposedly invaded other civilization's capital cities? I somehow feel that just playing to watch kills is really a bad idea.
posted by parmanparman at 5:21 PM on April 14, 2011

That was some of the worst comma placement ever.
posted by parmanparman at 5:22 PM on April 14, 2011

even death became something to enjoy when you knew that upon completing the level you would be rewarded with an epic showing of all your past deaths.

That would be some consolation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:35 PM on April 14, 2011

Bit.Trip Runner inspires the same kind of devotion in me- I get a tiny bit better every single time. I've been on the same level for a month and I fire it up like once a day and every day I'm that much closer to completing it.

The instant respawn thing is a huge deal. Trackmania does this, too, as does VVVVV. It feels less like "losing" and more lik iterative progress when you can just jump right back in.
posted by GilloD at 5:37 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by k5.user at 5:59 PM on April 14, 2011

Erm, they talkin' 'bout the same game that I died about a million times on the 4th-to-last level because I moved left 1/30th of a second too late?

Yeah, they removed a lot of the frustrations, and great big Kudos to them for that (and I would even call it a fairly fun game)... But succeeding at a few of the levels requires frame-perfect timing on the controls to dodge things, catch moving walls just right, or avoid salty spots without losing upward momentum.

As for the past-life review... What? Did I just turn that off after suffering through it the first time and don't remember? Because... I have no memory of that"feature". ;)

Actually a pretty good game though, and yes, it has a lot of the feel of an old-school platformer without most of the annoyances
posted by pla at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2011

Better than the article I was going to use: Team Meat: Kotaku Is ‘Smut and Lies,’ Multi-Plat Worth the Hassle

As for difficulty, it varies. I don't think I could handle Super Meat Boy, but I enjoy Clover/Platinum Studio games. I know that if I make any progress on Bayonetta on Hard Mode or get through God Hand than I am a GAMER.
I'm not saying I can do those things. But it's nice to have it there as a test of my skills. I have lots of 'hang out' games that are just enjoyable to play but there's something to be said for wrestling with a game.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:46 PM on April 14, 2011

This lasted for weeks and weeks. I felt sick, angry, and totally stressed. My parents were bringing me dinner because I literally didn't leave the house for those two months. I remember just saying to myself over and over, "Don't die until the game is done," because it was a real concern of mine. I felt miserable, my blood sugar was all over the place, but I absolutely had to press on and crush the bugs as they came up. I don't know if it made me stronger or not... all I know is that somehow I survived!

looks like the players weren't the only ones frustrated
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:51 PM on April 14, 2011

I know that if I make any progress on Bayonetta on Hard Mode or get through God Hand than I am a GAMER.

I once beat God Hand on hard mode.

The end-of-game screen told me that I had died over 800 times, although this was a gross underestimate as it didn't count all of the times that I turned the game off without finishing a level.

I am proud, in a way.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:24 AM on April 15, 2011

Just got Super Meat boy after reading this. Its fun, but fuck me its HARD. And it makes me twist and contort my face into weird shapes. And it gives me that awful 'Oh fuck I'm going to fuck it up AGAIN' anxiety in my gut. So I'm not sure how long I'll play it for.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 2:51 AM on April 15, 2011

Instant respawn is genius. Death replay is fantastic. It's hard as fuck, but by combining these two it's very easy to go quickly from "FUCK THIS GAME" to "All right I'll try one more time".

Then around 30 kills or so you get an added incentive that the death b-roll will be fantastic. It's like one of those "30 guys play mario/lifeforce superimposed" videos on youtube, only all you. And slowly getting better, until one little guy makes it. It's great.

Game is still too hard for me.
posted by graventy at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

It took me about 2 months or so, but I finally finished Super Meat Boy, including the extra chapter at the end and all the achievements that didn't involve NOT dying at all once through a chapter. I was frustrated and I finally did all A+. I am tempted every so often to return to the game, though there is no reason for me to do so. I'm scared of its addictive amazing properties.

I can say that Super Meat Boy, though frustrating, is still far better than just breezing through a game.
posted by lizarrd at 8:34 AM on April 15, 2011

including the extra chapter at the end and all the achievements that didn't involve NOT dying at all once through a chapter

Yeah... those achievements are just pretend, right?
posted by Gary at 10:33 AM on April 15, 2011

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