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DS Fanboy interview: N+

Metanet Software officially consists of two people: Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns. Together they created the original PC game N, and contributed all of the levels (save the contest-winning user levels) to the DS, PSP, and (self-developed) XBLA versions of N+.

Now these two people are in the unique position of seeing their game evolve simultaneously down three different paths (well, almost three, since the DS and PSP games were developed by the same team) on three different consoles. We sent in some questions about this experience, as well as some details about the DS game and its level design -- and they were kind enough to answer those questions! Producer David Geudelekian stepped in in a few cases to answer some questions that went outside Metanet's knowledge (specifics about DS features, for example).

Gallery: N+

Which aspect ratio/size was most enjoyable or interesting to design N levels for? The XBLA, PSP, and DS displays are all pretty different, and that affects what can happen in a level.

We'd have to go with XBLA, simply because you can design a level of any dimensions within the range of 15x20 tiles to 30x50 tiles. It's very flexible, and so allows a broad range of design styles. That said, we really like making tiny levels, even as small as 5x5!

Level design is always an interesting process, and on all three platforms you'll see some really cool new ideas.

Serra's Sequence, as it was submitted to the SUBLiME level contest

What's your favorite new level? What kind of level do you like when you play?

Both Raigan and Mare's favourite new level is Serra's Sequence, by Topolord, a SUBLiME level which was selected to appear on DS. It's really inventive, challenging, and very rewarding.

We generally like levels which are difficult because of the moves/tricks involved, or the interaction with enemies, rather than due to the tileset. It's also fun to play very open levels which allow you to really use momentum and really fly around the map.

Why do you think it is that the hardcore platformer hasn't been represented more in commercial games? Especially in the '80s and '90s, platformers were the big thing, and yet most of them focused on exploration or combat and not on precision. Mario is an obvious exception.

Most developers and publishers have probably (understandably) thought that the platformer genre was perfected by Mario, Lode Runner and even Sonic, and have moved on to bigger and better things. We however, love to live in the past :)

We think there are still tons of options to explore in platformers, and especially with the inclusion of more modern touches, like N and N+'s physics and collision. Technologies such as these breathe new life into gameplay once thought dead.

Are there any plans for further level design contests? Is there some kind of method to communicate with the level design community ingame, for example, to suggest theme weeks and things like that? Is there any communication at all between you and the player, or between players?

There are always plans for future level design contests! Probably not with N+, but certainly with N, and maybe our next game, too. There isn't any way to communicate with the community in game, but the internet should make that easy enough.

Followup: how do friend codes figure into the N+ experience?

Unfortunately, we have no idea..

David Geudelekian (N+ Producer, Atari): Friend codes will not figure into the N+ experience. Users will create their own levels in the editor and then upload them to N+'s private servers. Our moderators will scan the levels for sensitive info or questionable content and then post them to the central servers for everyone to browse and download worldwide!

Multiplayer in general is new to N. Does it still feel like N to you with another person there? What can you tell us about the multiplayer options?

It's weird in that it's totally different, but at the same time retains the awesomeness and feel of single-player. N+ DS offers a few different types of competitive multiplayer (Domination, Tag and Blitz), plus cooperative multiplayer (a different experience than what you'll find on XBLA), and though we haven't gotten a chance to try much of it out, we think it's likely that N's fun-ness will shine through.

Is it possible to design multiplayer levels, or to play the single-player levels in multi?

Mare and Raigan: Good question! There are certainly some single player levels in multiplayer mode, but it remains to be seen whether or not you can design multiplayer levels or play the SP campaign in multiplayer mode. On XBLA at least, the answer is yes, to both!

David Geudelekian: It is possible to design multiplayer levels or more specifically any level you design can be played in single or multiplayer modes. In fact on the PSP version we found a few single-player levels that lent themselves very well to the multiplayer modes and we adapted them over accordingly.

Having had a "console experience," is there a possibility of some more Metanet console development? Specifically, games for some kind of small handheld console with two screens?

We're definitely interested in working on DS games since we love the platform, however we'd really prefer to try making a game specifically for DS, which means it will have to wait until our next game is done ... we do have several ideas that might be a good match for it's unique abilities!

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