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Looking Back – An interview with Metanet Software about N+ and such

Again we have another old interview. This one was my first duel interview and well at points I don’t know who’s talking so when it says “Metanet” it means I don’t know who it is. Um yeah this one was pretty long too! I didn’t even notice how long it was until I started editing it. XD

The game’s really fun. Anyone who hasn’t tried out at least N should.

BA: Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourselves?

Metanet: We’re in our late 20s, we live in Toronto, we like candle-lit dinners and long walks on the beach.

BA:  Hehe. How did you feel about the success of N and N+?

Mare Sheppard: We’re happily surprised, it’s pretty amazing to us that people are enjoying our games.

Raigan Burns: It’s pretty weird to see the games in stores and stuff!

BA: I know Lode Runner was one of the influences in N, what other games did you look to for inspiration?

Mare Sheppard: Super Mario Bros, and the freeware that’s linked to on the credits menu — Puchi, Zone Runner, Super Bubble Blob, Soldat

Raigan Burns: …and stuff like Aeon Flux (not the movie). Mare saw Peter Chung at E3 in 2005!

Mare Sheppard: Met and spoke with!

Metanet says: (he’s the guy that did aeon flux)

BA: So were these games you both have played out of enjoyment or did you just look to them to think of gameplay elements?

Mare Sheppard: It was just what we were playing at the time, we liked them so much they sort of pushed us to try and make a game.

BA: Have you guys heard of N-Game?

Metanet: ??

We’ve heard of Stephen King’s “N.”

BA: Hehe. Okay well let’s just say it’s basically your game with a different name and with no credit given to you two.

Metanet: What?!!? Where is it? (do you mean the in-browser versions?)

BA: Yes it’s in-browser. There are others but it’s a common name.

Metanet says:
Is it N v1.2? That’s been floating around for a while, but the credits page and link to our site is still in there AFAIK. Ah, yes.

BA: Heh okay that was just something I wanted to ask.

Metanet says: np

BA:How prominent were you two in the development of N+?

Mare Sheppard: Well as you may know, there are two versions of N+. One, for Xbox360 LIVE Arcade, which was developed by Slick and Published by Metanet. We also did the level design and were very hands-on during the dev process.

The second, for DS and PSP, was developed by Silverbirch, published by Atari, and licensed by Metanet. We were given the vague title “Consultant” and tried to be as hands-on as possible, but ended up less so than with N+ XBLA.

BA:How was it working with them?

Metanet says: Slick or Silverbirch? Or Atari? Or Microsoft??

BA: Any of them.

Metanet says: lol, lots of people involved!

Raigan Burns: Well, our producer at Atari was really great, so that made it a much better experience than it could have been, but it was still pretty frustrating to work on the handhelds. We sort of felt like all the levels we made for those ones were “wasted”, we would have preferred having them for the 360 version. Slick was great to work with, they’re just smart and professional all the way!

Mark Sheppard: In any case, we learned a lot from both projects that we’ll be able to use next time.

BA: So did you guys first decide to release the game on other platforms or did the companies come to you?

Mark Sheppard: Microsoft came to us, and then once that was under way we had our agent look for someone interested in doing a portable version at the same time, and found Atari.

BA:
Cool. So if you could, would you rather have had complete control over the projects?

Mark Sheppard: Of course that’s always better, that was the intent from the start, but it didn’t work out that way unfortunately.

Raigan Burns: In hindsight it was probably too much to run both 360 and handhelds at the same time..

BA: So did you guys help in the new pack that was released recently for the XBLA version?

Mark Sheppard: Yeah, we did all of the levels and the ninjas and all that.

BA: What do you think was your greatest accomplishment with N+?

Raigan Burns: Sneaking in the level shaped like a p****! (had to censor this for the site just think 9-1=D). Also preserving the original graphical style and not getting too fancy

BA: Heh. So can you tell a little bit about version 1.5 of N?

Mark Sheppard: Well, at this point it’s just a todo list..

Raigan Burns: A very long list, things we added as well as stuff taken from the fan suggestions.

Mark Sheppard: But the game itself won’t be a big change, it will just be lots of fixes and possibly a rewrite to AS3 to make it faster (and able to run in a browser without slowing down).

BA: So how do you feel about the N and N+ community?

Raigan Burns: It’s great! we’re really happy people are into stuff like SUBLiME and the contests, it lets everyone get involved.

BA: Were there any user-created levels that you have found challenging or intriguing?

Mark Sheppard: Most of them are much harder than our levels, so yes! And they also tend to do things we haven’t thought of with the enemies/objects.

Which is cool.

BA: Have you implemented any of those ideas into N or N+?

Raigan Burns: Well, we included the levels. We also added stuff like multiplayer because it was such a popular request on the forums.

BA: So what can you say about your next project, Robotology?

Raigan Burns: Well, we’re working on it right now.. but it’s still pretty early. We have a good idea of what we’re trying to implement, but who knows where it will end up leading.

BA: In an interview with PC Gamer it was learned that physics was going to be really important. How do you plan to implement this?

Raigan Burns: That part is pretty much done, we’re just putting the finishing touches on it. It’s sort of a continuation of what we used in N, which was based on a paper by Thomas Jakobsen. There have been some continuations of his approach, which is what we’re using...

We’re still learning a lot about collision and physics though! Probably the biggest thing is rope, which won’t be a chain of particles as it usually is these days, but will instead be a line like in Umihara Kawase.

Mark Sheppard: There was a surprising amount of work involved in the simulator, we started out figuring it would only take a few weeks, but we’ve ended up with a much more sophisticated system than we had originally planned.

BA: So where did you look for inspiration in this game? Was N and N+ an influence?

Mark Sheppard: We’re building on the same ideas we had, but in a different direction, or more depth.. basically we’re trying to make the games as dissimilar as possible, but they’re both about character control and simulation in a 2D physics-based world.

BA: Is this game going to have a story?

Raigan Burns: Yes, but who knows what it will be. We have a lot of ideas for that part of it as well. It will definitely be different than the usual stories!

BA: Since N+ was such a success, do you plan to develop a retail version of the game?

Mark Sheppard: It might be shareware, We’re not sure yet. Basically we’re not going to worry about it until the game is done

BA: Yeah focus on the actual game is always important. Do you have any plans of going into the more “mainstream game industry” or would you rather stick with making indie games?

Mark Sheppard: We’d like to stay small and not lose focus.

Raigan Burns: We don’t really feel like we’re interested or competent in the skills required to grow things to a bigger scale, we’d much rather just keep working in our own way.

BA: Okay I think I’m out of questions now. I think this may be important for some. Do you have any plans on releasing another pack for N+ any time soon?

Mark Sheppard: There’s a third pack coming in October! We’ll be having another contest for that one, details and other news and stuff will be forthcoming on the metablog.

BA: Great news! Finally, if you could say anything to those who are interested in developing indie games and those learning to right now, what would you say?

Metanet: Hooray for you!! we were really impressed with all of the tigsource demakes entries, and tojam. And thanks for making games and inspiring everyone else to make games!

BA: Thanks again for allowing to let me interview both of you. I really look forward to your future projects.

Metanet: Thanks for the interview!!

You can visit Metanet Software’s website here or check out N and N+ here.
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