Howdy folks! This week sees the launch of a new feature for these updates: Answers From the Abyss. This is where we will answer questions posed to us on the forums from backers and followers like yourself, hopefully shedding more light on our development process and satisfying your curiosity on any Underworld Ascendant based subject that concerns you.
Before we get to that, however, we’d like to also announce that starting next week we will no longer be using Kickstarter for distribution of our weekly updates. Instead we will be moving the updates over to a direct email distribution method, which will give us more control of the format and contents of the updates.
We will still post occasional “update digests” to Kickstarter to ensure that folks who discover Underworld Ascendant via Kickstarter can still find out what’s going on with the game. But going forward our primary method for giving our backers and followers important information about the game will be via the weekly email updates.
For those of you who have backed the game via Kickstarter or our webstore, or who have signed up to the OtherSide Entertainment forums, you need do nothing to receive these future updates. We already have your email and so you will be automatically added to the distribution list. For those of you who have not backed the game nor signed up for the forums, and who do want to receive weekly updates on the game, we suggest you do one of those things in order to get added to the list!
We look forward to showing you the new look for our updates next week!
Answers From the Abyss
We’ll plan to do Answers From the Abyss every month or so going forward. In the week prior to each Answers From the Abyss update we’ll post in the forums a thread asking for your questions. We’ll pull from that thread the questions we think are most interesting and relevant for our readers and answer them.
So, without further ado, onto those questions!
“How much do you rely on (non-developer) playtesting in development? Are you bringing people in as early as the prototype phases?” –GameOutLoudRob
Some. Early on the team will be doing a ton of playtesting, some of the community, and of course our friends, family and other industry people.
One of the great things about going outside the inner circle for testing is you get fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are extremely important. When you are close to a game, you start accepting the warts and issues, and you have to be reminded they are still issues. Beyond fresh eyes, the more people that touch the game, the more ways we can see how people interact. What we want, and really what is our goal, is for someone to come up with ways of using all of our systems in ways we never thought of.
“What does the team envision for the soundtrack? Something akin to Arx? Something even more minimalist (I hope not)?” – CyberP
We haven’t yet sorted out just what we’re doing for music in the game. That said, we have talked about music being created around the factions and their homes. Dwarven Metal? Elvish bagpipes? Shambler…woodwinds? What do Shamblers listen to? Phish?
It would be great to ‘see’ the thing making the music; a minstrel, a choir, some weird dwarven contraption that plays crystals…
This adds to the whole Underworld experience. Ambient sounds become your symphony, sound and silence become important for gameplay and for atmosphere. And, maybe the deeper you go, the darker it gets, and the quieter it becomes. It’s where the real evil lurks, and you don’t know it’s there until….
“I’m curious how you are looking to scale the difficulty levels? Is it going to be similar to the system in System Shock, where there are certain sub-categories that can be scaled (eg Story, Combat, Puzzle) or is it just going to be one “Easy/Medium/Hard/Impossible” with the possibility of an Ironman mode?” - SirhcOran
This is a tough question, and not one we’ve put a lot of thought into yet. With the open-endedness at the core of Underworld Ascendant’s design, and the fact that most, if not all, situations can be resolved by means other than combat, the usual tropes of scaling the difficulty of monsters, for instance, probably won’t work for us.
Likely our difficulty scaling will entail dialing up the “bad” effects of numerous things across the spectrum of game play, not unlike the system from System Shock you call out. In harder difficulties players might regenerate mana/health slower AND endure greater effects from hot and cold environments AND find monsters to be tougher AND find monsters to have a higher awareness of stealth AND find NPCs harder to trick/sway/haggle.
Again, still early in the process. Once we have the game in a state where we can really start thinking about how we muck with difficulty we’ll surely try all sorts of different ways to do just that, and find the one that works best.
“Why do you think the streaming of the game world isn't used more by game devs in general? And what about the UA case? (well, ok, it's two questions )” - Ianael
In our case, it’s more a technical issue than a process one. With a constrained space like the Underworld, it would still be relatively easy to build it in individual levels with defined connection points, even if those were merged into one big world at run-time. However, a simulation-heavy game has to save a lot of object state, and streaming all of that in and out of memory can be a bit of a chore technically. It may be a solvable problem, but it’s not our top priority.
“Will there be damage types?” – Shadowtiger
Yes, absolutely. Crushing, slashing, fire, cold, etc. Some creatures and things will be more vulnerable or impervious to some types of damage, and players will be able to use this knowledge to good effect.
“How involved is Paul with the game's design?” – CyberP
Very much, and he teaches us things every day. This is Paul’s vision.
Last Wednesday we Twitched a play session of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Paul, Chris, Tim, Will and Scott had a great time discussing the very interesting combat system in this classic game. And Will sure did seem to like finding new ways to kill various guards, ghouls and pirates! Along the way we gathered some great ideas for use in Underworld Ascendant’s combat model. You can listen to the whole thing on Youtube:
Join us in a few weeks for another twitch session. We don’t know yet what we’ll be playing, but it will be fun!
The OtherSide Team