20 Years

01 Mar / by: M&R / 7 comments /

2004…can you believe that was 20 years ago?! It was a pretty big year for us, as it was the year we incorporated Metanet Software Inc. (we founded the company in 2001 (as mentioned in previous posts like this one* which you should really stop and read right now, it goes over the whole history) but only “got serious” about it in 2004** 😉 ), and also released N v1.0, the very first version of N.

Yes, it’s the 20th anniversary of N and Metanet. Time sure flies! To celebrate this momentous occasion, we created some cool N merch — you can find this awesome t-shirt and tote bag in our Etsy shop:

As well as this limited-edition N merch pack including 2 enamel pins, plus special stickers and a Metanet post card:

We hope you like everything! 😀 Now on to the post.

Quick notes:
*If you haven’t already read it, that previous post is pretty great — it details our history and musings on game development in a way that still resonates strongly with us today (plus it has loads of pictures!), so seriously, do go read it. 😉 https://www.metanetsoftware.com/2019/happy-15th-metanet-software-inc

**we actually incorporated the company because we thought it would be hilarious for university students to also be President and VP of a corporation…it was a very different time! Also, we learned that corporate taxes are no joke, so it really wasn’t all that funny. 😉 Anyway it turns out it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, as it allowed us to meet so many inspiring people worldwide, and gave us the opportunity to focus on creating and working on things that we care about, so it all worked out in the end. 🙂


And since the post for the 15th anniversary gave such a good summary of the past 15 years, we’ll just do a quick recap of the past 5. What’s changed, in the past 5 years? Well, we moved from our home city, Toronto, to a new one, Montreal. Sometimes you can tell yourself it’s not a big deal, it’s just moving cities within the same country…it’s not really. Lots of big changes, but most of them positive — and we have the space and flexibility we need to work on lots of creative projects, so that’s been wonderful.

Why don’t we retell the story of N for posterity! <3 So we (Raigan and Mare) met in a Computer Science course at the University of Toronto in 1998, where we were learning about terribly boring software programming but hit it off more or less instantly because of our shared love of games. We both had a number of other interests, such as art, music, and film, and we both loved playing and talking about games, so it was pretty natural to start to combine those interests -- fueled by a terrifically inspiring freeware and shareware game development scene that we'd discovered across the burgeoning internet.

As opposed to what was happening in the mainstream videogames industry of the mid-90s (where videogames were becoming increasingly complex and being made by large, well-funded teams) the late 90s/early 2000s saw smaller teams, pairs, and individuals connecting with increasingly-accessible languages and tools to make games of their own, on their own. As we learned more in and outside of school, and read academic papers about realtime physics simulation (and other interesting subjects), discovered Macromedia Flash, and played lots and lots of games, we also started to experiment with programming some of those physics concepts in 2D, developing a set of collision and simulation systems that would underpin many more experiments, dubbed the NinjaEngine.

In 2004, a Flash web game contest was announced in conjunction with the Flash in the Can conference, which provided an excellent deadline to get something together. And get something together we did — N v1.02. N lost the contest to Starsky and Hutch Pinball, but that did make sense as N wasn’t really a web-playable game — the physics and collision were too much for browsers to run at the time, so it really only worked as a downloadable game. Either way, many lessons were learned — among them that although the game didn’t seem to be what people were looking for visually, it was surprisingly fun, and addictive, and the friends that we’d sent it to sent back lots of enthusiastic feedback. So we pressed on, adding entities, fixing bugs, designing levels, and figuring out more about what the game could be. We infused it with who we were, and made subtle statements about how we felt about the world and the world of game development, in the game design, levels and graphic design. It became more than just a project; it became something we loved. We released it to forums around the internet and got even more feedback and enthusiasm, and so we continued developing and eventually released v1.4, the version that made such a splash that it won the Fans Choice Award for Best Game at the IGF in 2005 and the 2006 Slamdance Audience Award for Best Game.

That was a shock, and a jolt of incredible validation. We were floored. We never would have thought that our little platformer with an even littler ninja could have resonated with so many people, and become an actual thing, a real game like the ones we grew up playing. The stories poured in from people who loved it, hated it, enjoyed making levels in the N-ed[itor] by themselves and with their children, played it in school on USB sticks, excitedly showed it to their friends, and laughed about the ninja’s ragdoll deaths. Lots of people found it incredibly difficult and frustrating — N is a polarizing game, and seemed to evoke a fairly strong reaction in players. People kept sharing it and it kept finding new fans, who created amazing spaces online to connect with each other, like dedicated forums, and NUMA, the N User Map Archive, and other shared online spaces that inspired the community to grow even more.

We made N+ for XBLA and DS/PSP in 2008 (a story for another time), and returned to N to officially update it for the web in 2013, releasing v2.0. In its lifetime, N has amassed a mostly uncountable number of players — we once had some stats on the number of downloads from our old website which have since been lost to time; the web version found on Kongregate shows over 30 million plays. In short, it’s more well-known than we ever thought possible, and when we made N++ in 2015 and showed it at E3 and PAX, it was awesome to hear so many people say “Oh my god! I remember this game! I played it as a kid!”. It’s a fond memory, and one we’re proud of.

Over the years we have had many ups and downs and opportunities and failures and successes and regrets, but also so many of those fond memories, so many connections with fans and friends from all over the world, and we appreciate them very, very much. We know we have been very lucky, and we feel that every day. We never could have predicted it, but N means a lot to a lot of people, and we want to keep that memory alive for as long as we possibly can. Seeing this Reddit thread pop up today really drove home for us how lucky we’ve been to make something that other people consider special — we both grew up slacking off playing games in computer class, and to make a game that the next generation used to play while similarly slacking off makes us unbelievably honoured and proud! <3

And so, dear readers, that’s the story of N (abbreviated version). Thank you so much for finding the game and for playing it, for sharing it and for letting us know what you think. You rock! Of course the story is not over, the N expanded universe continues to grow in the + versions of the games (have you played N++ yet? You really should! Check it out here, click the links in the top right corner to get it on your fave platform: https://nplusplus.org/) and perhaps even more behind the scenes. N contains multitudes. We’ll just say this: the future is bright. 😉

Happy 20th Anniversary to N, and to Metanet Software Inc.
Here’s to 20++!

ps want to share your stories and memories with us personally? We’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below, join the N++ Discord or email us at metanetATmetanetsoftwareDOTcom!

comments ( 7 )

  • Here’s to the next 20 years of Metanet! Super interested to find out more about the projects you’ve been tinkering away at, whenever that time comes. N++ will continue to be top of my recommendations list for anyone who even comes close to asking.

  • We love you Mare and Raigan, here’s to many more years of N

  • ❤++

  • Happy birthday ninjas. 20years of Metanet !!

  • I remember being on perfect runs that would get interrupted by life, so I would leave my computer on all day until I could get back to continue those punishing episodes. N is so pure. Here’s to twenty years of transcendence.

  • Thank you thank you thank you for making one of my absolute favourite games ever. Your game and its community meant so much to me throughout my teens. I am 32 now but I will never be too old for more N.

  • Congrats on the anniversary! Here is to 20++ more!
    Do you guys have any plans to port N++ to the current generation of consoles?
    Personally wouldn’t mind adding a third Platinum++ to my cabinet 🙂

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