N++ on the move

By M&R | February 28, 2014

Hello again! We have good news for all you N++ fans out there — your patience is finally starting to be rewarded. We’re at a point where we can start to unveil N++ to the world, which is exciting. The game is pulling together, and it’s looking and feeling really great.

Wish you could play it too? Well good news! We have an early demo that shows off the new graphics, colours, enemies and a few other things. There’s still plenty more to come, but if you’re chomping at the bit, this will help tide you over until the final release.

If you’re in Kyoto, Japan, March 7-9, come and visit us at BitSummit. (We’ll have some super special limited edition N++ merch available too!)

If you’re in San Francisco March 17-21, you can play the game at Sony’s booth at GDC. We’d love to hear what you think!

(Also: if you’re a journalist and you’d like to play a demo privately at BitSummit or GDC, or you’d like to do an interview, please email us at metanet AT metanetsoftware DOT com.)

 

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the game in-progress. For those of you who have no idea what this N++ thing is all about, take a look at this post over on the PlayStation blog: http://blog.us.playstation.com/2014/02/28/what-is-n-an-intro-to-the-ps4-action-platformer/

We’ve just updated the N++ website with some early screenshots.

One of our goals with N++ is to ensure the game looks beautiful and intriguing in screenshots, and (as evidenced by previous blog posts) we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the graphics.

As players of N and N+ know, screenshots haven’t always done the game justice — the magic really happens when the ninja is in motion. For N++ we really wanted to try to express some of that magic in the stills as well. Good news: it’s working!

We still have lots of tweaks to make, and plenty of things to add to the graphics, but these screenshots are a proof of concept: the minimalist art style perfectly suits N++, and the colour schemes are looking gorgeous. And the effects! In motion they really come to life, but even static they look stunning.

Speaking of which, keep an eye on the N++ tumblr, ’cause we’re going to be posting a handful of animated gifs of some of the effects.

For 4 whole seconds of N++ gameplay footage, you can also check out this brand new N++ Gameplay Teaser Trailer: http://vimeo.com/selfawareproductions/gameplayteaser Not enough for you? Don’t worry, there will be plenty more gameplay footage forthcoming!

We have to say, N++ feels like butter, if butter somehow ran at 60fps. It’s so smooth, so precise — controlling the ninja feels absolutely fantastic. You just fly through the air, nimbly darting around levels, deftly manipulating speed and momentum and making it look easy. It’s glorious. And very addictive! We’re starting to spend more and more time playing, even after hours. The new entities are awesome — you are going to love them. We’ll have more detail on them soon.

So what’s next? Well, there’s still a lot to do — what we have in the demo build is the foundation, the core of this game. There are several more layers to add before it’s finished and polished, but we’re very happy with how N++ is coming together. You’ve got a little more waiting to do, but we think you’ll be glad when it’s done — this game is going to rock.

Happy New Year!

By M&R | January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! It’s going to be an exciting one. But first, let’s look back on 2013 a bit.

 

2013 was a remarkably busy year for us, right out of the gate. We’d spent most of 2012 finalizing N v2.0, and 2013 started with a bang.

Let’s look at that launch video one more time:
Oh Yeah

 

There were quite a few important updates in N v2.0, including new levels, a smoother feel, and a whole new way to make and share levels. We were ecstatic to get that update out, especially since we’d been planning it since 2005! After a year of concerted effort, we finally got it done, with the help of Golden Gear Games; speaking of which, we’re happy to report that Golden Gear is gearing up (hah) to get a bugfix release out soon.

 

The big news of 2013 was, of course, that we’re working on N++, which will be the last and best version of the whole series.

We spent most of the year planning and prototyping, plus developing and working with our dream-team to figure out how best to make this game shine. The impact of the new graphics is already apparent, and we really can’t wait to show you more.

Things with N++ are progressing slowly, but surely — we’ve corrected our course a few times over 2013, and that has led to a few changes in what we’re planning for the game. As a result, a few aspects of N++ are taking longer than we anticipated, but we’re extremely confident the wait will be worth it.

We’ll be able to show you more really soon, and in the meantime, keep an eye on the N++ tumblr for some in-development images and other behind-the-scenes goodies.

 

We are being careful not to overpromise and create false hope, but rest assured, we’re doing our best to give this game the best life it could possibly have.

One thing we do know for certain is that N++ for PS4 is coming first; if the response to the PS4 version is good, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to release N++ on other platforms. The good news is, you can help! In the next few months, we’ll be releasing lots of screenshots and videos to whet your appetite and show why we’re so excited about this game; if you see something you like, spreading the word will make it a lot easier for us to convince platform-holders to give us a shot :)

 

What’s in store for us in 2014? Only time will tell. But each new year brings with it an opportunity for all of us humans to better ourselves, our lives, and the lives of those around us. Let’s make this world more beautiful than it already is. Let’s support each other, create, and celebrate each others creations.

This year we’re hoping that the future of games is brighter than ever. There are so many developers making games right now, so many people creating unreasonably fun experiences and enticing worlds, building ingenious puzzles and using games to express who they are. There is so much to say, and so many ways to say it, and especially considering the multitude of creative expressions the last year brought, we can’t wait to see what the next has in store.

 

Until next time, we wish you all well, and thanks for your continued support — it means a lot to us. To an ambitious and exciting 2014!

PS4, Progress

By M&R | November 14, 2013

Hello again! We’re still hard at work on N++. Here’s what we’ve been up to in the past month or so.

We’ve moved from in-progress designs and prototyping to finalizing graphics, animations and effects, plus all the UI. When all that is in the game, we can finally get screenshots and start really seeing how the game is coming together. We’ll also be testing a lot, so should have a good sense of how everything feels and works together.

Though we still have a lot of work ahead of us, we’re finally able to get a bit of a sense of how much we’ve done, which is motivating, and soothing. We should have some exciting things to show you at the end of this month!

So the PS4 is launching tomorrow! Unfortunately, N++ will not be available at launch, but when it is available, it will be part of a fantastic lineup.

Those of you living in NYC might be attending what sounds like a pretty cool party: http://blog.us.playstation.com/2013/11/13/nyc-new-ps4s-on-sale-just-for-you/ If so, keep an eye out some N++ art on the Standard Hotel building, and take pictures!

We’ll be back soon with more updates, but in the meantime, we’ll be posting concept art, photos and other fun stuff on the Metanet Software / N++ tumblr: http://metanetsoftware.tumblr.com/ Check it out!

The (Concept) Art of N++

By M&R | September 18, 2013

 

House-on-the-Castle-Mountainside-by-Fran-Silvestre-Arquitectos-00(www.archiscene.net)

 

Welcome to the first post dedicated to an aspect of N++! We’ll try to do more of these on different stages of development whenever we can find the time — things have been pretty crazy around here as we try to get this game to come together. Right now we’re working on finalizing the art style, and we wanted to give you a bit of insight into how we’re approaching it and how it’s going.

Because (as you may have heard) this will be the best — and the last — iteration in the N series, we’ll be trying our hardest to execute the aesthetic that we’ve always intended for the game, and to really nail it this time.

 

minimalism(modernsculpture.blogspot.com )

 

Where are we trying to go with N++’s graphics? The first thing you have to know is how much we love minimalism. Minimalism is an art or design style “where the work is set out to expose the essence or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts.

Minimalism can be found in any design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism)

 

myopiamuse.blogspot.com

 

Minimalism has influenced Metanet’s style in many ways — it’s the principle governing both the art style and the game design behind N, and of course N++ as well. We want to highlight the feel of the controls and the experience of playing the game, and a great way to do that is to have the graphics be subtle, simple, and in the background. This is where minimalism shines. As an aesthetic, it supports the gameplay without stealing the spotlight.

Although minimalism may seem trivial to execute, there’s a real challenge in deciding what to keep and what to cull, defining a world by using only a few elements creatively, and perfecting that balance, taking a game’s graphics from a set of disconnected objects to parts of a complete, designed world. It’s a thoughtful, detailed process. In short, simple is not necessarily easy.

 

donnakaranfall2012

 

Our favourite designs generally have clean, strong lines, visual balance, shades of neutral colours (possibly with punches of brighter colour) and strong, blocky, solid shapes.

But minimalism is more than just the sum of its parts, and it resonates with both of us in an interesting way. To look at a beautiful design makes us feel relaxed, happy and complete – it’s a powerful, palpable feeling that pervades brain and heart and guts, as if your whole body is utterly content. It’s a really good feeling!

 

6045306809_908c43e7e8_b1-650x975(designyoutrust.com0

 

Minimalism is simple, elegant, and beautiful, and a good match for N. But in N and N+, we feel we were unable to really refine it and capture that elegance — N and N+’s graphics are fine, but they feel slightly off. They never quite gave us that utterly content, complete feeling. So for N++, we’re trying to make that happen.

 

patterns(minimalistwoman.com)

 

We’ve been collecting books on design, graphic art, architecture, techniques and programming for over ten years now, and have created a pretty amazing design library in Metanet’s office; some of the influences we’re working with for N++ are pulled from our favourite books. We’re taking the opportunity to work with one of our favourite graphic artists, MASA, in order to really define and refine that style. We wanted to work with an expert, someone who can take our vision and make it powerful, punchy, unified, timeless, beautiful and fresh.

 

minimalism-color-red-green-pink-orange-creative-colours(photoinpixel.com)

 

The graphics will in part be an homage to Wipeout 3, because it was one of the first games whose graphics stood out and really made us understand the wealth of possibilities there are for game graphics. We remember vividly the first time we played Wipeout 3 on PS1 waaaaay back when we were in University. Watching the intro sequence was mind-blowing! We immediately reset the PlayStation and watched it again. The menus were crisp, organized, subtle and stylish. The in-game UI was easy to understand and elegant. The icons and power-ups were masterfully simple. And the prototype tracks — oh, the prototype tracks. The graphics for those perfectly epitomize minimalism and are, in our eyes, very beautiful. That’s the feeling we want to capture in N++.

 

Wipeout3

 

If we could summarize the direction we want the graphics for N++ to take, it would be this: An evolution, similar to the evolution of Mario’s graphics from SMB3 to Super Mario World. In those games, the characters are well-defined, and the transition from one game to the next retains the historical connection between them so entities are recognizable but upgraded with details and a fresh look.

 

object_refinement

 

We think the N++ concept art teaser trailer is a pretty great introduction to what we’re going for. Check it out!

N++ Concept Art Teaser Trailer

Again, this is concept art only! But it should give you a taste of what you can expect from N++. The graphics may change as development continues and we refine the style, but we’ve carefully crafted this little video to capture the mood, tone, and feel we’re trying to create for N++. Wondering who made that bouncy, flute-y track you hear? Yep, it was none other than our own Raigan Burns! You can hear more of his work here.

 

n++_logo_tiny

 

So there you have it. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but we feel like we’re on the right track. Thanks for reading! We’ll be back as soon as we can with more N++ news.

The road to N++

By M&R | August 20, 2013

Yes, it’s happening: N++ is well on its way to PS4. We’ve been working on it since late 2012, so it’s nice to finally be able to talk about it!

However, before we talk about the future, lets rewind to the past a little.

For those of you not familiar with the backstory: almost 10 years ago, we made a game called N (if you haven’t tried it, you can play it here. it’s free!), a physics-based action-puzzle platformer starring a ninja. Like all first projects, it was a bit rough around the edges, but it was fun, and we were excited about it, and thanks to encouraging emails from a few people who really liked it, we kept working on it. We kept developing and polishing it, and gradually, over a period of 1-2 years, N managed to find an audience (despite still being a little rough around the edges).

One of the people who liked it worked at Microsoft, and managed to convince other people there that it would be a good fit for the then-new XBLA platform (thanks Ross Erickson!). So, with a lot of help from Slick Entertainment, we made N+ in 2008.

Amazingly, people seemed to like it -– not everyone, of course, because we all have different tastes, but many more people than we had ever anticipated! It still makes us immensely glad to watch people on youtube enjoying N+, particularly when they get really frustrated/angry… it warms our slightly sadistic hearts :)

Since then, we’ve been getting emails from people who want to play N+ on their PS3/PC/etc.; we’ve never properly explained to those disappointed fans why we didn’t release N+ on other platforms for them.

There are several reasons behind this, but most importantly it was because after N+, we were really burnt out — there were a few bumps in the development process (as it was our first commercial game), and as a result we ended up having to scramble to make about 1000 levels over the summer of 2007, which was a really intense experience.

(Initially we were only supposed to be working on the XBLA version, which meant about 500 levels (in addition to all the “producing” stuff like art-/sound-direction and constant playtesting/feedback to get the feel right); however, we weren’t really happy with the levels being made by the developer of the DS/PSP versions, so we decided that we would have to take matters into our own hands in order to prevent people from being disappointed.)

We survived, and N+ turned out well, but the experience left us ready for a break from all things N-related for the foreseeable future.

One of the most persistent fans we met was Nick Suttner; we would run into him at least once a year at conferences, and he would always ask us whether we would ever consider making a version of N for PlayStation. We always told him that we would absolutely be happy to, as soon as we were ready, but that we didn’t know when that would be, or if we would ever feel ready to try and top N+.

Then, gradually, we found ourselves making levels again, for fun — it’s sort of a hobby for us, an often relaxing and enjoyable creative challenge.

We also made an arcade version of N for the Torontrons, which got us thinking about different rules and modes of play.

We realized that there was a bit of guilt eating away at us, and that we had to deliver the final update to N we had promised years ago, before N+, but had become too burnt-out to face.

So, earlier this year, we finished N v2.0, an update to the original N.

One of the things we wanted to add to N v2.0 was integrated level-sharing – after all, what’s the point of a built-in level editor if you can’t easily share your levels with other players? This was one of the big disappointments for us with N+: Nick from Slick had devised a clever way to share levels globally via leaderboards, and it was working great, until Microsoft pulled the plug at the last minute for legal reasons. (To be fair, they had always warned us that they couldn’t guarantee it would be allowed, but it was still really disappointing.)

We also spent a few months helping do some rough/concept level design for our friend Jon’s game Sound Shapes (being in Toronto is pretty awesome, mostly because of all the great people you’re surrounded by); sharing user-made levels is a huge part of that game, and it was exciting to us to see that Sony was really going for it rather than being scared of the legal ramifications of a few penis-shaped levels.

We were also talking with our friend Shawn (who had just finished making Dyad, and who incidentally went to highschool with Jon! It’s crazy here in Toronto!!), who was experimenting with some anti-aliased vector graphics that looked cool and were exactly what we wanted to do in N++. In addition to being an amazing programmer, Shawn is also a curmudgeon who hates most games; yet he likes N! We thought that this boded well for future collaborations.

So over the years, we’ve been excited about the whole N series, humbled by it, bored of it, intrigued by it and now we’ve come back around to being excited about it again, and the point is, there were all sorts of ideas and threads coming together in our lives, so that the next time Nick Suttner asked us about working with Sony (maybe the fourth or fifth time total – he can be very persistent!), we realized that we were eager to take all the loose ends and things we never got a chance to do, and make one final version of N, with the goal of making the definitive version which we ourselves would want to play over all other versions: N++.

By this time, Nick had worked his way up the ladder to the point where he was involved with Sony’s Pub Fund program, of which we had heard great things from other local friends like Shawn and Drinkbox (who made Guacamelee). Pub Fund is amazing – not only is it even further confirmation that the people we’re working with at Sony really believe in us and our project, but beyond that it gives us the freedom to pull out all the stops and take the time to be sure that N++ will be the absolute best thing it can be.

We’ve been redesigning the game modes, playing around with new ideas and further refining the classic core that made N fun ten long years ago — and finally smoothing out some of those rough edges.

Our intent is that N++ delivers the solid, distilled, fast-paced platforming you expect from the series, with a few new touches and a ton of love and attention to detail; we’re trying to make something that feels familiar but is profoundly better than ever. There is so much more to say, and we’ll have many more details for you soon.

In the meantime, check out this teaser on PS.com to get a taste of where we’re going with this: http://blog.us.playstation.com/2013/08/20/ninja-platformer-n-dashes-to-ps4/

Also here’s a general article about a lot of the great games coming to PlayStation http://blog.us.playstation.com/2013/08/20/gamescom-indie-avalanche-n-volume-hotline-miami-2/

So there you have it, a brief history of N, and the humble beginnings of what will hopefully soon become your favourite game and ours: N++ :)

Interim Report

By M&R | August 15, 2013

Wow, July’s come and gone and we haven’t kept you up to date — sorry about that! This summer has been really busy with N++, as well as lots of other random stuff, including attending a friend’s beautiful wedding out of town. That was a short but refreshing break — it’s helped us stay positive during the arduous middle of developing this game.

When you’re working with such a small team, there’s always a lot on each person’s plate and things often get temporarily overwhelming — sometimes you just have to put your head down and get things done; anyway now that things are (mostly) under control (hooray!), we should be posting more regularly to keep you all up-to-date on the latest progress.

We are, as usual these days, working on N++. This has been going pretty well, however we’re a couple months behind our initial schedule; there have been the usual “things always take 3x longer than anticipated” delays, as well as some exceptional circumstances, both happy (our programmer Shawn and his wife had their first child!) and sad (a collaboration with one of our graphic design heroes fell apart after a few months).

But the good news is, we’ve finally rounded the curve and we can see the finish line clearly… now we just need to get there. Easier said than done, of course!

We’ve been dying to post some info/details about the game, however we’re still waiting for the official announcement from our mystery partner company (which will happen sometime in the next few weeks) before we can spill any beans; we promise it won’t be too much longer!

Right now we’re trying to get something playable ready for PAX, however it’s going to be close… in the best case scenario, you can come play a demo, and in the worst case scenario, you can stop by our booth to chat with us and pick up some N++ stickers and buttons!

More news really soon! Thanks for your patience; we think it’ll be worth the wait :)

New v2.0 update

By M&R | June 27, 2013

 

Update! Things are busy around here as we pour our efforts mainly into N++.

Fortunately, Golden Gear have been fixing some bugs in N v2.0, and this week we were able to find the time to create these new builds and get the online version up and running on The Way of the Ninja. Here’s what’s been fixed:

 

fixed in this build:

    - When maximized, game window is not centred
    - Beating the last episode generates an error message
    - The pause key cannot be used to unpause the game
    - no timebars in replays
    - replays stop after the last player input
    - the “new highscore” message only shows if you get the #1 score, rather than when you get on the high score list at all
    - arcade mode can be resumed from the last level you started if you lose due to time out
    - if your time remaining exceeds 999 seconds, the decimal point in your score is misplaced
    - large scores do not appear correctly on the high score list
    - coop scores being cached locally and used to check whether a new single player score is higher than previous effort
    - playing coop and entering no input at all for one or the other during the entire run causes an error if the other player beats the level
    - news xml throws an uncaught exception if it ever fails to load
    - typos on the Story page
    - replaced “speedruns” with “highscores” in the help section to be more consistent with language elsewhere
    - new searches don’t reset to page 1
    - the fps meter and debug fields block mouse events
    - the bottom pane on the favourites page is shown even when no level is selected, leading to various issues

 
Thanks Golden Gear!

 
Also, the fully-featured online version of N v2.0 is now available for play on thewayoftheninja.org, here: http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/nv2.html

The downloadable version is here. (we modified the website a little to make it easier to navigate)

 
There was already an online version at Kongregate, but if you play online at The Way of the Ninja, you can create an account and log in, plus create levels and download them from the database, just as you can in the downloadable version. The fun part is that you can do this from any computer anywhere, and save your progress “in the cloud” (as long as you’re logged in). Exciting! It’s next-gen! The cloud!

Even more exciting? now you can send links to levels you’ve made via email or your favourite flavour of social media. Give it a whirl with a really quick level made early on to test the database: Pretty As A.

Tweet levels to @metanetsoftware, we’d love to try them!

Ultimately we’re hoping the online version will help N v2.0 be a bit more future proof than past versions have been.

 

So enjoy, and we’ll be back with some N++ related news soon!

Quick Fix

By M&R | May 25, 2013

We’ve uploaded a new version of N v2.0 both online and for download, fixing a few of the major bugs — we’re still working on tracking down more. We’ll keep you posted!

http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/n_downloads.html

EDIT: A new new version is up now. Should fix episode unlocking problems.

N v2.0 is here!

By M&R | May 17, 2013

This is it! Remember that game you played in high school but forgot about through college? Yes, it’s the update you’ve been waiting for but probably forgot about since it’s been so long! N v2.0 is finally finished, ready to eat up your free time (and maybe some time at work too) once again. This launch trailer should help you get excited:

 

 

Play the web version online here:
N on Kongregate

Or download the game here:
N Downloads page

(Note: both versions feature new levels and new game modes (Arcade and local 2P); the downloadable version also includes a level editor and access to the level database and highscores)

 

Want more detail on what’s new? Check out this in-depth breakdown:
http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/n_future.html
and the updated version history:
http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/n_history.html

 

Enjoy, and please help us spread the word!

 

We want to extend a huge thank you to Golden Gear Games for their work on the UI and front-end programming, to Gabe and Nick for their work on the back-end, and to all those who helped test the beta. You all rock!

p.s – we still haven’t forgotten about the holiday contesque winners; we’re really sorry there’s been such a delay, but we promise that as soon as we have time to make some N-related goodies (which should be in the next few months for N++), you’ll be the first to get them!

p.p.s – There are a couple of small bugs with the editor (nothing that affects saving or loading levels, or general functionality). Please send any comments, bug reports etc to metanet AT metanetsoftware DOT com, including “Nv2″ in the subject line.

The Year of N, For Real This Time.

By M&R | March 29, 2013

So we have big news. Big exciting news. We’re working on the absolutely final iteration of N: it will be called N++

N++ follows in the tradition of N+ and improves on it; it’s a bigger, better, more fully-featured version, with everything N has, plus plus:

New levels, new graphics, new sound, new game modes — N++ is an aspirational re-interpretation of the game, and we’re putting everything we have into it. We are using it as an opportunity to try out some new ideas we’ve been playing around with, to refine some existing game modes/mechanics and to finally perfect global level-sharing.

We can’t announce which platform N++ will be on, or when it’ll be released, or really anything more specific than the above yet, but we really can’t wait to say more, so check back for exciting news soon. In the meantime, we’ve carved out a web presence here with the logo, and will update periodically: www.nplusplus.org

In other news, we’re currently wrapping up the final free web version, N v2.0, which was recently in beta (the beta will be closed very soon, thanks to everyone who played and helped test it!) — the full version will be released shortly (we’re still in the process of adding some security/anti-cheat measures).

So what’s the difference between N and N++, and why might we want to do both? Well, N v2.0 will be the best browser version of N — we’ve taken it as far as we can within that (somewhat limiting) framework. N v2.0 features some new and some classic levels, local 2P co-op, level-sharing, highscores and some new “fun-lockables” (TM), including Arcade Mode, which is activated when you beat a column of episodes. It is still and always will be free, and we’ve taken on the job of hosting levels and highscores for every user, also for free. N++ will fill a different niche, and allow us to explore some avenues we’re excited about that don’t work in the web version.

We’re going to do the best we can to make N v2.0 and N++ great so we can finally feel like we’ve done it right, and move on to other games. It’s a huge challenge, but we’re finally ready for it. We hope you’re ready too.

So that’s it! Welcome to the year of N.