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

Infinitron

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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.
 

karnak

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I like it that they're discarding the "casual gamer" easy approach.
Nowadays games treat gamers like imbeciles. Well, games should always be challenging. Not near-impossible, but challenging.
 
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Cool interview. I'm glad they are taking a more old school approach to quests. Not only is the quest compass an abomination in modern RPGs, but the way they break quests down into tiny steps for you, to the point where you don't have to think or explore or figure anything out. Go here, fight that guy, talk to this NPC, grab that thang, fall asleep... Hopefully these guys will just give you large open ended goals that will require a lot of exploration, dialogue and decisions on the part of the player just to figure out what exactly to do in order to achieve them.
 

Jedi Exile

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It's cool that Spector works on real games again and has a chance to redeem himself, but I don't really believe those guys can make anything innovative like they did 20 years ago.
 

Burning Bridges

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Thanks for bringing this up Infinitron. I almost missed that the kickstarter is running now.

They must show more of the prototype. The footage shown in the videos looks good with a focus on what's important. I expected some flashy shit
possible:incline:
 

Durante

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It's cool that Spector works on real games again and has a chance to redeem himself, but I don't really believe those guys can make anything innovative like they did 20 years ago.
If they just manage to meaningfully iterate on what they did back then it will already seem quite innovative by today's standards. I'd be OK with that.
 
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It's cool that Spector works on real games again and has a chance to redeem himself, but I don't really believe those guys can make anything innovative like they did 20 years ago.
If they just manage to meaningfully iterate on what they did back then it will already seem quite innovative by today's standards. I'd be OK with that.
Give me a proper Underworld game with even-barely-decent modern standard visuals and I would be ready to throw an unhealthy amount of money at you.

That said, the latter is exactly where the pitch is failing me so far. The vibe and mood seem to be there, but holy shit if that early prototype in the trailer wasn't some ugly stuff to look at.
I seriously hope it's intended to be in NO WAY indicative of how the final product will look.
 

Athelas

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Give me a proper Underworld game with even-barely-decent modern standard visuals and I would be ready to throw an unhealthy amount of money at you.

That said, the latter is exactly where the pitch is failing me so far. The vibe and mood seem to be there, but holy shit if that early prototype in the trailer wasn't some ugly stuff to look at.
I seriously hope it's intended to be in NO WAY indicative of how the final product will look.
Your first paragraph says you don't think graphics are important, then your second paragraph says you are disappointed in the graphics.
 
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Your first paragraph says you don't think graphics are important, then your second paragraph says you are disappointed in the graphics.
There isn't any conflicting statement for anyone with some elementary reading comprehension.
I said graphics aren't that important given a certain basic standard ("barely decent") is matched. I simply don't think what they showed matches that basic standard at all.
 

JarlFrank

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The graphics in the video are barely decent, so they fulfill that minimum standard.

Also, lol, it's pre-alpha ffs of course the graphics suck.
 

yaster

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Actually current graphics are made out of some openly available assets pack from Unity Store or something. They are placeholders. Otherside is saying that they are trying to iron out the gameplay before they will start making real graphics.
 
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The graphics in the video are barely decent, so they fulfill that minimum standard.
That's pretty subjective, I guess. I find what we are seeing in this video ugly as hell, way below any standard of decency for any alleged professional studio in 2015.
And apparently a lot of potential backers didn't find it too impressive either, otherwise with the name it carries this KS should have matched his required goal in few hours.

Also, lol, it's pre-alpha ffs of course the graphics suck.
That's what true believers (aka "deranged fanboys") typically claim for every game that looks like complete shit in early development; it almost systematically turns out with the game looking more or less the same shit even at release, with improvements typically being marginal at best.

Actually current graphics are made out of some openly available assets pack from Unity Store or something. They are placeholders. Otherside is saying that they are trying to iron out the gameplay before they will start making real graphics.
So they *did* address the point. That's very good to hear.
Mind if I ask you where did you read this, as I didn't spot any mention of graphics and plans about it in the KS page?
 
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Athelas

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Your first paragraph says you don't think graphics are important, then your second paragraph says you are disappointed in the graphics.
There isn't any conflicting statement for anyone with some elementary reading comprehension.
I said graphics aren't that important given a certain basic standard ("barely decent") is matched. I simply don't think what they showed matches that basic standard at all.
How else should I interpret 'graphics aren't important' followed by 'the pitch is failing me because graphics'?

I also remember you complaining about the visuals from some of the isometric Kickstarted RPG's, so it might be wise to lower your standards.
 

Infinitron

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Also, lol, it's pre-alpha ffs of course the graphics suck.
That's what true believers (aka "deranged fanboys") typically claim for every game that looks like complete shit in early development; it almost systematically turns out with the game looking more or less the same shit even at release, with improvements typically being marginal at best.

Actually current graphics are made out of some openly available assets pack from Unity Store or something. They are placeholders. Otherside is saying that they are trying to iron out the gameplay before they will start making real graphics.
So they *did* address the point. That's very good to hear.
Mind if I ask you where did you read this, as I didn't spot any mention of graphics and plans about it in the KS page?

Dude, are you really this dumb. You're looking at a damn preproduction prototype, not a beta

Besides which, the video looks good. It looks like kind of like Thief back in 1998, which is nostalgic incline in my book.

But here, maybe this will answer your question: http://www.othersideentertainment.com/forum/index.php?topic=106.msg1834#msg1834



Is this an indication of what the final game may look like?

We really like that Asset Store package too. And we like to think that it's flattering that they called it "Underworld."

With a new version of Unity coming out, and over a year of development, though, we ought to be able to get a better look.
 
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How else should I interpret 'graphics aren't important' followed by 'the pitch is failing me because graphics'?
You shouldn't "interpret" at all, you should read and understand. Which you are failing at.

I also remember you complaining about the visuals from some of the isometric Kickstarted RPG's, so it might be wise to lower your standards.
Uh, maybe? Can't say I remember what you are referring to, so I have no idea of what you are talking about.

Dude, are you really this dumb.
Yeah, apparently I am, because this is the Codex and insulting with no actual reason people with unpopular opinions seems to be standard practice here.
 

twincast

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Actually current graphics are made out of some openly available assets pack from Unity Store or something. They are placeholders. Otherside is saying that they are trying to iron out the gameplay before they will start making real graphics.
Yeah, SotA was fugly as hell during the KS campaign for the same reason, and while I ain't following its development at all, a quick look at its screenshot gallery reveals that while it still isn't exactly pretty, the graphics are certainly good enough for me now. (If only I were optimistic about the game as a whole...)
 

Ninjerk

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That technically wasn't an insult. +M

Glad to have helped!
12030.jpg
 
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Yeah, SotA was fugly as hell during the KS campaign for the same reason, and while I ain't following its development at all...
...It still is!
Amazing how these things can surprise you.
That was exactly my point. Sure, if it's "pre alpha" things will improve, but typically when foundations present themselves as terrible from the start, it will be terrible even what you build on that.
 
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