Underworld Ascendant - Interview
Recently Watcher Pessimeister was in contact with Community Manager Sam at OtherSide Entertainment as part of their Roundtable discussions for backers of Underworld Ascendant:
Pessimeister interviews Sam
Pessimeister: I asked him a few questions which partially cover some of my general concerns on the direction of the game from what we've seen thus far. To his credit, Sam got back to me incredibly quickly and covered some of my questions in detail. Watchers can view the full twitch broadcast of the Roundtable discussion here.
1) The graphical style of the game will certainly somewhat polarise fans if reading current threads is any indication. Do you think that by adopting the chosen style, a sense of menace in the dungeon surroundings is somewhat diminished? How is that sense of tension in exploration from the original games being maintained? I always loved the edgy uncertainty of not knowing what you'd encounter next in those games; which was amplified by resource usage (food, light etc) and being low level exploring where perhaps you shouldn't be!
Before I get to the heart of this question, I would like to preface this with a quick clarification about the screenshots we've released so far. You may have seen shots of the pre-alpha build released to backers in August, and a number of people have worried that the rest of the Abyss will be just as "well illuminated" and with areas that are "too large". That is not true! Just as there are areas with lots of activity (torches, mana-fueled lanterns, glowing creatures, etc), there will be levels that are quite dark and not as welcoming. Understandably, it's a little difficult to advertise screenshots of the game that aren't very well-lit, and we'd like to leave some of the darker areas a surprise for when you stumble upon them yourself. (Hopefully, you'll be prepared when you find them!) We've been extremely happy with the way the world has been shaped by the art direction. While some areas may seem welcoming and awe-inspiring, you should never let your guard down... for example, if you see a large clearing and no one else around.......
2) Aesthetically and mechanically I do wish the game moved more toward Arx Fatalis in mood and dungeon design influence rather than to Bioshock, Thief and Dark Messiah. Could you speak generally about dungeon design itself and the challenges it presents in making a game of this type?
Following up on my first response, you can still craft a challenging dungeon experience even in areas that are wide open and well-lit. The dungeons are made with MANY different processes made in mind, and one of the most important aspects is making sure it's fun. No, really! It's one thing to craft an area that FUNCTIONALLY brings your player from point A to point B and allows them to complete a quest, but we want to make sure it's actually fun to complete, should they choose to explore it. Additionally, we have to consider the many different player mobility and ability options, and we tweak certain areas accordingly to make sure one "class" doesn't have a large advantage over the other. (Class being the "warrior", "rogue" and "wizard" skill sets we've been designing for, but remember that you can mix and match these skills as you see fit, and you're not locked into any one role at any time.)
2b) Will there be an option to disable the icons/UI and have a clear HUD as in Arx for maximum immersion?
3) What other key RPG elements can the player expect to find from the original games? How are they being elaborated and expanded upon? (Stat manipulation? Character customisation?)
We are actually still working on if/how we want physical character customization to work in the final game, but we've already agreed upon how we'll be tackling "stats" and "skills". We talked briefly during the Roundtable about how skills are unlocked through real experiences, and how we want your actual skill level to be represented and improved upon ingame. For example, let's say you start your game and you're an excellent shooter/archer. After a few headshots and completing a quest or two, you'll be able to unlock a skill that basically gives you a "scope" to shoot at enemies from afar, and allows you to do even better shots. While I'm on the subject, I also want to echo what Chris Siegel mentioned, which is that when you start the game, you will be at "level 0" and not "level -10". In other words, your own skill level is your starting point. We won't be purposely ensuring some of your shots miss just because you "just started as an archer" in Underworld Ascendant. If you can pull something off right off the bat, we'll let you do it.
4) How goes the creation of ambience and music for this new vision of the Underworld? Any chance of George Sanger being involved? Dave Govett? Mr Schmidt or Blackley? Any intended nods to musical themes of the past that you can share?
Ambience in particular is very important to the Abyss, and our current musical score reflects that. There are a number of sound effect cues that hint at the presence of monsters, items, and even areas, so we want to make sure the music sets a mood but doesn't distract you from your goal. You may have noticed that Jim Bonney has joined us as our new Audio Director! There's still room and time to include musical themes from UW1&2, so we'll have to see about that.
5) With regards to lore and history; has there been any known retconning of ideas in the writing and design thus far? Will anything from "the memoirs of Sir Cabirus" be made invalid or contradictory?
Corby's account is a reflection of how he wanted Sir Cabirus to remembered. That being said, as you may recall, we have confirmed that Cabirus himself has returned in Underworld Ascendant... as for why (and how), you'll just have to find out. :)
6) Please assure me that either a headless, lurker or wolf spider will positively terrify me when I first encounter one of them! Those creatures are the stuff of legend from the first two games...
I just peeked at a level that is being designed with the wolf spiders. Based on that alone, I am not sure if I want to see the final model of the spider... *shudders* We'd best tread carefully...(I'm afraid I can't confirm the headless and lurker at this time, but the Abyss is not a very forgiving place...)
7) Are there any Ultima-related easter eggs being implemented? Has there been any feedback or contact with Richard Garriott on the game? I don't need no stinking badge/password?
There will be Easter eggs. LOTS of Easter eggs. Good luck finding some of these...
As for Richard, yes, we've been in contact, and we're always excited to read up on the newest Shroud of the Avatar updates! There is no direct connection between UA and SoTA at this time. We believe the two games offer different but equally entertaining experiences. We hope you have fun playing both!
8) Will there be moments of severe disorientation? (Yes please!)
I cannot confirm this at this time.
8b) How well is the dungeon design connecting to the map marking mechanic which was so wonderful and useful in the original games? (Hopefully the QA/backers were/are using it...)
We were actually just discussing this on the forums the other day! We're interested in incorporating shortcut icons which you could assign your own Map Key to (ex: "Red chest means unopened chest I can't figure out how to reach yet. Gray chest means a chest I've opened"), as well as allowing you to type notes directly on your map. There's plenty of space to write in the map, and we were also considering adding several empty pages of map-parchment for players to fill out with whatever they'd like. (Diary notes about the adventure, reminders to self, a place for the player to track their expenses... etc). I'm afraid that's all I can say about the map marking mechanic right now, but hopefully I'll have more to share soon!
9) The Might and Magic games often awarded the player with a winning certificate for posterity whenever they completed a title. Is this something you would consider? Besides factional interplay and choices, what other ways are you looking at to incentivise players to replay the game?
I cannot answer this at this time... but between you and me, I really like Majora's Mask. :)
10) Can I make popcorn again? Go fishing? Experience hallucinogenic mushrooms in new found graphical fidelity and psychedelic splendour?
We're still in mid-alpha right now, so we haven't fleshed out the Fun Parts of exploring the Abyss, but I believe we're very intent on at least including cooking of some kind, and foraging. You'll just have to see for yourself once you enter the Abyss! (Just be careful... the wildlife here may have unexpected effects when consumed.)
Phew! I'm afraid I can't answer everything right now, but I hope I've settled some of your biggest fears. We can't wait to show you the full game! Every day that we work on it, we get closer to our ideal Abyss...
All the Best,
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