Huge thanks for your continued support! Your passion for this project is quite wonderful.
Today we have reached 70% of our base funding goal! Also, we are now fewer than 225 new backers away from reaching our 8,000+ goal for this week, which will unlock the special weapon:
We appreciate all the advice and feedback you’ve been sharing. It’s fair to say that our team is more experienced making games than running a Kickstarter campaign, but with your help we are improving our approach daily. We are listening and learning from the community’s collective wisdom.
Our goal underlying all of this is to make, together with you, the best possible game we can. On that we are unwavering.
As folks who have followed a lot of Kickstarters know, most every game project goes through a slowdown of funding during the middle weeks of its campaign. Underworld Ascendant is not immune. We do have an array of big announcements, more details on the game, and events coming up over the next 2 weeks that should help keep the momentum going regardless. Some of these incorporate the feedback you’ve provided, others we’ve been keeping in our back pocket for when we entered the slower period.
Some of you may already know that yesterday we submitted Underworld Ascendant for Steam Greenlight. If you can take a moment to click on the link below and vote YES, it would be a big help toward increasing the game's visibility with the massive Steam community.
Get your Awesome Rewards!
Many of you have been asking for more details on the pledge tier Rewards. We have put together a visual summary of each tier, which you can check out below. You can also read more in-depth descriptions of the Rewards HERE.
One thing to call out are the boxed versions. The regular Game Box comes with a DRM-free game DVD, a printed manual, and a paper fold-out map of the known Underworld. The Collector's Edition Box adds a special metallic foil printing, a bound strategy guide, an extra-fancy parchment map of the known Underworld, and a poster with a language and runic translation guide.
While the game designers and artists frolic and have all the fun, somebody has to make the software actually run. Let me introduce you to a couple of the software engineers who are doing the heavy lifting on Underworld Ascendant’s technical bits…
Jeffrey Kesselman has worked on a host of PC and console games, including being in senior engineering roles on GEX, The Horde and Duke Nukem 3D. He is also a pen-and-paper D&D player, going back to time before the game was published in hardcover.
Will Teixeira is a comparative newcomer to game engineering, having been coding games for a mere half-decade. But in that brief time he grew into a senior role on Dungeons & Dragons Online, as well taught college courses in game development.
Jeffrey and Will tell more:
Not all AI’s are an Artificial Intelligence gone Insane
One of the coding challenges Jeffrey and Will are working through is making the creatures of the Stygian Abyss come to life. Honing an effective AI is one of the one of the most potent tools for pulling this off well.
For instance, in Thief we built the AI all around stealth tactics. Before the AI was coded up and working the game was not fun. You could stomp loudly past a guard, and half the time he’d ignore you.
But once we got the AI working it was a transformative experience. I recall playing the prototype build where we first got the AI to click. I was breaking into a noble’s mansion when a guard thought he heard my footsteps, and got suspicious. He came searching down the dark corridor towards me. I crouched down and pushed my back against a dark alcove. Literally holding my breath, I watched while he guard brushed a mere arm’s distant past me. He never saw me. The sense of relief and then satisfaction that I had snuck around the guard was awesome.
Underworld Ascendant is not stealth-centric like Thief, but it will use stealth AI and mechanics as one of the tools players can use during encounters with creatures of the deep.
We want to hear from You!
We’re doing a set of polls to get a better sense of who our fan community is and what they are looking for in the game. For instance, how interested are you in VR? Please go over to the forums.
Your input will help us better prioritize what we’re working on going forward. When we get to 500 fans having participated in the Polls, we promise we’ll do something silly.
We’ve also made a new section for Fan Submissions in the forums.
Over the coming week, we cordially invite any of you who have played the original Underworld games to post in our forums fun stories around a memorable experience you had playing them. We’ll then select several to highlight with the community.
Got a lot of things to share today. First, Underworld Ascendant has been gettin’ some love…
Game was selected as a Staff Pick on Kickstarter! We are honored by the recognition.
Reached #1 on the Kicktraq HOT list today, ahead of Exploding Kittens no less. Click here to check it out!
Just 6 days in, and we’ve gone past the $400,000 milestone in funding! Our backers are an amazing bunch. Now less than $200,000 to reach our base funding goal. By the end of this week???
The $20 early-bird PIONEER pledge tier has nearly reached its limit of 5,000. Get’em while you can! This tier includes a full digital copy of the game at an extra low price. Once this closes, the $25 PIONEER’s PROGENY tier has the same stuff available at a still below full retail price (which we anticipate will be more than $30, so you are still saving $5 or more with this tier.)
Over 7,400 backers! Within spitting distance of reaching 8,000 and unlocking the Little Friends backer exclusive for us all.
We've got momentum!
Second, wanted to highlight that some of the pledge tiers include early access to Underworld Ascendant builds. The $35 JOURNEYMAN tier and above includes early access to the Beta; the $50 EXPLORER tier and above to Alpha; the $75 ADVENTURER tier and above to pre-Alpha; and finally the $300 LORE SEEKER tier and above to Prototype builds.
These are staged this way because it will take our team more time and attention to deliver progressively earlier builds, since the earlier a build the more in need of hand-holding they are to ensure they run smoothly for folks. But for those that like getting Early Access, it’s a wonderful chance to get a sneak peek at the game, as well as way to be more involved in the game’s development from the formative stages. We should have the first Prototype builds ready to share within a half-year following the Kickstarter.
Finally, wanted to share with you a blog post from Tim Stellmach, our lead designer, who talks about designing in-game items, and how these are crafted and balanced. You can read it here.
Be seeing you (could not resist a Prisoner reference)
P. S. Shout-out to some other Kickstarter projects that are currently live, which caught our team’s attention. If you’ve not already done so, take a peek:
The Stygian Abyss is a central character in Underworld Ascendant. An underworld labyrinth vast, dark, deep --- and full of secrets. Folk from the world above look at the Abyss with blind fear, believing it as no more than a den teaming with horrible subterranean monsters. Indeed horrible monsters that darken nightmares lurk. However, the Abyss is far beyond what those who live above might imagine. It’s an entire world unto itself.
The earliest recorded exploration of outsiders venturing into the Stygian Abyss was a small band of humans, led by the stout-hearted knight Cabirus. Cabirus was a dreamer, and held a vision of establishing a utopian colony within the Abyss. Half-remembered stories tell of how he nearly succeeded against all odds. Then the stories tell of how Cabirus’ plans faltered, and fell into ruin. It is presumed he and most of his band were wiped out by the monsters that dwell in the Abyss, where once again darkness and chaos ruled.
In Underworld Ascendant, you return to the Abyss as the Avatar generations after the events of Cabirus’ failed colony. You come as a human from our earth, stepping through a Rune Gate to magically travel across space and time to reach this fantasy realm. At first you are a ‘stranger in a strange land.’ You are dropped into the Abyss nearly naked, knowing nothing of the lay of the underworld, nor how to survive.
You will need to learn fast; the Abyss is an unforgiving place for the unwary. Yet it is not all monsters and dire foes. Others, humans and non-humans, have made a home in the Abyss. Some are friendly and may welcome you. Over time they can teach you the ways of the Abyss and help you survive its perils.
This dark and mysterious underworld will become your new home…
What Lies Beneath
What surprises first-time visitors to the Abyss is that it is far more than just a dungeon of stone corridors and chambers. While there are areas laid out like a traditional dungeon, most of the Abyss is dramatically more varied and exotic.
One can discover enchanted forests of giant mushrooms, vast natural caverns with soaring ceilings that generate their own microclimates, ancient temples carved into the living stone and adorned with intricate carvings and magical warding's, entire subterranean rivers systems and lakes, masterwork jade halls crafted for long-dead dwarven lords, and much more.
At any turn there can be surprise subterranean vistas. A world astonishingly rich and diverse. And it’s vast, with wild and deep places never seen by the eyes of mortal man.
The Abyss has more than its fair share of hazards as well, natural and otherwise. Falling into a molten lava pit is instant death. One must be ever vigilant of nasty traps laid out to catch the unwary. Some are mechanical contraptions that can maim and kill, others are of a more insidious magical nature.
Then of course there is an assortment of creatures to encounter. Some will leave you alone unless provoked, most view you as prey. On the upper levels of the Abyss the creatures are more readily dispatched. Plunge too deep, and even mighty warriors risk being overmatched.
But facing the hazards can be worthwhile. There are many treasures and arcane artifacts to be plundered...
A Dynamic, Ever Changing World
The Abyss is not a static place just waiting frozen for the Avatar to enter. It has evolved over the eons before the Avatar arrives, and will continue to do so for eons after. Within the Abyss are a myriad of moving, shifting and changing elements. Subterranean rivers flood, or run dry. Lava flows cut off halls. Underworld flora blooms and spreads to new regions. Currents bring noxious gasses wafting through areas. The player may reenter an area that was benign the first time they visited, only to encounter fresh hazards.
A clever Avatar can try to manipulate the environment to their advantage. Open a sluice gate to flood a once bone-dry region, enabling the Shamblers to extend their territory. Plant Ripper seedlings, then come back to watch the fun when they start sprouting a few days later. Redirect a channel of lava flow to block off a chamber. Player induced changes can led to interesting and unpredictable outcomes. The only thing certain is that the Abyss will never stay fixed.
Those Who Call the Stygian Abyss Home
An assortment of intelligent races have settled the less wild regions of the Abyss over the centuries.
A few descendants of Cabirus’ band are rumored to cling to precarious footholds. Other humans are scattered around, mostly renegades from the above world who either chose the Abyss as an escape, or were forcible thrown in. A few enlightened humans can be found who have a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Stygian Abyss.
Most of the underworld races are non-humans. There are three main factions that vie for dominance: the Dark Elves, the Dwarves, and the Shamblers. Each believe their claim to the inhabited territories is superior to the others. While there has not yet been outright war between the factions, tensions are growing, and rumors of more frequent skirmishes between them have been heard.
Here is what is told about each faction…
The Dark Elves
The Dark Elves are more recent newcomers to the Abyss. A few generations back a clan of Dark Elves broke free from their enslavement under a dark wizard in the far lands of New Britannia. The clan escaped through a portal to reach the Abyss, and quickly established a thriving colony.
Fiercely independent, Dark Elves strive to hone their skills through mental and physical contest. They take honor in testing themselves against the Abyss, believing its brutal nature will make them more able to overcome any challenge, and ensure that they'll never be enslaved again.
Since they first entered the Abyss, the Dark Elves eyes have evolved to let them see reasonably well in darkness. They do use bioluminescent sources of light. And they prefer warm, dry areas to grow their favored crop: a delicate shelf fungus with narcotic properties called "Drift Leaf."
The Dark Elves bristle against what they regard as the Shamblers' infringement into their territory. As for the Dwarves, the Dark Elves respect them as capable rivals, and on occasion draw them into skirmishes simply to test their mettle.
The stout Dwarves are known for their ability to eke out an existence in the harshest conditions. While these rugged mountain-folk may lack the tact and patience needed for the art of diplomacy, they are shrewd traders, and well-skilled at hunting, mining, building, and fighting.
Dwarves possess sensitive low-light vision, but still require sources of light to see. They prefer a cool, dry environment, which is also the ideal condition for the Cave Rye they grow as a staple crop.
The Dwarves have a strong sense of ownership over the Stygian Abyss, having built much of its infrastructure over the ages. They tend to view the Shamblers as little more than an invasive overgrowth, and the Dark Elves as freeloading guests who've outstayed their welcome.
The enigmatic Shamblers are a race of sentient fungal beings, who are believed to possess a hive-mind intelligence. Groups have been observed locked in wordless communication, silent but for the flute-like rushing of wind through hollow tubes that grace their upper arms and neck.
The Shamblers function perfectly well in total darkness, lacking any use for light beyond rituals and reproductive rites. They prefer warm, damp environments to grow their fungal crops. Everywhere Shamblers inhabit becomes covered in a softly glowing fungal mat called Sour Sponge.
While the finer details of their society can only be guessed at, the Shamblers appear in tune with the flora and fauna in their environment. For instance, the normally vicious ambulatory plants known as Rippers are docile in their presence, allowing the Shamblers to lodge spores within the Ripper’s highly-prized bark.
The Shamblers view themselves as the keepers of the Abyss. Conjectures posit that they see the Dwarves as a constructive part of the ecosystem, and the Dark Elves as something akin to a forest fire, useful in a controlled burn.
As the Avatar, at some point in your journey you will choose which of the three factions to align yourself with. You will gain certain advantages and privileges depending on your choice, but also take on certain obligations to your adopted faction.
Horrors of the Stygian Abyss
No underworld would be complete without loot-hoarding monsters to overcome. Here's a quick look at just a few of the more exotic beasts you'll encounter...
These fearsome creatures have the appearance of floating humanoid brains. When provoked, they engage in powerful psychic attacks that cause visual distortions and disruption to the target’s spatial sense. The Shamblers prize their ability to shepherd small packs of Trilkun, while the Dark Elves consider their taste a delicacy. Having found no practical use for them, the Dwarves erect scarecrows to ward them off.
Rippers are ambulatory, territorial plants that react violently to animal life in their domain. One of the fiercer natural creatures residing in the Abyss, the Ripper is capable of rendering its prey to pieces in moments. The Shamblers value Ripper bark as a growth medium for their spores, and alone among the races can tame them, while Dark Elves are partial to it for woodworking. The Dwarves for its alchemic properties.
This massive, semi-translucent ooze feeds by cramming it gelatinous bulk into tight dungeon passageways, absorbing detritus and any creature unwary enough to get in its way. Tunnel Trappers are difficult to harm by conventional means, but can be prodded to move along slightly more quickly than normal. This may be of little comfort, however, to the adventurer who finds his or her way blocked by one while fleeing a greater hazard.
The underworld is Trying to Kill Me!
Only those who play it smart survive the world below. Even without its numerous monstrous inhabitants, the Underworld is a dangerous environment that's always ready to lead the unwary adventurer to an untimely demise.
Here's a few examples how:
**CRUSHED** – Keep your eyes out in rocky terrain to avoid falling boulders or loose stalactites. One wrong step could mean your last.
**BURNT ALIVE** – When the earth takes on a bright, reddish hue and molten appearance while giving off intense heat, that's called "lava." It's //bad//.
**FROZEN TO DEATH** – Dipping into an icy river, then returning to a snowy path can lead to hypothermia or worse.
**POISONED** – Be mindful what you eat, step near, or traipse in. Not every plant or glowing green body of water is hospitable to human life.
**TRAPPED** – Watch out! Hidden pressure plates, tripwires, concealed pits, whirring blades, rolling rocks, slicing blades, and swinging blocks lie in wait.
Just as altering your environment to make it less hospitable for one type of creature may end up inviting in a more hostile one, attempting to remove certain dangers could create something worse...
Death is a part of life in the Underworld. Get used to it! The thrill of discovery and experimentation will far outweigh any momentary inconvenience caused by your character's fragile grasp on mortality.
Since last week we’ve had a fan VOTE running on our forums on the art style for the Shamblers, one of the factions that vie for control of the Stygian Abyss. Time to call the results. It was close, but Mushroom Man edges out Fungi Guy by 47 votes!
Guessing it was the stylishly oversized, mushroom-cap head that put this guy over the top. Also comes in handy in a rain shower. Wait… rain in the underworld?
With that decision made, on to the next fan VOTE. Lava Bats or Dire Faeries? Only room in the Stygian Abyss for one of these little nasties. We’ll let our game designers plead their case for each:
VOTE early and often for your favorite! (Actually you only get a single vote, so use it wisely.)
A heads up that we’re slaving away on a big update for tomorrow evening. Stay tuned…