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Interview with Paul Neurath at GameWatcher

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Interview with Paul Neurath at GameWatcher

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 27 January 2015, 20:15:46

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Underworld Ascendant

As the date of the Kickstarter for Underworld Ascendant draws nearer, more and more details about it are coming forth. A new interview with Paul Neurath at a site called GameWatcher has the most gameplay information I've seen yet. Here's an excerpt:

GameWatcher: How closely do you intend to stick to the gameplay of the original? Do you want this to be a straight up revival of the formula, or will you be updating things for a modern audience?

Paul Neurath: Well, bit of both actually, which is tricky. Our take is that there was a lot of good stuff in the originals. Partly by luck, partly by some of the talent that worked on them, they ended up being pretty special games that have really stood the test of time. Lead game designers still talk about the original Underworld as a very modern game in terms of some of the ideas. The graphics are dated, but with Ascendant we’ll be able to upgrade those with all the technology afforded by modern PCs. That’s actually the easy part. The original came out in 1992, and was one of the first games to use a mouse interface in an immersive 3D game. We hadn’t figured out the scheme really, our system worked but it was a little clunky. Since then we’ve had waves of FPS games, all of which have mastered the first-person interface with mouse and keyboard. So that will be changed and updated, the visuals improved, but a lot of the core gameplay still holds up.

When I play recent games, triple A games, there’s a tendency to make them as accessible as possible. You kind of have to when you’re spending millions of pounds on the project. But that also constrains you in a lot of ways, because you can’t always be so innovative and experiential with the gameplay. One of the things about Underworld was that we had a very player-authored experience, very sandbox kind of gameplay. You were dropped in this dark, dangerous place, and there was a lot of mystery, you didn’t really know where to go. We didn’t show players a quest arrow, they had to find out themselves. We gave the player a lot of choice, and it was up to them how they wanted to play. There were no right or wrong choices. The idea that two players experiencing the same game can see and do things completely differently, we love that stuff. But it is a little more difficult to develop, and more challenging for players without the hand-holding. To answer your question the new game will feel very familiar to fans of the originals, but we’re also going to push forward and try some things we never had the opportunity to do before.

GameWatcher: One of the things you’ve told us about Ascendant is that there are three main factions in the game. How do those come into play?

Paul Neurath: That’s one of our areas of innovations, pushing forward from what we were doing in the original game. The original had several factions spread across the dungeon who you could do missions for, the dwarves the goblins, the ghouls and so on. It was fairly restrained though, more along the lines of doing one quest for one faction at the expense of pissing off the others. It was pretty limited. With Ascendant we’re going a lot further with that, we want the sense that all the factions are intelligent races with their own back stories and motivations, and there’s a dynamic where they aren’t at all-out war but there is a kind of rivalry between them all, they do skirmish with each other. There’s also a dependency though, because they need other for certain things. It’s a complicated dynamic.

We’re retaining the concept that the player will be a human from our world who falls through a magic portal into the underworld, which is an interesting and fun concept that we think works in a lot of ways for a role-playing game. So when the player lands in this dungeon they’re a stranger in a strange land, and ultimately they’ll be in a position to choose which faction to align with. The choice is up to the player, and that choice will have ramifications throughout the rest of the game. And all that ties into a larger narrative arc.

GameWatcher: How about character development? The original game had a class system of sorts, will you be retaining that for Ascendant? Or will you switch to a kind of classless skills system?

Paul Neurath: Good question. This is very much a role-playing game, and for me we’re going pretty much back to the roots here. I played Dungeons & Dragons a lot during the 70s and I loved that kind of gameplay. At a high level what we want to do is offer the player a wide range of character types to play, allowing them to put together a character from a wide range of talents and skills for a very unique experience. For players who aren’t quite as into role-playing and character development, we’re going to have a handful of archetypes – warrior types, wizards and so on - and you can choose those archetypes and pretty much play out the rest of the game like that. That’s fine! You don’t have to explore other things. But other players might start as a fighter, then later on start picking out thief skills of mage skills, so we want to give you lots of choice. We want the player to have a bit of structure early on, so they’re not making big choices without even knowing the system. A lot of role-playing games have that thing where you choose one ability for your character, then thirty hours later think “oh man, wish I hadn’t done that!” So there has to be some subtlety to it.
Read the full interview for details on Underworld Ascendant's ties to the Ultima series, its survival mechanics, and more.

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