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Super Meatmortem: The almost-death of Team Meat

David Hinkle, @davehinkle
March 1, 2011
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Crunch time is just part of game development. When the deadline is looming, it's not uncommon for developers to pull 12-hour shifts (or longer). For Team Meat, crunch time nearly killed half of the duo.

Tommy Refenes (pictured left) told GDC attendees that he would "be dead if we put Meat Boy on everything," explaining one of the reasons why Super Meat Boy has only been released for Xbox Live Arcade and PC thus far.

In the two months leading up to SMB's XBLA debut, neither took a single day off, let alone slept for more than five hours a day. Refenes recounted feverish "development dreams" -- a sort of Groundhog Day scenario where he was squashing bugs only to wake and discover more.



Team Meat was crunching to meet the deadline for Microsoft's Game Feast promotion. The guys were led to believe that if the game wasn't attached to a timed Xbox Live promotion, it wouldn't sell well. Projected data provided by Microsoft had suggested that SMB would sell as well as Hydrophobia, while Comic Jumper was expected to be the Game Feast sales standout. But after both titles recorded less-than-stellar launch sales (according to leaderboard data), panic set in for Team Meat. They expected their game to fail.

Launch day came and the two prepared for the worst. But they couldn't have been prepared for the worst: SMB wasn't even on the Marketplace.

Half a day would go by before Microsoft finally got the game up on Xbox Live, curiously denying SMB the top, prominent spot in the Spotlight section of the Xbox 360 Dashboard (typically reserved for new titles). Team Meat was expecting their game to be staring Xbox 360 users in the face as soon as their systems booted up -- but no. "First day was decent," Refenes said about launch sales (priced at a savy, temporary discount). "Second day, the leaderboards were bigger than Comic Jumper and Hydrophobia." Combined.

Despite the trying launch period, gamers would eventually flock to what we called one of the best games of 2010. Ultimately, meeting the deadline for Microsoft's Game Feast promotion would be a moot distinction. The promotion, deemed a failure, was dismantled and Super Meat Boy was free of its branding. Team Meat succinctly described the experience as a total "mind fuck."

A month later, the Steam version of Super Meat Boy followed, besting its Xbox Live counterpart in sales. "It's much easier to update and everyone should just love on Steam," Refenes gushed. "Like, hot nasty love all over it."













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