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Design document for cancelled Ultima Underworld 3 project unearthed by Origin historian Pix

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Design document for cancelled Ultima Underworld 3 project unearthed by Origin historian Pix

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 2 June 2018, 17:05:42

Tags: Origin Systems; Ultima Underworld 3

Back in 2012, we reported that Origin historian Pix had published a story document for a tentative Ultima Underworld 3 project that was proposed at Origin back in 1997. Now, over six years later, Pix has unearthed what appears to be the game's complete design document, giving us a much fuller understanding of what it was meant to be about. I'll let you read his summary:

It’s now 10 years since I started this blog and also by coincidence (for the most part) this is the 1000th post. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d finally share the last big piece of Origin history I’m still holding onto.

Some years back, I posted a story document for the proposed Ultima Underworld 3. Since then I’ve managed to get hold of a later design document which has been greatly expanded to include backstory, gameplay and design details. I’m reasonably sure this matches up with the one in the Richard Garriott archives at the University of Texas but without a side by side comparison I’ll never know.

I’ll let people read it for themselves but to summarise Underworld 3 was going to be built in the Wing Commander Prophecy engine, include multi-player, have a George Oldziey soundtrack (using modified themes composed for the already cancelled Silverheart) and would be set on a whole different world to Britannia.

The first story document bore little mention of Ultima but this has you crossing swords with an imprisoned Shadowlord who was banished to the world of Jaal in Ultima 5 when the Avatar destroyed his shard. The 3 Shadowlords apparently need to reunite to form into the Guardian which seems to imply this game would have been set some time between Ultima 5 and 7. I much prefer this idea to the Guardian being the Avatar’s dark half but I’m still not entirely convinced.

There’s some basic details on gameplay including some NPC and monster details (trouser snake?). It’s a glimpse into the game that might have been and is now available to download here.
The original story document from 2012 sounded suspiciously similar to Ultima IX in places. It's interesting then that there's an entire section in this document explaining how Underworld 3 would have been different from Ultima IX, in particular stating that it was meant to be more casual. Also worthy of note is that although Underworld 3 was going to have outdoor areas, the document explicitly states that it was not a massive open world game. Instead, the developers planned to use an immersive sim-like "fewer levels, more detail" design approach. According to the document, the game was planned for release in Fall 1998, which makes me wonder if there might be a prototype out there somewhere.

There are 13 comments on Design document for cancelled Ultima Underworld 3 project unearthed by Origin historian Pix

Blackthorne needs a kidney

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