UPDATE: Hints of the Stygian Abyss and Backer Rewards
The last month’s been busy and productive, as the team just hit yet another major milestone on Underworld Ascendant. (Whew…)
We’ve got details to share about our progress, plus an important update on backer rewards.
Let’s dive right in.
“HOW’S EVERYTHING IN THE STYGIAN ABYSS?”
Joe Fielder, here. That question above was a message a friend and external tester sent me earlier this week. I was happy to relay that, for an incredibly dangerous environment on the borders of The Underworld, it’s quite well, in fact.
We’ve recently completed a Milestone where we allow the player to enter the settlement of Marcaul, make a choice of six, unique different quests in our Upper Erebus level, complete it, and return to town to collect their reward, grow their character, and choose another quest.
Since Upper Erebus is a level the player wouldn’t encounter for a few hours into the game, we provided a few choices of demo-only “hero kits” that represented growth and equipment choices they might’ve made by that point. Each mixed combat, stealth, and magic skills in a different, interesting ways.
While those kits won’t be in the final game, they let us hop in and quickly have fun and start experimenting in the simulation. One kit provided combat skills, the ability to heave heavy objects, a few movement options for tough-to-reach locations, and a Create Fire spell. Another focused on stealth skills, like soft step and a combat bonus for attacking enemies while undetected. The third was a combination of a little stealth and a lot of magic, with spells including those you’ve seen before (like Gravitate and Slow Time) and a few you haven’t…
The level is comprised of spaces that are interesting to explore and areas designed to provide a bevy of options for combat, stealth, magic, and interacting with the environment. One of the most fun things to interact with in the world so far is the Deep Slug, which we’ve mentioned a bit before, but haven’t previously shown you up close.
It’s an example of what we refer to as an “ambient” creature, which exist in the environment, don’t attack on sight, and have useful behaviors that the player can exploit. In short, a tool or toy.
In the Deep Slug’s case, it’s a peaceful creature that avoids conflict and has a few different useful trails. You can bait it with its favorite foods and its trails will change depending which one it devours.
For instance, if you feed it the fruit of a Ripper (a terrible tree monster), it’ll leave behind a flammable trail. Bait it into the patrol path of skeletons or near a wooden platform, apply fire, and enjoy!
If you feed it a Nether Caps? It leaves behind a trail of sight-blocking smoke. Beyond that, we’re not saying.
It’s not only fun to experiment with, it’s often vital when dealing with groups of foes to difficult to tackle one-on-one.
And, it’s kind of adorable. In a gross way.
Since hitting that milestone, we’ve been doing another round of external testing so we can get key feedback on how to further refine our core experience (combat, object interactions, spell interactions, and more). Ensuring that the logic underlying the game’s simulated systems (physics, physical properties) is clear – without overt handholding – is a key part of creating an immersive sim.
We’ve also been digging into VFX, expanding our bestiary with the Lich and Outcasts, adding new spells and skills, and design work on multiple levels, including the Necropolis and… well, a space that fans of Ultima Underworld will definitely appreciate. We’re holding back in-depth looks at those for a bit, both to refine and so it doesn’t get lost among news of holiday releases, but we’ve been making much progress and will have much new to share.
Last, but not least, we have some exciting news on the narrative front: the game’s script is approaching completion and we’re recording with Stephen (Thief, Fallout 4, Dishonored 2) Russell in a just few weeks.
New Underworld Ascendant Website
505 has done an awesome major update to our Underworld Ascendant website. Check it out at the usual www.underworldascendant.com. We’ll continue to keep this updated with new info as we reveal it.
Next Developer Roundtable and Brainstorm Call
We will be holding our next Developer Roundtable in the next two weeks on our Twitch channel!
Backers who pledged at the DIGITAL PROTAGONIST tier and above ($125+) are eligible to join the roundtable.
Please check your email for the specific date and times! The email will also include a survey form for those who are eligible to participate but cannot make the time frame and would like to submit questions. We’ll be picking from a mix of the live audience and the archived questions and will try to address as much as we can!
We will also be holding a Brainstorm Call for all “ENLIGHTENED ONE” backers and above around the same time. More information — and the “Name a Character/Item” survey — will be made available for these backers through email.
Crowdfunding Update: Underworld Ascendant is Now Closed to New Backers
We are encouraging any future people interested in backing Underworld Ascendant to wishlist the game on Steam instead. Existing backers are still able to adjust their pledges by logging into their BackerKit and updating their survey information.
Note, we will lock down that ability in the not-to-distant future so that we can start preparing for fulfillment, particularly for physical goods. Stayed tuned for more info.
If any backers have trouble accessing their accounts or upgrading their pledge, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Recap: Underworld Ascendant at Unite Austin
We had the pleasure of showcasing Underworld Ascendant and speaking at Unite Austin 2017 from October 3-5.
Our Art Director, Nate Wells, spoke about our “Rewarding Creativity” system and how the history of the franchise affects how we design Underworld Ascendant.
You can watch the interview here on YouTube.
Unpacking the Past
We moved into our new office in October and are still in the process of unpacking.
Some of the forgotten gems we’ve rediscovered are System Shock, Terra Nova, and Ultima Underworld awards from the 1990s! Few things invigorate the soul quite like some Looking Glass history…
We hope to share more pictures of our new space soon!
In Other News…
In case you missed it:
- Check out NightDive Studios’ November update, which shows off mutant dismemberment and more!
- What might the future of “Immersive Sims” look like? Robert Yang weighs in.
- Warren Spector shared his creative philosophies as the keynote speaker at Wisconsin’s M+Dev Conference.