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Nether Preview

Nick_Tan By:
GENRE Survival MMO 
PUBLISHER Phosphor Games Studio 
DEVELOPER Phosphor Games Studios 
RELEASE DATE 12/31/2069
RP What do these ratings mean?

Pray or prey.

On face value, Nether is an urban, apocalyptic multiplayer title with creepy, teleporting monsters, a first-person perspective, and a survival-horror slant. It wouldn't be fair to call it strictly a first-person shooter—though it hopes to trump its obvious object of comparison, DayZ—insomuch as it's an experience that's also about sneaking, melee combat, and tactical movement. On top of that, Nether hopes to incorporate a wealth of gameplay elements by virtue of its community who will share its creation.

Putting this gameplay thought experiment aside, this multiplayer title does have several key points that will form its core design. The supernatural enemies called Nether, hence the title, are meant to be real threats, not some creatures that can be downed by a single shot to the head. Some can teleport short distances, and if more than two of them surround you, you can kiss your health bar goodbye. Luckily, the gunplay is planned to have smoother, more familiar mechanics than those in DayZ and players will earn experience points toward levels and perks, so at least you have those on your side.

How these abominations came to exist in this debris-laden, modern-day setting is unclear, but what is known is that a cataclysmic event called The Cull occurred, where enough time has past since then that survivors must scratch and claw for every scrap of sustanence. In this dystopia, skyscrapers provide a verticality where snipers can perch, scavengers can rummage through a floor, and a squad of soldiers can pass through the bottom floor, all without detecting each other. Up to 64 players will be able to log into a server, though, so it will be rare for anyone to lone-wolf an entire game, particularly since forming a group of players who can watch each other's backs seems to be the optimal way to survive and to protect the safe zone.

That said, escaping and evading Nether is more difficult than it sounds, due to the intrinsic sound-based system to movement. Every step makes a sound, whose volume is indicated on the bar visualization next to the health bar. Thus, running through an open plaza just to rush over to another checkpoint or to some area with supplies isn't the brightest idea as it will attract enemies to your location, unless you're trying to act as a sacrificial decoy. That said, I asked the developer on-hand whether the game could including sound-emitting dart ammo that snipers can shoot at various locations to lure Nether away or to be a gigantic prick against some poor sods.

Normally, I wouldn't tell any developer about what to put in their game apart from some general advice if I was asked, but Phosphor Games is taking a different approach to their game design process. By involving the community and incorporating the concepts of its supporters, the developer hopes to create a title that fans will feel compelled to purchase due to their participation. The current state of Nether is still pre-alpha, so there's still plenty of time for fans to have a significant hand in shaping the game. Both the story and game design will be, for the lack of a better word, player-driven.

This will likely lead Phosphor Games down two roads: a multiplayer team deathmatch mode more in line with an apocalyptic Battlefield and/or an urban survival simulation similar to DayZ where food and water are necessary and scarce. One won't necessarily cancel out the other since different servers can have wildly different options, so it just goes to show the full range of possibilities that Nether could become. One server could have perma-death, another could have no guns whatsoever, and another can have no Nether at all. Whatever direction it takes, the developers want to make sure that the features they create will matter to the community, so it will likely be a sort of "design by majority" with hopefully some attention brought to a few people who have brilliant ideas of their own.

So suffice it to say, if the fans don't like Nether when it's finally finished, it may just be their fault. A closed beta should be available this coming fall, and registration for the beta has already begun.
More GR previews for this game:
Nether preview posted on 02/28/14.

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