You know what we don’t have in video games? Enough main characters as loser jellyfishes! Sure, you can be a badass warrior fighting demons, but what about a jellyfish who carries a flamethrower? Now that’s where the real action is. And the Hungry Pixel team are looking to bring that dream to life in their upcoming title: Netherworld. If you don’t know anything about this game, it’s time to start. As a jellyfish juggling marriage crises and demonic hags, this game is sure to deliver a unique experience. But don’t take my word for it. Today we have a member of the team with us today, Albert Serra.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m Albert Serra, copywriter and story lover from Barcelona. Since late 2017 I have worked at indie studio Hungry Pixel as the communication manager and NetherWorld writer.
And you are part of Hungry Pixel, a brand new team founded by yourself to create this project, which is super awesome but I’m sure is a bit scary. Tell me how exactly did the concept for this game and company begin?
Hahaha yeah, it’s scary but also exciting at the same time! NetherWorld and Hungry Pixel started with one single person in 2016: Dan Barreno, programmer and creator of NetherWorld. At that time, he had finished Undertale and was fascinated about everything in it, especially the story and the characters. So he decided to create a game with simple mechanics and an original plot: the story of a man being left by his wife in a dark, decadent and surreal world. Dan wanted the game to be pixel art, but his skills were too basic for what he had in mind… so in 2017 he looked for an artist in a dev forum and found the best pixel art artist ever: Isabel Armentero (Erien). With her, the basis of Hungry Pixel as an indie studio was born. When they decided to do the Kickstarter campaign, Dan asked me to help them manage the campaign and its communications. I had worked with Dan in another game, managing its Steam Greenlight campaign some years before, so I accepted gladly. When the Kickstarter ended, I also took the responsibility (and the honor) to write and develop the world, story and dialogue for NetherWorld. So with a successful crowdfunding campaign and a team ready to put all its efforts into the project (and also to deal with legal stuff), we thought Hungry Pixel was ready to become a formal company.
Can you provide an elevator pitch on what this game is? What is NetherWorld?
We like to define NetherWorld as a 2D pixel art narrative experience that combines a deep story with tons of weird characters, world exploration, minigames and boss fights. It starts with a miserable jellyfish-like guy called Medoo, who handles marriage crisis with alcohol and then a cokehead mage involves him in a crazy and dangerous adventure.
And how exactly will this game play? You mention that most of the battles will be solely boss fights but you are alluding to a good chunk being dialogue based choices. Can you expand on what the will be like?
Sure! We found it interesting to create a game with two different modes during the adventure. In the “Story Mode”, you’ll be able to explore the scenarios, talk to everyone, do quests, interact with objects, and also play minigames (drinking, sex, rogue-like dungeons on the pumblings controlling a tick called Joe…).
Then, in the “Fight Mode”, you’ll be able to fight super cool bosses using all sort of weapons (melee, ranged, shields…) in specific moments of the storyline.
In real life you don’t find enemies in every step you take, so we bet it all to the big bosses and let the player enjoy the story and dialogue between one and the other. About their difficulty, don’t worry: The bosses will be challenging, but our idea is not to do a Dark Souls or a Sekiro. We want you to enjoy the story!
Regarding to dialogue based choices, you’ll be able to make some decisions during the game, but they won’t affect the main plot.
So I wanted to talk about a description you had on your kickstarter page. NetherWorld is a horizontal side-scrolling pixel art adventure, with a lovely*, irreverent and sinister plot. *(this part is debatable). Can you shed any light on why this would be debatable without giving away too much?
Hahaha yeah, we wanted to emphasize ironically that one of NetherWorld’s storylines is a love story, but in the bad way. The main character, Medoo, is abandoned by his wife and you as a player will share with him the emotional roller coaster (and the surreal situations) he’s living.
So looking at the characters, it seems like most are some type of aquatic creature yet it seems that they are all in the open world without any water. Is there anything to this or just that you liked jellyfish and wanted it to be more than just something under water?
That’s funny, because the origin of Medoo as the “jellyfish main character” is the most random thing you could imagine. It all started with Dan Barreno, the programmer of NetherWorld and also its creator (I joined him later). When starting developing the game, he drew a bunch of pixels to have a basic shape as a character to move and test some mechanics on it. However, after animating it, he fell in love with it and decided to use it as the protagonist of the story.
Medoo is the most aquatic-like creature you’ll probably find in the game. In general terms, we imagined NetherWolians as a mix between humanoids, animals and irregular black simple creatures (all properly dressed –or undressed- following NetherWorld different cultures, scenarios and situations).
Follow Up to that, is there anything specific to being a jellyfish?
Hmm… Slippery tentacles, maybe? Hahaha Medoo is short, weird and kind of jinxed, but he can hold a flamethrower or any weapon you can imagine perfectly. So I guess being a jellyfish-like creature is not that bad!
I gotta ask, what is going on with the so called “religious characters?” (little strange that the “religious guy” is openly boning someone in his Nethergram photo!)
Hahahaha! Did you know we created a real Twitter profile for Religious guy? Anyway, you’re right: Religion, as well as sex, alcohol and drugs, will have an especial role in NetherWorld. We wanted the game to be a representation of the worst you can find in human society, and exploring different ways to experience it. Always trying to avoid the trivial approach, but treating the players as adults (+18), and also in a satirical way. Regarding to religion, there will be even an orgy in the church! Our intention is to show the hypocrisy of some people in religious institutions like the NetherWolian Church. Religious guy will be one of the several random monks you’re gonna find there “sinning”.
Sort of related to all these characters and the world in general, everything seems pretty dark and scary, what was your inspiration for making the world or even the story with this theme?
Since Dan had the idea of creating NetherWorld, he imagined the darkest and most decadent version of Undertale as a reference for this land, adding drugs, alcohol and realism to it. Stories like the indie game “To the moon” were also an inspiration.
We’ve used tons of references to build NetherWorld, most of them kind of creepy, but not all: The NetherWolian Church and some of its characters, for example, where inspired by the music band Rammstein! Or the desert by Sergio Leone’s films (“For a Few Dollars More”, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”…).
Okay so I’m super excited to get a chance to actually play this but based on the Kickstarter page it looks like it was initially slated for about this month or last I believe. Is there any chance of a surprise release like we have been seeing with other games such as Apex or Risk of Rain 2? If not, when can we expect to actually get our hands on this?
In our initial extremely optimistic time calculations we thought we could achieve this deadline, but once the Kickstarter campaign finished, there was new stuff to consider. Not only related to the game itself, but paperwork, and other agreements that needed time to get done.
We also did a demo to test most of the game mechanics and also got some feedback from the backers. To make this test, we thought it would be easier to create an independent story that would work as a sum up of the mechanics using the scenarios and characters of NetherWorld.
Although it slowed down the final game development (time flies!), the demo was incredibly useful thanks to our backers and it will help us to improve NetherWorld for sure.
Our intention is to finish the game on late 2019, early 2020 at most. I wish we could surprise you guys releasing NetherWorld this week!
Speaking of Kickstarter, I just wanted to get your take on how that process went as I have heard a range of opinions both positive and negative.
Well, we could define our Kickstarter experience as an intense, stressful and exciting process depending on the moment of the campaign.
We spent the previous months studying successful and failed Kickstarter campaigns to find parameters that could be useful to our objective and to improve the final results. We also increased our activity on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook (some people already knew what NetherWorld was before the Kickstarter and had seen our progress since like a year ago, so this added credibility to what we were promising). However, once the Kickstarter starts, there are hundreds of factors you can’t control, or you don’t know why they go like they do.
What is sure is that the first and last weeks of campaign are key to success (or failure). The worst part is in the meantime, when people want you to be closer to the funding goal to finally decide whether support you or not. In our case, for example, our Nintendo Switch goal (6.000€) helped a lot. When we funded at 5.000€, a couple of days before ending the campaign, people just turned euphoric and started backing us to achieve the Switch goal… but they didn’t stop there: We raised nearly 10.000€!! It was crazy, and we feel deeply grateful for all the 505 backers who supported this project (Thank you Netherholics!).
It’s true that we didn’t sleep much during this one-month campaign, but looking at it with perspective, it was completely worth it.
So I’m excited that you are putting this on the switch and pc but how come there is no love for those playstation or xbox fans? If you get enough requests do you think this would be something to look into for the future?
For now we’re focused on developing the game for PC (Steam) and Nintendo Switch simultaneously. However, we don’t discard considering Playstation and Xbox too in a future 😉
Let’s end this with your story, how has this whole process been? Is there any advice that you can give other aspiring creators out there or anything you think the team has learned that other can benefit from?
Although there’s still a lot to do, I’m so proud to work with such an amazing team like Dan and Erien in Hungry Pixel, and also for having the incredible support we’ve got since we started with this crazy adventure.
For me personally, an ambitious project like NetherWorld which is done by a 3 person studio implies working with different roles at the same time (in my case, writer and managing all the communication –Press releases, article translations, social media…-) and having only a bit to rest during the week. We usually work on weekends too. Sometimes it may be overwhelming and mentally exhausting, but I love what we’re doing. Besides, thinking of all the people that have given us their support since the beginning makes me stay focused in our purpose of creating a unique, funny and interesting experience. I just can’t wait for you to play NetherWorld!
Regarding to advices, I don’t know if they’ll be helpful to you… Just hope so:
1- Believe in yourself. Seriously, if you don’t care about yourself… Who do you expect will? Do you have great game idea? Cool! Let’s work hard to get it done! You don’t know how? Learn it, or find someone who’s good in what you aren’t.
2- Believe in your game. If you don’t like your game, don’t expect others to do so. You’re creating something awesome, right? Prove it by words, and also by facts!
3- Listen. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Some of it will be right, some wrong. Consider it, and decide if these changes will improve your game or not.
It’s your game, so the last decision will be always yours. But remember that once you finish your game, other people will play it. If you have doubts, you can go back to advices 1 and 2.
Thanks so much for the interview, Josh!
No Albert, thank you for the great info on Netherworld and the Hungry Pixel team. If you’re reading this I hope you are as excited as I am for this game to come out. If you want you to be the first to hear about new updates be sure to sign up to their mailing list, follow their twitter page or add the game to your steam wishlist.