Hi! We're Metanet Software (Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns), a tiny indie game developer from Toronto! We've been making games since 2001 (god we're old)

We just launched N++ on Steam, completing the twelve-year journey that began with the free Flash version of N back in 2004. here's the Steam page if you want to check it out: http://store.steampowered.com/app/230270

Proof: https://twitter.com/metanetsoftware/status/767820927266586624

Reddit usernames: maresheppard, raigan

and joining us is Tatham Johnson who programmed the Steam port: tathamjohnson

Ask us anything!

EDIT: Awesome, this is now over. Just wanted to thank all of you for your thoughtful queries and kind words -- we had a great time here!

Comments: 580 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

moulindepita619 karma

After N++, are you planning on an N# release? Or N on rails, perhaps, with some sick grinds?

maresheppard181 karma

Short answer, nope, this is it! The goal with N++ was to not leave anything on the table, so we could make an absolutely great, definitive game we could never top. We think we nailed it :)

Longer answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4zjjd8/were_metanet_software_developers_of_n_n_and_n_ama/d6wc4jb

Cooby148 karma

Hey guys. I've been creating maps and submitting them to NUMA (the N User Map Archive) since 2006. Interacting with the community that grew up around user-submitted maps was what kept me coming back to play and create more year after year.

I love that you've made it easy to share maps with the entire community in-game in N++, but the level of interaction seems lacking at the moment. Do you have plans to either increase that user interaction (rating, commenting, user-featured maps and reviews, etc.) or to allow sharing of maps to third party websites such as NUMA?

Thanks for the amazing games.

maresheppard120 karma

Awesome! that's so cool to hear! The UI for the community-made levels section in N++ was incredibly complex (all UI is pretty complex, actually -- it's a really hard problem to solve), and while trying to design it, we just couldn't find a way to implement all the features we were trying to (like comments/rating/etc) while keeping it simple, clean and easy-to-use.

To compensate, we added a lot of features in N++ to help with visibility and discoverability for community-made levels, but you're right that there's just no substitute for being able to comment and review maps.

Fear not! A player like yourself has taken up the NUMA mantle (NUMA was also created by a player) and is trying to make something like that happen (as with NUMA, we're helping and supporting as much as possible from our end). You can find out more on the N++ discord: https://steamcommunity.com/linkfilter/?url=https://discord.gg/umGncGh

I wonder if it will be called NUMA++ ;)

ibcamwhobu83 karma

It seems like you guys put a lot of preliminary work into the mechanics and design aspect of the game before you even made the first version of N all those years ago, since it has remained a fairly steady constant. (The tutorials on your website for “Collision Detection and Response” and such are great insights into this process.)

Is this accurate; did you guys have a clear vision of this stuff going into making the N game, or were parts figured out along the way when creating levels?

maresheppard67 karma

thanks, glad to hear you found the tutorials useful!

So when we made N, we were just learning how to program and didn't have a plan at first -- we spent about 3 years just experimenting on little chunks of things, to see how things worked. Some of them were the collision detection and ragdoll physics that eventually ended up in N, and others were things that were less useful, like a drunk person on roller skates sim ;)

Then we started to combine elements together, and eventually arrived at the idea of making a stealth platformer starring a ninja, where you sneak around slowly -- but when we added the movement and controls, we realized it was way more fun to race around, and that you could pull off some pretty acrobatic moves. So we switched gears immediately, and that was the basis for N.

One of the benefits of being such a small team is being able to be flexible like that, and go where the design takes you.

Kungfuquickness52 karma

What do you think lies behind the doors of every level for our ninjas?

More levels? Paradise? Nirvana?

Raigan70 karma

Possibly the fabled land where the mythical "third" dimension exists... ;)

(Probably the ninja would just prefer more levels though)

maresheppard34 karma

or a big ol' room full of gold ;)

Stevenbrz52 karma

I can't wait to play your game later when I get home, I've been a fan of the series for a long time. Do you think there's a chance of online coop/competitive being added to the game?

maresheppard74 karma

we really hope to add online MP, and we will be able to if it sells well enough on Steam and we have the resources (ie money).

we had to choose between adding a level-editor and global level-sharing for all players, cross-platform, or online multiplayer. It was a very tough call, because we know some players really enjoyed that in N+, but in the end we went with the level-editor because we also received a ton of complaints about N+'s multiplayer and how lag makes the game very frustrating. (It's true, even a non-low-latency tv/monitor really makes the game very annoying)

So we went with the feature that has been universally loved over the course of the series to try to make the largest number of people happy. But we want to keep supporting and updating N++, so hopefully we'll be able to add some more cool stuff down the road!

more discussion: http://steamcommunity.com/app/230270/discussions/1/405692224242680020/

AussieDuke27 karma

I'm curious. Why the decision to go with Vector graphics over Pixels? Was it easier to manipulate as far as your wide away of colour schemes go or was there other reasons for that choice?

Raigan77 karma

The main reason is functional: N++ is all about precision, the movement is very fluid and often fractions of a pixel matter. With pixel-based graphics, the smallest unit of movement is an entire pixel; with vectors we can do smooth sub-pixel movement, which not only makes the game feel better, but it makes it easier to pull off the crazy close calls that are so thrilling.

The other main reason was that we were really inspired by the early 2000s vector graphics design of studios like The Designers Republic and Neubau -- we love graphic design in print, and we wanted to emulate that look as much as possible on a display.

We started programming with Flash, which had a gorgeous built-in vector renderer. (Sadly most people still used bitmapped sprites because they run much faster) We really think that it's important for gaem developers to explore unique and novel technology as much as possible in order to push things in new interesting directions, and since we wanted N++ to be the ultimate (and final) version of N, we knew we needed a bespoke vector renderer.

(Sadly this was a hard job -- you can't really get a 72dpi screen to do what 600+ dpi print can do -- but we managed to pull it off as much as possible)

AlexMax17 karma

The other main reason was that we were really inspired by the early 2000s vector graphics design of studios like The Designers Republic and Neubau -- we love graphic design in print, and we wanted to emulate that look as much as possible on a display.

Oh, so it wasn't all in my head that this game looked like N: Wipeout edition, it was your actual inspiration.

I've been wishing for a modern N on PC since N+, thank you so much for delivering.

maresheppard7 karma

Awesome, we're so thrilled to hear that the inspiration comes through :)

And, you're welcome! hope you enjoy N++ :)

JoeyJoJoJrShabidoo3 karma

Do you still use Flash at all in your workflow?

maresheppard4 karma

Not outside of legacy workflow, unfortunately -- we loved Flash for its (relative) ease of use as a prototyping tool due to the reasonably flexible programming capability and built-in animation system. But it's basically obsolete/unsupported in many ways now, which is so sad.

pyrob1ade26 karma

How did Mare and Raigan meet and start working together? How/when did Tatham come into the picture?

Loving the work you're all doing. I'm very excited for what's coming in the future.

maresheppard29 karma

thanks so much! I met Raigan in Java programming 101 in first year at University of Toronto -- we hit it off when we both realized we hated application programming (SO BORING) and loved games. And then we discovered that other than programming, we both had a whole bunch of interests, eg Raigan makes music, I am a visual artist, we both love design and architecture and film -- and at some point we made the connection that we probably had everything we needed to try to make a small game. Obvs this is the short ver of this story, but it just went on from there ;)

Tatham we met through Nick Waanders of Slick Entertainment (http://www.slickentertainment.com/), who we'd worked with on N+. Nick is awesome in every way, and when we needed a programmer to work with on the Steam port of N++, he suggested Tatham, who had worked at Klei on a number of their games. Tatham is a fantastic programmer and also a really great guy, and we're so lucky he was available!

RandomSpamMan14 karma

Been enjoying the N++ beta and just bought the PC version, thanks for the port!

Two questions, what was the most annoying bug you've had to deal in the porting process or the game's development in general and is there a level creator in the community who's levels you dread even attempting?

Cheers ^

Raigan26 karma

Um.. actually, saving on the PS4 was hard. Mostly because we didn't want players to have to ever wait while the game saved, and also because the game saves constantly (to track stats like deaths, etc).. it was a serious multithreading nightmare. IIRC it took 6 weeks to get it working! And in the end we introduced the infamous "invalid save file" PS4 bug.. that was rough.

There are a lot of level creators who are great at making insanely challenging levels. Off the top of my head I think that Nahoj stands out -- really wonderful levels, both aesthetically and technically, and we love that he started using a little "N" made of tiles as a signature in the level itself, such a cool idea.

tathamjohnson11 karma

In the porting process, the worst bug I've had to deal with was with the game sometimes not initialising properly. But only on Raigan's machine, and not mine or Mare's (which was actually identical hardware to Raigan's). I ended up having to debug it through a remote desktop session, and it turned out to be caused by all the multithreading as well.

maresheppard13 karma

that was so fun! (heavy sarcasm)

matrixagent12 karma

First of all, thanks for creating N++ – even after Uncharted 4 it is by far the greatest Ps4 game out there. I instantly bought it on Steam just now and can't wait to go on this wonderful journey again. I hope the Steam version sells better and lets more people enjoy this marvelous wonder of a game.

My question: What's next for Metanet? You mentioned the Linux/OSX versions of N++, but are you already planning a new game? Any wild ideas, completely different genres?

Raigan20 karma

Wow, thank you so much!! :)

After porting to Mac/Linux, our plan is to support N++ post-launch (adding new content and game modes) and hopefully bring it to new platforms (Xbox One and Vita) depending on our resources.

In terms of new stuff, next month we'll be starting a new prototype but I can't really say anything about that yet We have a bunch of in-progress prototypes that we're really eager to get back to as well -- Robotology (which is sort of a love letter to Umihara Kawase, a really awesome physics-based platformer for Super Famicom) and Office Yeti (an homage to the fantastic ZX Spectrum game Skool Daze) are the two furthest-along, we've been sort of picking away at them but would really like to see if we can complete one of them.

Finally, we hope to write a new series of tutorials about what we've learned in the past 10 years since N -- stuff about collision detection and simulation.

At this point our "little ideas to prototype" text file is tens of thousands of lines long, really we just can't wait for a bit of free time to keep experimenting, playing, and hopefully learning more.

matrixagent9 karma

Great to hear about the continued N++ support plans. The passion you have for it really shows!

I wish you all the best for N++ on Steam and other platforms so you'll be able to make the most of your free time afterwards. Maybe it's like the saying about novels – everyone has one in them, but maybe you'll hit the nail on the head again. I'll definitely be there to find out. :)

maresheppard4 karma

thank you, that's really awesome to hear. We have lots more ideas we can't wait to play around with, and although a lot of our future depends on how N++ sells on Steam, we're looking forward to it regardless :)

migueltf11 karma

N++ will have steam cards?

Raigan16 karma

yep, it's already got them! :)

DerExperte7 karma

Don't forget to update the store page, cards aren't listed there and for some that can be the reason to buy/not buy.

maresheppard12 karma

oh whoops! how about now?

maresheppard8 karma

they feature some pretty wonderful fan art :D

3kole510 karma

What do you think of the comparisons made between your game and something like, say, Super Meat Boy?

maresheppard28 karma

They're both great games, just very, very different, and that's tricky to communicate/understand sometimes. The N series is much more performative and there are many different routes players can take through most levels depending on their goals or ability, vs. there being a specific "perfect" route through a level that games like Super Meat Boy tend to have.

and N++ feels a lot more like eg Trials than a typical platformer, whereas SMB is more conventional wrt movement and how that works. We just try to do the best we can to get people to try N++ and see how it feels -- that usually does the job better than words or videos can.

We do wish people making comparisons of N++ to SMB had heard of N though -- sometimes people say things like "N has homing rockets just like Super Meat Boy!" when in reality, SMB has homing rockets just like N ;)

dvsspeed8 karma

Hi guys! Thanks so much for doing this AMA! I've been playing since the beginning, have played it on every platform and now my 6 year old son is addicted to it on PS4!! My question is how have you managed to push through all of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles you have faced? Where do you find the courage to push through? It's unreal what you have accomplished! Good luck with the Steam release!!

maresheppard12 karma

wow, thanks so much -- actually it's comments like these that really help us get through :)

EDIT: settle in, this got rambly ;)

we've been pretty lucky -- we made N because there was a game that we really wanted to play that didn't exist yet, so we had to make it ourselves. When we released it, we really only expected that a handful of people would like it, and when more and more people did, we were pretty blown away.

Which isn't to say it's universally loved, of course -- it's a niche game and is quite challenging, so plenty of people bounce off it, or worse, get the wrong idea about what it is. But it resonated really well with some, and they are really passionate and have been the backbone of the community of players, highscorers and level-makers over the years. That's so rewarding to see.

We do get some very vocal complaints about the game, but it's usually that it's missing a feature people really want -- and that lets us know that they really care (and want to be heard). Some things we'll never be able to add (one oft-requested feature is that we add guns, and give the ninja a way to fight back -- that's fine for many games, but is not right for this series), but in general we at least try to understand where players are coming from.

And maybe that's created a fanbase that isn't super toxic and entitled, I don't know -- ours is pretty alright though, which is refreshing. we have kept in touch with a few fans who go all the way back to 2004, and there's just something so amazing about that.

Game development is a really difficult endurance challenge, and can wear down even the most seasoned devs, I bet. We are so lucky to have a really great support network of friends and family when we get really low.

No matter what, it's always hard to put something you've created out there, when you've put so much time and love into it -- we've developed much thicker skins over the years, but the internet can be brutal. Even though we expect criticism, it's still rough to hear that people think N++ is an ugly retro game, and don't see what makes it so special. But it's ok -- if we all liked the same things, the world would be dead boring. We're content to just keep making things we find compelling and hope that a handful of others feel the same way.

Rapidgame77 karma

What were your inspirations to create N?

maresheppard8 karma

We played a lot of freeware and shareware back in the early 2000s, and we started to notice that many of our favourite games were made by tiny teams or students (which was exactly what we were, at the time!) so that gave us the inspiration to try to make a game in the first place.

the specific inspirations for N are all listed on the Credits page (http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/nv2.html), and are: Soldat, by Michel Marcinkowski (amazing physics, vertical momentum) Super Bubble Blob, by KNPmaster (wall-jumping and wall-sliding) Puchiwara no Bouken, by Miya (tiny character, giant world) Zone Runner, by Chris Street (single-screen, collecting pickups and avoiding enemies as an engaging experience) the work of Kenta Cho (style)

and then of course Lode Runner, the Mario series, the Kirby series and Aeon Flux by Peter Chung. And also parkour/freerunning in general!

OverlordLork6 karma

Hi - n's been my favorite video game since 2007, and I can't wait to download n++! My question is this:

Whenever you talk about your games, you use an uppercase N. But whenever an n appears in the games themselves (like the n-shaped "Superliminal" levels), it's lowercase. Because of this, I've always considered lowercase n to be canon. What are your thoughts on n's case?

maresheppard8 karma

different applications call for different typographic solutions ;)

DSifan6 karma

Hey! Huge fan of N here, and I really enjoyed my time with the N++ PC beta. My question is this: do you guys have any plans on what you'll do next?

maresheppard5 karma

we're definitely looking forward to getting back to working on small projects rather than big ones, and on combining little experiments together to see what happens.

And I am very excited about finally finishing Office Yeti someday ;) (officeyeti.org)

ZePedroPONTO6 karma

Do you plan to release a DRM-free version of the game (on GOG, for example)?

Raigan6 karma

yep, but Steam was a priority -- once any launch fires have been put out, we'll be working on bringing N++ Mac/Linux as well as different stores.

Condawg4 karma

I've just purchased the game on Steam, so it doesn't directly affect me too much, but will the GoG version support the cross-platform level sharing? I could see the need to strip it of online features since it's DRM-free, so it's super easy to pirate, but at the same time it'd suck if some really creative person bought the GoG version and the rest of us weren't able to play their awesome levels.

maresheppard6 karma

That's the main crux of it -- the server is really expensive to run, so since DRM-free is easier to pirate, we would have to disable all online interactions because it would cost us so much. We're still trying to think about if there's anything we can do to though! Our team is pretty creative -- hopefully we'll be able to come up with something...

Condawg12 karma

I think how Hello Games did it for No Man's Sky is that the game itself is DRM-free. If you want to play single-player without any online interactions, you can do so as-is. But you get a serial number to activate online interactions.

I think that's a good middle-ground. Serial numbers are a basic form of DRM that aren't an inconvenience to legitimate consumers who wish to avoid systems like Steam, while making it so that pirates can't fill your servers (and don't get the full experience).

maresheppard7 karma

we'll look into that, thanks! that's a great suggestion.

JamesDonnelly3 karma

I'm very much enjoying N++, it's giving me an awful lot of fun so far. I've not properly played N now for a good 4 years, and it's great to see the community is still going strong.

I have to ask, how much of this was inspired by NReality?

For those of you who have no idea what that is, NReality was a fan-made mod of version 1.4 which introduced a load of crazy awesome enemies (like constantly-firing laser drones) and gameplay styles (reversed gravity, reduced friction and all sorts). It was a huge hit with the community.

maresheppard3 karma

we haven't actually played NReality :/

Backtired2 karma

Is there anyway I can try a demo or something? I'm not sure my old PC can run it, just wanted to be exactly sure. If I buy it and then lags I'd be highly disappointed. I missed the open beta sadly :(

maresheppard2 karma

There will be a demo soon, but you'll miss out on the sweet sweet launch discount if you wait ;)

Steam has refunds, I think -- you could consider trying it and refunding it if it doesn't work...

foolofatook292 karma

What are you favourite levels?

Does N++ contain all the levels from N and N+?

maresheppard3 karma

There are so many favourites, it's hard to choose :) We love many of them for many different reasons -- some are really aesthetically pleasing, and some are mechanically really unique...and some have those moments right at the end where you almost make it to the exit and then there's a perfectly placed mine that gets you ;) So hard to decide!

Raigan's favourite right now (because, it changes day to day) is Destroyer of Worlds, and my favourite is Habeas Porpoise -- partially because I find that level name very funny :)

33ro2 karma

What kind of backgrounds did you guys have when you decided to start making games?

maresheppard2 karma

Both Raigan and I are kinda jack-of-all-trades -- we have a lot of interests and we never really narrowed it down. I am an artist and Raigan is a musician, we both "enjoy" programming (as much as one can ;) I love the problem-solving aspect of it the most, but it can get pretty tedious) and math, plus we really love design, architecture, graphic design, film and stuff like that.

so when we met in university, I was taking visual art, sociology, psychology, computer science, english, cinema studies, etc and Raigan was taking computer science, math, philosophy, cinema studies, astronomy, music, etc... we sort of took everything we could! Raigan ended up with a triple minor, which I think they don't do anymore at University of Toronto ;)

Anyway we were playing and thinking about games and game design a lot back then (we got heavy into Home of the Underdogs, an abandonware site that N got a Top Dog award on (one of our proudest achievements)), and about how they're made and what we thought worked or didn't, and we sort of realized as we saw that many of our fave games were made by really small teams or students that we maybe had enough of the skills/interests required to make a game ourselves.

So we took a shot at it, and discovered that game development is really, really difficult! but also very rewarding and creatively satisfying.

Alateriel1 karma

Why has it taken this long to make 3 (arguably simplistic) games?

maresheppard3 karma

Looks can be deceiving :)

Knurling_Turtle1 karma

I loooove your games so thanks for that. Any chance we can get N game on the iPad at some point?

maresheppard3 karma

Thanks so much! Short answer: No, sorry! Controlling the ninja requires precision touchscreens are not responsive enough to allow, which would ruin what's fun about the game.

Longer answer, by Raigan: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4zjjd8/were_metanet_software_developers_of_n_n_and_n_ama/d6wehlr