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PAX East 2013: Mark of the Ninja lead designer on the Special Edition’s new playstyle & more

Mark of the Ninja Screenshot - 1121226

Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve represent a very powerful turning point for Klei Entertainment in my mind. Shank and Shank 2 never quite grabbed me. The art style was cool, but the gameplay felt shallow and wasn’t as refined as I’d hoped. Suddenly, Klei has two games that are the antithesis of those complaints. Mark of the Ninja may be the very definition of refined, while Don’t Starve carries a ton of depth with it and continues to expand. The result is that Klei is quickly becoming a developer that demands our attention, so much so that fans have come back around and demanded even more.

Which brings us to Mark of the Ninja’s Special Edition DLC. MotN was considered a complete game by Klei, and few would argue that fact, but thanks to the demands of fans Klei is putting together more content anyway. I had a chance to speak with Nels Anderson, the lead designer on MotN, about the new stuff you can expect from the DLC this summer.

GZ: MotN is considered a complete game. What changed your mind with this DLC?

Nels Anderson: To our continued shock and wonderment people are like, “This thing is great we want more!” And we’re like, how can we do more when we built everything we wanted to build? So what we started thinking was what a Criterion Collection version of the game might look like. There’s a little bit of new stuff, not stuff left on the cutting room floor, but things that fill out what was there in an extended cut way.

The other thing we’re doing, which I’m super stoked about, is we went back through the main game and added a ton of developer commentary. So all of the original levels as well as the new level have between like eight and fifteen developer commentary notes all throughout that talk about everything from the audio to the artwork to the music, and a couple history lessons.

Mark of the Ninja Special Edition

GZ: What can you tell us about the new level and character?

Nels Anderson: We have this new level which is a sort of prequel and sets up some of the stuff in the main game. You play as a different character and that character is then available to play through the rest of the game in a new play style which is kind of like a hybrid between a total stealth, non-lethal ghost and a more lethal, murdery, stabby guy.

In the main game we had one playstyle that was all about stealth. You had no sword, just more items and you were quieter, right? Which was cool, and obviously we had all our more aggressive lethal styles, but a bunch of people said that they wanted something in between. So that’s the point of the new playstyle in the new DLC.

GZ: If the new content is a prequel, at what point in the game do you actually play it?

Nels Anderson: In the flow of the game it comes like two-thirds of the way through. Of course if someone has already finished the game it’s just there, but if you’re coming to it naturally it would be about two-thirds of the way through because the level is long and kind of hard. You would not want it to be the first thing you play because then you’d just be like, “This game is impossible and stupid!”

Mark of the Ninja Special Edition

GZ: How challenging was it to come back and create new content for a “complete” game?

Nels Anderson: Very. Yeah, it was really hard. It was really goddamn hard. We did it, but it took no small amount of time. It’s still not done yet, it has a few rough bits to it still. It’s still very much in development.

GZ: How are you releasing the Special Edition?

Nels Anderson: It will be available through normal DLC means.

GZ: Will there be a standalone version, like a Criterion Collection version of the full game?

Nels Anderson: Digitally, it just doesn’t make any sense. We very briefly looked into doing a physical thing but it’s just -- oh my god, it’s so expensive. Making a physical thing, the box, printing, shipping, warehouses...I’m really glad we just sell our games on the internet. I’d rather just focusing on making games.

GZ: Sounds like a good plan, thanks for chatting!

Nels Anderson: Cheers, man!

If you like to read the latest movie reviews, or random thoughts about whatever is going on in gaming lately, follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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