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Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter Update #4: Concept Artists, Warren Spector, Paul Neurath Interviews

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Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter Update #4: Concept Artists, Warren Spector, Paul Neurath Interviews

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 7 February 2015, 02:18:40

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

After the first two and a half days of its Kickstarter campaign, Underworld Ascendant is slowly closing in on 300,000 dollars of funding out of the total 600,000 required. Today it received its first significant Kickstarter update, which offers a short introduction to OtherSide's concept artists, with some examples of their work. More importantly, it includes a short video featuring part-time creative advisor Warren Spector, who explains the systems-driven design philosophy which is at the base of the game's "Improvisation Engine".

Besides that, Paul Neurath also appeared in two interviews today. The first was actually a twenty minute live discussion which featured in an episode of Star Citizen's "Around the Verse" video series. To make things more confusing, the discussion was actually held at the offices of Richard Garriott's Portalarium, with poor Paul relegated to appearing on a tablet on a stick next to Garriott and Starr Long. There wasn't much new in that one. More interesting was Paul's interview at IncGamers, where he explained the game's design principles at length, as well as talking a bit about the history of the Underworld IP. Here's an excerpt, where he describes the game's factions and quest design:

IG: Regarding the faction aspects that you’re bringing to this, what kind of interactions will players have? Are they going to be giving quests in the traditional style, or is there going to be more of a freeform, emergent type interaction with those characters?

PN: We’re going to be revealing more of the faction stuff further along with the Kickstarter, but what I can share with you is that … to the last question, yes, it’ll be more emergent, more free-flowing. That was somewhat true of the original Underworld. I guess the way to phrase that is we will avoid creating quests that are clearly “here’s your quest, you’ve got to go and do this.” Then a quest arrow that points you where you need to go next.

IG: Sort of prescriptive, fetch-quest kind of things?

PN: Well, putting aside scripted or fetch … the fact that the player is given a very abstracted out “oh, you’ve been given a quest, now you get a quest icon and here’s your arrow to go on it, plus a check-mark box to solve that quest.” It’s a very hand-holdy approach, and it’s a very … taking you out of “this is a real fantasy place.” Because if you were really in this underworld, you wouldn’t have little quest bubbles.

IG: If somebody tells you to find the temple, you don’t automatically know where that is [laughs]

PN: Yeah, you don’t get a kind of Google glass, augmented reality. If you were doing a sci-fiction game that would fit the fiction and might make perfect sense; but in this kind of fantasy game … no.

Anyway, we’re trying to make it feel real. Real as in “you’re really in this fantasy world, you really are this character.” So we’re going to ask a bit more of the player. We’re not going to have the overt “you have quest number seven and remember it’s in North-to-North-West, and here’s the arrow.” It’ll be much more open. But it’s not 100 percent that way. We do know players are humans and there’s always – and I’ve done this myself – you play a game for twenty minutes, you go away for a long weekend, you come back and you forget where you were.

If you were really in the fantasy world you wouldn’t be doing this, right? But people do have lives outside playing these games. There’s a balance there. We’re going to try our best to avoid the overt abstractions of hand holding. The benefits of … I mean that is more challenging, and we know that more casual players, people who aren’t used to playing role-playing games, there’s some learning curve there.

We’ll live with that, because this game is not made for casual players. It’s not going to be super hardcore, punishing, or anything like that, but there is more of a challenge. That goes back to this player authored experience. If we’re putting control back in the player’s hands, how they’re going to solve the “quests,” what order do they want to do it in? We have to put it in their hands, we can’t feed it to them and say “you need to do one, two and three.”

What if they decide to do three, skip two, and come up with their own idea to just explore a different area. That’s okay! We’re not going to be boxing them in on that. I think Underworld did that more or less. It did have quests and stuff, but we’ll be doing things a little differently on the new one.
Read the entire thing, it's really good. There's also an audio version, if you'd prefer that.

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