Exclusive: Tapeworm: Edmund McMillen (Interview)

Edmund McMillen

Earlier this year, The Nerdy Basement ventured out and for the first-time ever covered and attended an industry-only event known as Toy Fair New York. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and we’re hoping we can return again once the world gets back to normal.

One of the best things about Toy Fair New York is the direct access to industry personnel. The ability to talk directly to the toy company’s manufacturer and public relations representative in order to get the early details of toys and collectibles that will be hitting the scene throughout the year.

From Funko to Iron Studios, to Hasbro, to Diamond Select. We got to see it all and it was an experience that I will personally hold dear as I start to expand and grow in my media journalism career. It’s funny being able to call this a career despite it not being a career. But that’s the fun part of it all right? Speak it into reality.

As part of our post-Toy Fair New York coverage, we were extended the opportunity to speak with Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen about his upcoming card-game Tapeworm. The game itself was showcased at Toy Fair New York earlier this year, so the opportunity to speak with Edmund was surreal and we could not pass it up.

Unfortunately for both parties, COVID-19 happened, and not only did the Kickstarter for Tapeworm get pushed back. So did our interview. But all good things come to those who wait.

Today, we are able to proudly present to you our interview with Edmund McMillen. Not only did we speak about Tapeworm. We also spoke about his ventures in the creative process of Super Meat Boy. The inspiration behind Tapeworm, gameplay mechanics, and what players can expect from the game once it’s in their homes and are able to play it.

Check out our full interview with Edmund McMillen!

Edmund McMillen

For those who are unfamiliar with you and your work, tell us about yourself and what you do for a living and how did you get your start?

  • I’m Edmund McMillen, most know for the Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy, but I’ve made well over 40 games during my 15-year career making video games. I’m a designer/artist/animator, but I also write and create all the characters for my games, I actually got my start making flash games for newgrounds.com back in 2000, then got a job helping an indie studio called chronic logic with art assets and pitched my first large title to them in 2003 called Gish. Gish went on to win a lot of awards including indie game of the year and established my career in indie games.

You’re a critically-acclaimed video game developer. With the Meat-Boy franchise and The Binding of Isaac being some of your most notable video games. Tell us about that roller coaster of a journey that came with the Meat-Boy franchise.

  • I had released a flash game called Meat Boy in 2008 that became my most popular flash title at the time, around then I also released a slew of my best flash games ( Aether, Time Fcuk, Coil, Triachnid and Spewer) that got the attention of a few larger names in the industry that I then reached out to.
  • They gave me some contacts at Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft and I pushed them to back a console remake of either Gish. Sadly stuff with Gish fell through and I ended up leaving the company with my then partner Tommy and asked my contacts if we could remake Meat Boy instead. And their response was “sure, we just wanted to work with you on something.” I was blown away but for the next 2 years we worked our asses off and I finally had released my first console title :).

What’s your favorite video gaming system? Past and present.

  • The NES is something otherworldly to me, I was the last kid I knew to get one so it always felt out of reach and I was always watching other kids play it… when I finally got my own games were getting cheap and kids were more cool about borrowing and trading carts. I actually broke into my neighbor’s house to play Mario 2 around the time it came out. Presently I”d say the Switch just because it has so many cool indie titles on it and I love handheld consoles but I also really love my PS4.

All-time favorite video game?

  • Possibly the Legend of Zelda, but the OG Mario series is also amazing… it’s too hard to choose but my top 10 faves are probably … Zelda, Mario, Fallout 1-2, Doom, Streetfighter, Katamari, Spelunky, Shadow of the Colossus, Overwatch, and maybe Viewtiful Joe? I dunno, like I said, it’s super hard to choose.  

Let’s talk about Tapeworm. What inspired this game?

Edmund McMillen
  • I actually came up for the design for Tapeworm after the release of Super Meat Boy, once the dust settled I wanted to do something weird and not like anything else I’d done, I had a few design docs for things I was testing, one being the Binding of Isaac and another being Tapeworm, a physical card game. I prototyped tapeworm and loved it but at the time it didn’t seem realistic for me to release and produce/ship a physical product so I just put it on the shelf and moved onto Isaac.
Edmund McMillen
  • Tapeworm is a special  2-4 player card game where you play cards to grow a tapeworm. It’s kinda like Dominos meets UNO but with strategy, you have lots of neat mechanics that change the way you play and the visual aspect of the game is super fun. I was trying my best to design something you could play with your kids/mom/non-gamer types but also have enough depth to satisfy more hardcore players.  

Were any of your scrapped ideas or concepts used in this card game?

  • There were a lot of scrapped mechanics I tossed due to complexity and to just smooth out the experience, nothing really worth mentioning though just less wordy mechanics that called for more thinking. I found that new players got slightly overwhelmed when asked to think 2-3 steps ahead so I pushed those mechanics down a bit and allowed other mechanics to have more depth but not require as much thinking to execute them.

What do you think will attract players to this game?

  • It’s weird and unique, I haven’t seen many games that use spatial aspects like this. I think anyone who enjoys traditional card games will totally love it a lot and hardcore gamers will appreciate its hidden depth. It’s a game you can play with your family and everyone will be totally into it and it’s also a quick game to play between more in-depth board games as a palate cleanser. 

This game will clearly be used during game night at some point, will this game put any friendships to the ultimate test?

  • It’s not Four Souls, so you won’t be losing friends over this one. Most games last 10-15 min. so even if you lose not enough time has passed to hold a grudge, but I have seen games get pretty competitive. 

Speaking of friendships being put to the test over a game. Do you have any funny/horrific stories of your personal friendships being put to the test over a card game?

  • All my friends are really good sports about everything so we haven’t seen many issues…but  Jackson has an abnormal win rate in Tapeworm and I’ve seen that bothers quite a few people.. but Jackson bothers everyone anyway! so who knows 🙂

Let’s discuss the worms and their concepts.

Edmund McMillen
  • The worms all play the same, they are just suites in the game. The only difference is the black worm is more scarce but also doubles all of its mechanics. The mechanics are on specific cards instead of specific colors, so all worm heads will force another player to draw, conjoined heads will let you look at the top of the deck and take the card and replace it with one of your own, 3+ segmented cards allow you to steal cards from players and worms that are digging into the ground will allow you to draw and discard cards. There are other mechanics too like knives and scissors that cut worms in half! 

Can we expect expansion sets featuring new works in the foreseeable future?

  • I’m not sure this is one that will need an expansion, it’s quite a stand-alone experience.

What’s next for you? Any new projects you are currently working on or will be working on?

  • I’m currently working on the final Isaac expansion Repentance, should be coming out later this year. After that, I’ll be working on a new giant Four Souls expansion as well as Mewgenics! a game about hoarding and breeding cats.  

What video games are you currently playing?

  • Animal Crossing like everyone else. Also Overwatch.

Any chance we can get a tie-in comic for Tapeworm?

  • That’s not a bad idea… 
Edmund McMillen

Tapeworm is an adorably hilarious spatial dynamically-driven 2-4+ player strategy card game where people take turns creating and cutting apart their tapeworms! It’s a super simple and casual pick up and play card game for all ages where it’s all about making one lone-colored segment of worm in order to play all the cards in your hand.

Tapeworm is being produced by Studio 71 Games (the same folks behind card and trivia game hits The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls, Joking Hazard and Half Truth) with a Kickstarter launch set for April 28. 

For more news, updates, trailers, and exclusive interviews. Make sure to keep it locked right here exclusively at The Nerdy Basement.

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Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Nerdy Basement.

Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Nerdy Basement.