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N+: Beyond The Postmortem

March 21, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

In this interview, N creators Raigan Burns and Mare Sheppard of developer Metanet - and Nick Waanders, president of Slick Entertainment, which handled the conversion to Xbox Live Arcade, chat honestly about the trials and tribulations of birthing the title.

N+, the popular ninja Flash game recently released in enhanced form onto XBLA, has been somewhat of a hit with hardcore gamers - but the trio explain in this piece how the process of getting it onto Microsoft's service was fraught with difficulty.

The sometimes disruptive creators also discuss how showcasing the game in its early stages allowed them to tweak it before release. Gamasutra caught up with them shortly before the postmortem of the game was conducted at GDC's Independent Games Summit.

Having just seen you guys discuss the process in the postmortem - was the process of getting N onto the Xbox 360 all right, or a bit painful?

Raigan Burns: Extremely painful. (laughs) No, it was good until the end part.

Nick Waanders: Basically, the way we worked is that Mare and Raigan gave me the source code for the Flash version, and a lot of concept drawings of how it needed to look. Not necessarily game drawings, but more style ideas, like, "Okay, we want this kind of style." That's kind of cool, because it's kind of what I like, so I was like, "All right, that's cool. I like that."

From that, I created a C# complete version of the game, where you could run around, and the only reason to do that was to very quickly figure out what the game was about and how it worked, and also because it had to run at 60 frames a second, and not 40 frames a second.

There were some variables that were not really getting across, and we wanted to get as close to the Flash version as possible before we started pouring the C++ concrete basically. That worked pretty well.

After that, we focused on getting multiplayer to work, and getting all the rules and regulations you have to meet from Microsoft to work. That actually took quite a lot of time.

Also because we were two programmers for a while and then it was just me after that, the end phase was quite hectic, because there's a lot of bugs coming in, especially if you have four-player multiplayer, which we do have, and you have 250 single-player levels that they have to test every single time they do a test pass. Word up to VMC. That's pretty hardcore.

NW: But in the end, it was actually relatively smooth, I think, except for the last bit.

RB: We sort of wondered if it would ever come our way.

NW: Yeah. I think the reason was because there were a lot of modes in there, and a lot of slightly different code paths, and that's kind of what broke us up in the end a little bit. It was hard to make sure all of the dialogs were popping up properly, and that's where a lot of the bugs came from.

Was there a lot of waiting around? That's what I've heard from some other people. I don't know if it's gotten smoother since then.

RB: We've been waiting a month and a half.

Mare Sheppard: Since it's been through cert, yeah.

NW: Yeah, that has been a bit of a wait.


Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Tom Newman
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Great interview. I bought N+ after downloading the free demo. If it weren't for the demo, I would not have bought it. On the flipside, there have been games I've anticipated to be good that after playing the free demo I decided not to buy. Demos are great when the game is good, but if your game sucks the demo will hurt you.

Chris Rock
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Wow. I'm really glad they spoke so openly about their experience with Microsoft. And I'm glad they're aiming for independence rather than sucking an XBLA or Wiiware teat. The criticism of the majority of games out there was nice to hear as well.

Looking forward to Robotology very much.

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Great interview. I own over 80 XBLA games. It's interesting to see what they N+ crew had to go through.

I have to say though, that there are a lot of fun games on XBLA. I wouldn't have bought all those games if I didnt enjoy them. I dont have Double Dragon, but I do own Uno, Word Puzzle, and a few others that the N+ crew mentioned. Oh, and I bought N+ as well. ;)

I'm probably not in the majority though as I watch for what comes out weekly on XBLA. I have to admit i didnt know what N was until I saw that it was coming to XBLA.

As for the demos conversation... I have had little experience with the PS3's online store, and I think the fact that not all PSN games have demos is pretty sad. There were a few games that I wouldve liked to have tried out, but im not handing any money over for something I've never played. I guess I feel the XBL Marketplace is the best we have so far. I like it.

raigan burns
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we have a response to the apparent controversy:

Billy King
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Great article and it's very interesting how people took offence to it. I doubt this'll be the last we'll hear of this argument in the near future.

I've explored both XBLA and PSN and have found great points about both. I can only speak from a gamer's perspective, but I get the impression that Live Arcade essentially goes for the 'throw as much shit at the wall and see what sticks' approach (and Rez HD most definitely sticks), while on PSN it's more delicately dealt with. I love the interface of Live Arcade, but found the overall quality of titles better on PSN (with PixelJunk Monsters and Everyday Shooter as shining examples).

From what I can see of the developer's side, Live Arcade is a right hassle, while PSN is vastly more caring and open to fresh ideas. As a gamer, I want those new ideas from the indie scene to counterbalance by Triple-A shooters and actioners, and as such I find PSN a more refreshing experience. After a session of Call of Duty 4, I’d be more inclined towards a quick play with flOw than of Geometry Wars, so for the future I’m more intrigued by what may come in Sony’s direction than Microsoft’s, or at least that’s how I feel at the moment. Nonetheless, I feel both could be improved upon greatly with a radical redesign and new business philosophy.

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This past weekend i happend to be watching EP (electricplay ground) and Victor Lucas mention this game on his download game section and gave it and 8.5 out of 10