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Re: Underworld Ascendant

#226
So while I didn't add words here, I did leave a number of them on OtherSide's UA forum... in Lizard Man. :D The UA team invited fans to invent words (and, to a lesser extent, grammar) for the Lizard Man language in this new game. I... may have gotten a little carried away.

Meanwhile, in more recent news, as a sort of teaser for the UA team's reveal of the alpha at E3, they've announced that UA will be available on Steam in September 2018.

(Mac and Linux versions are planned; no date given for those yet. Also, I haven't heard anything specific about a GOG distribution, but I think the team have said they're interested in that. More when I learn more.)

Here's their E3 teaser trailer.



Now, having said this, there are at least of couple of game writers who don't think this game will be ready by September: Ars Technica and PC Gamer have both published negative stories about the version of Underworld Ascendant built for them to putter around in. (But note that the level the writers were given was a tutorial level intended to have obvious solutions, and that the UA team have already made changes to address some of the concerns expressed.)

What do you think?
Post

Re: Underworld Ascendant

#227
Underworld Ascendant is set for public release on November 15, 2018, for PC, and in 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. (Mac and Linux releases are also being worked on -- no date announced for them, but I'd guess early 2019.)

Here's a peek at the trailer from August 20:



The team have made a lot of progress since that trailer was put together, and a final PR push is set for November 5.
Post

Re: Underworld Ascendant

#230
Oh my god. Oh my god.

I hate to be a pessimist, as I was an extremely enthusiastic fan of both original Ultima Underworlds, (Rest assured, I am dramatically under-exaggerating that statement. If there was merchandise, I would eat it. You are what you eat, after all. Sorry, got a little carried away there.) but Underworld Ascendant is, in its current state, total garbage. I'm the kind of person that will defend a thing just so it has some form of defense, but there are so many things wrong with it that I can't bring myself to summon forth the effort. Here's a combined list of my complaints and some observations.
Spoiler:      SHOW
  1. There is no save system that will make you happy. The only save system I've found is that you'll start off in Marcaul (The "Hub" area.) with all of your inventory that you've collected, and your stats/health/skills, etc. It's almost like everything just kind of resets when you leave the game. Even my keybindings did.
    • I will stress this again: You cannot save the game. Even if it's not technically true, you may as well assume that you can't save. I can't play a game that doesn't let me save. D:
  2. It feels like the "Hub" aspect of it was taken too seriously. After the tutorial, (Which I had to do four times because I didn't know it wasn't saving.) it'll eventually dump you in Marcaul where it throws some story at you, but not that much. I still don't really know why there are floating ugly Lizardmen whose jaw movements don't match their loud voices, or why they all think the player is a hero right out of the gate. They just automatically help you.
  3. The skill tree looks kinda cool. I would've liked more skills, but I'm the kind of person that likes a thousand unique weapons in an FPS. (The "Aeons of Death" or "Russian Overkill" mods for Doom 2.) You use "Memora" to unlock them, but I don't know how you get them. It's either some kind of memory orb you pick up that serves as a skill point, or something you get by doing "feats."
  4. Each area off of the hub seems to be a "Mission." (I could be wrong.) You enter an area and do things. Only your inventory saves - The map resets when you leave for some stupid reason. For example, in Marcaul, there's a mission board where you can earn faction points. I took on a mission for the Dwarves (The "Expedition") that had me getting three spiky ball things, and it said there was a bonus if you go into the portal without any weapons or spells. Wait, portal?! Indeed, there was a portal to the area just up the stairs from the mission board you take the contract from. Why is there a portal there?! Where is "There?" I haven't even visited it yet! I went straight from the tutorial into Marcaul to the area in Marcaul that had the Mission Board. Geez. Give me some time to look around!
  5. The game is apparently on some kind of "doom" timer. The more time passes, the harder it gets, apparently. It says that denizens from the lower levels will rise up, so the game gets harder. Some reviewers only said they ever found Skeletons as the main enemies. I found some kind of a gazer-like creature but it was easily killed with the "Punch things from afar" spell. (The Hur Bet runes.)
  6. The Runestone bag is its own inventory item, just like in Ultima Underworld, and you have to "use" it to bring up the rune circle/page. It's a decent-enough pane, I guess. It doesn't tell you how much mana anything costs though.
  7. Speaking of which, there's a lot of missing information. You rarely know how much armor or attack power anything has, yet you can see their sell value.
  8. Sneaking seems passable. I'll have to toy around with it some more when I can bring myself to reinstall the game and it has a save system. (Insert exasperated emoticon here.)
  9. You have two rows of eight (Or was it ten?) inventory spaces. You can drag those back and forth from your ten-slot hotbar. Most items seem to stack to 20 in each of those spaces.
  10. Wooden chests are part of the game world / Terrain. You "activate" them to open the lid. They contain a sparkling item. There's no UI for it. It's literally just sitting there in the box like any other object in the game world. I wonder what would happen if a very large object as stashed in a small chest.
  11. There are lots of traps, but they're part of the few fun aspects of the game.
  12. You can mantle on 3/4 of the surfaces that look like you should be able to, though getting a running start doesn't always work.
  13. It doesn't feel like there's that much variation in the game. I mean, of anything. So far, I've found five different kinds of food but that's it. There's chairs, square tables, pots, barrels, wooden crates, and metal crates. There's some daggers, bones (as weapons), swords, stone axes, throwing axes, .. eh, .. not that much.
  14. As a backer, I was promised a ton of stuff. I haven't gotten any in-game items yet that were promised to me. Some other people have. The key they gave me didn't include any of it. I kind of gave up on all of it because if the main game isn't worth playing, why should the bonus items be worth having either. Such a shame.
Wait a year for all of the patches to come out before playing this.
Welcome to Limit Theory where everything is procedural and the post count doesn't matter. ~Grumblesaur
12 FPS on your abacus? Sheesh, check out Mr Moneybags here. I can squeeze maybe 5 FPS out of my potato, and that's when I'm overclocking it. ~ThymineC
Post

Re: Underworld Ascendant

#231
ShadowTiger wrote:
Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:21 pm
Oh my god. Oh my god.

I hate to be a pessimist, as I was an extremely enthusiastic fan of both original Ultima Underworlds, (Rest assured, I am dramatically under-exaggerating that statement. If there was merchandise, I would eat it. You are what you eat, after all. Sorry, got a little carried away there.) but Underworld Ascendant is, in its current state, total garbage. I'm the kind of person that will defend a thing just so it has some form of defense, but there are so many things wrong with it that I can't bring myself to summon forth the effort. Here's a combined list of my complaints and some observations.
Spoiler:      SHOW
  1. There is no save system that will make you happy. The only save system I've found is that you'll start off in Marcaul (The "Hub" area.) with all of your inventory that you've collected, and your stats/health/skills, etc. It's almost like everything just kind of resets when you leave the game. Even my keybindings did.
    • I will stress this again: You cannot save the game. Even if it's not technically true, you may as well assume that you can't save. I can't play a game that doesn't let me save. D:
  2. It feels like the "Hub" aspect of it was taken too seriously. After the tutorial, (Which I had to do four times because I didn't know it wasn't saving.) it'll eventually dump you in Marcaul where it throws some story at you, but not that much. I still don't really know why there are floating ugly Lizardmen whose jaw movements don't match their loud voices, or why they all think the player is a hero right out of the gate. They just automatically help you.
  3. The skill tree looks kinda cool. I would've liked more skills, but I'm the kind of person that likes a thousand unique weapons in an FPS. (The "Aeons of Death" or "Russian Overkill" mods for Doom 2.) You use "Memora" to unlock them, but I don't know how you get them. It's either some kind of memory orb you pick up that serves as a skill point, or something you get by doing "feats."
  4. Each area off of the hub seems to be a "Mission." (I could be wrong.) You enter an area and do things. Only your inventory saves - The map resets when you leave for some stupid reason. For example, in Marcaul, there's a mission board where you can earn faction points. I took on a mission for the Dwarves (The "Expedition") that had me getting three spiky ball things, and it said there was a bonus if you go into the portal without any weapons or spells. Wait, portal?! Indeed, there was a portal to the area just up the stairs from the mission board you take the contract from. Why is there a portal there?! Where is "There?" I haven't even visited it yet! I went straight from the tutorial into Marcaul to the area in Marcaul that had the Mission Board. Geez. Give me some time to look around!
  5. The game is apparently on some kind of "doom" timer. The more time passes, the harder it gets, apparently. It says that denizens from the lower levels will rise up, so the game gets harder. Some reviewers only said they ever found Skeletons as the main enemies. I found some kind of a gazer-like creature but it was easily killed with the "Punch things from afar" spell. (The Hur Bet runes.)
  6. The Runestone bag is its own inventory item, just like in Ultima Underworld, and you have to "use" it to bring up the rune circle/page. It's a decent-enough pane, I guess. It doesn't tell you how much mana anything costs though.
  7. Speaking of which, there's a lot of missing information. You rarely know how much armor or attack power anything has, yet you can see their sell value.
  8. Sneaking seems passable. I'll have to toy around with it some more when I can bring myself to reinstall the game and it has a save system. (Insert exasperated emoticon here.)
  9. You have two rows of eight (Or was it ten?) inventory spaces. You can drag those back and forth from your ten-slot hotbar. Most items seem to stack to 20 in each of those spaces.
  10. Wooden chests are part of the game world / Terrain. You "activate" them to open the lid. They contain a sparkling item. There's no UI for it. It's literally just sitting there in the box like any other object in the game world. I wonder what would happen if a very large object as stashed in a small chest.
  11. There are lots of traps, but they're part of the few fun aspects of the game.
  12. You can mantle on 3/4 of the surfaces that look like you should be able to, though getting a running start doesn't always work.
  13. It doesn't feel like there's that much variation in the game. I mean, of anything. So far, I've found five different kinds of food but that's it. There's chairs, square tables, pots, barrels, wooden crates, and metal crates. There's some daggers, bones (as weapons), swords, stone axes, throwing axes, .. eh, .. not that much.
  14. As a backer, I was promised a ton of stuff. I haven't gotten any in-game items yet that were promised to me. Some other people have. The key they gave me didn't include any of it. I kind of gave up on all of it because if the main game isn't worth playing, why should the bonus items be worth having either. Such a shame.
Wait a year for all of the patches to come out before playing this.

From my experience -- original player of UU and UU2, massive fanboi of Paul Neurath getting some of the Looking Glass band back together at OtherSide Entertainment (OSE) [see the very first post in this thread], Kickstarter backer of Underworld Ascendant, constant yakker on the OSE forums since the KS, creator of the some of the Lizard Man phrases scrawled on the dungeon walls, and external playtester since the first round -- I think your points are fair ones, ShadowTiger.

As that guy, there are a couple of things I can speak to.

1. Skills are obtained by buying them from a Lizard Man named Resherak who lives in Marcaul. Skills are purchased using "memora," which are basically points collected by performing "feats." And feats are certain predetermined types of interactions with the game world, ranging from killing enemies in various ways to collecting codex entries about the world to falling from great heights. As you accomplish quests, you'll naturally perform these feats, which earns you memora. And after you finish a quest (successfully or otherwise) and return to the hub town of Marcaul, then you can visit Resherak and buy whatever skills you want (from the Fighter, Mage, and Thief branches) and can afford.

The "memora" thing seems a little odd, but it's not really all that much stranger than how a lot of other RPGs handle XP. Remember that skills were gained in the original Underworld games by invisible XP accumulation, which you'd spend for skills by typing the correct magic words (which you had to learn) at a shrine. UA just makes it really, really obvious when you gain XP ("You've accomplished a feat").

The hub-and-spoke design also isn't that different from Ultima Underworld 2. That basically also used a "portal" as your gateway between quest areas.

Honestly, I find UA's visible "feat" system sort of clunky. It kind of pulls me out of immersion in the world compared to invisible XP, even though that itself is a purely weird mechanical system. But feats -> memora -> skills is not that much stranger than the in-game explanations for how abilities are gained in other RPGs I've played. I cut OtherSide some slack on this one.

2. Saving. Ugh. OK, here's the specifics:

A) There is no normal save that retains all state information. It'll save the stuff you "own" -- inventory, memora, some other things -- but not your position, and, importantly, not the position or status of any mutable object in your current quest area. By "mutable object" I mean anything that can change state or position: enemies, wooden objects like doors or floors, containers, and placed objects (baskets, wands, arrows, etc.). The only place you can fully save game state is in Marcaul, and that's because there are very few mutable objects in Marcaul.

B) There is a way to save your location (and your "stuff") within a quest area, and that's to plant the Silver Sapling (from its seed) somewhere in the level before you die. When you die, you get respawned at the location of the Sapling with all your stuff, with some mutable objects reset.

There was some logic to this. The Silver Sapling is actually a callback to the original Underworld games. Furthermore, because OSE was limited in money and personnel, they decided to structure UA as a small collection of instanced levels that players would visit several times (with difficulty-related changes as the "Doom Clock" advances), rather than as a more linear, narrative-driven set of levels as in Ultima Underworld and System Shock. So because you'd visit a UA level several times, and the things in each level are so dynamic and interactive, OtherSide made the choice not to try to save the current state of all those moving (and combustible!) pieces but to reset them every time you exit a level and return to it in any way: by going to Marcaul and back, or by dying and respawning at the Silver Sapling's current location.

Originally, these levels were going to be relatively very small -- like, 15 minutes' worth of gameplay small. You'd go in, do something with the cool interactive things there, and get out. No need for any save/reload capability more complex than the Silver Sapling. Perfectly reasonable, even if nothing like Ultima Underworld.

But as time went on, the levels got bigger, and bigger, and more Ultima Underworld-like (perhaps in part because fans were hollering in the forums that levels in UA needed to be big and detailed to properly respect the original Underworld games), and started taking more and more time to traverse. Eventually levels became so complex that players could easily spend 2-3 hours poking around in just the very first level after the tutorial areas.

By this time, it was 2018, and players were starting to see pieces of some of these levels. Then a few were brought in to test. And the need for a real, full save feature became painfully apparent. But then it was too late. Instead, OSE didn't start implementing a meaningful save function until a few months ago, after external playtesters reported it was hard to test because hitting a severe bug, or having to exit to tend to some real-life need, would reset the assets of every level. And even when they did provide a save function for testers, it was available only via a console command, not as a normal in-game feature. The clear preference of the UA dev team was for extremely limited saving only through Silver Sapling respawning.

So that's how saving in UA works right now. Does this suck? Yes. Yes, it does. Were OSE told, years ago, that this was a bad design choice? Yes. Yes, they were. Because I told them as far back as February of 2015 that IMO a PC RPG requires a full state save-anywhere capability as the default. And I followed that up days later with a very specific argument:

I'd heard people say good things about Just Cause 2, so I picked it up. After giving it a few hours, I put it back down again with a thump because I could no longer stand the way it reset everything in an area (other than a few defined progression objects) every time I had to restart that area for any reason.

It was absolutely maddening for everything I'd done to be erased. I didn't enjoy it in the few hours I tolerated Red Faction: Guerilla; I didn't like it any better in Just Cause 2; and I now know better than to try Diablo 3 because it fails to fully save the local game state (thank you!).

Basically I assume those designs were due to targeting a mostly-action game to consoles, and to (for whatever reason) not implementing a proper level save function when porting the game to the PC.

I'm assuming this won't be a concern for the deeper and PC-targeted Underworld Ascendant.

I said this, and things very much like it, repeatedly for three years, to the point that I assumed everyone was sick of hearing me go on about how important it is to support player agency -- especially in a game in which everything else is consciously designed to encourage and reward player creativity -- by ensuring that players can fully save their progress in the game world when they want. I also vocally supported implementing restrictions on saving as an OPTION for those who care mostly about mechanical challenge, because (even though they rarely reciprocated) I think their preferred playstyle is worth supporting. But I carefully explained many times why I thought the default option for saving state in UA needed to be save-anytime.

I'm not an egomaniac, nor do I pretend I'm some kind of game design genius; I had and have zero expectation that the pro devs at OtherSide (again, including some Looking Glass alumni) must drop all their ideas and do whatever I say. But they can't say they weren't told by their fans long ago that deliberately not implementing a full save function was a wrong design choice that would not end well.

And so here we are.

I think UA is mostly a good game, whose dynamic systems are a step in the right direction for computer games, but which was unfortunately hobbled by a too-small dev team, some sub-optimal design choices, being too different from the original Underworld games, and having to release before all the implementation rough edges could be sanded off.

System Shock 3 is being built by a different OtherSide team in a different city (Austin), led by a different producer (Warren Spector), and probably using a different engine (not Unity). So I think concerns that SS3 is at risk because of UA's rough launch are not warranted.

OtherSide Boston is in a tough spot, though. This may make it harder for them to succeed with their next game, which is a shame. In the meantime, I'll enjoy as much of UA's wonderfully dynamic systems as I can, and hope that the patches and DLC planned for it bring its playability up to par... even if it won't ever be similar to the Ultima Underworld games we remember.

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