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Thread: Underworld Ascendant launching on November 15

  1. #101
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by Starker View Post
    Level design is one thing about the game that is great. The later levels are pretty huge with tons of verticality and nooks and crannies to explore.
    https://techraptor.net/content/under...cendant-review

    Ascendant has the messiest level design I’ve ever seen, especially in vertical terms. In the later stages there’s a skill that allows you to jump higher and double-jump so you can eventually get to higher places you couldn’t at first. Except that those places rarely have anything worthwhile—always the same useless props and crates. It just doesn’t reward exploration, quite the opposite. You think: “Hey, maybe this path will lead to something interesting. I see those shapes out there, let’s check that out.” There’s nothing; it’s just a dead-end that seems to laugh at you.

  2. #102
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Well, some people don't like complex levels, it seems, but there not being enough interesting content or secrets is separate from level design.

  3. #103
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    As far as layout, connectivity and atmosphere, the level design is often fantastic. If you can enjoy exploration for exploration's sake, there's good fun to be had.

    Unfortunately, even at its best it's largely just an empty shell. Sure, there are treasure chests everywhere, but they're all randomly populated with the same mostly useless loot over and over (and over). Oh gosh -- my 50th pair of Deteriorated Leather Boots! Yay! When you see a relatively large number like 50, you might think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. I'm pretty sure I "found" one particular rune 100+ times.

    If this game released to greater popularity, I'm sure we'd see Deteriorated Burlap Sash memes.

    I've actually played this game all the way to its glitchy, confusing end, where I had 3 different characters' voices whispering in my mind at the same time. I partly pressed on because of the level design, but I partly finished it out of morbid curiosity.

    There is fun to be had here -- especially for explorers -- but outside of the level design, the sort of fun advanced movement abilities, and the potential of the runic magic system (which feels incomplete and partly broken, even by the end), the game just isn't any good. There are too many fundamentally flawed design problems with its core systems. Large swathes of the game look and feel startlingly bad.

    The discrepancy between the level design and the rest of the game is kind of startling. I really wonder what the hell happened here.

  4. #104
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    I'd say poor project management would be the root cause.

    Them ignoring alpha and beta test feedback is a sure sign of it.

  5. #105
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by icemann View Post
    I'd say poor project management would be the root cause.
    No. Even if they'd executed their design perfectly, they would have ended up with a game that was barely anything like Ultima Underworld. Since this was pitched on Kickstarter as a spiritual sequel to UU, that's about as root a failure as you can get.

    I suspect that if they had set out from the start to deliver a proper UU-alike -- with good writing, actual characters, a cohesive open world, etc. -- people would be a lot more forgiving of it, even if the end result was just as sloppy and buggy. But a sloppy and buggy fetch quest fest? Nope. No mercy.

  6. #106
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Lack of funds was probably a major issue. There's a lot they had to cut and the game could clearly have used several more months development time.

  7. #107
    Southquarter.com/fms
    Registered: Apr 2000
    Location: The Akkala Highlands
    But a game that deviates so much from the original proposal, that doesn't sound like something suffering from lack of funds, something that was slapped together at the end to get out the door. Seems more like it was the plan from the start.

  8. #108
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Game projects often change during development. Thief started out as a very different game, originally. I'm sure there is an explanation for every turn it took and no doubt there will be a post-mortem one day that answers at least some of these questions.

    But most of the deviations from the initial pitch can be quite easily explained by a lack of funds, forcing them to cut things like factions, ecology, NPCs, dialogue, more complex quests, etc.

  9. #109
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Who knows. Maybe most of the cash went on drugs and hookers. Wouldn't be the first time that's happed with a KS.

  10. #110
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Nearly a million dollars might seem like a huge amount of money, but in software development, it's basically nothing, especially after taxes and reward fulfilment and all the overhead takes its cut.

    Even if it was a team of 6 people with an average salary of 5000$ each, you could only afford two years of development at best.

  11. #111
    Administrator
    Registered: Oct 2000
    Location: Athens of the North
    I'm sure that the team cost more than $5000 each

    From what I can see the problem wasn't one of time or money, but rather direction. Twist's comment about it being an empty shell sums up my feelings on it - it's by no means shabby but it's just missing a bit of spark and personality. I wouldn't mind the game being smaller as long it had the character to make you care about the world.

  12. #112
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    That's one of the things that bugs me so much about this. From a technical standpoint, good writing is basically free. It costs just as much to record a terrible line of dialog as an Oscar-worthy one. We know these LGS alums are good writers. So WTF happened? We ended up with this bland, generic gamey game world that I couldn't care less about. It's like OtherSide invented the unimmersive sim.

    I'd be really interested in seeing the first couple of levels redone in the Dark engine. I bet it could do a superior job of it. Just replacing those silly clickety-clackety skeletons with hammer haunts would be a huge win.

  13. #113
    http://forums.ltheory.com/viewtopic....165480#p165480 provides some interesting insights on the whole saving debacle, and some of the ways in which the game developed.

  14. #114
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland


    Somehow this reminds me of all the bad bits of working in software engineering, where you spend more time having meetings about the process of doing things than you spend actually doing those things.


    Edit: They deleted that video and re-uploaded it for some reason. Fixed the link.
    Except they changed the content of the video as well, re-recorded it from scratch?
    It originally started with project planning / management talk, mentioned aggregating data from player feedback, reviews, and their bug lists, then talked about the costs of working on things in terms of time and people, before moving on to what they were going to push in the hotfix and what they were going to push in the next big update.
    Last edited by Nameless Voice; 30th Nov 2018 at 19:11.

  15. #115
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowcat View Post
    http://forums.ltheory.com/viewtopic....165480#p165480 provides some interesting insights on the whole saving debacle, and some of the ways in which the game developed.
    Huh, so the mission levels were originally much smaller and only supposed to take around 15 minutes to finish, hence OtherSide not feeling the need for in-mission save.

  16. #116
    Moderator
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Hong Kong
    I'm more or less treating this as a demo version that I will pick up and fool around with from time to time until they release some significant patches (save game implementation would probably be my earliest entry point). Having played 40 minutes or so of it after downloading their latest fix, it's apparent that it still needs a lot of work to make this a minimum viable product. Around 10 minutes of this time wasted trying to get myself out of a chest that I somehow got stuck in after opening it.

    While player movement does feel a bit better than before, it still feels unnatural and awkward at times, particularly when walking down stairs. I also laughed when I tested out the new "swimming" functionality -- which essentially just means crouching underwater -- and discovered that you can stay underwater indefinitely. I mean c'mon guys, that's either just utter laziness or sheer incompetence to release a new function with such little thought behind it.

  17. #117
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    I will say that that video sounds quite promising. The general gist I get from it, is to wait 6 months to play the game, after which manual saving will be in + a heap of other improvements. I'm cool with that. It's not like we don't have other games to play in the meantime.

  18. #118
    Oh man, if they could *afford* to spend a bunch more time making fixes, why release in such a broken state?

    Normally I'd imagine the answer would be "because we need sales from the release to pay for the ongoing fixes", but the release looks so disastrous and the reviews so scathing that it's hard to imagine much money actually coming from it; and it's almost impossible to imagine that the long-term prospects haven't been badly damaged by it. Even if they fix a ton of things, how many potential customers have already been put off permanently?

  19. #119
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Word is they'd already extended it a few months past where development was funded.

  20. #120
    Quote Originally Posted by ZylonBane View Post
    Huh, so the mission levels were originally much smaller and only supposed to take around 15 minutes to finish, hence OtherSide not feeling the need for in-mission save.
    If you compare the ingame maps from Upper Erebus with this post from 2017 it is a huge difference: https://i.imgur.com/Gwso6AS.jpg
    They probably combined area of former smaller maps for the other levels too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Twist View Post
    As far as layout, connectivity and atmosphere, the level design is often fantastic. If you can enjoy exploration for exploration's sake, there's good fun to be had.

    Unfortunately, even at its best it's largely just an empty shell. Sure, there are treasure chests everywhere, but they're all randomly populated with the same mostly useless loot over and over (and over). Oh gosh -- my 50th pair of Deteriorated Leather Boots! Yay! When you see a relatively large number like 50, you might think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. I'm pretty sure I "found" one particular rune 100+ times.
    I wholeheartedly agree, it's a shame that the level design couldn't be used to pull off greater things like real secrets or some sort of storytelling. They should salvage the whole thing to make a real Thief game out of it after all.

  21. #121
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Beyond the saving issues, the fact that they'd originally planned for tiny, ~15-minute levels is disconcerting. Instead of the promised Ultima Underworld successor, it's more like they were shooting for a mashup of Underworld, Thief, and Portal. Pick your little mission, run off and do your little physics toy challenge, rinse and repeat. It's an immersive sim without the immersion.

  22. #122
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Which is COMPLETELY different to how the game was portrayed in the KS and the backer updates. The game was described as an immersive sim where you are free to play how you want. Discussion of dynamic ecologies etc etc.

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