2. Losing Sight of WiiWare
Tommy: When we initially announced Super Meat Boy for WiiWare, we were planning 100 levels at maximum, no cutscenes, and no unlockable characters. We were planning on just doing a straight port of the Flash game with a few extras and nothing more. We obviously got carried away, but I wouldn't call it a bad thing, because we made the game we wanted to make. The bad part is we couldn't possibly do the game on the Wii.
As we were building the game and kept adding more to it, it became clear that it would be nearly impossible to fit within the size limits of WiiWare. It was always in the back of my mind to try to make sure we could, but cutting down to 50 MB meant removing a lot of content that made the game what it is.
Edmund: Not releasing on the Wii still bothers me, and I wish we could have done it. After WiiWare became an impossibility, we looked into getting SMB published on Wii retail, but sadly, there wasn't one publisher we talked to that saw the Wii as a smart investment at this point in its life cycle. So we closed the book on the Wii.
3. PC Launch
Tommy: A two-man team putting out a game on several platforms is pretty tough. The PC launch was a little rocky because of testing. I had what I felt was a wide range of test machines. I had range from our minimum specs (an Acer netbook) to a beefy quadcore. I thought I had everything covered; I had ATI cards and NVidia Cards. This obviously wasn't enough.
The day of PC launch we were inundated with tons of bugs, crashes on startup and shutdown, and more. I think I answered about 2,000 emails during the first few days of launch. I felt similar to how I did during the crunch for the XBLA launch -- every time I would fix something, it seemed like something else broke.
It was hard to go from the stress of XBLA launch to the PC launch in the same month. It was a feeling of accomplishment followed by an immediate feeling of failure. For our next game we'll do more extensive PC testing, and probably actually farm it out to a company that specializes in testing.
4. Last Two Months of Crunch for XBLA Launch
Edmund: In late August 2010, we got a phone call from our producer at Microsoft, explaining that there was going to be a fall promotion similar to Summer of Arcade. At this point, we were about four months from being done, but in order to release during this promo, we needed to pass certification in two.
The deadline seemed a bit impossible. We were told if we didn't make it into the fall promo, we would have to push the game back until spring or attempt to launch the game ourselves without much support, and risk a sizable loss. Microsoft explained that all games in the promo would get an exclusive launch week, very high spotlight advertising, reviews by Major Nelson, and face time at PAX and other events. This promotion was going to be called Game Feast.
At this point, both of us were going into the red financially and felt like if we didn't get into this fall promotion, there was no hope for us. We couldn't push to spring, and releasing without Microsoft support seemed like suicide, so we went all-in and attempted to do what would take any team four months within two. These two months were easily the worst months of my life.
The pressure, workload, and overall stress of development was extremely overwhelming. In those two months, neither of us took a single day off of work, working 10–12 hours a day, every day. There was a point at the end of development where I was getting less than five hours of sleep for several weeks. I remember having a breakdown in September where I actually thought I was stuck in some nightmare where I was repeating the same day over and over.
Tommy: Because we were so time-compressed, we were basically developing features during bug checking, which meant every single time I turned on the computer and checked the bug database, the work I did the night before was pretty much rendered irrelevant. I would work and fix 100 bugs in a night and get it down to 50, then wake up the next morning and have 200 bugs to fix.
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!
Edmund: I think both of us were trying to keep from the other just how bad things were getting to avoid stressing the other out any more then we already were.
I had many nights where I would tell my wife that I was done, that I didn't want to make the game anymore, that it wasn't worth it, and that I would gladly bow out and take the loss just to go back to my normal life. She would "talk me off the roof," I'd go to sleep, wake up five hours later, and repeat the same day again.