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Underworld Ascension renamed to Underworld Ascendant, to be Kickstarted on February 4th

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Underworld Ascension renamed to Underworld Ascendant, to be Kickstarted on February 4th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 21 January 2015, 16:41:35

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Underworld Ascendant; Warren Spector

Remember Underworld Ascension, the Ultima Underworld spiritual successor from Paul Neurath's Otherside Entertainment that was first announced all the way back in July 2014? Well, after half a year of silence, there's finally some news about that. Big news. First of all, the game is now called Underworld Ascendant. Traumatized Ultima fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Second, there's going to be a Kickstarter, on February 4th, two weeks from now. The game's new website has a message from Paul:

When we completed Ultima Underworld II in 1993, I never imagined that this classic fantasy RPG franchise would go dark for the two decades.

The Underworld’s were arguably the first immersive 1stperson games. Not only were they the first to create a real-time 3D texture-mapped world, they also pioneered player-driven sandbox gameplay. They influenced a whole generation of games: Doom, Thief, Deus Ex, Skyrim, BioShock and more. Today, leading game designers view the Underworlds as still astonishingly modern in design.

But when released, the games were years ahead of their time and didn't fit into the established genres of that era. This contributed to the franchise falling between the cracks and becoming lost in the publisher’s labyrinth depths. Over the years I’ve tried without success to raise the Underworld series back up. Just now have the stars aligned so this can happen.

I started OtherSide Entertainment an indie studio to rekindle this classic. Joining me is an incredible team of developers, who will be introducing themselves over the coming weeks. Some worked with me on the original Underworlds, along with Looking Glass favorites like System Shock and Thief. Others contributed to more recent classics including Deus Ex and BioShock Infinite. We have deep understanding of the genre, and share a passion for bringing Underworld back.

The newest incarnation of the franchise, Underworld Ascendant, will retain the distinctive fantasy RPG gameplay of the originals. We already have an early prototype running on the PC. At that same time we will be pushing forward with new innovations --- I can’t wait to tell you more about what we have planned!

But this can only happen with your help. As an indie studio, we are looking to our fans to fund a significant portion of the development through our upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which begins on February 4th. We aren't shy about our ambitions to make a great game, but that takes serious resources and effort.

Beyond funding, we are inviting you in on the making of Underworld Ascendant. Rarely have fans been able to participate in the often unpredictable, sometimes messy creative process that gives birth to innovative games. We hope you’ll join us on this adventure!​

Want more information? Otherside's PR guys managed to arrange for a little publicity blitz for the game, with articles at GameSpot, IGN and MMORPG.com. The first two articles mention that the Kickstarter will be seeking a million dollars in funding, but it's the latter that has the most details about the actual gameplay:

One of the goals for the team is to make sure that Underworld truly gives players something different. As with the original game, players could often solve obstacles in a dungeon using multiple ways. Sometimes you can fight, or use a spell, there are even times that stealth will get you through the objective. It was this freedom that fans really enjoyed. For players who like to take on a single style of class in the game, that dynamic is still there. However, you can really create a character that fits any situation. Paul wants to recapture the deep immersion of the original making sure all the monsters and traps have the feel of a true dungeon crawl. They want to bring the player right in and cut out any outside distractions.

Something new with this title is that there will be three factions working for control in the game. Depending on the choices you make, you can side with one of these factions. This will change the outcome of the game as you journey through the adventure. Paul did not go into too much detail but wants to keep options open. Underworld is still going to be a classic RPG in a fantasy setting. He said that fantasy is a proven genre among fans. Even though there are a lot of these types of game out there, Paul said, “It really is about how you author it.” The player story in the game changes from each RPG even though you have familiar elements. With Underworld, combining classic fantasy with new ways to approach traps and monsters gives the player that minute to minute experience.

In working on the game now, Paul said that the graphics are just amazing. Things have come a long way since 1993. Paul still says that the major pillar really is game play. Graphics can only get you so far until people really want more. Players will start with a very lose version of a created character but build over time depending on their choices.

Underworld Ascendant already has a version running. The game is about four months into development. The Kickstarter for Otherside is coming up in about two weeks from now. Paul and his team will continue to work on the game straight through the Kickstarter and beyond. Fans of this classic RPG have a lot to look forward to as development continues to bring the old Underworld IP into the modern era. The website for the title should be live as of this article, so head over and check it out.
In addition, the IGN article has a few quotes from none other than Warren Spector, who is apparently being employed by Otherside as a "part-time creative advisor":

Otherside comprises 12 people. Some of them worked on the aforementioned titles at Looking Glass, the development studio that closed in May of 2000, so there's a lot of veteran talent working on the RPG. One name in particular will draw recognition from fans of Epic Mickey, Deus Ex and Thief: Warren Spector.

He worked as a producer on the original Ultima Underworld, and championed the game from its inception. Now, he's serving as a "part-time creative advisor," Neurath says, and Spector sees potential in the project, despite its long absence from the spotlight.

"Working on the original Underworld project was important to me, career-wise, as well as to me as a gamer," Spector told IGN. "Today, the world of gaming is different and, I'd argue, Underworld played a big, if under-appreciated role in that. There was a story and a level of player empowerment that most games –– even today –– can't match."

Spector said the team at Otherside has other plans than just trying to resurrect a past success. And the fact that some of the Otherside developers worked on the original Underworld is a comforting thought.

"We're still a young medium and there's still plenty left to do if we're going to move away from 'roll-playing' and move toward true 'role-playing,'" Spector said.​

Ah, Spector. Just like old times, huh?

UPDATE: The plot thickens! There are now indications that Underworld Ascendant might share its setting with Richard Garriot's Shroud of the Avatar. Kenneth Kully has posted a summary of the evidence over at the Ultima Codex.

UPDATE 2: Otherside have clarified on Twitter that Underworld Ascendant's minimum funding goal will not be one million dollars, but that it is what they "hope to reach" along with the initial stretch goals. Uh, okay.

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