This week we had the chance to sit down with Otherside Entertainment’s Paul Neurath to talk about the return of the Underworld series. Back in 1993 Ultima: Underworld brought a new kind of RPG experience to computer players. The game allowed players different ways to build their characters and became a fan favorite among hardcore gamers of the time. Fast forward to our modern world and the team at Otherside is working on Underworld Ascent as a new RPG which will bring back the game in a new version for fans. Paul talked about what it was like working on the game in the past. He also sheds some light on the new project (Underworld Ascendant) and gives classic RPG fans something to look forward to.
Underworld did very well back in the 1990s, but Paul said it still had an indie feel to it even back then. “It was not a mass market game,” said Paul. It was really built for a hardcore audience that wanted immersive gameplay. Some of the great RPG elements that came with the game have still survived today. Paul is looking forward to bringing the title full circle with this new version.
There are a few independent RPG games coming out over the next few months. Paul explained that with Underworld they want to work with a small team and really bring fans a solid re-imagining of the classic game. There are a lot of tools now the team can use to build this experience. Paul worked on a few AAA games and he said those are more like trying to steer a battleship. With this new Underworld the team really has the chance to focus on gameplay. In the past developers would work with publishers to produce a game. Now developers get the chance to work with fans to build the game. This new community brings great rewards to both sides. Developers can get a much clearer picture and fans get an investment into the process of how the game is being made.
For Paul, no matter what the game comes first. The team has just announced their Kickstarter for the project, but really that is only a tool. We talked about the success and failure of many Kickstarter projects and Paul mentioned that it really comes down to having a great game for investors to back. If you have a solid plan, a clear vision, and something you know fans can really get behind, then the project will likely do well. Underworld has a strong history among fans and the team creating it are all very passionate about the project. These all add up to making sure you have a solid plan before you even enter Kickstarter.
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.