Edmund Mcmillen, who I interviewed last year with his Super Meat Boy cohort, Tommy Refenes, is back at it again. This time he is making a self-described Zelda rogue-like game called The Binding of Issac with previous indie coworker Florian Himsl. I was able to get a email interview with him.
Q: The Binding of Issac seems perplexing to describe. Many people have thrown around the idea of it being a Zelda, rogue-like mish-mash? Does it annoy you the industry is unwilling to take anything new at face value?
I’m the one who described it as a Zelda rogue-like mish-mash so no it doesn’t bother me because that’s essentially the best way to describe it. Isaac uses the dungeon structure and basic resources from the NES version of Zelda but remixes it with a rogue like formula, giving the game a randomized foundation, permanent death and a RPG “leveling up structure”.
The core of the games action is top down shooter based like Smash TV or Robotron, it’s a monster mish-mash really, but it’s the mashing of generes that makes it feel totally unique.
Q: Are you worried that being “one of those dudes that made Super Meat Boy” Is hurting Issac’s chance to wow potential new gamers? That they’re looking for something more similar to Super Meat boy?
I don’t think it’s hurting anything, I think it’s obvious at this point a lot of SMB fans will buy Isaac just because I made it… and there’s a big chance it won’t at all be what they expected, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Isaac isn’t SMB, its nothing like it at all… in some ways it’s the opposite of what SMB was gameplay wise, development wise and over all scale, but it’s fun and fresh and I think anyone who likes games can appreciate that, at least that’s my hope.
It would be awesome to think people who never heard of SMB might buy Isaac and really like it, but i know that’s going to be a very small percent.
Q: Is there a good reason that the Binding of Issac’s press has been lower key?
The real reason is because the games development cycle has been going on for only about 100 days so far. Isaac was a game jam prototype that just kept growing after the week we started it ended, for the 1st month of development I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do with the game. I wasn’t even sure I was going to release it at all for the first few weeks, it started as an exercise, I wanted to play with the rogue like formula for to get my feet wet for the next team meat game because I knew it was going to have rogue like elements but I hadn’t ever made anything like it, so I didn’t want to go in totally blind.
More recently I’ve kept a bit quiet about the game because I’ve just been working too much to do press. I want to get the game done in the next 3 weeks and to do that I need to pour my time into finishing the game… I’ll do more press closer to release
Q: Somewhat before Super Meat Boy you have made many free games including Clubby the Seal, Aether and more. Was there a thought process on making The Binding of Issac a free game?
After the first month we did talk about getting a sponsorship and releasing the game for free as basically what we had at that point in time. I had some conflicting feelings about it and basically sent what I had to a few people asking if they felt like people would pay a few bucks for a game like this, the response was unanimous so I decided to work on it for a few more months and expand on it as much as I could then release it around the price of an app. but on steam.
Once steam played it and loved it I didn’t really look back, we are kicking around the idea of releasing a web demo or free “light” version shortly after release though.
I still would love to make small two to four week free flash games like I used to, there is a part of me that now feels like I can’t stop till the game is perfect now though. People have expectations of me and I can’t avoid the fact that knowing that does affect my work. At this point it might be hard for me to only spend a few weeks on a tiny free game, but who knows how I’ll feel in a year or two.
Q: How do bosses play out in the rogue-like dungeons? Are you able to see different bosses or variations on them in different playthroughs?
Bosses were something I felt were lacking in the one month beta, we only had 6 total and they were always the same boss per level. Currently there are 21 bosses, and each of those bosses has a set of randomizes attacks and also has the chance of slightly randomized stats and AI. On top of that each of the 21 bosses has 4-6 room alternatives that force the player to take on the bosses differently.
There is even a very small chance that the boss you face will be “special” with mutated stats and drop rare and special items and pickups on top of the normally dropped boss items that are also randomized on top of all this.
The goal of the game is to keep things always fresh, your 1st 10+ playthroughs there’s a very good chance you will only have seen half of the bosses in the game or less, more bosses unlock as you progress, more levels unlock, more items unlock and the game becomes more challenging the better and more often you play.
Q: Will The Binding of Issac also be available on mac at the same time of release of the pc version?
Yes that’s the goal, and I’m 99% sure it will happen.
Q: How is The Binding of Issac rating process going? I know you were very pleased by the Teen rating of Super Meat Boy but this seems decidedly darker?
Isaac will be an unrated game, Steam doesn’t require ESRB for indie games and going through a ratings board will push the game back 2 months.
Isaac is darker then SMB, but not by much. it honestly sounds much worse on paper then it does when you’re playing it.
It’s a true indie release, fuck ratings systems.