Consequence of Ecology
Last week we looked at how we might be using physics in Underworld Ascendant, particularly when it came to traps. Lots of great comments on the article from our readers in the forums! This week, our indefatigable producer Chris wants to talk ecology simulation. And who are we to stop him?
ECOLOGY AND YOU (Or, Everything Has Consequence)
Some of the tasks being tackled in Underworld Ascendant development include creating the backstory, ecology and lore of the world. I’m not going to reveal much about the lore and backstory- those are for players to discover later on.
But let’s talk about ecology.
The Underworld will have a working ecology. This will include a food chain and pyramid:
Part of the idea here is this just goes on without the player interference. There is a matrix of eat or be eaten that has been going on in the Underworld for, well, forever. And, without any outside interference it could go on indefinitely.
But, enter the player. Talk about a monkey wrench! Players will be able to affect, change and mold the ecology in ways not seen before in games. Whether the player does this intentionally or by accident, he will be able to see the effect of his actions in his environment almost immediately.
For example, our hero helps build a dam for the dwarves. Seems innocent enough, with the well-intentioned outcome of creating a water supply for their farms and forges. But, downriver this has the effect of drying out the riverbed which kills off the plant life in the surrounding cavern system. This in turn reduces the food source for the local herbivores who move away in search of a replacement. Their predators, who are not so capable of moving their home, begin to starve and resort to raiding a nearby elf village looking for sustenance (and maybe eating a few elves in the process).
Actions, well-meaning or not, all have consequences.
What creatures are apex predator in UA?
Honest answer – Dwarves and elves. But let’s put them to the side.
Fact is, we don’t know yet. What is our T-Rex? Is it a big bad thing, or is it a pack mentality animal? Hopefully it is something out of nightmares. Like this thing:
Can't wait to meet something as scary as that in the Underworld!
What are the secondary predators?
Almost all of our other monsters fit here. Almost all monsters in games fit here to be honest. From dire faeries and vorpral bunnies, through giant spiders and who knows what else. These are the biggest obstacle for our players.
What are the herbivores?
Part of the role of the herbivore is to be food for others. We need some sort of herd animal like ox or cows. Maybe the rotworms can serve multiple roles in this case. They are the food source and the carrion eater. That said, we do have plants that move and mushrooms that are intelligent. Does this mean there is an herbivore that can hunt? What would a plant eater be like if the plants ran and could defend themselves?
What are the plants?
The ripper is the only plant we have at this point. We need flora. What does this mean in the Underworld? First we need to decide on other types of energy that plants have evolved to deal with. Since there is no sunlight, maybe plants absorb other energy like heat and magic. Plants should be dependent on some animals for breeding…like the service bees provide in our world. This may be a good role for dire fairies or our bats.
What are the carrion eaters?
Our rotworms and tunnel Trappers. These are the vacuum cleaners of the Underworld. They eat anything dead. Creatures eat them. They are food for many.
Of course we cannot build a real world simulation of all of this. But we can do enough, and honestly far more than most simulations have in the past to make the whole ecosystem teem with life. Life that is busy doing its own thing, not just being a backdrop for the player.
And, the reality is all we have talked about is the way our world works on a very basic level. What happens to an ecosystem when we add in magic? Where do undead fit in the food chain? Do rotworms like to eat the walking dead? Have some monsters figured out that animated skeletons will only attack what they are told to and use them as early warning systems? Do some creatures use magic, or magic like abilities for locomotion, hunting, camouflage or as lures. Is magic a food?
This is just scratching the surface of course, but this is part of the fun of early pre-production.
Chris Siegel , Sr. Producer
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Earlier this week, the online gaming magazine Polygon ran an article devling into the history of Looking Glass Studios. It's a very interesting read on what makes a studio great, and how everything must come to an end. Check it out HERE.
If you love spaceships fighting in underground environments as much as we do then do yourself a favor and check out the Kickstarter for Descent: Underground. These guys are in the last hours of their campaign and could really use your support! And, did we mention underground spaceship fighting?
The OtherSide Team