My thoughts on N++ (steam version) as a longstanding player

Discussion about latest version of N; N++ (Available on PC & PS4)

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Postby Sendy » 2016.09.02 (21:22)

Firstly I just want to say congratulations to Raigan and Mare for getting this on PC, and I hope bringing N back "home" to PC helps get the numbers flowing properly.

I've played for 60 hours so far, and have beaten everything in Solo mode apart from the last four episodes of the regular levels. I was suprised how quickly I got through to the endgame, since I haven't played N in at least 6 years, possibly more like 8. I don't know if the new level designs are easier, or if it's the effect of the game controlling a lot more tightly, or if I was just good at the game and, like riding a bike, it never left me. I didn't really feel any kind of hardcore challenge until the last row. The all-gold should keep me busy for a while, though.

I think I partly missed some of the rougher-round-the-edges style of levels from the older versions of N. I guess that's what the level editor's for, though. So glad that made it. :)

The visual style, presentation and controls - absolutely mind-blowing. N has always had good controls, but now there's a consistent, super-smooth framerate and very sharp graphics. Certain moves, such as jumping off of a spike tile, and doing ramp to wall launches at high speed, seem much fairer and sharper to pull off. It's like a veil of lag and jitter has been removed, revealing a pure glistening halo of liquid control around the player's skill, allowing it to flourish.

This game needed to be made - it seems so simple, but the whole game engine/control setup with the ninja is such a finely tuned and flexible system that waiting for someone else to make the game that N was meant to be just wasn't viable. I had a look at N1.4 and it runs horribly on my system, the ninja seems to get caught on certain bits of scenery and stutter a bit on ramps. It's SO nice to see all this fixed and the game packaged up properly as a commercial product.

Just... fantastic work guys!

I know nobody has asked for a critique, but since I'm having these thoughts, I may as well write them down. I thought the choice of graphics for the chaser drones was a little bit too similar to the regular drones. In classic N you had that derpy aerial sticking out of them, which immediately makes them stand out in a crowd (and give them a tiny bit of character). N++ opts for a more subtle difference, making drone situations harder to read. Given how much more deadly a chaser is to a normal one, it seems a bit disproportionate. All in all I found all the different types of drones harder to tell apart, but I guess that might be because I have to unlearn what a chaingun drone looks like, etc.

Similarly I thought one-way platforms look a bit similar to bounce pads now. These are minor complaints, I can tell them apart well enough. I think I preferred how they looked in classic N but there's not much in it.

Having finished the bulk of the solo levels, I felt some level design elements were left relatively unexplored. It dawned on me that regular doors seem to be hardly used at all, and the little lazer sweep drones have a lot of potential that seems untapped. I have to admit wishing that some of those more simple levels could have had some optional or fun little setups with the lesser known enemies. Again, level editor, so it's no biggie. I do secretly hope user episodes are a possible future enhancement, maybe even user columns. I know I would have an absolute field day with that :) But it's a big ask, and as it is the online scoreboard is nice.

Having unlocked all the colours, I thought half of them were beautiful, and half quite samey and boring. I would really love a way to mod/hack/legitimately add my own colour schemes to the game, as I have some ideas I'd love to see, such as palettes based on classic computers such as the Commodore 64 which has a very distinctive signature. Metoro, F7200, Hot, Party, Clear and Evening are probably my favourites.

I've just started getting to grips with the level editor, and I noticed that sometimes the little graphic displaying which kind of tiles you want to select are all squares instead of different shapes. Also, when I scroll past "numberwang" in the options menu and get to "is it art?" the game crashes. I have no idea what any of these options are, so no idea what I'm missing out on :)

Anyway, N++ is an instant recommendation to anyone who takes pride in their platforming abilities. It has been refined to the level of sport, only without the usual doping and fixing scandals that go along with sport ;). It's great to have N back in my life and falling in love with it all over again. So thanks a lot, and sorry for the wall of text!

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Postby MiBeM » 2016.09.03 (22:26)

Sendy wrote:I felt some level design elements were left relatively unexplored. It dawned on me that regular doors seem to be hardly used at all, and the little lazer sweep drones have a lot of potential that seems untapped.

I agree with this, and having played through and all-golded every level in the N++ tab I'd like to add that I saw very few seeker, chaingun or laser drones and perhaps a few too many micro drones. I literally had one laser drone death and less than 15 to the other two in my entire playthrough, so that might be telling something :P
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Postby Sendy » 2016.09.06 (19:39)

Thanks for the input, MiBeM.

There ARE a lot of micro drones, but I have to admit, they're really cool. The fact that they can effectively pass through walls and be manipulated by half-blocks really opens up the creativity for different timing mechanisms.

BTW, I found a secret. I can't get at it yet, because it's locked, but once you complete all the main levels, right up to the final ones (you know the ones I'm talking about), there's MORE STUFF!

Awesome!

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Postby Sendy » 2016.09.09 (13:24)

Ok, I'm just going to keep adding my thoughts here as I play.

I'm starting to try and all gold, or if not, get all the gold I can from every level. Now I'm starting to notice subtleties in the level design and challenges that are amazing. There are some awesome challenges here, though vorb roblon nearly made me cry.

Going for episode highscores in some of the late C row episodes really made me wish there was a way to quit out of the game and save your progress in that episode. Some of these are BRUTAL and when real life intervenes and you've spend ages perfecting the first four levels only to be stuck on a doozy of a fifth, the only option is to leave your computer on and paused. I could be wrong about this, but I could have sworn N v.2 had a quit and save option, so it seems a bit of a retrograde motion to omit it.

I swear, last night I was acually swearing out loud and ranting about how hard some of this was. That is awesome! I'm so tired of games holding your hand and having a low skill celing. In N there's ALWAYS room for improvement. I consider myself considerably above average in skill, yet by playing these levels I'm getting better all the time and learning new tricks. N++ might actually be the most skill-based action platformer ever. Not to blow my own trumpet some more, but I've got some wicked high scores, a lot of 2nd and 3rds and most are in the top 10 or 20.

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Postby shomman » 2016.09.10 (03:51)

I agree, i'm glad they didn't back off on the difficulty.
Yes on v2 you could resume episode. They've been told about this but I can't remember if they were going to implement it. In any case they are tied up fixing bugs for now so who knows the time frame.
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Postby raigan » 2016.09.13 (07:32)

Thanks so much! This is really awesome to hear, cheers -- we were really worried for most of development about whether the game would turn out okay, but in the end (after we added secrets) it ended up way better than we ever could have hoped, and I'm really glad that other people think so too! :)

About the drone graphics, we agree that it's a bit confusing.. it was really hard for us to figure out how to make them visually distinct without using colour, and we tried a bunch of different "antennae" designs for the chasers but they all looked sort of stupid. This was a problem in general, how to make the graphics feel like they all fit together and looked clean. Maybe we erred too much on the side of style vs functionality there, but the antennae were just so stupid looking, we couldn't take it.

I do wish we had used chasers, chainguns, and laser drones more. I think we have a hard time using them in a fun way, personally I feel like I don't know how to make a good level with those enemies :/ Over the years I've sort of drifted towards thinking that those enemies aren't very well designed anyway, they don't seem as "general" and tend to force the same sort of situations/strats when they're used -- but maybe we should have spent more time looking through NUMA to get ideas on how else to use them. Alas. Especially chasers I think have more potential than we tapped; chainguns and lasers less so IMO.

We definitely realized that our level style is a lot smoother and less weird than it was.. honestly I find a lot of the 1.4 levels pretty unplayable, or at least not very fun, but at the same time I do think we lost something, N++ levels just don't have a "wild" feeling like 1.4 had, they feel very designed (which they were). We tried to inject some wildness back with the secrets, to make things feel a bit disorienting or harder to anticipate.

I'm really glad you're enjoying the challenge. Just beating levels is pretty easy in N++ in comparison to N/N+, but gold is a lot harder.. this was sort of a big risky change but it was the only way we could think of to make the game accessible to total noobs while also fun and challenging for 10-year vets.

Adding suspend/resume is on our todo list, but it's lower priority than a lot of more-exciting things right now (and, all of that is waiting until bugs are fixed.. sadly with only 1 programmer it can be slow).

I think the main reason the levels are the way they are is that we listened to ourselves when testing -- we followed what we found fun to play. Maybe we like micros a bit too much, I just find them a lot more exciting to fly through than regular drones, because there's usually more empty space and thus more possibilities for routes. But maybe we were just bored of regular drones after so many years and the novelty of micros was strong for us.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. We're not quite done working on N++, I hope you like where it goes in the future :)

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Postby Sendy » 2016.09.15 (20:51)

Hi Raigan, thanks for taking the time to reply!

I'm used to the drones now. What REALLY freaked me out was that when I was using the Mono colours, normal drones are grey and look just like chainguns fron early N. The old veteran instinct to run for cover kept kicking in :) They are fine once you learn what to look for, though I always thought the aerial on the seekers was kinda 'cute', though perhaps 'in a stupid-ass way'.

Now I've almost finished my second runthrough I'm getting plenty of the roughness that I was missing from my first run. I really like how the rough stuff is there but it's off the beaten track. Now that you can play a level for highscores, or to get the gold, or to do the secrets (some of which look downright insane), I really like how a lot of the designs are pulling double or more duty.

Lazer drones are interesting because like the gauss turrets, they're all about angles. I always thought that was what made N originally stand out, besides the awesome physics, a lot of the enemies weren't your usual platform game patrollers, there was an element of geometry. Now that seekers, chainguns and lazers respond predictably (unlike in the early N, which I think was multiplexing the enemy A.I. because the more enemies you added the more likely they were not to notice you), I think they're capable of some awesome puzzle potential. I also like it when a lazer drone is added not to really mess with the player too much, but just to up the stakes and make things feel a bit more dangerous than they are.

And yeah, micro drones are awesome!

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Postby raigan » 2016.09.15 (23:40)

Awesome! I'm glad the layers of challenge are working... the secrets were definitely designed to remind veterans what it was like when first playing N ;)

Unfortunately we've more or less finished all of the levels at this point, but I agree that laser drones can be really cool when used properly. I just never seem to "see" those opportunities! Alas.


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