Deus Ex's Warren Spector Working on Underworld Ascendant

As creative advisor, Spector is excited about the game's Improvisation Engine.

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Deus Ex and Epic Mickey designer Warren Spector is acting as a creative advisor on the recently announced Kickstarter project Underworld Ascendant, developer Otherside Entertainment has announced.

"Warren has never been timid to challenge conventional thinking about game design, and as a creative advisor to our team he keeps us on our toes," Otherside Entertainment's Paul Neurath wrote in an update to the Kickstarter page.

In a new video, Spector also sings the praises of Underworld Ascendant's Improvisation Engine, which Neurath says underlies one of the most distinctive gameplay aspects of Underworld Ascendant.

"Most other games, even to this day actually rely on designers crafting clever puzzles, even puzzles have multiple solutions at times, but what Looking Glass did is really pioneer the idea that of creating simulated environments where players are given a small set of tools that have logical uses and the world responds to that tool use in logical but not pre-planned ways," Spector said. "We now have the tools and the computing powers to create simulations that are much deeper."

Neurath, who co-founded original Underworld studio Looking Glass, launched the Kickstarter campaign for Underworld Ascendant last week. The game is spiritual successor to 1993's Ultima Underworld II, the first to create a real-time 3D texture-mapped world and player-driven sandbox gameplay that inspired games like Thief and Deus Ex.

At the time of writing, the project has raised $345,131 out of a goal of $600,000 from 6,159 backers with 25 days to go.

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"creating simulated environments where players are given a small set of tools that have logical uses and the world responds to that tool use in logical but not pre-planned ways," Spector said. "We now have the tools and the computing powers to create simulations that are much deeper.""

That is so the kinda gameplay I love, and I think it's really sad that the big games industry has mostly abandoned it. I'll gladly give up stuff like cinematic sequences and fancy animations for that freeform simulation style gameplay.

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Another scam, nothing more.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> It sure must feel great to dismissively make up bullshit lies about other people.

There is zero evidence this is a scam or that Kickstarter games in general are scams. Of the top 150 games, I think only two didn't deliver and were both working out refunds. One was a game being made by a podcast group with no real experience making games. The other was from an author with no experience making games.

Here you've got literally the life dream of some great developers to resurrect their beloved franchise and you opt to shit all over it for no good reason. And what is really sad is that someone is going to read your post and think "maybe there is a chance this is a scam" and not fund it. Way to be a grade A asshole.

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Hah, I remembered playing the first UU on my 286 PC. One of the very first 3d games at the time where other rpgs were basically flat dungeon crawls. And it was amazing how much they could cram onto a floppy disk (or maybe there were several floppies I cant quite remember). And I believe you could actually fish and cook the fish??

Definitely hopping on board this one!

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Sooooo speaking of Deus Ex......will there be a sequel? Hell at this point I wouldn't mind Square pumping out another chapter from the fall

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'creating simulated environments where players are given a small set of tools that have logical uses and the world responds to that tool use in logical but not pre-planned ways," '

yeah, its called Minecraft genius, trying hard getting that 40m $ Manson now, arnt u ?

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<< LINK REMOVED >> you clearly don't understand what they are doing, and what Minecraft actually does.

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I would love for Paul Neurath to assemble the old Looking Class Studios crew and put out a proper Thief reboot.

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Holy freaking hell, that would be awesome! I'm dirt poor but I would go hungry for a week just to support that with my money!

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I almost cry when I see how little the modern gamer knows about either Ultima as a whole or Ultima Underworld as a game. The former was the first commercial computer RPG series ever. Along with Wizardry it directly inspired JRPG's like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and later western RPG's like the work of Brian Fargo/Interplay/Black Isle (Fallout, Planescape, Wasteland, Icewind Dale, The Bard's Tale) and Bioware. Ultima Underworld, meanwhile, pioneered the freeform AI simulation that would become the backbone of Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock, Bioshock, Dishonored, The Elder Scrolls, and more. And of those games I just listed, all but The Elder Scrolls were made by Looking Glass or ex-Looking Glass employees like Ken Levine, Doug Church, Warren Spector and others. Their lead programmer and audio engineer went on to lead the audio tech team at Harmonix, their hardware expert was one of the creators of the original Xbox. Their physics simulations would become the backbone behind numerous flight sims. Doug Church, one of the designers and programmers at the team, ended up joining Valve and worked on Portal 2.

I mean how much more talent and innovation does a single team need to have before they can get a new game kickstarted? I know several of the people I mentioned like Ken Levine and Dan Schmidt (the Harmonix guy) aren't working on this, but enough of the brilliant team members behind the original game and other Looking Glass games are involved with this project that I can't help but imagine what innovations these guys will come up with next. At Looking Glass they invented at minimum three different genres and directly inspired many of the games that are still among the best reviewed to this day.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> UU was truly revolutionary, and still enjoyable to this day. I remember being absolutely blown away by the behavior of the npc's, the trading system, the reputation gains you had to make with the various factions. Top 5 game of all time for me.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> The clumsy UI can make it hard to enjoy these days, that and the fact that you are never told what you actually should be doing to beat the game. It's a fantastic game that I still enjoy playing because I know what to do, but I don't think a kid today would find much enjoyment in it just because of how obtuse it is. Still several elements still hold up exceptionally well. The NPC AI is definitely up there which is why I'm excited to hear them talk about doubling down on the simulation aspects. Having NPC's that reacted realistically to your behavior even if you went "off script" was mind blowing back then and is something that tons of games to this day don't do nearly as well. If they can extend that to how the world reacts in a physical sense then they might redefine gaming yet again.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> amen. This has an exciting pedigree to be sure

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Warren Spector used to be a sure bet, now he's a big red flag.

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When I saw Warren working on new game I was like awesome, then when I read the article and it said Kickstarter, I was like lame.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Why ? If it were to be backed by a big publisher/investors, they would make them dumb it down for a bigger audience.

You might actually get a decent game out of them going the KS route.

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Ultima Underworld II is in my list of top 5 worst games EVER!

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Not on my top 5 worst games, but it was bad...the first tho, that is on my top five. Mostly because I played it in the early 90s and there was literally nothing like it And to be fair there has been few titles like it since. Still the best dungeon crawler of all time imo.

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Can't really pick a side to stand with on this article. Yeah, he gave us Deus Ex, but he also disappointed a LOT of us with Epic Mickey. :/

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Hm, the original deus ex was great, the second, not so much and hr, imo was rather disappointing.

So, the name "Warren spector" doesn't exactly make me reach for my wallet.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Ion storm gave us Deus ex, and they also gave us Daikatana. Didn't ever stop me from enjoying Deus Ex, anymore then Thief 2014 is stopping me from enjoying DE:HR.

Sometimes yon win, sometimes you lose. Good to see he's still trying to bring us more diverse experiences, even as a consultant.

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Different Ion Storms.

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Don't you tease me by putting Deus Ex in a headline. Especially not for something that looks like another god damn Medieval game.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Look up Ultima Underworld. It is not just "another game". It is arguably the single most influential game of the early 90's despite few gamers knowing about it. Virtually every major game designer will publicly tell you that Ultima Underworld and other Looking Glass games were their primary inspirations. That includes Cliff Blezinski from Epic, Todd Howard from Bethesda, and Gabe Newell from Valve. And Looking Glass employees went on to create not just Deus Ex but also Bioshock and its sequel, Dishonored, Portal 2, the original Xbox, Dragon Age, and numerous other highly influential titles. The Elder Scrolls series is a direct continuation of the mechanics of Ultima Underworld and Todd Howard has said numerous times that the entire concept of the open world RPG would not exist without Looking Glass. Ken Levine got into the game industry solely because of how much Ultima Underworld inspired him. Harvey Smith, who was the lead designer on Deus Ex and Dishonored has credited Looking Glass with inspiring every element of his design. And Warren Spector went from being a minor producer at Origin to producing Ultima VII at Origin, and also Thief and System Shock at Looking Glass. Ultima Underworld is one of the greatest and most influential games ever created. Deus Ex owes literally everything to it.

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> None of that changes the fact that in today's market it will just be more derivative medieval tropes at a time when the medieval genre is the most saturated of all of gaming. Even the top 3 contenders for GoTY at Gamespot for 2014 were all Medieval games. This genre needs to die in a fire, melt down all the useless chainmail, swords, and shields, and crush every brick of cobblestone into gravel. Only when that's done can I possibly consider looking forward to a new Medieval game.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> What you do with the setting is far more important than the setting itself. Take zombies for example. On one hand you have games like Dying Light that do nothing with the setting that hasn't been done a million times before and which should only be played for the gameplay. And then on the other you have The Last of Us which uses the zombies as a setup to examine what actions humans will take in the most desperate of situations.

I don't know what the story of Underworld will end up being, but it is worth noting that the Ultima series was very unique in the medieval fantasy setting for a couple of reasons. The main one is that unlike most RPG's where you can play either the hero or the villain, in Ultima your goal was to embody the virtues of the Avatar, which meant you HAD to play as a good character. This lead to a lot of interesting situations where you could do the wrong thing, but by taking the easy route you were hurting yourself in the long run. The Ultima series was one of the few in my memory where you could completely screw yourself over by killing important quest givers. You couldn't beat the game at that point, but if you wanted to just go around and cause mayhem you could. Basically there was no reward for choosing the evil path. In fact you were punished to the extent that you would need to start over if you actually wanted to beat the game, but the game still let the player choose that route if he or she wanted. Now I don't know if players today would like a system like that, and many players back then didn't either, but point is that the Ultima series always took the road less traveled.

The other interesting thing is that in the 80's and 90's most of the big RPG series actually mixed sci-fi and fantasy. In Ultima, Wizardry, and Might and Magic, the general fantasy themes occasionally gave way to sci-fi stuff. So you might spend 90% of the game with swords and shields, but many of the games of that era eventually ended up having your knights and wizards firing lasers and flying in spaceships before the game came to its close. Hell, the entire concept of Ultima is that the Avatar is a person from Earth who is drawn into a portal that takes him to this fantasy realm, so even the base concept is far different than your average fantasy game today.

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Thankfully mediveal themed games are going stronger than ever, so I'll just enjoy the idea of you impotently raging across the interwebs for the unforseeable future :D

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<< LINK REMOVED >> And yes I include medieval-fantasy as well. So don't even start with the DO YOU EVEN HISTORY, BRAH? IT'S GOT MAGIC AND MIDDLE-EARTH, THAT'S NOT MEDIEVAL. Yes it is.

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My issue with Spector's games is that he seems to be all about structure and not care at all about moment to moment gameplay. That's a disaster for a game like Epic Mickey and I think for this project as well. Lets just hope somone in the team will push that dimension. If so I'm sure Spector can make great contributions.

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Interesting concept, I always liked the freedom that Deus Ex gave for improvisation (building stairs out of boxes and stuff) and it's impressive that the average pledge is 56 dollars.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Those of us old enough to remember Ultima Underworld know just how damn important it was in advancing gaming in numerous ways. Looking Glass employees have gone on to make not only Deus Ex but Thief, Bioshock, Portal, Dragon Age, The Elder Scrolls, Dishonored, Guitar Hero, the Xbox console, and numerous other incredibly memorable and seminal games. Ultima Underworld itself was not only the first fully textured first person game, it also was the first to use polygons (as in the first game to actually use 3D elements, all the way back in 1992), the first to use complex AI routines, the first to use dynamic lighting, the first to use inclined planes in a free look first person game, the first game of that style to let you look in a full 360 degrees (all games before that you could only look left or right, not up, down, and in diagonals), and countless other technological advancements. And gameplay wise it pioneered a ton of incredibly important elements, including scenarios that could be solved in multiple ways, using conversational skills, stealth, or combat. I think most designers would agree that modern game design would simply not exist without Ultima Underworld.

I personally have never supported a Kickstarter up to this point, despite feeling great nostalgia for many of the games that have inspired the various Kickstarter games up to this point. But I immediately dropped down $200 on this project. If this game pushes games forward only a quarter as much as Ultima Underworld did then it will have been worth it.

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> We have a lot of the same opinions and it definitely shows you really like Ultima :). I do as well, although I have to admit some of that might come from being exposed to it at a very young and therefore impressionable age :). Ultima IV was probably the first "deep" or "serious" game I ever played, my much older brother got me into it.

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<< LINK REMOVED >> The issue with Ultima is that so many of its systems are so antiquated that it is almost impossible to enjoy any game in the series these days. Ultima IV was a masterpiece and one of the most important and influential games of all time. It is also borderline unplayable and has been surpassed in virtually every way by countless games since. Outside of Underworld I think someone might get some enjoyment out of Ultima VII but really none of the Ultima games are the type of thing I could recommend a kid today pick up and play. They are the types of games you need to leave to history because despite all their innovations and how brilliant they were and still are in a lot of ways, far too many of the mechanics were so limited by the times that I just can't imagine anyone enjoying an Ultima game without any nostalgia for them.