Mailbag! N: Big Brain Academy

21 Sep / by: M&R / 16 comments / tags :

We recently received an interesting email from Dr. Benjamin Alterman, a clinical psychologist certified in neurofeedback therapy. With his permission, here’s what he had to say:


Dear Metanet Software,

I’d like to express my thanks for the important contribution your game N has made to many of my patients. I am a clinical psychologist specializing in neurobehavioral therapy for disorders of attention, anxiety, and impulsivity in adolescents. For a portion of their mental training, we run N on a PC with the AV signal channeled through a switch that responds to the patient’s brainwaves or skin-conductance. When the patient’s autonomic nervous system becomes excited or brain becomes agitated beyond a certain threshold, the AV signal is automatically cut-off and the game paused until the patient can again play with perfect composure.

Better than any other game I’ve employed, N is beautifully adapted for this purpose. In practice mode with the timer off, not only does the game-play allow for pausing even at critical junctures whenever the AV signal is interrupted, but the level design also allows me to teach patients with learning disabilities and attention deficits how to gather information from failure, identify new strategies, practice the execution of those strategies, and then, following additional failures, reassess their strategies or need for further skill acquisition. This training teaches them meta-awareness which helps them to develop frustration tolerance in real world academic and social environments in a way that talk therapy alone does not.

So, thanks again for your fine work. It has made a substantial difference in the lives of many young people and their families. (Incidentally, they also really enjoy watching their N-body bounce around after it becomes a corpse.)

Best wishes,
Benjamin Alterman, Ph.D.


We were amazed and humbled to hear that; that N could be a part of something so progressive and cool is simply inspiring.

It would have been pretty awesome if we could have shipped N+ with an AV switch peripheral, so that everyone could try this sort of training…that’s a great idea for the sequel, whenever that happens!

Thanks for writing, Dr. Alterman, you rock! We’re happy we could help 😉


In other, less awesome news, the N+ DS/PSP community servers are officially no more. We received word from our stalwart contact at Atari that the valiant efforts to rescue the data servers for N+ DS and PSP (from Silverbirch, the now-defunct developer of the handheld versions) and reinstate them on-site at Atari have failed, and since the project has unfortunately been something of a financial failure, the community servers are not a priority and will now be abandoned. We fully understand the decision on Atari’s part, and cannot fault them at all; it just sucks for everyone awesome enough to buy the DS/PSP versions of N+.

We are saddened by the news, since this marks the end of a (rather short) era of sharing levels and playing multiplayer games on the handheld systems, but we are not surprised; this was an inevitability that we think unfortunately arrived long before it was due. Players will have to be content with single player levels moving forward — hopefully the quality and quantity there will suffice.

Thanks to everyone, for playing N+. We hope you continue to enjoy it! Let’s have a moment of silence for N+ DS and PSP’s online content.


That’s it for today’s trip through the mailbag; coming “soon” (in the next couple weeks): a new video of in-development Robotology stuff. Mark your calendars for some vague date in the future!

comments ( 16 )

  • Ha, that letter is amazing 🙂

    I never really considered that that sort of emotional control could be a good thing, but I can see how it would be invaluable to someone who wants to work on their tolerance for frustration. It’s neat that N could be part of that.

  • Congrats on becoming honorary doctors!

    In other news, i’m sorry to hear the psp and ds version of the game lost it’s support. Maybe this is a lesson in “unless the creators are making the game, a third party can’t help to do as good, especially when they aren’t metanet, and especially when it’s n.” Then again that seems too long to be a practical nugget of wisdom to pass from generation to generation. Maybe something more like, “digital is the wave of the future” mixed with “don’t let other people raise your brain child.”

    That said, I enjoyed the ds version, wasn’t near as good as xbla, but it was fun while it lasted.

    /me twiddles thumbs waiting for robotology video.

  • Further, I 100% forgot. Since the xbla did so well for you guys with N+, please oh please oh please oh please keep releasing your games on it.

    I know you had mentioned robotology being a good fit for Wii, but I will cry rivers of sadness if I can’t get it on my xbox.

  • Robotolgy with motion plus on wii would be awesome! Slinging that rope around and whatnot.

    Also, I think it’s great that N could be used for something so good as helping people medically. Keep up the revolutionary work!

  • Well, that’s incredible that N is being used in such a fashion for therapy. Good choice. It’s not a good choice for anger management though. “ARGH, I keep slipping into the &^%#$% laser beam.” haha.

    As for what you said about the handhelds, yea, your thoughts about the platform were right since the beginning. Both the PSP and DS have incredible multiplayer potential, but most of the large developers and also including Sony and Nintendo failed to see the potential so no one worked toward networking models, such as what you see on PC.

    I remember emailing Nintendo, before the DS came out asking about the SDK. I said I had an idea for a multiplayer/arcade game that was perfect for the DS. I was simply brushed off as I didn’t run a game company that made 3 years worth of successful titles, but even worse, the person who replied back skoffed at the idea that one could play a multiplayer game similar to what you see on the PC. “Networking like that would not be popular at all on the DS”. Oh… wow. FAIL.

    Now it’s up to open platforms like the iPhone and Google’s Android and creative independant developers to show what multiplayer could really be like on a handheld platform. Including me. When I’m done my title and it proves to be a big success, I’ll email that rep at Nintendo back.

  • That’s amazing and it gave me a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

  • Great to see that N is used for humanity. 😀

    I’m a highscorer, and I can be sure that you brain actually *works* somehow to manage the ninja fastest way possible, I believe that when you play the game a part of the brain which controls physical reactions works for it.


  • Not the sort of thing you read on a devlog every day! I can totally see how N is perfect for such therapy.

    Kudos, Metanet. 🙂 Warm feeling, indeed.

  • Thanks for answering about the servers, guys.

  • np, we’re sorry it wasn’t better news 🙁

  • Thanks for answering about the servers, guys.

  • Thanks for answering about the servers, guys. 🙂

  • Wow, I feel a bit betrayed. I finally purchase N+, and then when I go to try out the awesome multiplayer and custom levels the servers are down.

    The only reason this game is worth the $20 price point is because of the nearly unlimited online potential. Otherwise it’s just a step above free flash games that I can play without even downloading and NOT a step above the normal N that I can play for free any time.

    I am saddened!

  • Re: N+ w/AV switch peripheral

    Just a thought but perhaps Nintendo’s upcoming Wii Vitality Sensor could be utilized with a future N+ release (N++?) to mimic the functionality employed by Dr. Alterman’s brain wave sensing AV switch. That would be the first compelling application I’ve heard of for Nintendo’s mysterious new gadget.

  • Congratulations on the game!

    I need to thank you for keeping me sane during the spare moments during computer programming 🙂

    I have a couple of questions regarding what language yo used to develop N.

    If anyone can assist me in developing something using actionscript I would really appreciate it!

    Thank you and again congratulations, keep it comin!
    Sincerely Mike Wahlberg
    Here is my email [email protected]

  • Bah I find out about the multi-player servers being down the day before N+ i due to arrive in the post…

    Oh well, at least I will be able to play N wherever I want. It strikes me as the perfect travel game – Short periods of intense, frustrating and distracting gameplay that can be dropped at a moments notice if necessary.

    As always, I’m several years out of date :p

Leave a reply