Darkweb Streamer Preview - Can you earn new viewers and keep your sanity?
Found at each of the various PAX conventions, 'PAX Rising' is a section of the floor dedicated to showcasing selected indie games to the public. One of the prominent displays at PAX Aus this year was for a game called darkweb STREAMER, and it certainly appealed to the crowds. I’m not particularly eager to pull out comparisons for the sake of it, but if you need an idea, think procedurally-generated Hypnospace Outlaw meets Needy Streamer Overload, except constructed as a very horror-focused roguelite.
The game takes place entirely on the player character’s desktop, and everything is in black and white. As a "skreener" you browse the dark web by finding random pages to add to your bookmarks. With enough Skash, you can buy items to show off to your streaming audience. Your goal: to be the highest-ranked streamer. There are a lot of stats to manage, most importantly being your health and sanity, unless you want a game over. In each of your runs, you start with three traits; one of mine was #trustfundkid, which gave me a boost in money generation. In my experience with the demo, whenever I ranked up, I had to buff one trait and nerf another.
Streaming is depicted by text, and you need an item to start which will prompt certain responses from chat (and horrors from within) like a box being full of worms with teeth. Continuing to stream is usually a positive, netting you donations but it takes a toll on your wellbeing. The web pages will be procedurally generated (the current build has placeholders), as well as the items that have their own little horror stories that you’re part of. Pages can vary from personal webpages where you can make contact with the owners, to shops to buy occult items to stream with, and expensive therapy and health services to fix yourself up. Emails come in pretty frequently, with one fan giving me a recipe to create a curse for my enemies, unfortunately, I couldn’t find the resources for it before I went insane.
Most of the horror I experienced was of the “grotesque things happening to me” variety, or simply getting attacked, but there were also some events that put me on edge as to whether I was making the right decision or not. Events can occur at any point aside from streaming, as nefarious things will try to find you in your sleep and while you wake.
The procedurally-generated aspect of it is interesting, encompassing not just the websites and randomized items, but other malicious entities and non-player characters, recipes, and what services might be available to you in a run. This means there’s not a singular set way to just beat the game.
However, because I assumed certain things were connected, I didn’t get the results I expected. After getting bitten by one doll, I thought that would prompt others, especially after giving me a new trait. Instead streaming with the new one just ended up with me making a putrid pie for my viewers. One aspect I didn’t interact with much was the non-player characters, which are also proc-gen and run on a similar system to the player, progressing through time along with them. So a character you can chat with will also deal with their own dreams and skills, besides their backstories and general personality that you’ll navigate around.
I was told that the full game would include a few more features not available in the demo build. A successful 'run' is estimated to take an hour, but with your livelihood bent on keeping you in danger, it won’t be so easy. I’m looking forward to seeing how this shakes up, as it’s definitely my kind of game. Darkweb Streamer is currently in development and hopes to release at the end of 2024.