Nether Interview- Let’s Talk WarZ Trolls, Microtransactions and Pink Pimp Suits

NETHER_LOGO_700x110

Nether Interview.

Frugal Gaming’s UglyGeezer meets the team behind Nether: Mark Davidson (VP of Nether Productions),  Kelly (Community Manager) , Chase and Travis Hernandez (both brothers, lead designer and producer to developer).

Nether first released via early access last October, finding itself topping the Steam charts. A game although still in development, it was instantly playable. An urban survival game that had community driven ideas at it’s very heart.

Six months in, Frugal Gaming did a community preview of Nether, to look at the massive changes that had been going on and see for themselves the changes to the game that had transformed nether into something completely new.

The Preview can be found HERE

The audio for this interview can be found at the bottom of this page. We would really like to thank those that took part in the interview, we hope you enjoy reading/listening to it.

Nether01

UG: Bear with my whilst I stumble clumberly over my notes:

The Phosphor Collective: HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Well, in fairness that laughing only happened in my head, I wanted the ground to open up and eat me. What follows did happen (Me saying made up words sadly did happen)

On with the interview………….

UG: Can you describe Nether for me? Tell us what Nether actually is?

Mark: I would say it’s arcade survival. It’s fast paced, it’s pretty hardcore, you lose everything every time you die. It’s a balance between finding people to work with and people trying to hunt you down. and the Nether’s of course.

Kelly: For me the atmosphere of the game is just amazing. The world really pulls you in, the sound is amazing. You hear a Nether behind you and you’re actually terrified because it sounds scary. The city looks phenomenal, so the atmosphere is just amazing.

UG: Can you tell us how you guys came together as Phosphor Games and Productions?

Mark. We’re a group of companies, Nether Productions and Phosphor Games. Phosphor are the developers and they’ve been working since about 2007. Started by the guys from Midway.

Chase and Travis: It was actually started by a group of guys who were all ex Midway Games staff who wanted to continue to pursue their dream, which was Project Hero. So when we came together as Phosphor Games we decided to make our own version of that game. So we’ve been growing as a studio, still trying to pursue that dream and keeping our minds open to other games. We are always looking to grow our portfolio, do new things and bring out a AAA title like Nether.

UG: Which comes on to my next question, I wanted to ask what the seed of inspiration was for Nether. So that goes way back to Project Hero?

Chase/Travis: As developers we’re always trying to branch out into something new with every title we work on. We’ve always been fans of multiplayer experiences, especially open world and specifically city stuff. A big part of Zero was the city environment. We think the cityscapes can bring interesting multiplayer pay-offs. So that was a big part of the design, a post-apocalypticbroken down city.

UG: I’ve never come across a game before that has been so community driven, since the early access release last year it’s been apparent that you’re connected to your fans and their wishes. Was that a conscious decision early on for you guys?

Kelly: Yes I think so. Even before the release on early access people had so many ideas and it was really cool to involve the community.There’s a lot of stuff in Nether that would have never been there had we not looked at community feedback. It helps with balance as well, they know the game.

Mark: I think when you get a great opportunity as well with Steam early access, other than free to play we wouldn’t have had that opportunity- where we can take a nub of a game and develop it from there.

UG: I personally feel the likes of early access/Greenlight/Kickstarter has been the most exciting thing in years for creativity in gaming, any downsides to that?

Mark: Especially with Greenlight, it means everything is up for grabs for the small guy now in terms of having a platform to get his/her games out there now, similar to the mobile market.

Chase/Travis: From a design perspective early access is a designers dream. You’re building a game for your players. One of the downsides we’ve run into is expectations versus what’s good for the game. Some players expect us to take the game in a certain direction, then we find out through research and testing that the other direction is much more engaging and fun. So sometimes you can get miscommunication in early access.

UG: With such democracy in the development, the vast amount of feedback must be daunting. How do you filter that? When suddenly everyone feels they’re a games developer. How do you get to hear ‘the quiet bloke’ with the good idea?

Kelly: It can be very difficult when sometimes one half of the community want something over here and the other half over there. It can be crazy.

Chase/Travis: It’s sometimes a combination of taking the brute force of the comments and seeing what’s the general consensus and sometimes digging trough everything and looking for those gems. It’s something we were really focused on, especially in the early stages. Sometimes we would find an obscure forum post and say “hey this is a great idea” and run with it.

UG: With so much new content in Nether now, with new areas of the map open, tribes are up and running, escort mission. How close is Nether now to the original idea?

Chase/Travis: It’s grown pretty organically. Some of the stuff that even came in later – like crafting, you see elements of it in the original design documents. Other stuff, like the tribes, none of us ever really saw that in the early stages. As we worked on the game, grew and saw what the community wanted it just came out and seemed like a great idea.

Mark: It wasn’t to address individual problems as such, but the whole kill on sight thing for the first couple of months was killing us. So tribes and a couple of other things we put in really helped address that.

UG: One thing you tried was the blood meter, but you took that out?

Mark: *Laughs* No we made a lot of mistakes.

UG: No, but you were trying ideas out and to me it showed a group of developers that were listening. I seem to remember the community asking for the blood meter.

UG: When the WarZ idiocy and accusations that you were the WarZ devs started on your own and the Steam forums, how did that affect you guys?

Mark: They’re just trolls and haters right? You just have to deal with it.

Kelly: Yep, they were just trolls.

UG: For myself as a fan of the game and a forum user, it looked like you were taking a battering. There was a tsunami of negativity and even some ‘grown up’ gaming sites were saying this rubbish.

Chase/Travis: It was actually an interesting experience for the dev team, we did just have to sit there and take it, because obviously we’re not the WarZ team. But it was good to see a lot of our players come to the front and defend us and tell people “these aren’t the WarZ guys, they do care, they do listen” It was really interesting to see and know that our community did want to see the game grow and improve. It’s nice to see players that actually support games, rather than the vocal minority that want to knock them down.

UG: Microtransactions. You have them in the game but for cosmetic stuff only. What are your plans with then in the future? Do they give you a stream of revenue to continue development?

Mark: We’re not really monetising very well. We knew from the WarZ stuff that pay to win would be a huge throwback for us. Right now the only thing that could be loosely termed as pay to win is the wingsuit, it would be nice to make that more cosmetic. We’re not that granular on the analytics of what people enjoy doing. We need to drill down into that data and see what it is people really enjoy doing.

UG: It’s not uncommon to pay for small cosmetic items in MMO’s, The Secret World as an example. I would love to play in a big pink pimp suit in Nether.

Chase/Travis *Laughs* That is an excellent idea.

Mark: One thing we are thinking of is skins for guns and making them unique.

UG: Where do you see the game in a year, 2 years? When will it leave Beta?

Mark: Right now we’re concentrating on bug fixing. We had a vision, around 2 months after release, we OK, we’re scrambling to fix these things the community has asked for. It became clear we needed a direction to go and that’s where the tribes came from. Then we had a 6 month roadmap and could polish what we had. The next patch for example is polish. We would like to take the game out of early access soon. there’s a blockage for some gamers with the early access label. We would like to take it to a larger audience and continue with the community driven direction.

 

Here’s the audio of the interview in full. Huge apologies for the sound problems in the early part of the interview, it does improve as it goes on and the audio problems do completely vanish. The same cannot be said for my gibberish made up words.

Nether PC Preview

NETHER_LOGO_700x110

Nether PC

Developer: Phosphor Games Studio

Publisher:  Phosphor Games Studio

Frugal Gaming’s UglyGeezer takes his boys down some back alleys and shows them his new Nether regions, as the latest update of Nether opens up a large new chunk of the map.

So there I was, hanging on in there. My craving to wander in a wasteland, scavenge for food and avoid any local bandits. Nope, this wasn’t me on my way to do some shopping in my lovely peasant filled locale of East London. Oh no,  this was my hunger and wait for the DayZ standalone reaching the end of its tether in October 2013.

NETHER!

I saw it appear on the Steam Store and it rang some bells, I remember reading a preview on the PC Gamer website and I have to admit my gaming G-spot became a little moist.

So around Halloween time, 2013, I was almost giving up hope! The DayZ Standalone release was seeming to become as unlikely as an unlikely thing on international unlikely day. I took the plunge and paid (I think it was £20 at the time) for the Nether Beta. Here was Phosphor Game’s first mistake, calling it a Beta. The game was early access, the game was incredibly accomplished for an early access game and for all intents and purposes the framework for a very good game was there. But it wasn’t a Beta. A Beta to me implies the last stage and Nether at that point wasn’t.

In short- Nether is an urban survival game of Player versus Player (PvP ) and Player versus environment (PvE). The PvP aspect offers up all the survival elements expected from this genre; hunger, the need to find food, weapons and ZOMBIES! Erm…. no, not Zombies, let’s have some teleporting aliens instead in many shapes and sizes. These creatures are of course called Nether and hence the games name! Whereas PvP elements just offers that fact that often it’s much easier to kill another player for food and loot. There are idiots that will shoot anyone on sight, and for a lot of people this has been a problem. For myself, I learned how to sneak around and stick to the shadows.

Nether 2

I was actually completely enamoured. Nether played quite well, filled my survival craving and the whole concept actually worked. The urban environment oozes atmosphere, with one of the selling points being high rise buildings that could be entered and explored, bringing something new. I spent well over 60 hours playing in the city, mainly as a sneaky lone ranger, sometimes teaming up with friendly players.

Where Nether really veered away from the DayZ template was not just teleporting aliens and an urban environment, but central hubs (safezones) where you could take your looted goodies, sell and buy at a shop. It also has a RPG levelling up system and permadeath. Apparently, this was similar to the dreaded whore of gamedom….

WarZ!

ZOMG, lets have a drama!

Now things got really messy for Phosphor Games. To start with, a silly man who had the privilege to play a very early closed session, ended up recording a damning YouTube video comparing the game to WarZ. Then emerging from this cloud of brown guff, hordes of angry pitchfork wielding simple folk besieged the Steam and official Nether forums, proclaiming that Phosphor Games were in fact the makers of WarZ in disguise! They even had proof! The lawyer that applied for copyright on Nether was the same one as WarZ. The internet had tried and doomed Nether in a matter of weeks.

Common sense dictates these type of lawyers deal with hundreds of games and are essentially freelance, but who needs common sense on the interwebs.

I felt sorry for Phosphor Games. They had created something potentially special, they were undoubtedly wanting to reach out to their community and be led by what their community wanted  from the game, but instead they were being bombarded with these silly accusations and many gamers were foolishly believing them.Nether was a diamond in the rough and did need direction, Phosphor really listened to their community. Many loved the PvP, many loathed it and begged for PvE servers. How could you appease both sides and not ruin the whole concept of their vision. Well, Phosphor do seem to be trying ideas out all the time.

Nether 1

They did try a few ideas, one idea was a blood meter just using as an example. The more people you kill, the more blood on your hands, the more blood on your hands, the smellier you are and Nether would come hunting. It didn’t work out, a good few ideas haven’t. But it does highlight that this development team is listening and trying. There have been many problems, but the guys at Nether seem to have really been on the ball with addressing them and attempting making something unique.

There have been a few updates since my last foray into Nether. Now with new regions of the map  opened up, new clan systems introduced with territory domination and capturing implemented, escort missions already in game, collecting remains of Nether to craft. The world of Nether is now a lot more involved than scavenging around solely for food, avoiding bandits, or looking for victims.

So a group of us from Frugal Gaming decided to venture back in together for a couple of nights to see what we thought of Nether, nearly six months on from the initial early release and for some, their first thoughts on playing Nether.

Dedwoods42

DayZ has spawned many clones since its inception. This is something that we’re all aware of. Many have been awful cash-ins (*cough* WarZ *cough*) – however, one stands above the rest as something that has come into its own. Nether started as a humble DayZ-alike, but has developed into something entirely of its own. It’s varied enemy types, RPG-like experience and levelling system and genuine direction (my one big gripe with DayZ being how lost you can feel among the vast landscape with very little to do) are refreshing – with survival and exploration remaining the backbone of gameplay. It’s extremely enjoyable, and very different – and if you have the time to put into it and get some levels and experience behind you, it can be a very different and rewarding experience.

Mark Kerry

Nether is a great survival thriller and is quite Fallout-esque, in a present tense kind of way. You definitely need to play with friends to benefit fully (or even survive the first few levels of your characters progression!) as you will face not only the enemies of the Nether but also the trolls of the internet who will be higher level than you and will kill you just for fun. There are some really interesting ideas here all tucked away nicely in a gorgeous, decimated city waiting to be explored. This is definitely one to watch, what’s on offer right now is a taste of what to come, showcasing great potential – this game will keep you guessing!

PridedLlama

With my expectations low I was pleasantly surprised by Nether.  It’s as rough as a badgers arse but the foundations, ideas and mechanics that have been laid down are promising.  As a complete noob to the game, it wasn’t immediately the most accessible experience, but with a little hand holding things started to fall into place.  With the success of other online early access titles it would be easy for this one to slip through the cracks and never see full release, I really hope this isn’t the case. It made for a refreshing diversion to our regular DayZ sessions, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

Karlos Morale

The post-apocalyptic world is a familiar trope, but Nether manages to shape its own bleak future into a fun playground for the brave explorer. Graphically, the ruined city with hostile aliens and humans of dubious intention is evocative of Half Life 2. It’s pleasing to see how many of the buildings and rooftops are accessible to the player; knife-fights in and around dilapidated buildings could be a thrilling experience – especially when the unpredictable Nether creatures join the fight.

Bwortang

Nether has spawned alongside a number of survival horror games trying to make it’s name within the genre. A post-apocalyptic urban jungle, where death hunts you down either by the unpredictable creatures who inhabit the land or the even more unpredictable human survivalists. A safe zone can temporarily allow you to drop your guard but caution must remain high as you scavenge to source food and weapons to remain alive, teamwork is not necessary, but joining a tribe could increase your chance of survival considerably.

From my trial session I can see this game has a lot of potential and some well presented ideas, and if they can keep the momentum going with the community driven updates, it could be the benchmark in this increasing world of survival horror games, I’d fully recommend giving Nether a trial if the opportunity presents, and I look forward to seeing what the final product will offer.

Nether 3

My Final Thoughts.

Nether has evolved a hell of a lot these past six months, some of it confusing, some of it seemingly spot on. It’s hard to please everyone and of course impossible. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game be led by its community so much. Phosphor Games without doubt are listening to what people want and are trying new ideas out constantly. Massive updates have happened and more are to follow and new ideas being tinkered with all the time. There’s a danger in democracy, too many voices wanting different things, but their approach has been measured and thoughtful.

The game still has masses to fix, but unlike many early access games in this genre, Nether is more than playable. The price now is a measly £10.99. Any PC player that likes the genre would be mad not to give this a try.