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.
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.