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Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a 
quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
Join the original creators of Ultima Underworld on a quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.
13,987 backers pledged $860,356 to help bring this project to life.

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All Lava, No Lamps

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)
46 likes

How I Came to Love Lava (and why you should too)

Last week Chris talked about how we want to build a living, breathing ecology for Underworld Ascendant in which players will be able to adventure and explore. This week, Chris wants to discuss how we can burn it all down...

Lava. In games lava is most often usually done simply as a static river or pool of red liquid. Deadly to step into, but otherwise just a passive barrier to walk around.

Which is weird. Actual lava is an odd substance. It destroys pretty much anything it touches, but at the same time creates land. It is most often flowing, unpredictable, and violent. Sure, there are slow flows on the big Island of Hawaii. But as a game element, how much fun is that? It’s only good as a jump puzzle or perceived danger. So how can something like lava be used in a game world in a more interesting way?

There are two types of lava we will want to play with, basically thick and thin. Thick lava with high viscosity flows slowly and builds up on itself. This type is called A’a’, Hawaiian for stony rough lava.

A flow of A’a looks like, well, stony rough lava. It’s painfully slow but there is inevitability to it. It’s also known to throw out lava balls of up to 20 feet in diameter. Nothing like lava that throws boulders. Already this lava is more interesting than just a barrier obstacle.

Taking it further, what can you the player do to slow this down A’a if it’s making its way towards an inhabited area of the Stygian Abyss? Is there magic that can slow it down? A way to divert the flow to a different place? Rumors of some creatures that live in these types of flows that feed on the matter that the lava consumes? They might not be happy about being diverted away from some rich fertile areas of biological goodies.

The second type of lava are fast flowing rivers of death. This is called Pāhoehoe, for smooth unbroken lava. Really makes you want to live on the big island doesn’t it? This type can move very quickly; in some eruptions it has been clocked north of 120mph. Try running from that.

This type of lava can burrow directly through rock, or creating new rock overnight, such as lava tubes. What kind of new areas could this unlock for the player? Ancient ruins of civilizations from the before times? An undead graveyard? Chances are whatever it is it was buried for a reason.

We look at the ecology of the Abyss as a living thing. This includes a volcano, with the lava flows forming an almost as a living breathing entity, and one that dynamically changes the landscape of the world.

There are challenges when dealing with fluids and games. To do a fully-formed real fluid simulation is very expensive on the processor power. Good thing this is a game and we can cheat some! A simplified approach has been done pretty successfully in some other games for water flow for instance. Minecraft’s water system is cool to play with even though it is not complex. It understands basic flow, and gravity.

Will and Jeff in about a month are going to sort out how we best model lava for our game. This R&D has a bunch of other uses: water, avalanches, oozes, jellies and anything else that may need to follow fluid behavior. 

Peace,

Chris Siegel, Sr. Producer

Other Stuff

Today we’ll be sending out digital keys for Ultima Underworld I & II to Backers who have pledged and paid for the Adventurer ($75) tier or higher. These keys will allow for free downloads of these two PC games from GOG. Once you have the key, you can go to http://www.gog.com/redeem to redeem it. Look for an email containing the key, and enjoy yourself some classic gaming!

A reminder that you will have needed to have filled out and submitted your backer survey to receive your key, as we are using BackerKit for distribution of rewards. Doing so also ensures we have your current email to send the key to. For those who fill out their survey in the coming days and weeks, we plan to distribute additional keys in batches every couple of weeks going forward, so it might take a week or several after you fill out your survey to receive your key.

We’ll also be setting up special forum badges today for our Backers who have pledged and paid for the Wanderer ($5) tier or higher. Your forum badges will be automatically attached to your forum account, no need for you to do anything. Now you will be able to proudly display your support of Underworld Ascendant!

Next Wednesday, April 22nd from 2pm-3pm EDT we will be twitching as we play Stalker: Clear Sky. Why Stalker: Clear Sky you ask? Well, this game has a robust faction system that we want to investigate as we develop our own factions. How does their faction system handle player chaos? How dynamic are their faction quests? What levers are there for the player to pull to change faction attitudes towards the player and towards the other factions? All questions we will be answering ourselves in the months ahead, so let's see how others have tackled these problems. Join Paul, Tim, Chris and Scott on this playful investigation, and get some insights into OtherSide's design process!

The OtherSide Team

Consequence of Ecology

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)
48 likes

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.

Peace,

Chris Siegel ,  Sr. Producer

OTHER STUFF

Last week the backerkit survey was sent out to all our Kickstarter backers. It is important that everyone fills out this survey so that we have your proper shipping address and email, as well as the answers to important questions regarding your order. If you have not filled out the survey yet, please take the time to do so soon! And, if you haven't received your survey please check your email spam filter as it may be sitting in there. If not, contact us directly at support@otherside-e.com.

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

Laying the Groundwork

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)
54 likes

We have a ton going on! First, we’re are doing another OtherSIde Plays LookingGlass Twitch Session, this Thursday April 2nd at 11am EST to 1pm EST.

We will be playing Ultima Underworld II, with Tim, Paul and some special guests. One of those guests is Dorian Hart, who had key design roles on System Shock, Ultima Underworld II, Thief, Thief II, Bioshock, and others.

Part of what we have been doing is the less thrilling stuff. Setting up payroll, filing corporate taxes, getting in development equipment, and other business stuff that has to be done. This has consumed a big chunk of Paul’s time. Steve and Scott have spent their time with the backend, working to make the website store, and Backerkit integration.

On the development end we have two big projects going on. One is an evaluation of Unity 5.0...

It’s a Physics Trap!

This week Tim has been building deathtraps that are all physics controlled. What does that mean? Well, in most games a trap is built and it has some script behind it. Enter this trigger and it goes off. In our world weight and mass matter. For example if we had a trap with a pressure plate not only would a player stepping on it make it go off, but throwing a large object of sufficient weight would set it off, or applying enough pressure would also set it off.

Obviously in this simple version this creates different ways of dealing with the trap beyond just disabling it. You could Indiana Jones the trap by pushing on the pressure plate with a torch or the classic 10’ pole.

Another example which Tim already built which is my favorite is a spring loaded trap. Watch a video of it in action HERE.

That is a post with these nasty blades around the top of it. When the spring and gears ‘click’ the trap spins. The coolest part is when the gears pop back in there is this awesome shake on the motion. Not scripted-not an animation, just the way things react to physics--angular momentum in a damped spring. It is small, and a little detail, but looks so…natural.

Let There be Global Lights and PBR Textures

Will has been playing in Unity 5.0 too. Specifically, he's been messing around with the new lighting, which is pretty powerful, and PBR textures. 

What is a PBR texture? No it does not stand for ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’.

“Physically based rendering (PBR) refers to the concept of using realistic shading/lighting models along with measured surface values to accurately represent real-world materials."-Joe Wilson

That is the simple explanation. A picture is a 1000 words. This is 4 polygons:

Crazy right? That rock texture-and the bricks behind it is all flat really. But this technology adds depth, lighting, occlusion, specularity and all the other stuff normal maps do. What I see is depth. Serious depth. When the lighting is right, these textures totally ‘pop’ in the game. A big thanks goes out to gametextures.com for being ahead of the curve on these things and having a nice library for us indie game designers to work with. Check them out if you are into building worlds.

The Unity 5.0 lighting model we are just cracking the surface on. Physical Shaders- which in theory will mean we use one global shader for the game, or at least a good chunk of it. Global lighting- which in a nutshell is to calculate lighting not just from light sources, but also from reflections off of surfaces. This of course the big ticket item of the new lighting model and will take time to really figure out if it is worth it or not. One of the pluses is light maps are done behind the scenes almost real time so there is no reason to ‘bake’ your lighting pass anymore. A nice time saver there.

We are just starting to peel back the layers on this but the results are already apparent in our little test world.

So much more to explore. Next week we will take a peek at the Ecology of the Underworld.

Peace.

Chris Siegel

Sr. Producer

When Simple Things Aren't

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)
30 likes

Last week we promised that the backer survey would go out this week. Well, that didn't happen. Delays in importing and organizing the data, as well as the usual bugs, has caused our timeline for the survey to be pushed back a bit. Right now we plan on getting the survey to you by next week.

We are truly sorry for the delay. We know folks are eager to allocate their pledge money, hoping to upgrade their pledge tier or even snag some add-ons they've had their eyes on. We want this to happen too! A few more days and we'll all get what we want, we promise.

Why It's Taking So Long to Get Your Forum Badges

On a similar vein of data management, Jeff has been working on getting all our backers their forum badges. This is taking a bit longer than anticipated as well, and Jeff thought he'd write a blog post explaining why. Here is an excerpt:

“On a very high level building our data pipeline is what I've been doing for about the past week, along with Steve the IT-God. The tricky thing about building a pipeline like this is figuring out what steps you need to put the data through to get it from where it starts to where it needs to be, and then writing the programs to do it all. It takes familiarity with a number of different tools and their data formats. And, quite simply, it takes a lot of trial and error til it all works right. “

Head over to our website to read the full blog here.

Meet the New Lizardman!

Our redo of the Lizardman Look vote has come to a close. With a clear margin of victory over it's rival, Lizardman Concept B walks (creeps? skulks?) away the victor! This is now the look we will use as the basis for lizardman modeling going forward. We can't wait to meet them in-game! Hopefully on friendly terms...

We had LOTS of participation in this vote, which was fantastic to see. Stay tuned on our forums for more community-sourced design decisions soon!

Other Stuff

As a purveyor of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons articles and adventures, EN5ider is a cool resource for players and dungeon masters alike. Using the Patreon funding method, EN5ider allows you to decide how much you want to pay for this monthly electronic magazine. Those who enjoy a good dungeon adventure (and that's all of us, right?) should check them out!

Exploring dark and dangerous environs? Survival game play? Emergent storytelling? We're in! Check out the Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander Kickstarter and you might be too!

The OtherSide Team

Survey Incoming!

Posted by OtherSide Entertainment (Creator)
54 likes

Next week we will be sending out to all our backers the Backerkit Survey. This email will be the mechanism by which we gather some information from you, such as your address for shipping of physical goods, as well as answers to important questions such as in which OS you'd like your copy of Underworld Ascendant, or what your forum ID is so we can assign you the proper forum badge for your pledge tier.

Also via this survey you will be able to indicate which add-ons you would like to apply your pledge dollars to, or even up your pledge amounts to get an add-on or two you were on the fence about during the Kickstarter campaign.

Once you have completed the survey you will then be able to log into our backerkit site at any time to make changes to your account. This will be useful if your address changes before the game ships, or if you have a change of email.

So, next week please keep an eye out for the survey, and try to take the minute or so to fill it out as soon as you can.

Lizardman Redux

A few weeks ago we started a vote on the new look of the Lizardmen. We thought our fans would definitely have a preference for either the Blue Lizardman or Green Lizardman. Well, we thought wrong! The vote came down to a literal tie, or at least close enough that no clear winner could be announced.

Thinking that maybe the colorization of the Lizardmen in the pictures was biasing folks towards one or the other, we've decided to run the vote again with the colors removed from the artwork. Let's see what happens this time! Know that in-game, the Lizardmen will likely come in all sorts of colors, so what we are going for here is really to find out which overall look our fans prefer.

 Head on over to our forums and have your opinion heard. Again!

Other Stuff

Speaking of Lizardmen, SteveC from the forums has converted one of our possible new looks for the reptilians into sprite form, in honor of the original Underworlds. He even modeled (sprited?) up the Underswamp in this old-school look. Pretty neat!

This is the latest in a series of sprite work by SteveC converting Underworld Ascendant to pixelated greatness. Check out all his stuff here in the forums. And add in your own Underworld inspired art if you've got something in the works, we'd love to see it!

This week, Jeff and Will (or, as we like to call them, the Mad Engineers) have been busy working on something. They won't let on what it is (they like being mysterious), but they did send us this pic. All we can say is, we can't wait to adventure there!

Dreaming of Ice

Today marks the arrival of the vernal equinox in these parts. However, you’d never know it from looking outside our offices, with the ground still covered in snow and ice. The Boston area has broken snowfall records going back more than a century, with over 108 inches this winter so far. Perhaps it is a message that we should have ice caverns in Underworld Ascendant? What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts in the Forum.

 The OtherSide Team