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Nowhere Prophet - Roguelike Deck-Building Game

A topic by Martin Nerurkar created Dec 01, 2015 Views: 1,789 Replies: 12
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WEE!!! An community that still has this wonderful new car smell! I love this place so having a community is going to be great fun. Looking forward to hearing your guys' thoughts and getting to know all of you. That said, many many thanks for stopping by and for your interested in our game and development! Please always let us know what you think! We love, love, love feedback!

The History

Nowhere Prophet is a roguelike deck-building game. I've started work on it in may last year. Initially building a number of increasingly complex prototypes and then, once I knew I had an engaging core experience, I set about laying out the rest of the game. Luckily I managed to snag some public funding to support us and then starting this year we've started full development, adding a few extra hands to help with all the work. We're hoping to release mid next year, but there's still a good stretch of work ahead of us. I'm going to go into a bit more depth on this in the next couple of posts.

The Game

The game is a roguelike deck-building game. That's quite a mouthful, but what it means is that when a combat happens it is resolved as a card game. Your crewmembers each have their own deck, as do your opponents. You take turns, playing your offensive, defensive and miscellaneous cards, trying to defeat the other team.

Then, when your not fighting, your travelling through the randomly generated world. Here you can improve your characters and their decks, creating new and interesting situations. The game features permadeath: Characters that die are lost - you can not load previous save games. While one playthrough is pretty short (maybe 1-3 hours), the game is not over after one game, because it is difficult and also invites exploration. Players can also unlock new content for the game through multiple runs.

The World

The world of Nowhere Prophet is set in the very far future. Set on planet Soma, a world on the fringes of galactic civilization. After suffering a technological apocalypse, it has reverted to a state of barbarism. In this post-apocalyptic science-fiction world (without zombies) you have to build, grow and lead a convoy to safety across the hostile world. A colorful but untamed world, inhabited by a population and it's culture is strongly inspired by the culture of the Indian subcontinent.

Amazing idea ! Could you explain basically how the card game works ? Also the artworks are good, but the cards don't really feel like real cards. Maybe it is on purpose, but I think it is a disadvantage. The Hearthstone team made an awesome work on making their game feel more physical, and it really feels good when playing.

Do you have any screenshots of the exploration part ? The world/story seems interesting :)


Hey there! comparing with hearthstone is tough. We don't have the same budget so we can't even begin to create the same production values. You're right, they did an excellent job but we purposefully tried to do something a bit different. Our cards are a lot less physical, but then they are also an abstraction of ingame interaction and not representations of in world physical cards, as they are in Hearthstone ;)

As for more screenshots: I will post more stuff later this week and will try to include some info on that and the combat system then.


> Our cards are a lot less physical, but then they are also an abstraction of ingame interaction and not representations of in world physical cards, as they are in Hearthstone ;)

Ok, this makes sense :) . This is probably a good idea, because making cards that feel physical is a challenge in itself so you might want to focus more on actual gameplay.


Jup. That's the plan :)


I like your concept and this genres fusion. I mean, my two favourite genres, roguelike and card games, collided in one. Amazing! :D


Thanks! Much appreciated! If you're interested, check out the blog - there's a bunch of behind the scenes articles...


Will do!


The Origins of the Prophet

I started work on Nowhere Prophet almost 20 months ago. In May 2014, after spending some time driving my motorcycle through france, decompressing and realigning myself, I decided to delve back into a larger project. I've been fascinated by the idea of a conflict resolution system, that can handle both physical combat and social conflict.

The idea is that the decision between violence and debate is free from any concerns of "fun". In many games the mechanics for fighting are a lot more engaging than those for conversation, so picking a fight is generally a lot more entertaining. And I wanted a system that could be used both for fights and negotations.

So that requires a more abstract system, one that does not aim to actually represent what's happening. My first thoughts were about a timing-based gameplay. So that by timing your actions right, you could defend or attack properly, whether that'd be a punch, jumping into cover, slinging an insult or dismantling an argument.

I've had some really simple prototypes going and while the timing gameplay, seemed to work, I quickly noticed that it doesn't work if you have too many possible actions you can time. I didn't want people to think about which button to press for which action when they're already under time pressure.

Cards come into Play

So to condense the breath of actions down but to still provide some options I had the idea of a card metaphor. By only showing a small selection of all possible actions that made deciding on the fly a lot easier. Again prototypes were built and tweaked. It worked a lot better but it was still too confusing.

The fact that you had to both pay attention to your offense and your defense at the same time was too stressful. Especially since I wanted a party on both sides, to provide interesting targeting options. So to counteract that, I'd put in two phases: Attack and Defend. That way players could focus only on one type of interaction: Playing a card or discarding a card to block an attack.

Now the game started to be fun. I realy liked the real-time mechanic during the opponent's turn and the advanced skill that came into play when you let some attacks pass to block the strong ones that came afterwards. Yet when I tested it with a few friends I quickly noticed that it didn't seem to work for a lot of people.

The hybrid between turn-based and real-time wasn't intuitive. Especially since card games are generally turn-based and so I wildly diverged from the expectations of the common player.

Slowing down even more

So, what to do? Slow down even more and go fully turn-based. As the game became slower more complex cards and effects could be added and suddenly the system started to sing. There was still a lot of things to fiddle with, which changed as the game evolved. For example the armor and defense system was overhauled multiple times until we finally had something that was intuitive and remained fun.

As development progressed and I started to look more closely at the deck building part of the game, I noticed that with the 3-person party, having both a physical combat and a social conflict deck to manage would be too much of a burden on the player and would quickly become annoying. Add to that the fact that we got less funding than we were aiming for and we had to make choice. So with a heavy heart we decided to focus on the physical conflict and remove the social conflict.

And that's the story how we went from a social-physical-real-time-conflict-system to a turn-based-card-combat. :)

- Martin

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Oh, I keep forgetting to update this. Just stumbled over this again, sorry about that. Way too much stuff to do.
That said, we're on greenlight, and we have a trailer!

And the game is in First Access! You can grab it exclusively here on ITCH!

And I've got a new trailer to commemorate the occasion:

Man, this feels strange. I've been working on the game for a long time and it's finally hitting the public. I'm somewhere between excited and scared. Woke up this morning dreaming about fictional reaction tweets. Let's see what this does. I've got to grab some belated lunch now, and then get back to letting people know this thing exists...


Cool! I saw this on the itch front page and thought it looked great. But really nice to see some of its origins here!

Does the deck that you build carry through campaigns? Or is it new campaign, new deck?

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New campaign, new deck BUT across multiple playthroughs you can unlock new starting setups for your decks. That's not in the current version but will begin with the next major update.

I was and am thinking about a more detailed system where you can upgrade your starting deck bit by bit but that's a larger feature and I'd rather focus on the content for now. So there might never really be the time to build that.