Netherworld has a playable Windows demo now! You can download the demo here. Check the question marks at the bottom of each screen to read up on basic instructions! Also, remember to click on the little dots as well – that is how you collect Essence that you will need.
Netherworld is an abstract exploration rogue-like game with tactical combat encounters, which takes place in a dreamy, ethereal space called the Netherworld. The procedurally generated universe makes sure that no two situations are ever the same, and the robust mechanics always invite you to come up with your own smart and creative solutions. For starters, construct your own custom spellpowers with the open-ended custom spell creation system!
Your exploration quest will take place in an abstract and otherworldly space called the Netherworld, where you can actually encounter places such as an Essence Vortex, a Crystalline Dreamweaver, or a Rich Viridian Cloud. We aim to create an ambience that will be at the same time mysterious, so that you will always want to explore the universe beyond the horizon, and sublime and ornamental in detail, so that you can have a relaxed and meditative aesthetic experience.
In its heart, Netherworld is an exploration game and plays around the most classic RPG core loop that we all love: You need to overcome obstacles, so that you can reach more resources, which increase your power, and allow you to overcome even more difficult obstacles and explore even deeper into the universe. There are several ways how you can win – you will need to either beat the ultimate combat encounter, activate all the beacons that are scattered in the world, or enact a unique ritual that requires several rare and exotic components.
You will encounter many different locations in your exploration, each with its own particular way to either help or block you on your way to victory. Some locations will provide you with more resources, while others will allow you to boost a particular statistic, or to construct a new spellpower. Some more malicious locations will try to block your exploration ambitions: these will be mostly tactical combat encounters, but could also be monumental wardens that will not let you pass until you activate certain beacons somewhere else, barriers that will open only when you have transmuted a certain crystal or a certain dust, and so on.
While some locations offer you immediate rewards, others provide you with an opportunity that you may choose to return to later, when the circumstances have changed and you possess the necessary resources, or when it turns out that you unexpectedly require their services.
For example, these are some of the locations that you can encounter:
Essence Vortex: You can spend some Essence to harmonise the vortex, which will make it provide you with a little Essence whenever you win in a battle. Essence is the most universal resource you have, and to harmonise a vortex is basically an investment.
Attentive/Observant/Sleepless/Wary Sentinel: The Sentinel will not let you pass, at least not until you learn its secret – which may be located somewhere else in the universe, maybe?
Chromatic Catalyst: You can use the Chromatic Catalyst to transmute your elementary dusts into more potent, composite dusts. For example, you can transmute Crimson Ashes, Scarlet Powder and Vermilion Cinders to create the Garnet Dust, and so on. You always exhaust the Catalyst a little when you use it, up until the point where you cannot use it anymore, and have to locate another one.
Azure/Carmine/Brass Transmuter: Transmuters allow you to transmute basic dusts that you have an abundance of into other basic dusts that you perhaps need more importantly at the moment. However, every Transmuter only works with the dusts of a particular color: Azure with blue, Carmine with red, and Brass with yellow.
Oscillator: You have two options how to calibrate the Oscillator – either to an Equilibrium Oscillator, which increases your Stability, or to a Considerance Oscillator, which boosts your Spirit. The Oscillators provide you with a more substantial bonus when you calibrate more of them in the same way, so you have to balance between a more substantial bonus to one statistic, or a less substantial one to both.
Transcendental Monument: The Monument allows you to learn a new vocation. Unlike at the Archway, where you can only learn the one vocation that is available at that Archway, the Monument allows you to choose which vocation you want to pick up. However, it costs you more Experience to unlock a vocation at the Monument than what it would cost at the Archway.
Crystalline Dreamweaver: You can spend Essence to unlock an additional spellpower slot that you can load up your spellpowers into while in a combat encounter.
The robust core mechanics allow for a lot of space for many unique locations, and we absolutely want to explore this breadth, so that you can encounter new locations even when many hours down the road!
In order to reach new locations and reap their sweet, sweet rewards, you will have to overcome many anomaly encounters, which is where Netherworld switches to its turn-based, open-ended tactical combat mode. There are several basic encounter schemes that determine what you have to achieve in order to overcome the encounter, such as Elimination, Assassination, Assault or Survival, and then there are several randomly chosen entities, each with its own particular mischievous way to try and stop you.
Every entity has a very simple action that it takes whenever you cast any ability: Noises will reduce your Stability, Spectres will drain your Spirit, while Abominations will countdown until they explode and hurt you real bad. Some entities, such as Wards, may raise barriers around or directly heal other entities, while Constructors spawn more entities until you stop them. And you better be ready when you meet the Nemesis, because, well, it doesn't like you.
The important part is that while the all the entities by themselves are usually really straightforward in what they do, it's their random selection system that creates an enormous possibility space of how many scenarios you can potentially encounter, each with its own very distinct dynamic. When you have an Abomination cluster that will blow your Stability away in ten turns time, a Noise Constructor that continuously spawns new Noises which reduce your Stability every turn, and a Spectre line-up which, in the meantime, drains your Spirit that you need to cast your spellpowers every turn – what do you do?
The most important decision that you have to make in a battle is what spellpowers you choose to load up into your spellpower slots. You can choose which spellpowers you want to load up into your ability slots whenever you want, but once you pick a spellpower into a slot, that is indeed what spellpower you will have in that slot for the entire battle! Your power selection will have primordial impact on how well you will probably do in the battle, because based on what entities are on the screen, and what do you need to achieve, some abilities will be pretty much exactly what you need, while others may simply make no sense. What makes or breaks your success is always how well can you understand the situation that you are in, and choose an appropriate toolset that will help you effectively achieve what you need to do.
TL;DR: You can leave your leet minmax Excel skills at home this time, because it is time to show some actual smart play!
'So, what is this that I hear about that I can construct my own spells? I have always wanted to do that!', I hear you say. I know! I have always wanted to construct my own spells in RPGs. I usually play as a caster class when I can, and I think that the most important reason why people choose to play a spellcaster is because you want to play as this awesome person who is badass, but in a smart, sophisticated way. You want to win thanks to how you have outsmarted your opponent, how you came up with a brilliant idea in the important moment, and how you can exploit the mechanics to make them serve whatever it is that you currently need to do. Because you are an individuality, a smart phenomenon to be reckoned with. Which means that obviously, it won’t do to just dumbly repeat the same spells that everybody does! You want your own! Duh!
Well, it's true – in Netherworld, you actually have to construct all your spellpowers that you want to have available in the combat encounters to come. You can construct new spellpowers in the exploration phase, when you encounter a special location called a Monolith. Every Monolith allows you to construct one particular spellpower based around the provided central core, which determines what the power will do and its basic numbers, but which also always comes with several runeslots into which you can load up runes that may take your new spell in many dramatically different directions.
For example, Destabilise, which is the basic offensive strike spellpower, can be constructed in such a way that it will either heal you based on the hits that it delivers (which makes it essentially a Drain Health spell), or maybe so that it will hit all the enemies in the cluster (which makes it basically an AoE), or have the Impact quality attached to it (which works as a stun), or you can even make it deliver the hits in a particular Force (so that you can make, say, a Chaotic or a Void spell).
The cool part is that the runeslot structure means that you can combine all these in any way you please, and thus create powers such as a chaotic stun, an AoE drain, or even a chaotic AoE drain stun (I know you want to!). However, you have to keep in mind that every component usually increases the spellpower's cooldown and/or the Spirit that you will need to cast it, or maybe have some other downside to it, such as that it can make the spell only available to be cast X times in any one battle. Which means that when you construct a new spell, you need to consider what your current stats will be able to actually make work in a battle, and what may be a little too cool for you at the moment!
Also, you can only use every Monolith once, and the power composition does cost some resources, so you need to think twice about how to design the power in such a way that it will work well in combination with the other abilities that you have, in the environment that you are currently in, with your attunements and traits, and so on.
While what you have read above constitutes the core mechanics in Netherworld, there are also several complementary mechanics in play. We aim to have a very robust, yet intricate and ornamental mechanics architecture, which will provide you with many opportunities to capitalise when you pay attention to detail in your decisions.
To name a couple, the secondary mechanics include:
Forces: There are six Forces in the Netherworld: Darkness/Luminosity, Void/Matter and Order/Chaos, which some entities may be particularly vulnerable or resistant to.
Transmutation: In numerous Clouds, Hazes, and Mists, you can collect many peculiar dusts and powders that you can then transmute at catalysts and transmuters to create even more potent substances. You can then use these to enact various rituals at the Altars or the Immortals' Soulshards, which can provide you with many different boosts, such as to your stats or Experience, or even with some entirely unique qualities.
Crystals: You will occasionally stumble upon crystals, which may be required as a component in the most potent rituals, or can be used as a key to unlock locations that would be unreachable otherwise. When you cleanse the crystals, you will also be able to decompose them at a Quartz Disassambler to boost up your Essence reserves.
Vocations: Vocations – such as Explorer, Invoker, Transmuter, or Curator – allow you to unlock and level up various traits related to a particular mechanic or statistic. Vocations can be unlocked with Experience, which you earn mainly when you overcome the combat encounters.
Pockets: Parts of the world (with some sweet rewards, of course!) will remain concealed unless you deploy some means to reveal them. This could be done by activating a nearby Vista, with a trait in the Observer vocation, or in a couple of other manners.
Attunements: Occasionally, you will encounter various Statues in the world, where you can adopt an attunement which provides you with a particular bonus, such as a straight-up numerical boost, or an entirely unique quality. You can only have so many attunements adopted at any one time, so you will eventually need to decide which ones to drop, so that you can replace them with the cooler ones that you encounter as you explore.
Certainly, this is not in any way an exhaustive list – we want to create a very rich and subtly interconnected mechanical system, but hopefully these should be able to make you understand the overall vision!
I'm Martin, I'm 25 and I currently pursue an MA in Digital Games Design & Theory at Brunel University in London, which BTW is absolutely brilliant. Shoutout to all the Brunel Games people! I have a BSc equivalent in Computer Science, and another BA that I have almost completed in French Literature.
I have made several games that you can check out when you have a spare minute, such as the experimental surrealist Wake Up Call, which is currently nominated in the Student Game Competition on CHI 2013 in Paris for Innovative Game Design; the narrative-heavy Spider, where you play as a hacker that penetrates networks within their 3D network visualisations; or Letteria, an intense type-'em-up arcade that I did about six years back and that I will probably rerelease sometime around now.
I learned to code when I was 12, and I don't think there were ever more than a couple consecutive weeks since then when I wouldn't code in some way. I have made, as a contracted work or a personal project, 2D games, 3D games, online games, office applications, websites, magazines, mods, libraries, and cash register drivers, and I have learned many lessons the hard way, but as a result I can now quite naturally do whatever it is that I need to do, and can concentrate on how to create a deeper and a more creative design. I would not present you with Netherworld if I would not be absolutely sure that I can deliver on what I promise, but I am!
Games have always been my passion. I earned all my teenage money writing videogame reviews, and it was only natural that I chose to pursue a technical and an artistic university course, so that I could learn about games from both the perspectives. I moved mountains to come here to London this year, so that I could pursue an MA in Digital Game Design, which I am now about to complete in about two months.
I started to think about what eventually became Netherworld about two years ago now, and I have made several experimental prototypes to arrive to the current design. I am confident that I have an awesome game on my hands now, and I need your guys' help to make it happen!
I am a code-oriented developer much more than I am a visual artist, so what you can see in the video and in the screenshots all around here serves only to demonstrate the visual concept that I have, and how I would eventually like Netherworld to look like – I will need to hire an actual visual artist, who will be able to realise this vision with the subtlety that it needs. I do have several very talented people in mind, and I think that I should actually be able to update you with some exciting news in this aspect soon!
Now, it is up to you to make sure that all that can actually happen! This is the make or break moment in the Netherworld development, and we really need your support now, so that we can make the concept that we believe is awesome become a well-polished reality.
You can see that there are several levels on which you can back the development, and I would now like to explain clearly how the reward system is laid out. These are the the basics that apply to all the contribution levels:
The reward system is cumulative: This means that whichever level you choose to contribute on, you always automatically have access to all the previous perks as well.
Achievements: Every contribution level automatically unlocks an achievement with the same name, so that we can make other people know that you have contributed when it was the most important. This means a Steam achievement, should we launch on Steam, and certainly one in the Netherworld's achievement screen.
Forum icons: There will be a Netherworld Forum to invite discussions about Netherworld, and each contribution tier will provide you with a very special icon displayed next to all your posts while over there.
Remembrance Wall: Remembrance Wall is a boundless wall that can be opened in the main menu and which eternally commemorates and honors all the backers that have helped made the Netherworld development possible. Backers in the upper tiers always receive a certain special visual distinction or a more prominent position on the Wall than the previous tiers.
Be sure to let us know in case that you would be interested in another way in which we could appreciate your help – we will surely work it out!
There are several special locations that are designed especially with you as the contributors in mind, so that you can leave an even more permanent mark on the Netherworld universe. Besides, we sincerely believe that these can create some brilliant crowd-sourced content, such as with the Obelisks, enable you to have your name sound unexpectedly cool, such as with the Immortals, or bestow you with some awesome and unusual meta powers, such as with the Broadcaster!
It is also important to know that since every contributor's copy will be connected to his or her backer contribution, a very special event will occur when you encounter your own Founder's Stone, or any other special location dedicated to you.
Founder’s Stone: Founder’s Stone is a rather common location, which instantly increases the player’s Stability by a small amount. Every Founder’s Stone commemorates a randomly selected Netherworld backer, whose name is displayed along a short poetic text in the location description.
Enlightenment Obelisk: Enlightenment Obelisk is a special location which, besides an instant boost to the players Spirit and Experience, displays an actual advice that has been supplied by a randomly selected backer with the particular perk. In other words, every Netherworld backer that has contributed at least on the necessary level can send us an actual advice that he or she wants to share with other players via the Obelisks. The advice should be about a sentence or two, and should at least remotely resonate with the overall transcendental ambience, but we promise we will be very open minded. For example, 'Fortune sides with him who dares' is a clear OK, as is 'Remember that today is the yesterday’s tomorrow', but we will probably need you to convince us a little more about 'Don’t shit where you eat'.
Immortal’s Soulshard: Immortal's Soulshard is a monument that is always related to a particular Immortal, and allows the player to enact a unique, expensive, but very potent ritual specific to the particular Immortal. When you back Netherworld on the respective tier, we will work with you to create an Immortal based around your name: that means that we will translate your name to match the Immortal name style, and because every Immortal also comes with an epithet (because that is indeed how they roll), you can choose how do you want your Immortal to be known in the Netherworld lore. We will also work with you to design a unique ritual that will resonate with your created Immortal identity.
For example, this means that Samuel Thompson can become immortalised and known in the Netherworld universe as Sa’Tho, The Executioner and his Soulshard would allow a ritual that provides players with a boost to their strikes on entities that are close to destruction, while Annabella Armanini could become Anna-Nini, The Most Brilliant and her ritual would increase the player’s Spirit restoration.
Extraplanar Broadcasts: When you contribute on the Extraplanar Broadcaster level, you unlock a new screen in the main menu where you can select an Extraplanar Transmission that you want to broadcast. Each Transmission represents a particular bonus, all the players' installations are occasionally synchronised via our server, and when other players encounter an Extraplanar Hyperstone in their universes, they will receive a reward which corresponds to a transmission that is randomly selected from those that the broadcasters currently broadcast.
In other words, when you are an Extraplanar Broadcaster, it is up to you to choose what reward do the players receive when they encounter an Extraplanar Hyperstone in their worlds, and you are randomly selected between all the broadcasters.
Every Extraplanar Broadcaster will have their own random Transmission selection to start with, but based on your achievements in the game, you will continually unlock more Transmissions that you can start to broadcast. You can always discuss with other players on the Forums what the best transmission is, but the decision is ultimately always up to you!
Developed in LÖVE, Netherworld will be available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
The amount that I raise will be spend in two primary ways: I will need to hire a visual artist that will help me realise the visual vision that I have, and I also need to survive the entire development process in terms of not starving to death and having a place to stay and an internet access.
I have learned to work entirely with open source or free-to-use tools, so there are no expenses in this column, and I'll also come back to live in Prague, where the living costs are much more reasonable than in London – so that's why the amount that I crowdsource is less than what it usually is with the videogame propositions.
My expectation is to release Netherworld in the Q1 2014.
I wanted to let you know that 5% of any sales that I make on Netherworld when it releases will be split between the Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, and Child's Play.
Thank you! I really appreciate if you decide to help to make this happen. The most direct way is certainly to actually contribute, but it does really also help out a lot when you simply spread the word!