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Game News Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter Update #39: Ecology Overview

Infinitron

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Tags: Chris Siegel; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

In this week's Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter update, Chris Siegel gives the run-down on OtherSide's ambitious plans for structuring the game's fully simulated natural ecology. I quote:

The Underworld will have a working ecology. This will include a food chain and pyramid.

Part of the idea here is this just goes on without the player interference. There is a matrix of eat or be eaten that has been going on in the Underworld for, well, forever. And, without any outside interference it could go on indefinitely.

But, enter the player. Talk about a monkey wrench! Players will be able to affect, change and mold the ecology in ways not seen before in games. Whether the player does this intentionally or by accident, he will be able to see the effect of his actions in his environment almost immediately.

For example, our hero helps build a dam for the dwarves. Seems innocent enough, with the well-intentioned outcome of creating a water supply for their farms and forges. But, downriver this has the effect of drying out the riverbed which kills off the plant life in the surrounding cavern system. This in turn reduces the food source for the local herbivores who move away in search of a replacement. Their predators, who are not so capable of moving their home, begin to starve and resort to raiding a nearby elf village looking for sustenance (and maybe eating a few elves in the process).

Actions, well-meaning or not, all have consequences.

What creatures are apex predator in UA?


Honest answer – Dwarves and elves. But let’s put them to the side.

Fact is, we don’t know yet. What is our T-Rex? Is it a big bad thing, or is it a pack mentality animal? Hopefully it is something out of nightmares. Like this thing. Can't wait to meet something as scary as that in the Underworld!

What are the secondary predators?

Almost all of our other monsters fit here. Almost all monsters in games fit here to be honest. From dire faeries and vorpral bunnies, through giant spiders and who knows what else. These are the biggest obstacle for our players.

What are the herbivores?

Part of the role of the herbivore is to be food for others. We need some sort of herd animal like ox or cows. Maybe the rotworms can serve multiple roles in this case. They are the food source and the carrion eater. That said, we do have plants that move and mushrooms that are intelligent. Does this mean there is an herbivore that can hunt? What would a plant eater be like if the plants ran and could defend themselves?

What are the plants?

The ripper is the only plant we have at this point. We need flora. What does this mean in the Underworld? First we need to decide on other types of energy that plants have evolved to deal with. Since there is no sunlight, maybe plants absorb other energy like heat and magic. Plants should be dependent on some animals for breeding…like the service bees provide in our world. This may be a good role for dire fairies or our bats.

What are the carrion eaters?

Our rotworms and tunnel Trappers. These are the vacuum cleaners of the Underworld. They eat anything dead. Creatures eat them. They are food for many.

Of course we cannot build a real world simulation of all of this. But we can do enough, and honestly far more than most simulations have in the past to make the whole ecosystem teem with life. Life that is busy doing its own thing, not just being a backdrop for the player.

And, the reality is all we have talked about is the way our world works on a very basic level. What happens to an ecosystem when we add in magic? Where do undead fit in the food chain? Do rotworms like to eat the walking dead? Have some monsters figured out that animated skeletons will only attack what they are told to and use them as early warning systems? Do some creatures use magic, or magic like abilities for locomotion, hunting, camouflage or as lures. Is magic a food?

This is just scratching the surface of course, but this is part of the fun of early pre-production.
Wow. Like he said, this is just pre-production...but it looks like they're basically trying to go for what Irrational Games originally wanted to do with BioShock before it was butchered by focus testing. All I can say is, good luck.
 

Kattze

Andhaira
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This sounds more and more like the Arx Fatalis pre release spiel. They wanted to do a lot of stuff too but ended up cutting much of the complex stuff out. Still is a great game though. If this can be at least as good with a modern coat of graphics and improved combat + character system thrown in it will be a day 1 purchase for me. I could care less about a food chain system or anything like that.
 
Joined
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It sounds extraordinarily cool, I am glad I backed this! I once was dreaming about a similar system in a Gothic game. Imagine that by slaying predators food you can make them go extinct without engaging in a fight even single one of them! Or imagine that by eliminating one of their competitors for food, you can secure more food for them, thus multiplying their numbers! It would be double cool if those interactions could be solutions to quests, like mass killing wolfs food to make them attack nearby villages cattle.
 

himmy

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It all sounds pretty cool, but I hope it won't become one of those Bethesda-style promise, where an allegedly complex and innovative system turn out to be a gimmick that appears once or twice throughout the game, usually in the first few hours.
 

Tramboi

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Balancing complex dynamic systems is a very hard problem.
Please stick to RPG game design, guys, you will mess up enough things.
 

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