The influential 1990s RPG series Ultima Underworld is making a comeback.
Paul Neurath, who co-founded original Underworld developer Looking Glass Studios (Thief, System Shock) and most recently worked at the now-shuttered Zynga Boston, today announced the creation of Boston-based indie studio OtherSide Entertainment.
The studio has secured the rights to make new games in the beloved Underworld RPG series, and today revealed Underworld Ascension. A brand new game in development for PC, the game aims to "revitalize" the fantasy genre in the same way that the original game did back in 1992.
Details are light so far on the game (there's no art yet or concrete gameplay details), but we were able to catch up with Neurath to talk about what he has in mind for the game.
Why is now the right time for Underworld to return?
Paul Neurath: Underworld has been fallow for two decades, isn't that long enough!
A lot has changed since 1992 in the RPG space; how are you designing Underworld Ascension for the modern RPG fan?
PN: We've just gotten underway on the Underworld reboot, so we have a ways to go before reaching a fleshed out design. The team has played many of the modern RPGs; worked on some of them too. So we think we have a good sense of where the genre has evolved over the years, and where there is room for further innovation. We’re definitely going to get the franchise up to date, then push into new territory.
What are some of your overarching ambitions for Underworld Ascension?
PN: More than anything, bring the franchise roaring back and more vital than it ever was. We’d like the game to connect with the fans who have fond memories of the originals, but also draw in a new fans.
The original Underworld games have a special place in many RPG fans' hearts; how are you planning to push the franchise forward while also retaining the essence of what makes it unique?
Some of us worked on the originals and so they hold a special place in our hearts. Also, there was a much done well in the originals that we don't want to mess with. Beyond the now dated visuals, the games hold up surprising well all these years later. the same time, we are explore areas where we can extend the original experience in new ways, and hopefully ways that will feel like natural extensions of the original games, but will make for an evolved experience.
What stage of development is Underworld Ascension in now and when are you planning to release it?
PN: Just got underway a few weeks ago, so still in concept phase. Don't have a release date as yet. We’ll keep you updated.
What platforms are you looking at for Underworld Ascension?
PN: PC for sure. Still sorting out other potential platforms.
OtherSide Entertainment also today provided game industry testimonials for the Underworld franchise, including comments from former key people at Looking Glass Studios like Richard Garriott and Warren Spector.
Ultima creator Richard Garriot:
"For those of us lifelong gamers that go back to the early days the Underworld franchise, created by Paul Neurath, represents a watershed event on what an immersive 3D true role-playing game can be like. In these days, where we are seeing many of these greats return, I personally am as excited about Underworld as any game I can imagine."
BioShock creator Ken Levine:
"Underworld had a transformative effect on my understanding of what games were. It was the first time I ever felt 'inside' of an imaginary world. It was the game that primed all of my creative ambitions."
Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts:
"Ultima Underworld was truly revolutionary for its time--it was the first fully 3D textured first person game. As such it influenced pretty much all first person 3D games that came afterwards and could be truly called the granddaddy of first person role-playing games."
Original Ultima Underworld Producer Warren Spector:
"As Producer on the original Ultima Underworld games, I'll never forget the first time I saw a working prototype of the game--I felt as if the world had just changed. As the first fully-textured, real-time, first-person game, Underworld paved the way for every other first-person game that followed. If that doesn't qualify as 'changing the world', I don't know what does!"