Strategic Syndicates: Net Gain

this is a picture from a trailer for a hardcore strategy game

Cyberpunk is back, folks, even though I’m not entirely sure it ever went away. I’m not talking about Google attaching spectacles to your neural cortex and uploading your dreams to Youtube, I’m talking about the return of Shadowrun, Deus Ex and, of course, Cyberpunk 2077. Like an Englishman who is too lazy to make a proper meal on a Sunday afternoon, games have got chips on the brain. Net Gain, currently on Kickstarter, could stand tall in that proud company. It’s Uplink but you’re the corporation. It’s Covert Action with more complex strategies. Oh yes.

Level Zero are hoping to have a playable prototype ready in a few months, so for now all we have to go on is the concept and the huge amount of detail on the Kickstarter page. It’s a superb concept though.

In Net Gain, the player takes on the role of a corporate broker, hired by a powerful conglomerate to sabotage their competitors by any means. You’re in charge of investigating targets, planning missions, assembling teams, and leading the operation to success. All in a world that’s rapidly changing every day…

Net Gain promises to be both cyberpunk simulation and high-strategy game. Of course, we won’t know how well it works until the prototype and full game are with us, but I’m willing to be at least a little excited by the prospect.

The Kickstarter campaign has started well, raising over $12,000 of its $16,000 total with more than three weeks left on the clock. Twenty dollars is the minimum pledge for a copy of the game, which includes access to the prototype as soon as it is released.

I can’t mention Covert Action without expressing regret that there hasn’t already been an updated version and also recognising that it has the worst boxart in the history of the universe. Do you know of worse boxart? I cannot believe that you do.


  1. Lev Astov says:

    Does anyone else find it silly that a British newspaper would complain about a privacy threat from a commercial product?

    I, for one, welcome our wearable computer overlords.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      It’s the rise of the exocortices.

    • pmcp says:

      We wouldn’t know about any of that stuff if it wasn’t for Nick Davies and the guardian’s persistence, they have some actual journalists there.

  2. Brosepholis says:

    I see the devs have attended the Freedom Force school of UI design.

    Not sure how I feel about that. Where Uplink was all about clean lines, this game has that dreadful lo-fi pixel aesthetic.

  3. Arkh says:

    I saw this some time ago. Net Gain looks lovely but it has some decisions that still keep me from backing it. I’m afraid it will be too short or shallow.

    • JoeLocastro says:

      Hey there, Joe (Net Gain’s co-writer and setting developer) here!

      If you have any questions or concerns about the setting or story of the game please let me know and I’ll answer all that I can for you. We really want people to get excited about the possibilities. For the story, there will be a full campaign with tutorial, missions you can do to progress a plot in any fashion you want but ultimately tell a grand story of corporate intrigue and corruption. But, you can choose to ignore all that and develop your own narratives! Is your company into mergers, or all out destruction of the enemy? Do you work in the shadows, or attempt to build an overt force to be reckoned with? The overall goal is the company’s continued success…so the path you take to get there, all decided by you and influenced by the world, is where the real story is at.

      • Arkh says:

        Joe, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask some questions:

        First, will it be available at other places, like GOG, or just Steam and Desura?

        Second, do you plan to add different corporations flavor? Think the Zaibatsus from Neuromancer. They where not your traditional megacorporation in some sense, they had their own peculiarities differentiating them from western megacorps.

        Third, is there any chance we might see some higher resolution screenshots and some in-game footage, even if pre-alpha? The reason I ask this is while I get your plots and things descriptions, I’m very interested in seeing on how you can put it in action. I know the kickstarter has some footage but I wanted to see someone playing it.

        Fourth, will the city in the background be something more than, eh, a background?

        Fifth, will criminal organization play some role on the game? Other than being assets, that is.

        Lastly, there is a typo error in the kickstarter, that being
        Technological growth has reached a state of critical mass, expanding faster than people can society can adjust

        Thanks for taking the time to read my previous comment (and this one, assuming you are reading it)!

        • JoeLocastro says:

          Hey Arkh, glad I could help address some of your concerns! I’ll answer what I can, and I’m sure John will stop by to tackle anything I can’t answer to myself.

          “First, will it be available at other places, like GOG, or just Steam and Desura?”

          Pretty sure John said Steam and Desura were both in the cards. He’ll confirm, but I know GOG hasn’t crossed our minds yet!

          Second, do you plan to add different corporations flavor?

          The way corporations function in the game, right now, is they are all very similar in structure. Corporations have companies, companies have assets…etc. Somethings will come from the emergent narrative, the one you infer with your game play. But! The campaign is the place where conventions can be stretch a little, and we can really get in depth with a non-standard corporation structure. What kinds of interesting set ups would you like to see/interact with?

          Third, is there any chance we might see some higher resolution screenshots and some in-game footage, even if pre-alpha?

          Definitely for John! I’m only involved in the writing, setting development and community management of the game. We’ll wait for him to chime in…sometime today!

          Fourth, will the city in the background be something more than, eh, a background?

          The cities are going to be slowly rotating 3D cities, and non-static! John will have the details on that for sure. Sorry I can only focus on setting and world questions for the most part!

          Fifth, will criminal organization play some role on the game?

          I assume you mean the mafia, yakuza…etc. In the near future those groups all have public faces of some sort. A company could be a front for the mafia’s dirty laundry. Again, that ties into the emergent narrative we’re going for, but anything goes in the campaign so I’ll make sure they’re well represented on my end!

          Lastly, there is a typo error in the kickstarter…

          Yikes! Thanks for the catch!

          And thanks for really looking into the game! Again if there’s anything I can address I will do my best, so let me know!

        • Sintua says:

          Haven’t looked into them yet, but probably will during the steam/desura push.

          Corp variants
          The corps mainly function the same, though they will grow in respect to their “personalities”, as we eventually add traits of their own that will influence their aggressiveness, and such.
          All the corps are a bit “Zaibatsu”, though!

          I talk about the current development in Update #2 (and a screenshot of the ugly prototype). The current build is still missing some core features and the new GUI as seen in the video, which will be added before the prototype’s release in June.

          Currently the city is just the background. Mid-tier plans have the city one static thing that the camera will move around in, but as we move towards 1.0 the fuller development plans will have this city more dynamically created, reflecting your corporate branding and expanding out as your corporation grows. Still a pretty background, but it will be used to show the strength and power of your corp. Hopefully this same mechanism will be used to look at other corporations as you do runs on them, the camera prowling around in streets slathered in enemy logos and ads!

          Criminals are mainly represented through Circles and Assets. Some operatives come from the life of crime as well.

          Typo fixed! Thanks!

  4. sinister agent says:

    Do you know of worse boxart? I cannot believe that you do.

    Oh come now, you already know the answer to that: link to

    It is silly that Covert Action remains uncopied. Excellent game, so much potential.

  5. Shooop says:

    Is one of the prerequisites for a successful Kickstarter being sprite-based? That way everyone goes, “Ooooh retro!”?

    Someone should do a Kickstarter to bring back the Atari 2600 into production and be done with it.

    • Nenjin says:

      It couldn’t possibly be that sprites and retro graphics are far easier for amateurs to make than fancier, higher end graphics?

      No, the more reasonable explanation must be that everyone making a game on Kickstarter is a hipster.

      • Shooop says:

        Or maybe it could be said amateurs aren’t putting much effort into a package as a whole and making things we can play on for free but asking for money to make them too.

        No, the more reasonable explanation is you’re being obtuse.

        • c-Row says:

          You are obviously ignorant.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            I blame Shawshank Redemption

          • Shooop says:

            You are obviously easily impressed.

            How much time did you spend gazing in wonder at the light on your computer when you turned it on?

          • c-Row says:

            How much time did you spend trying to create good-looking 3d models when you weren’t busy calling people things who didn’t personally attack you in the first place?

            Yeah, I thought so.

          • Citrus says:

            “How much time did you spend gazing in wonder at the light on your computer when you turned it on?”


            Good one. :D

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          There’s only so much one man can do with a limited amount of money. I’m glad he isn’t pouring his resources for the shallow people who wouldn’t likely buy this game in the first place.

      • njursten says:

        Also, you’re not allowed to actually like lo-fi graphics? It can be quite relaxing. Hi-res textures and graphics can lead to a bit of information overload.

    • The First Door says:

      If you ignore Planetary Annilihation, Distance, Carmageddon, Dreamfall Chapters, Limit Theory, Star Commander, Maia, Star Citizen, Castle Story, Tex Murphy and Project GODUS which were all successful Kickstarter projects then totally.

      • JFS says:

        Are Project Eternity, Wasteland and the new Torment sprite-based as well?

        … didn’t think so.

    • Sintua says:

      While the conversation got a bit unpleasant on the topic, i’ll just hit the important parts for reference:

      1. I like the pixel art style. So there’s that.
      2. It’s an informed aesthetic choice. The broker is supposed to have this feeling of “playing a game” with people’s lives, and the style definitely lends itself to that. The art is more suggestive of the details than blatantly showing you, which is the same “narrative Seed” concept used in Plots to tell a more complex story, or used in Traits to give the operatives a feeling of greater emotional and personal depth.
      3. given the amount of art assets I want to create for the game, constraints on their size mean it’s faster for me to create them, meaning MORE variety.
      4. This is a game that I do hope to open up more of to the community, and a constrained pixel style means it will be easier for people to match the style and easier to create the assets they want to add. While it’s a long way away from art submissions from the community, I am thinking forward on the topic.
      5. The graphics have never been the focus of this game. I will utilize them as I need to to communicate to the player, and use as visual rewards, but if you’re in this for the graphics, then it’s probably not your kind of game, friend.

  6. Low Life says:

    That boxart looks like the album art for the self-titled debut album of the 80s synthpop duo Covert Action.

  7. Sintua says:

    Hi RPS! I’m glad you covered us, Rock, Paper, Shotgun is my main source of gaming news, and I thought you guys would definitely like the pitch!

    I’ve been wanting to make Net Gain for a few years as I saw cyberpunk become more and more popular, and the tide has definitely surged! I’m glad you mentioned Uplink and Covert Action, two games I drew a lot of inspiration from! I loved the “dynamic” plots the enemies would create in Covert Action, which was a big lead behind the idea of the individual Plots you use to create the missions in Net Gain. And yes, it could definitely do with a modern remake! Those controls… eugh.

    For more information about the state of development and where its going, check out Update #2!

    There’s also more information on how Missions work in Update #2, and details on Operatives in Update #3!