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Here are a few highlights from recent newsletters:
A Special Word from OtherSide’s Paul Neurath
It probably comes as no surprise, but it’s taking longer than we’d hoped for Underworld Ascendant to come together. The release will extend beyond the original November 2016 date.
Our goal is to make a game that’s not only wonderfully fun and super polished, but also genuinely innovative. We’re pushing hard on the Improvisation Engine, going deep with making The Stygian Abyss feel like a living and breathing dynamic environment, on achieving the subtle interplay with the Faction politics, and more.
Innovating is hard work, and not an entirely predictable process. The team learned this lesson on the original Underworlds, and with Thief: The Dark Project and other games that pushed the envelope. We do feel that taking the time to make the game great is the right call.
Before we will be ready to share an updated release date, we want to get over the hump on the key innovations and know that they are working smoothly. In February, we expect to share a new Prototype build with Backers that shows much progress.
“We are hugely appreciative of your patience and support, and in being part of seeing this game come to life.
A Rewarding Announcement
To thank our fans for their patience as we work to ensure Underworld Ascendant is everything it can be, we’re providing two gifts…
First off, we’ve gone ahead and unlocked the current Stretch Goal for The Necropolis of The Ancients, a foreboding lower level location where the game’s most powerful Undead, hidden secrets, and rarest arcane treasure can be found.
We’ll also be providing to all Backers who have pledged for a digital copy of the game a bonus collection of seven, hi-res Underworld Ascendant wallpapers spotlighting the work of concept artist Robb (SHODAN, Garrett, Sander Cohen) Waters.
A Look Inside the Underworld Ascendant Bestiary
When you interact with a denizen of The Stygian Abyss in Underworld Ascendant, you’re encountering many hours of work involved in bringing it to life… Modeling, animation, AI, and -- what we’ll cover a bit today -- a core set of underlying design principles that dictate its role in the game.
The inhabitants come in three main forms:
· CATALYSTS – Beings who possess robust behaviors, advanced combat tactics, and, if intelligent, can converse, trade, or engage with the player. (Ex: The Lizard Men.)
· CONFOUNDERS– Creatures who enhance or detract in combat, like The Wailing Haunt or Lich, or act as environmental hazards, like The Ripper or Lurker.
· COLLABORATORS– Inhabitants with useful behaviors that the player can exploit, like the Earth Clot, a bulky, gelatinous mass that can be prodded down hallways to break traps or act as cover.
One of the core design principles of Underworld Ascendant is to educate the player about the rules of the simulated dungeon world without overt hand-holding. The goal of “teaching players to teach themselves” underlies the game’s level design, narrative, and even the combat design.
For instance, there are four tiers of CATALYSTS, whose roles in combat…
· TIER 1 - Teach the player the basic moves & skills of the CATALYST.
· TIER 2 - Make sure the player is paying attention.
· TIER 3 - Challenge the player.
· TIER 4 - Provide a fight to remember.
In the Vertical Slice, the player will not only face creatures from each category, he/she will find that a mix or an entrant from a higher tier can make for a much different encounter.
Ultima Underworld influences in Underworld Ascendant
Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2 were ground breaking RPGs that influenced dozens of games – including, not surprisingly, our own. With Underworld Ascendant, our goals have been to do justice to those original games and be as innovative as they were at the time.
We have a number of innovative new features that we’ve yet to reveal (including a narrative system that our producer Chris Siegel calls “Looking Glass 2.0.”), though intend to show in detail farther down the line.
But for many basic questions, like how survival elements should be handled or letting the player increase difficulty by descending to lower levels, we often look to the original Ultima Underworld for guidance. There’s simply so much those games did right.
In an earlier update, we mentioned that the Green Lizard Men will be found in the neutral zone of Marcaul, an area featured in our upcoming Vertical Slice. That’s a direct connection to one of our favorite moments in Ultima Underworld -- a game that, a year and a half before Edge Magazine famously said, “lf only you could talk to these creatures…” about Doom, let you decipher the language of a race of creatures, talk to them, and make alliances with them.
As you can imagine, we find this sequence pretty inspiring and intend to feature the Lizard Men prominently in the Vertical Slice. (We’ll even drop the name “Ishtass” as a hint…)
Another one of our favorite moments in the series? In Ultima Underworld 2’s Prison Tower of Tarna level, the player could: 1) fight your way through several levels full of goblins or 2) talk your way through past all the guards, access the jail on the top floor, and release a captured troll, who would then proceed to wipe out every single goblin in the place. Both were fun ways of solving the same challenge and allowed a large gameplay choice on a quest level.
As we’ve said before, in Underworld Ascendant, we provide players with a large toolbox and let them choose how to solve a challenge. While that’s mainly meant on a moment-to-moment level, we’re also seeing some interesting opportunities to feature Tower of Tarna-style quest choices as well.
As far as other direct connections go, you’ve heard the game will feature Ultima Underworld characters Cabirus, who attempted to found a utopia in The Stygian Abyss, and Tyball, the “big bad” wizard… who is returning as a lich. One of the two? Has a very major role to play in Underworld Ascendant.
Beyond that, we’ll save additional details about inspirations and links from the earlier games for future updates, but it’s safe to say that they influence us every day.
But, Wait --There’s More!
Want to read up more about the making of Underworld Ascendant?
You can find updates posted on our website here, including a look at the creation of the Lizard Men, word about the role popular voice actor Stephen (Thief, Fallout 4) Russell will be playing in the game, and more.
Again, thanks for your support!
The Team at OtherSide