Thursday, September 27, 2012

I ... I Don't Even Know. Thank You.

[I actually wrote this on the way to Europe, but didn't get a chance to post it over there. So here it is now, as I wrote it two weeks ago]

I'm composing this from a plane somewhere above Iceland, but I couldn't help but make a note about the last few days. Since Mark of the Ninja launched on Friday, I've basically been in a state of perpetual bewilderment. The reaction to the game has been astoundingly positive, beyond any our of expectations.

I've complained about Metacritic and the shortcomings of really granular review scores in the past, and my feelings about the problems they cause haven't changed. But Metacritic can be a vague barometer of how folks are reacting to a game. And currently, Ninja sits at a 90. That makes it the highest-rated XBLA game this year (tying with Trials Evolution) and the third highest XBLA game of all time (tying with at 90 Limbo, Super Meat Boy and Geometry Wars 2, in addition to Trials Evo) behind only Braid and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX.

While I was certainly happy with Ninja when we sent it off to Microsoft for certification, I had absolutely no inkling that folks would consider it to be in the same league as any of those games. I'm humbled and still utterly shocked. I respect and admire those games tremendously, and to create something that would even be spoken of in the same breath is something I wasn't sure I'd ever accomplish in my career as a designer, let alone on my first game. I'm still not really able to process that.

A couple outlets specifically just left me floored with their thoughts. Eurogamer gave us a 9/10, the same score they gave Journey and Dark Souls. Destructoid gave us a 10/10, saying Ninja was "Let it stand as the benchmark by which all stealth games are now measured." Giant Bomb gave us a 5/5.

Obviously the visibility of the game has been a challenge, but the community support has been amazing. Every time I log onto Twitter, there are almost universally positive comments about the game. I've literally seen one negative comment (from someone who only watched the trailer and didn't like the violence, although I told them you can get through the entire game without killing anyone) and two "Tried it, not really for me." That's it.

More than anything else though, it's edifying that this kind of reaction means there is a place for this kind of game. Something emphasizing player-centric systems and intentional play. Something that doesn't compromise what it wants to be. I've loved stealth games for a long time, and more importantly, the type of design they represent. Being able to create something that's considered a worthwhile addition to that canon is still almost unbelievable.

So thank you everyone who has supported the game and told anyone else about it. And we certainly don't want that momentum to flag, so please keep letting people know they can download the game or the trial directly to their Xbox from here:

Now I'm off to enjoy a week in Ireland and a week in Scotland. When I get back, I'll have some exciting news about my writing here as well as something about Ninja that I think will make a lot of people quite happy.

[That news hit on Monday, specifically that Mark of the Ninja is coming to Steam on Oct 16th]

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mark of the Ninja LAUNCHED!

I woke up this morning like I always do, walked the dog, fed him, showered and shaved. It felt like any other day, but sometime in the night, the game I'd spent the last year and a half working on had been made available for purchase. The review embargo isn't up for another hour as I'm writing this (although it will be up by the time this is posted), so I'm not sure what the critical reaction will be yet, but I'm feeling optimistic.

But in this brief calm before the storm, I just wanted to give my profound thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point. I was the lead designer on a game I'm incredibly proud of, but I didn't get here alone. To start, the team is Klei is simply amazing and every single one of them was instrumental in Ninja's success. I'm so lucky to be able to work with some amazing people. As you see their names in Ninja's credits, know every one of them is seriously phenomenal.

More broadly, thanks to all my colleagues, both local and afield, for your amazing insight and work. Even if you didn't directly comment on Ninja during a playtest, your games, writing and GDC talks all helped me possess the (admittedly, still quite limited) understanding of design I needed to make Ninja what I wanted it to be. And to everyone who has written something thoughtful about games, thank you. You made me want to aspire and reach further that I would have otherwise.

Especially, thank you to Michael Abbott, whose writing basically started me down a path of consideration and thoughtfulness when it came to looking at games as a form of creative expression. Plus, and I was only reminded of this last night, it was an invitation to a dinner that set up the partnership that led to Chris writing Ninja, so doubly thanks for that. Michael actually did something very special for us as well, expect it soon.

And yes, of course, a tremendous thanks to Chris Dahlen, Ninja's writer and a vital part of establishing the game's tone and atmosphere. Without doubt, the game would not be what it was without Chris' significant contributions.

To all my friends who supported me through some late nights, tolerated my absences from our usual activities and kept me sane through the process, thank you.

Finally, my wife, for her endless love and support during some stressful and busy times. I love you more than anything, bright-eyes.

Alright, enough being sentimental (but seriously, thank you all so much).