Robotology: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?

19 Jan / by: M&R / 35 comments /

Yes, we’re still alive!

The the past few months have been quite stressful and busy, with a constant stream of things coming up that required our attention…resulting in us never having the time and/or energy to properly make with the blogging.

To jump straight to the crux of the post: we’ve decided to put Robotology on hold for the immediate future.


We spent the end of 2009 trying to prepare a “vertical slice” of the game in order to meet a grant milestone; this was a rather soul-crushing process of cutting, cutting, and cutting some more, until the game that remained was not the exciting, interesting game we are determined to make. Realizing this made us aware that something was wrong, and that action was needed in order to move us back on track.

Now, obviously some amount of compromise is required in order to actually ship a game, we’re quite aware of the dangers of a “ship when it’s done” mentality and Duke Nukem Forever and all that. Don’t worry, we’re on it.

The problem is that the features we would have had to cut or simplify in order to release the game in the near future are basically the entire list of what we set out to achieve: physics-based locomotion, vector-graphics animation system, powerful and friendly editors. When you remove these, you’re left with yet another physics-based platformer which neither of us was really interested in working on or playing.


The reason for Metanet Software’s existence is to provide a channel through which we can release our work, so that we can be able to make the games we want to make.

Obviously we would love to release a new game every year, or every month, but at the same time we would both prefer to never release another game than to release something we aren’t happy with and don’t love.

As we worked we saw how far we were from realizing the game we had envisioned, and how little time we had left before our deadline, which put us under a lot of stress; a combination of “it’s been so long since we released a game!” and our own impatience at still not being able to play this game we’ve been collectively dreaming of for years.

This stress made it harder to concentrate and work well, which began a feedback loop of more and more stress and less and less good work getting done.

At some point we realized that we don’t have “little time” left, in fact we have our entire lives — maybe we don’t need to kill ourselves to get this done, especially if we’re not going to be happy with the result.


While we were struggling with Robotology through November and December, the proverbial “carrot on the stick” was that once it was completed, we would be able to spend 2010 working on the many small experiments and game ideas that have been accumulating in our “to do” lists over the years.

We decided that instead of trying to press on with Robotology, it would be better for us and for the project if it was put on hold for the time being, allowing us to take a break from it by working on those small projects (one of which is prototyping Office Yeti). Exciting!

The realization that we maybe needed to take a break from Robotology was even more frustrating because of how great everyone else is doing; it seemed as though all of our friends and peers were excelling in 2009 and accelerating into 2010, while we were stuck in a morass. We’re so inspired by the amazing work our friends are doing, and it was difficult to admit we weren’t getting much done with our project. It was indescribably heartbreaking to make the decision to put Robotology on hold: it meant shelving our dream game, and accepting the harsh reality that we had failed, and that we’ve let people down.

Andy Schatz’s recent experience with Monaco, as detailed on his blog, has somewhat reassured us that this is the right decision to make — or at least that it isn’t necessarily a terribly bad course of action to take! Let’s hope πŸ˜‰


And so, the beginning of 2010 was an extremely low point in the history of Metanet Software, but since then we’ve come to realize that this situation isn’t really so bad: we’ve learned a lot, and have an incredible amount of useful tech which will serve us well in other projects.

Most importantly, once our decision had sunk in, we found that we were excited and inspired, and that we both had a renewed energy toward making games.

We can’t wait to start expanding some of our ideas and experiments over the next few months, which will hopefully result in some new, fun projects. Plus, Robotology isn’t gone for good — now that it’s no longer an albatross, we find ourselves getting excited about it again and wanting to work on some of the remaining problems/challenges. Many of the outstanding tasks, like the level and character editors, were perfectly suited to be stand-alone projects, and we’re looking forward to working on them.

Being able to return to these projects whenever we get an idea or insight rather than having to have solved everything like, yesterday — being free of the constant pressure and stress of getting it finished ASAP — really feels great.

We’ve moved from devastation to hopeful optimism, and we’re on our way to inspiration, so overall, this whole experience might have been more positive than negative — can’t go wrong with that.


Another post about Robotology is in the works, sort of like a post-mortem, although since it’s not dead, maybe it’s more akin to a physical or routine check-up?

Anyway thanks for sticking with us, faithful readers, and stay tuned for more.

comments ( 35 )

  • “… we’re quite aware of the dangers of a β€œship when it’s done” mentality and Duke Nukem Forever and all that. Don’t worry, we’re on it.”

    That’s exactly what was going through my mind as I was reading – so I’m glad you are both being mindfu of that πŸ˜‰

    As for cutting features – I suppose you did it with N, when you cut the rope feature you had planned for it. You still had a great game at the end of it though: so if cutting core features from Robotology doesn’t leave you with a cool playing experiences – just keep working away at it. Those of us who have been waiting for some time will just have to keep waiting…

    … which is why I think it is a good idea that you release some other games in the meantime. You will not be defining yourselves as a team that releases a game, then spends AGES releasing another one: but rather as a developer that can release a steady flow of games, even if it wasn’t in the order you intended.

    “Don’t wait to be motivated work: work in order to be motivated” is the advice I try to follow. Looking forward to Office Yeti!

  • M&R –

    Reading through your post evoked two very different emotions in me: sadness about the news re: Robotology but optimism and excitement for your other projects.

    Stay positive! It sounds like you are.

    Here’s to Metanet Software in 2010!

  • You have ruined our new Domain!

    I kid. You guys have still made more progress than Jimmi over at the Quadradius boards, so there’s always that! πŸ™‚

  • Pretty decent decision to get under these circumstances, and I support you guys, I think you’ve made the decision which was the most logical.

    Bravo! πŸ˜€

  • It sounds like you made the right decision, given the circumstances.
    If you don’t worry too much about how everybody feels, you’ll have an easier time doing things you’ll enjoy doing, and when you’ve finished something, you’ll make people happy anyway; the result will be the same.

    Keep being awesome!

  • Mare and Raigan,

    You both have my complete support through all of your decisions. Reading this post did not upset me in the slightest. It made me realize something. I’m not excited about Robotology directly, I’m excited about whatever the both of you work on, and that hasn’t gone away at all.

    I know you’ve made the right decisions, and are not experiencing any disappointment in the slightest by myself, and I’m sure many other people in this small community. You only release quality things, and that can come at a price. A price that quality is completely worth.

    If there is any way that myself (a graduating programmer), and any of the community can do to help you in any endeavor. Please do not hesitate to ask.

    WE would love to help you.

  • Ah so is office yeti the thing you guys needed the pixel perfect lines for?

    I’m excited for any and all news you guys have! Good luck!

  • I think you both made the right decision. I write fiction, and I once found myself in a very similar situation, only with a novella. It got to the point where I wasn’t having fun anymore (and thus my writing wasn’t as good) because I was forcing myself to work on it and nothing else. Once I realized what I was doing, I decided to “quit.” It was a bittersweet moment. And while it felt like I had “failed” at first, it made me reasses what my ultimate goal was. Was it to produce a finished product, or was it to enjoy the process along the way? Ultimately if you’re in it for the process then you cannot fail. If you’re in it for the results… then you can. Anyway, I went on to work on a ton of other little projects, and now I’m pounding away at another big project. So kudos to you for recognizing where things were. Cheers!

  • @everyone : thank you so much for your kind words and support — we really, really appreciate it. We know this news is not the best, but it is incredibly heartening that you’ve all responded so positively. Although a difficult one, we really believe this decision is the right one right now, and it’s just so reassuring to know that you’re all with us. Thank you, sincerely: it means a lot.

  • Congrats on the brave move. It’s tough sometimes knowing when to set something aside for a while so that you can come back to it later and make it into what you really want it to be. Take that break, work on some other things, and come back to it refreshed when the time is right. We’ll be here! πŸ™‚

  • @YagerX: yep πŸ™‚

  • I personally believe you should spend more time developing N. N+ was an awesome step forward, but the PC version hasn’t had anything new happen to it for almost 5 years now.
    I’d happily pay for an Nv1.5 if it offered exciting new features (such as Rotating Laser Drones that were added to N+) – multiplayer would be an awesome step forward as well.

  • […] notizie dal blog di Metanet Software. Gli sviluppatori dello splendido (e bastardissimo) N+ hanno annunciato ufficialmente che il loro […]

  • I love you guys, and I’m happy you guys are still going. I’m alright with you taking a breather, and I’m happy you can focus. Do what you need to, and It’ll all be great. If you need any help, I’d be glad to do what I can, which is a surprisingly good amount. Keep on going. Make sure that the magic is still happening!

    See you guys later!

  • Good for you guys! I hope it works out for you. There really is nothing like being excited about what you are working on. Don’t be surprised if it takes you two or three false starts to be excited again. It will happen. This isn’t a situation where “time heals all”. The thing that will heal you is progress… and you can’t do that if you aren’t excited about where things are going.

    Can’t wait to hear where you venture to next!

  • I agree with amomentlikethis. Some N action would be great πŸ™‚ Maybe cleaning the highscore boards from cheaters, releasing Nv1.5 with NReality included or so. (Or N+ for PC?)
    (I don’t know much about Robotology so I’m not making any statements about the article at all.)
    Continue great work, anyway.

  • Does this mean you had to abandon/return the money Robotology would’ve received through OMDC/Telefilm/etc.? I’m just curious if that was something you guys had to weigh before making the decision to move on to other projects.

  • Yes, we returned the OMDC grant; it was for production of an established concept, and since we’re really still in the prototyping phase this seemed to make sense. It was not a good situation for any of the parties involved, but everyone agreed it was for the best.

    About N v1.5: it’s on the “to do” list πŸ™‚

  • If it’s a decision that makes you excited about making games again, then it’s the right one. If Robotology wasn’t working, stepping back is a good idea. You already seem more able to work on it knowing you get to work on other projects too. No matter what you’ll keep up the great work.

  • I’m sure Nv1.5 has been on the “to do” list for a long time now πŸ˜›
    Roll on v1.6!

  • I think another step in N would be nice… Cleaning the highscore boards (as mentioned), adding some anti-cheat features, adding some new fundamental enemies, multiplayer, anything. I’d pay for a v1.5 if I had to.
    I think you should go back to the fundamentals of robotology and do it over. In the meantime update some N action or something?

    Now our domain’s messed up =P

    Just kidding. Good luck with whichever path.

  • I have nothing useful to say… Oh well, I’ll say it anyway. I can wait forever on things like this, especially if a character editor is an expected feature! Seriously though, I have been waiting on levitating magnet platformy things for about 3 years now! (

  • Ditto what a few other people have said. It’s a shame we’ll have to wait longer for Robotology, but it sounds like you guys have made the right decision.

    Andy Schatz’s article was a fine read, and a good reminder about keeping one’s priorities straight!

    Best of luck M&R, and keep up with the blogging!

  • what is robotology?

  • hang in there.

    n changed my life.

  • You guys probably made the right choice in shelving Robotology, no use forcing what isn’t working yet.

    That said, I’m really excited for the other stuff you guys do, regardless of what it is. :3

    Keep it up.

  • Looking forward to future stuff from you, Metanet! πŸ˜€

    I was going to say some more, but thinking about the things you have said you have planned has left me somewhat e-speechless.

  • I had a similar experience with a game, and I attribute it to 10% overcomplicating the design, and 90% OCD in getting every feature just right.

    That being said, N has the most solid controls, collision, and interaction of any game I’ve ever played. Clearly, the long strecthes are worth the wait. Your games ‘transcend’ all others.

    Also, will anything be added to the Technique page in the near future? There was talk of a tutorial on your custom physics engine features.

  • We’re definitely going to write up the physics stuff, but we’re not sure when.. we were hoping to do something at this GDC but we didn’t get it together, maybe next year.

  • I’m glad Metanet Software is clever enough to not walk the Duke Nukem Forever plank.

    You people think well. That’s what makes you and your games so awesome. And that in turn is why your fans will stay around to wait for the great comeback. And the one after that.

  • Dammit, it’s been almost one and a half months since my first response to this post, and I want to stomp around an office as a Yeti!

    *Ahem* Could we have an update please? Are you finished the prototyping you mentioned? Are you polishing things up. Or no where near that? =P


    I know you guys don’t do links often, but this is a song I made about you guys. It’s in it’s first stages, But I think It’ll bee inspirational to you. πŸ˜€ With love!

  • Heh Heh… Duke Nukem is AWESOME

  • I am back to just say that umh…The little thingy at the bottom of the page still says 2009 =P

  • @craig: we’re working on it!

    @malde: thanks! that was really nice πŸ™‚

    @Figfewdisgewd: damn it, you’re right.. it will be fixed.

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