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Kickstarter Interview – Underworld Ascendant

The original team behind Ultima Underworld is on a quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.

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The original team behind Ultima Underworld is on a quest to rekindle this legendary fantasy RPG series.

Underworld Ascendant is the return of a classic RPG, Ultima Underworld. Members of the original team behind Ultima Underworld are working on this spiritual successor. Led by Paul Neurath, founder of OtherSide Entertainment, the team is hoping to Kickstart a game that is faithful to the original.

Taking place entirely in an underground cavern, the player will have to fight their way through monsters and rival factions in order to escape. The game promises a dynamic faction system in which your choices will affect your standing, as well as a “Improvisation Engine”, that allows you to solve challenges in a multitude of ways, each affecting the world.

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We had a chat with OtherSide Entertainment to see how their game and Kickstarter campaign were faring.

Thumbsticks: You talk a lot about Ultima Underworld, but as someone who never played it before, what would entice me to play Underworld Ascendant?

OtherSide Entertainment: The most wonderful dungeon crawl experience you’ve ever had, and then some.

Thumbsticks: As you mentioned in your Kickstarter video, Ultima Underworld inspired a lot of developers. What kind of things are you doing to stay true to original game, while making sure you Ascendant is innovative in its own right?

Otherside: The vibe will very much be the same. Being tossed in a dark, vast and dangerous underworld. Then the arc where you go from barely surviving to mastering the subterranean world. Plus, since we can use all the IP from the original except for the Ultima brand itself, a lot of the original characters, places, monsters and such will be showing up again.

At same time, visuals and audio will be leap years ahead of originals. Also, we’ll will use a modern user interface. But what we’re jazzed about most are some of the innovations, such as a new approach to co-op play.

Thumbsticks: In that video you showed an early build prototype demo. Do you have any plans on releasing that demo to the public or is it for the studio only?

Otherside: Probably not. It’s really just test bed, and we revise it daily. But once we get to a fairly solid place with a pre-Alpha, we’ll be sharing that for sure. We’re also going to be share even earlier prototype builds with some select folks.

Thumbsticks: Since the whole game takes place underground, how difficult was it to keep the game visually interesting? We see a lot of games going for a gray/brown color palette above ground, so what kind of things are you doing to avoid that same pitfall?

Otherside: Don’t use a lot of gray and brown! We can make the underworld a more varied environment than the typical medieval landscape world that a lot of above-ground fantasy games have. Ice caverns, subterranean river systems, lava flows, necropolises, temples, mushroom forests, and much more.

Thumbsticks: I’m always interested in seeing what Kickstarter campaigns do if they go over their goal. Usually we see the game take a lot longer because the developer is adding in more than they originally planned for. Are you planning on getting more than the initial goal, and what steps are you taking to ensure the game doesn’t get bloated with new features, or get delayed?

Otherside: We’ll see where our funding comes out. If we end up funding one or more of our stretch goals then, yes, the game will be somewhat bigger and have somewhat more tech in it. This will extend the development schedule somewhat. But we not interested in pushing out that much, and so we’re keeping this in check.

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Thumbsticks: Do you have any interest in making a console version?

Otherside: We’re focused on the PC version at this stage.

Thumbsticks: What made you decide to go back to the Underworld… world? Why not work on a new IP?

Otherside: I’ve been trying to get a new Underworld made for the past two decades. Only now has EA given us the opportunity to take this franchise forward as an indie studio, which is why now.

Thumbsticks: This is your first Kickstarter campaign. Did you seek advice from other industry vets who have used Kickstarter in the past, or did you simply follow your gut?

Otherside: Yes, as a team we’re pretty new to Kickstarters. We have gotten some great advice from vets, but it’s still a challenge to run a Kickstarter campaign even for the most experienced.

Underworld Ascendant’s Kickstarter has 17 days remaining and are currently less than $150,000 short of their goal. Check out their pitch video, featuring the likes of Richard Garriott, or donate via their Kickstarter page.

 

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Josh was a once freelance writer who has gone on to write fiction, including mods for Fallout New Vegas. He never lost his love for writing about video games, and now finds himself doing it every day.