Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Ultima The Ultima Underworld I & II Thread

KeighnMcDeath

RPG Codex Boomer
Joined
Nov 23, 2016
Messages
13,491
Really sucks old Garriotte fucked up his franchise and didn't pump a few more underworlds out and fixed U7 to be full TBT instead of its mess. A modular Underworld could have been great. Then again, I'd have to see when Arena came out.
 
Last edited:

Unkillable Cat

LEST WE FORGET
Patron
Joined
May 13, 2009
Messages
27,736
Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
In a 1996 interview Garriot stated that he planned to merge Underworld and the Ultimas into one game, i.e. outdoor environments would use a third-person perspective, while indoor/dungeon environments would be first-person like in Underworld.

Absolute madness when you think about it, and obviously nothing came of it because EA.
 

KeighnMcDeath

RPG Codex Boomer
Joined
Nov 23, 2016
Messages
13,491
Hmmmmm..... well, just because RichieG failed doesn't mean someone else couldn't try this. It doesn't have to be ultima though it'd be a huge plus if it were.

So many languages, lore, runes, creatures, spells, items, places, shards, etc from the beginning to U8/9/online and more. I tend to despise EA but I also think that RICHIE is an utter asshat to idiot as well. Even if he somehow got the IP back he'd probably fuck it up again.
 

V_K

Arcane
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Messages
7,714
Location
at a Nowhere near you
In a 1996 interview Garriot stated that he planned to merge Underworld and the Ultimas into one game, i.e. outdoor environments would use a third-person perspective, while indoor/dungeon environments would be first-person like in Underworld.

Absolute madness when you think about it, and obviously nothing came of it because EA.
You mean like e.g. in Ultima 5?
 

KeighnMcDeath

RPG Codex Boomer
Joined
Nov 23, 2016
Messages
13,491
I think party mechanics for dungeon exploration was the issue. UU is great solo but a party-base means going a bit into DM or MM6-10 territory. Or party leader is active and party members become programmed bots of sorts for real-time combat, unless it goes turn-based.

Knowing Richie's direction at this point it'd all be real time.
 

NecroLord

Dumbfuck!
Dumbfuck
Joined
Sep 6, 2022
Messages
11,204
Looking Glass were the gigachads of their day.
Ultima Underworld(1 and 2),Thief:The Dark Project and The Metal Age,System Shock 1 and 2...
 

LarryTyphoid

Scholar
Joined
Sep 16, 2021
Messages
2,233
In a 1996 interview Garriot stated that he planned to merge Underworld and the Ultimas into one game, i.e. outdoor environments would use a third-person perspective, while indoor/dungeon environments would be first-person like in Underworld.

Absolute madness when you think about it, and obviously nothing came of it because EA.
I wonder how that would work. Blobbers typically work because of how abstract the turn-based movement is, but Underworld is real-time, more "simulationist", and includes stuff like platforming and swimming. Maybe all the exploration and stuff would just be the Avatar, while encountering enemies would put the player into a third-person battle mode that includes all the party members.
 

Doctor Sbaitso

SO, TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS.
Patron
Joined
Oct 22, 2013
Messages
3,348
Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands
I suspect it would have been party member settings as per U7. It would similarly be equal parts shit-show and memorable mayhem.
 

Infinitron

I post news
Patron
Staff Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
Messages
98,245
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
"Just pretend nothing happened between 2014 and 2018": https://www.gamedeveloper.com/desig...gins-the-secret-history-of-ultima-underworldv

Madden '93 and immersive sim origins: the secret history of Ultima Underworld

Ultima Underworld creative director Paul Neurath returns 30 years later to talk about the progenitor of the "immersive sim" genre.

30 years after the launch of Ultima Underworld, one of the most ambitious 3D games of its era, its original creative director somehow still hungers to do for modern video games what his classic "immersive sim" did for games of the ‘90s.


"The only reason I'm still doing this today is, I see creative opportunities to innovate," longtime designer and programmer Paul Neurath says from his home in New Hampshire. “The industry is still immature.” The industry veteran doesn’t come to this conclusion lightly, having programmed and produced games since the early ‘80s.

But after a fumble with the 2018 launch of Underworld Ascendant, Neurath is taking an anniversary-timed opportunity to reflect on the original Ultima Underworld—to tell its stories and to recalibrate his current game-making compass.

First Person Action​

Ultima Underworld heralded a new wave of first-person action gaming, even if its impact took years to bear out in the larger market. While it never achieved the widespread fame of controversial shooters like DOOM and Wolfenstein, UU eventually racked up over half a million units in sales—which Neurath says came well after the game’s first 90 days on store shelves ("That was a genuine surprise"). And its robust 3D tech, as combined with an "adventure however you want" mindset, eventually inspired the likes of Thief: The Dark Age and System Shock, two series that Neurath eventually contributed to.



ultima underworld monster

Neurath knows where his game’s impressive tech, complete with first-of-its-kind 3D texture mapping, lands in the PC gaming timeline: "Wolfenstein 3D came out a few months after Ultima Underworld, so we kind of, in some sense, beat id Software to the punch." He pauses. "Not that that matters at all."

And he means it: this many years later, the concepts behind Ultima Underworld matter more to him than the texture-mapping advancements. His college experience had little to do with his selected major of environmental science; instead, he says he focused on running Dungeons & Dragons sessions with friends. He laughs while recounting a session where he told his players that they’d been tasked with defending a village under siege. "The players decided the best way to deal with the bandits was to just burn down the whole village," Neurath says. “That would scare the bandits away, technically."

He added programming to his college courseload "on a lark," only to get hooked. He describes his course’s final project as "a 3D, real-time, first-person, multiplayer, space combat game,” built from scratch on a DEC PDP-10. "You had to use your imagination, but the gameplay was, like, 'wow,'" Neurath says. "Maybe a computer is another way to create worlds, as opposed to pen-and-paper. That was an eye-opener for me."


In the years that followed, Neurath cold-called the publisher of Wizardry to strike a deal for his first Apple II game, followed by freelance work on games like Chuck Yeager’s Flight Trainer (an early "platinum"-selling title). His most formative break came when he looked at the box of a recent RPG he loved, Ultima II, and realized the address was roughly 40 miles from his home.

That distance soon became his regular working commute. One day, he drove to Origin Studios, knocked on its doors without an invite, and struck up conversations with founding staffers like Richard and Robert Garriott and Chuck Bueche.



ultima underworld triumph

"In short order, they said, 'we have a lot of extra office space, if you just want to have an office and work out of it,'" Neurath says. This kicked off a period he describes as his "graduate school," as he was put to work in a small role on Ultima III and IV, then was bumped to AI programmer on Ogre, a port of a Steve Jackson board game. "The AIs were nothing special by today’s standards, but they were good enough to beat Steven Jackson nine times out of ten," Neurath says.

Though he’d loved the Ultima series before getting office space at Origin, Neurath absorbed even more when rubbing elbows with its creators: how to create "worlds that were living on their own," full of NPCs living their own lives, and how to manage moral and ethical choices, where "there was no clear 'right' or 'wrong.'"

Time for Change​

Yet when the Garriotts spearheaded a major company shift from NH back to their home state of Texas, Neurath didn’t follow—even after being offered a full-time role on Origin’s publishing team. "I was only really interested in the development side of things," Neurath says.

Yet he was also burnt out on the three-year grind he spent completing 1989’s Space Rogue, which he attributes in part to the company’s move away from NH, leaving him to make the game "virtually on my own," he says. (On a programming level, Neurath claims he rewrote DOS "from scratch" to recover more precious memory, so that Space Rogue could run at all. Surmounting this challenge was but one reason he found himself working “60-hour weeks” on a regular basis.)

The only way to make the D&D-like game of his dreams, where players would be empowered to make unexpected choices—all while sporting first-person tech beyond Wizardry’s slow "turn-based line drawing" system—in his home state, he figured, was to start his own studio, build a team, and create his own IP.

On a programming level, Neurath confirms that the texture-mapped 3D core of Ultima Underworld came from graphics engineer Chris Green, who he met while working on the Chuck Yeager’s Flight Trainer series. The rest of Neurath’s newly hired team at Blue Sky Studios (which eventually renamed to Looking Glass Studios) built gameplay systems and other important technical upgrades on top of that code base.

Within a year, that studio’s pitch of a fully 3D action-RPG with major player-choice ramifications, and an impressive proof-of-concept demo that ran on the era’s 386-powered PCs, was rejected by nearly every potential publisher. "There’s no market for this," Neurath recalls hearing a lot in the spring of 1990, even from PC-friendly publishers he’d worked with like EA. Once again, Neurath found himself cold-calling the team at Origin, now headquartered in Austin, TX, to see if they’d bite.

"There could be some cool potential here," Neurath recalls them saying, "but we think it should use the Ultima brand. We’d be cool with that."



ultima underworld bedroom

"I don’t think I ever said this to Richard and Robert [Garriott], but the only hesitation I had was that our vision was to make a completely original game," Neurath now admits. And he knew, having seen Ultima game development up close, that Origin might spend a lot of time "vetting” his game to "fit the Ultima sensibility."

But Neurath took the offer back to his new studio to decide as a team, and they agreed: Ultima already inspired the kind of game they wanted to make, and it would commercially benefit from Ultima’s branding and fandom.

UU Almost Didn't Happen​

That is, until that very branding was nearly taken away. "There was a scenario where [Origin] would have walked away from the game," Neurath says. Roughly one year into development, Origin became unsure about the game’s "focus on action."

They weren’t happy with the narrative, which Neurath originally led: "it needed work, for sure, and I wasn’t a great writer by any stretch. Mediocre at best."

On a performance level, Neurath is blunt: "The frame rate sucked." The game’s pre-alpha version could reach 15 frames-per-second performance on a commercial 386 PC "on a good day," he says, but it more typically ran lower than 10 fps. And the adventure-how-you-want aspect of the gameplay still wasn’t gelling. “These immersive sims tend to come together late,” Neurath says, pointing to similar development issues in series like Thief and Deus Ex.

Neurath was in over his head: he was leading a brand-new game studio, made up largely of fresh college graduates (including one engineer, Doug Church, who was still finishing a degree at MIT), and trying to convince a publisher that they could get an ambitious-yet-undercooked game over the finish line without tarnishing arguably the biggest Western RPG brand in the PC gaming space.

He had to buy time. So he did—almost literally.

"Frankly, we convinced [Origin] by saying we’d cover the remainder of the [development] cost, effectively," Neurath says. While building Ultima Underworld, his team was simultaneously juggling a port of Electronic Arts’ upstart Madden NFL ’93 to the Sega Genesis, complete with up-front cash and a royalty arrangement.

That project was going well, and sports gaming appetites on the Genesis were exploding. Neurath did the math, then made what he admits was less than a sure bet. He’d fund the remaining "lion’s share" of Ultima Underworld’s development out of his own pocket. Origin agreed.

ultima underworld no space to drop

"Look: part of being an entrepreneur is being kind of crazy," Neurath says. “Warren [Spector] and I have talked about this a lot over the years, that when you make these innovative games, you have to accept the risks. It can be foolish, right? You can crash and burn. But you have to be willing to take that risk, or you won’t innovate.”

Enter Warren Spector​

Neurath had met Spector, then a little-known story designer and writer, while working on Space Rogue, and during the aforementioned UU turmoil, he asked Spector to come on board as a producer (and replace two other producers who’d left the project). "We had a shared mindset in terms of gameplay and games we liked," Neurath says. "He really gelled with our team."

Neurath suggests that Spector’s involvement may have made an even bigger impact on the game’s eventual release than its revised financial plan. He more effectively communicated the team’s vision to Origin, particularly the pessimistic sales and marketing groups.

Spector also helped overhaul the narrative beyond its original skeleton, which freed Neurath to focus on level design for the game’s first two levels, out of eight. "I did that because pretty much the rest of the team had never made a commercial game before," Neurath admits, though he makes clear that Spector and the rest of the team chipped in on other major design decisions.

Neurath concedes that his team’s juggle of UU and Madden ’93, which financially paid off, took its toll, particularly in the form of 80-hour work weeks for the staff: "I had my hands full, and I made a lot of mistakes, and it's fine. That's what entrepreneurs do." He still regrets that the game adopted D&D-styled stats for characters, like strength, dexterity, and intelligence, which he conceded to play nicely with the Ultima brand.

His original vision revolved around the player’s choices impacting how well an action played out, instead of points on a page. (Run and charge to make an attack more powerful, instead of relying on extra points on a spreadsheet, as an example.) He tells fans to look at how creation and development systems worked in the 1994 game System Shock: "That’s really what we wanted to do with Ultima Underworld."



ultima underworld ghost

While he’s proud of the technology behind UU, and how his team built a number of "never-before-seen" gameplay mechanics into the engine, he laughs at how his team managed UI and player movement. “Before Wolfenstein and DOOM, mouselook wasn’t a thing!" he says. Members of the UU development team tried to wrap their head around first-person movement by holding camcorders at eye level, walking around, and reviewing the VHS footage, which helped them understand and implement the concept of virtual "head-bobbing."

But the game’s original movement system, which revolves around an on-screen cursor that alternates between inventory management and head movement, paled compared to what id Software and others delivered shortly after. "I was like, duh," Neurath says about seeing competitors' games, then smacks his forehead.

Immersive Sim Origins​

In hindsight, Neurath still believes the game’s development staff of mostly fresh college graduates paid off for a huge reason: "New hires don't have a sense of what they cannot do." He points to an exception on the UU team who would interject and exclaim, “You can’t do that, that’s not how games are done!”

Neurath says he "couldn’t solve that for that person." Instead, he relished putting problems in front of fresh talent: "throw the challenge down and see what happens!" He admits this led to a few "frayed edges" in level design that, according to fans he’s spoken to, “people love to this day.”

UU’s impact on the game industry was immediately evident in the games that Spector later made in the ‘90s, many of which Neurath worked on as a producer or other high-up role, and he lists modern games, like Weird West, Deathloop, and the upcoming Bioshock follow-up Judas that continue carrying the torch of player-made decisions that are either unexpected or wildly branch a game’s narrative. "That feels so cool," Neurath says, to recognize UU’s imprint in his favorite modern games.

Yet he believes most games, including 2018’s Neurath-led Underworld Ascendant, only go so far to push beyond the industry’s status quo, even within the realm of ambitious immersive sim adventures. Neurath likens the current state of gaming to the 1930s period of filmmaking: "We’ve gotten to ‘talkies,’ but there’s not yet color, that’s what it feels like," he says. While he admits that real-time 3D graphics rendering is advancing at an incredible rate, he doesn’t feel the same about game design and mechanics.

"Gamers may not realize it, but they hunger for that innovation," Neurath says. His current plan at Otherside Entertainment, his latest game studio, is to move the innovative sim genre into a direction that he vaguely calls "player-powered."

His studio’s current design litmus test is to get testers to say, "I didn’t know you could do that," upon completing a level or puzzle, all because the games’ designs revolve around "letting players control the way they solve challenges."

Otherside is also pledging to deliver UU-inspired immersive-sim gameplay in a multiplayer space, though at this point, Neurath has zero details to share on that front. No gameplay or impressions are yet available for the studio’s pair of games with apparent multiplayer modes built in: Thick as Thieves, a multiplayer heist game, and Argos: Riders on the Storm, a Warren Spector-led game that revolves around a "deeply simulated outdoor environment" that may include a significant "butterfly effect" aspect to how the world reacts to players’ choices.

Maybe one day, a Neurath-led game will resemble or surpass the D&D sessions he helmed in college—allowing connected friends to invent and execute bizarre solutions to adventurous challenges. "It’s a very different dynamic" compared to his history in single-player game development, he admits.

"It keeps me engaged to work with awesome teams, having a vision of where we’ll take this. And at least trying. I don’t know if we’re succeeding, but we’re at least trying."
 

mindx2

Codex Roaming East Coast Reporter
Patron
Joined
Feb 22, 2006
Messages
4,462
Location
Perusing his PC Museum shelves.
Codex 2012 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire RPG Wokedex Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Otherside is also pledging to deliver UU-inspired immersive-sim gameplay in a multiplayer space, though at this point, Neurath has zero details to share on that front. No gameplay or impressions are yet available for the studio’s pair of games with apparent multiplayer modes built in: Thick as Thieves, a multiplayer heist game, and Argos: Riders on the Storm, a Warren Spector-led game that revolves around a "deeply simulated outdoor environment" that may include a significant "butterfly effect" aspect to how the world reacts to players’ choices.

throwing up.jpg
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2012
Messages
5,901
I thought Otherside had ceased to exist after the joke that was Underworld Ascendant.

These washed-up have-beens can't even lead a team to jerry-rig a third-rate copy of a 30-year-old game, and he's talking innovation? What a joke.
 

Dave the Druid

Educated
Joined
Dec 29, 2022
Messages
193
Quick question about Underworld 2. Played the original several years ago, loved it but got pissed off with the whole weight encumbrance issue over halfway through and dropped it. Started over a few years later, this time I picked a Druid and re-rolled my stats for about 10 minutes until I got 30 Strength and managed to finish it this time. Great game. The jumping physics can fuck right off but other than that it was pretty amazing for a 3D RPG that's this old.

Anyway I was wondering if I needed to do the same thing for Underworld 2? I'm going to pick Druid again but do I need to re-roll my stats again or is weight less of an issue in the sequel? Anything else I should be weary of? I know about the servant's strike bug already.
 

Cael

Arcane
Possibly Retarded
Joined
Nov 1, 2017
Messages
21,085
Quick question about Underworld 2. Played the original several years ago, loved it but got pissed off with the whole weight encumbrance issue over halfway through and dropped it. Started over a few years later, this time I picked a Druid and re-rolled my stats for about 10 minutes until I got 30 Strength and managed to finish it this time. Great game. The jumping physics can fuck right off but other than that it was pretty amazing for a 3D RPG that's this old.

Anyway I was wondering if I needed to do the same thing for Underworld 2? I'm going to pick Druid again but do I need to re-roll my stats again or is weight less of an issue in the sequel? Anything else I should be weary of? I know about the servant's strike bug already.
It is the same, although you have a central hub that you can use as storage, so it is slightly less of a concern.

That said, I believe it was harder to get 30 of any stat in 2 than in 1, if not outright impossible. It has been a while since I last played, though.
 

Unkillable Cat

LEST WE FORGET
Patron
Joined
May 13, 2009
Messages
27,736
Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
IIRC the 'random' stats generated are sequential, so if you pick a class and randomize the stats 18 times, then quit the game and do it all again, you get the same identical stats.

As for getting 30 Strength with a Druid, it's impossible to do so in UU2 now.

In UU1 the Druid's stat-range is Str: High, Dex: Low, IQ: High.
In UU2 the Druid's stat-range is Str: Med, Dex: Med, IQ: High.

In UU2 only the Fighter and Paladin classes have Str at High, but the Ranger and the Shepherd cannot be ruled out as their random stat-bonuses may land a high Str-value. So those four have a shot at Str 30, the others do not.
 

Dave the Druid

Educated
Joined
Dec 29, 2022
Messages
193
Thank you all. So should I still pick Druid? The encumbrance issues caused me to drop Underworld 1 and restart with a new character. I'm more than happy to start off with a fighter and level up casting/mana a shit-ton mid-game if it means I'm not going to have to constantly drop a pile of garbage, mark it on my map and then backtrack when I find out I've dropped a quest-critical item without knowing it half an hour later. I know Underworld 2 has more of a hub-world design, where you're teleporting to different worlds. Can I just dump shit in the hub and teleport back and forth when necessary?

Just asking because I loved Ultima Underworld but it was a real bummer when I realized I hated the character I'd created over halfway through and there was no way to raise strength other than to roll a new character and restart. I don't want to go through that shit again. Any advice?
 

Cael

Arcane
Possibly Retarded
Joined
Nov 1, 2017
Messages
21,085
Thank you all. So should I still pick Druid? The encumbrance issues caused me to drop Underworld 1 and restart with a new character. I'm more than happy to start off with a fighter and level up casting/mana a shit-ton mid-game if it means I'm not going to have to constantly drop a pile of garbage, mark it on my map and then backtrack when I find out I've dropped a quest-critical item without knowing it half an hour later. I know Underworld 2 has more of a hub-world design, where you're teleporting to different worlds. Can I just dump shit in the hub and teleport back and forth when necessary?

Just asking because I loved Ultima Underworld but it was a real bummer when I realized I hated the character I'd created over halfway through and there was no way to raise strength other than to roll a new character and restart. I don't want to go through that shit again. Any advice?
UW2 has unlimited skill point gain, unlike UW. AND a place to grind for those unlimited skill points.

The central hub is a teleport location, so you don't have to mark anything. Just... don't accidentally drop stuff into the water...
 

Unkillable Cat

LEST WE FORGET
Patron
Joined
May 13, 2009
Messages
27,736
Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
Thank you all. So should I still pick Druid? The encumbrance issues caused me to drop Underworld 1 and restart with a new character. I'm more than happy to start off with a fighter and level up casting/mana a shit-ton mid-game if it means I'm not going to have to constantly drop a pile of garbage, mark it on my map and then backtrack when I find out I've dropped a quest-critical item without knowing it half an hour later. I know Underworld 2 has more of a hub-world design, where you're teleporting to different worlds. Can I just dump shit in the hub and teleport back and forth when necessary?
What class you pick is more important in UUW2 than in UUW1.

I only learned this recently, but (in UUW2 at least) classes have limits on their skills. If you pick a Fighter for example, you will find that both Casting and Mana have caps on them, i.e. you can't train them up to 30. What skills you can and can't train to 30 depends on what Class you pick.

I'm guessing only the Shepherd is exempt from this, but I can't confirm.
 

Spukrian

Savant
Joined
May 28, 2016
Messages
737
Location
Lost Continent of Mu
I only learned this recently, but (in UUW2 at least) classes have limits on their skills. If you pick a Fighter for example, you will find that both Casting and Mana have caps on them, i.e. you can't train them up to 30. What skills you can and can't train to 30 depends on what Class you pick.
In UUW1 my fighter's casting and mana capped at 27 and Int was 13, so the cap might be (relevant stat + 14)?
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom