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Default Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

September 11th, 2010, 21:48
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September 11th, 2010, 21:48
Warren Spector's Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is the grandfather of all 3d games. (-> with Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder as godparents). The revolution: Fluid person movement in a 3d environment, looking up and down, movement in all directions, dungeon maps with a lot of variety: slopes, stairs, bridges, running water …, real time combat with weapons and rune magic.

The story is a bit cheesy - but this game is dungeon crawling at its best.

Two thumbs up for this game!

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September 12th, 2010, 00:18
I personally prefer the sequel, but this game was years ahead of the competition!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 12th, 2010, 19:30
This blew me away when it came out. Going from Dungeon Master (or Wolfenstein 3D) to Ultima Underworld was like stepping into the future. I loved it.

Agree with Corwin that they really perfected the game in Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds.
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September 13th, 2010, 09:01
Blue Sky AKA Looking Glass = Instant classic.

Oh, and I liked the first one better - but the sequel was superior, technically.
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September 27th, 2010, 07:26
I love them both dearly (such great memories!) and really do crave gaming experiences that seek to preserve the style of game-play that both games possess. The dungeon crawl that invites individual creativity and play via its interactive systems….

Arx Fatalis came very close and is a wonderful game in its own right - perhaps Arkane's new partnership with Zenimax will mean that a sequel to Arx will continue the legacy begun by the Underworlds.

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October 1st, 2010, 21:06
This is one of my all-time favorite RPGs. I think it had me when I knocked a skeleton off a ledge and killed it. (Probably killed it by the hit that knocked it off the ledge, but it still seemed like it exploded when it hit the far wall).

The game kicked all kinds of butt. For immersion potential, it totally won.

I never quite warmed up to Arx Fatalis. It felt like it had the "survival RPG" side (and cumbersome interface problem) of the Underworld games, but not the whole suspension-of-disbelief, dungeon-simulation aspect.

But yeah, one of my all-time favorites. I still have both games, dust them off periodically to remember how they were (and to make sure my nostalgia glasses don't get too much of a red tint).
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October 1st, 2010, 21:20
Given the love that this game has, I'm surprised that there aren't updated texture packs and such out there to make it appear a little more modern.

I have both UU1 and UU2 on a CD somewhere, but by the time I got to playing them, they just didn't grab me and I never got far.

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October 1st, 2010, 22:27
There have been a few efforts by indies to do remakes with improved UI and graphics, but they have all lost steam in mid-development.

And here's a funny story about how an official Ultima Underworld 3 was going to be made, but failed utterly due to an overly ambitious programmer in a pitch meeting. Though it may not have been entirely his fault…

War Stories: The Screwed-Up Pitch Meeting, 1998
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October 28th, 2010, 16:54
Well it's funny but it smells more like if a disastrous project was going to be made and avoided thanks to the enlightenment of a guy with a big mouth and a fairly good technical knowledge.
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November 10th, 2010, 00:06
From what I understood, Arkana Studios actually intended to make Arx Fatalis another entry into to Underworld franchise, but they were unable to obtain the license. According to Arkane's CEO they contacted the founder of Looking Glass to ask for his help. He was willing to help them establish a new UW game, but EA didn't want to cooperate (they prefer sitting on licenses so they can turn them into browser based games 20 years later).

On topic, I often get very frustrated by UW1 and UW2. I can feel that they are great games that are pretty much my style (especially since I enjoyed Arx so mcuh), but the interface was so cumbersome and the game's viewport was so insanely small that I always had a lot of trouble playing it. When that System Shock mouselook mod was released I was silently hoping for a mouselook mod for UW, but that's probably not going to happen.

Most of the attempted fan-remakes I knew were mods. Unfortunately, I think it's rather hard to mod an existing engine for UW, because it's such a unique game. If any remake is to be completed, it will have to be on an engine built from the ground up for UW.
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November 16th, 2010, 07:33
ok , l know ,but l don't play it before !
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November 16th, 2010, 10:27
Originally Posted by TheGameSquid View Post
From what I understood, Arkana Studios actually intended to make Arx Fatalis another entry into to Underworld franchise, but they were unable to obtain the license. According to Arkane's CEO they contacted the founder of Looking Glass to ask for his help. He was willing to help them establish a new UW game, but EA didn't want to cooperate (they prefer sitting on licenses so they can turn them into browser based games 20 years later).

On topic, I often get very frustrated by UW1 and UW2. I can feel that they are great games that are pretty much my style (especially since I enjoyed Arx so mcuh), but the interface was so cumbersome and the game's viewport was so insanely small that I always had a lot of trouble playing it. When that System Shock mouselook mod was released I was silently hoping for a mouselook mod for UW, but that's probably not going to happen.

Most of the attempted fan-remakes I knew were mods. Unfortunately, I think it's rather hard to mod an existing engine for UW, because it's such a unique game. If any remake is to be completed, it will have to be on an engine built from the ground up for UW.
I second everything you just said

UU/SS are superb - all-around, but they ARE suffering badly from their technical state.

I can think of no other games more in need of being remade properly, except perhaps Master of Magic and X-Com.
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November 16th, 2010, 11:19
I'm one of the people who have been messing around with reverse-engineering UW and creating a new engine for it (and I'm also one of the guys who lost steam in the process ).

The thing is that UW is actually a very complex game for its time. On the surface it might seem like a doable thing to remake the game (and it might be, for the right person) but there are just *so* many little details in the game. I'll risk my neck by saying my own remake attempt is probably the one that got furthest in getting both gameplay and visuals working, but it still has a long way to go.

One small sub-project that might be doable is trying to increase the texture resolution somewhat in the original UW1 game. The textures for floors and walls are extremely low-res and the engine might actually support a somewhat higher resolution. We (the UW reverse-engineering "community") have fully decoded the file formats for the graphics, so it would be a fairly easy task to pack a new set of textures for the game. But that would of course require an artist to actually do the texture work

Personally I'm unsure whether or not such a visual upgrade of the textures would do much for the overall presentation of the game though. It would not affect interface or the other technical limitations of the engine (such as the very limited ability to look up or down).
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November 16th, 2010, 11:31
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
I'm one of the people who have been messing around with reverse-engineering UW and creating a new engine for it (and I'm also one of the guys who lost steam in the process ).

The thing is that UW is actually a very complex game for its time. On the surface it might seem like a doable thing to remake the game (and it might be, for the right person) but there are just *so* many little details in the game. I'll risk my neck by saying my own remake attempt is probably the one that got furthest in getting both gameplay and visuals working, but it still has a long way to go.

One small sub-project that might be doable is trying to increase the texture resolution somewhat in the original UW1 game. The textures for floors and walls are extremely low-res and the engine might actually support a somewhat higher resolution. We (the UW reverse-engineering "community") have fully decoded the file formats for the graphics, so it would be a fairly easy task to pack a new set of textures for the game. But that would of course require an artist to actually do the texture work

Personally I'm unsure whether or not such a visual upgrade of the textures would do much for the overall presentation of the game though. It would not affect interface or the other technical limitations of the engine (such as the very limited ability to look up or down).
I think the trick is not to be overly faithful.

UU had a "tricksy" 3D engine, as it "cheated" with certain things - and naturally you wouldn't want to do that, you'd just go full 3D. Possibly with Unity or another free engine.

I wouldn't reuse ancient assets, apart from the 2D portraits and things like that. I'd redo textures and bitmaps for objects, or rather do away with bitmap/sprite objects and remodel them in true 3D. Not an easy task, especially not for the monsters/NPCs - but everything else would look like crap and out-of-place in a modern engine with modern assets.

Then there's the whole level layout - which (IIRC) is somewhat seamless - and pretty hard to create without an engine suited for that.

The CRPG mechanics, like the combat system, should be modernised - and I don't mean dumbed down. Just more akin to games like Oblivion/Gothic - and not the slow and clumsy UU system. The magic and skill system should remain mostly intact, but with a smarter interface for the spells and what not.

I'm not sure what other things would be particularly challenging - but there's no doubt the project would be a gargantuan undertaking for non-professionals.

Sadly, industry people would probably find it unprofitable - or they'd go and change it altogether and make it into an action RPG instead of the relatively deep CRPGs that the Underworlds actually were.
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November 16th, 2010, 12:41
Well, there is the whole part about story and quests. All this is implemented using a scripting language also used for the npc dialogs. This includes controlling NPC moods, gaining/loosing quest items, setting/checking quest flags etc. Pretty much most of the actual game play - besides combat.

Then there is the level setup which is implemented using a fairly elaborate "trigger/trap" system. This system implements all the puzzles (levers/buttons), text messages, key/lock gameplay, environment transforming (for example: drain the water puzzle in UW1), special camera angles, special graphics.. and much more!

Then there are all the items. Which monsters drop what? What does the individual items do? What about magical items? Spells?

IMO there really isn't any "easy" way. If you decide to reverse engineer the original file formats, then you gain a lot of "implemented game play" each time you manage to decode one more piece of the files - but decoding it all is *hard*.
If you go for the "lets just reimplement it from scratch" approach then you'll quickly realize just how much data is needed for this game
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November 16th, 2010, 13:20
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
Well, there is the whole part about story and quests. All this is implemented using a scripting language also used for the npc dialogs. This includes controlling NPC moods, gaining/loosing quest items, setting/checking quest flags etc. Pretty much most of the actual game play - besides combat.
Well, I believe the Unity engine has a pretty sophisticated scripting aspect, though I've never actually tried it. It's supposed to work with languages like C# - which would enable even a complete amateur like myself to make most of the code needed for the things you mention.

Then there is the level setup which is implemented using a fairly elaborate "trigger/trap" system. This system implements all the puzzles (levers/buttons), text messages, key/lock gameplay, environment transforming (for example: drain the water puzzle in UW1), special camera angles, special graphics.. and much more!
This is another thing I expect is fully possible with the Unity engine, with proper understanding. It's certainly not an easy thing - but very doable for a dedicated team.

Then there are all the items. Which monsters drop what? What does the individual items do? What about magical items? Spells?
All those things are just variations of the basic challenge of making scripting work with the engine. As soon as you grasp how the Unity engine works with scripting, you'd be able to overcome all these things relatively easy with an object-oriented language like C#.

It would take a lot of work, obviously, but the technical "coding" challenge is not insurmountable.

IMO there really isn't any "easy" way. If you decide to reverse engineer the original file formats, then you gain a lot of "implemented game play" each time you manage to decode one more piece of the files - but decoding it all is *hard*.
If you go for the "lets just reimplement it from scratch" approach then you'll quickly realize just how much data is needed for this game
I never said it would be easy.

But to reverse-engineer and re-use assets, means you'll get a game looking only marginally better - and then I personally think it's a huge waste of time. Then I could just go play the old game, and deal with the weaknesses.

Once you're "into" 3D development, a game like Ultima Underworld is a breeze for the professional - because we're talking relatively simple assets. You wouldn't need a zillion cutscenes or high-level animations, or other things that require vast production values.

You need a handful of 3D models, and a pretty limited set of textures - and the rest is scripting and recreating levels using a powerful editor. Sounds can probably be re-used for the proper nostalgic feeling, and 2D art for portraits etc.

As I said, a HUGE undertaking for people not inclined for development, but for a professional team - it'd be a very doable thing, and I bet they could make it all work within 6 months.

But no one will do that, because they'd rather focus on profit.
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November 16th, 2010, 14:28
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
It'd be a very doable thing, and I bet they could make it all work within 6 months. But no one will do that, because they'd rather focus on profit.
That's the sad truth. Remaking UW from the ground up is absolutely doable, and it would probably result in one hell of a game. It's just that no-one's interested
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November 16th, 2010, 15:36
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Well, I believe the Unity engine has a pretty sophisticated scripting aspect, though I've never actually tried it. It's supposed to work with languages like C# - which would enable even a complete amateur like myself to make most of the code needed for the things you mention.
But that's not what I mean…

Writing the C# code for a key/lock system is fairly simple, yes. Writing the C# code to handle a dialog with an NPC is quite a bit harder but still doable - also yes. But we're talking about re-creating a game here, so the next question is then: how do you intend to figure out what the *content* and *logic* of the more than 100 npc dialogs that appear in the game is?

This is the part that will almost surely break the neck of any amateur team that sets out to recreate this game from scratch. Re-building and re-scripting the game logic. It's not so simple and such small a task as you make it sound. I think you seriously underestimate the work involved!

But anyway, this is getting very much off-topic for this thread.. so I'll end it here with the final comment that this is all of course just IMHO. I sincerely hope someone will prove me wrong
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November 16th, 2010, 17:01
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
But that's not what I meanů

Writing the C# code for a key/lock system is fairly simple, yes. Writing the C# code to handle a dialog with an NPC is quite a bit harder but still doable - also yes. But we're talking about re-creating a game here, so the next question is then: how do you intend to figure out what the *content* and *logic* of the more than 100 npc dialogs that appear in the game is?

This is the part that will almost surely break the neck of any amateur team that sets out to recreate this game from scratch. Re-building and re-scripting the game logic. It's not so simple and such small a task as you make it sound. I think you seriously underestimate the work involved!

But anyway, this is getting very much off-topic for this thread.. so I'll end it here with the final comment that this is all of course just IMHO. I sincerely hope someone will prove me wrong
I hope I'm not making it sound simple, as that's not my intention.

I'm simply saying it's doable for an experienced team - and compared to a modern game, with modern demands - it's relatively simple.

Mostly because demands at the time were much more limited. Emergent gameplay and such modern concepts weren't really expected back then, and even though Looking Glass innovated, it was still mostly Dungeon Master in a 3D environment with NPC interaction.

The logic of Ultima Underworld is not simple, but I don't see any major challenges. The AI is painfully primitive, and the NPC/quest logic - IIRC - is quite primitive as well. It's not like a modern Obsidian game with countless iterations or dialogue options - but rather a smaller bunch of quest triggers and what not.

Maybe we have different memories of the game, but I certainly don't remember it being all that advanced in terms of game logic, but I could be mistaken.
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