N+ was a game that some will love, and others perhaps not as much. I firmly sit in the love camp, and that’s why I took the opportunity to catch up with the developers of N+, Metanet Software, to chat about N++ which is on it’s way to the PlayStation 4.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you guys at Metanet Software do?
A: We’re Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns, a two-person game development team from Toronto, Canada who met in 1998 and incorporated our company, Metanet Software, in 2004 (also the year we released N). We love games, and in general we try to make the games we want to play.
For N++ we’ve teamed up with our friend Shawn McGrath (who made Dyad and is also from Toronto), who’s doing the programming. We (Mare and Raigan) are in charge of everything else: prototyping, graphics, level design, UI design, colour design, general direction of the project etc.
We’ve worked with a lot of amazing people over the years, but working with Shawn has been super easy and hands-down awesome. He’s creative, smart, and cares as much about design and as we do! We’re like a well-oiled machine at this point, it’s great.
Q: What is the story behind the creation of N, which lead to N+ on the Xbox LIVE Arcade?
A: We made N for a Flash games contest; it was the culmination of several years of trying to learn how to make games.
We loved it, but it didn’t end up even making it to the finals, so (a little dejectedly, to be honest) we put it on our website for free and emailed everyone we knew.
Over the next couple years it gradually found an audience as it spread via word of mouth and thanks to winning Audience Choice awards in the IGF and Slamdance festivals (in 2005 and 2006 respectively).
One of our fans (who found out about the game thanks to the IGF) was Ross Erickson, who worked in Microsoft’s XBLA division; he got in touch and asked us if we would be interested in making a console version for XBLA.
We had never worked on a commercial console game before, but with the help of the amazing Slick Entertainment we managed to figure it out 🙂
Q: N++ is releasing on PlayStation 4 only, this will come as a disappointment to many Xbox users, can you let us know the reason behind this?
A: We’ve written a lot about this on our blog (http://www.metanetsoftware.com/blog) — it kind of parallels the reason we made N+ for Xbox360. The short version is, Nick Suttner (from Sony) was a big fan of N+ and made sure we knew that if we ever wanted to follow it up, Sony would be interested. Sony has somehow assembled an amazing team of people who are really knowledgeable and passionate about games, and meeting them and hearing how genuinely they love games made us feel like PS4 would be the perfect home for N++. Microsoft on the other hand, didn’t contact us at all, so we went with what we thought would be best for us and thus for the game. We’re happy to finally be making a version of N for PlayStation! The good news for fans is, if it goes well on PS4, we hope to be able to bring N++ to other platforms so everyone can try it.
Q: What do you find most challenging about developing a title on the PlayStation 4?
A: None of us had ever worked on a launch title for a new console (this was the original goal for N++!), so there was a bit of a learning curve as stuff changed during the year before the PS4 launch. We’re working with Shawn McGrath, who made DYAD, and whose engine for PS3 is terrific — we all thought the PS4 architecture would be similar, but Shawn ended up having to rewrite pretty much every part of his engine for PS4. Plus the hardware was pretty new, so the documentation was minimal, but fortunately Sony has great support for developers. Anyway that was quite a learning experience!
Q: Has there been anything that you wanted to include in N++ that didn’t make the cut?
A: Nope; our whole goal with N++ is to make sure this is the definitive (and final) version of the game, so we’re making sure to do everything we want to do. This is a big part of the reason development is taking so long — we found a few things that were so surprisingly awesome, we knew we needed to give them just a little more time and energy. We’re almost finished the game now, and we have strayed a lot from our original schedule, but we needed to do it right. We’re so happy that that’s working out!
Q: What can fans of N+ expect to see in N++? More of the same or a complete overhaul?
A: So much more. We rewrote the entire game from scratch so we could be sure we were happy with the look and feel of every single aspect of it. It’s entirely vector-based, because Shawn is a programming genius and is as particular about how things look as we are; suffice it to say, the game finally looks as good as it feels, as smooth as silk, if silk ran at 1080p and 60fps.
There are 1000 all-new levels, new colour schemes, new enemies and game modes, and finally a built-in level editor that supports online global level sharing for all. And a bunch of other surprises 🙂
We’re extremely excited about N++, it’s the game we always wanted to make.
Q: Is there any new game types available, and if so do you have a personal favourite?
A: Yes, there are a few — we really like Co-op, which was present in N+, but now we’ve had more time to work on levels and understand what one can do with it. We’ve come up with some new puzzles and levels we think people will really like!
We’re also pretty proud of Race mode (competitive MP) — we’ve tweaked the rules and added Rocket Time at the end, where you become a rocket and can fly around and kill the other players. It’s more strategic and deep, making Race suitable for competitive play, but it’s also really fun to just jump into at a party.
Q: The PlayStation 4 has some very unique features such as the DS4’s touch pad, light bar and gyroscopic sensor, did you support any of these hardware features? If so, what purpose do they serve?
A: We will make the light bar reflect the colours of the players in MP, and will use the touch pad in the editor, but we don’t use the gyro sensor at all. We thought about having a trophy you get when you throw your controller in a fit of rage, but figured it wouldn’t get past Cert 😉
Q: Is there any DLC plans for the future?
A: Oh, definitely. More levels, more colours and lots more fun-lockables ™.
Q: And finally, when can we blow ourselves up on a lush PlayStation 4 screen? Sometime soon I hope?
A: Sometime soon, for sure. We’re not quite sure when yet though — our plan for this game is to release it when it’s done and not before. If we rush it, it will not be the game we need it to be, and since this will be the last version of the N series ever, we have vowed that it must also be the best.
Thanks for your time guys and all the best with N++ when it releases.