For the curious among you...


#1

For those who want a bit of an answer to ‘duh du duhhhhh’ (‘what went wrong’…) with UA in a general adult non-screechy way, and are not finding much, cast your eye over here and have a read of Chris’s posts (Prod_MalPhunk). Particularly the more recent comments.

You even get to skip the joy of wading through the Steam Ascendant forum entirely…

Briefly, if you have a passing nowledge of the dev process here and in general, you can piece things together from that. It’s not obviously revelatory, and there’s no big obvious prize…aaaaand it’s short on pointing or wagging fingers, but nonetheless, there is meat to be found.

Until a detailed account comes out - far in the future I suspect - this will give a few people some peace, if you’re prepared to be balanced and not go ‘gotcha’ hunting.

Not everyone will get it, but enough might here I think.

I’d post more there, but ate up my noobie allocation straightaway, so don’t have the stripes.

Link here:

https://forum.quartertothree.com/t/underworld-ascendant-brought-to-you-by-zombie-looking-glass/76311/541


#2

Yikes though.

Ya know though, there is one term that never did sit well: “those people”.

I dont even know if I am considered one of those! Probably?

I dont remember a single person here, lamenting over an UU remake!

I think most of “those people” just wanted the actual reminiscence and nods and eggs, that they were strung along with all that time.

I mean, if the game was a masterpiece of any kind, then it would be a different story, eh?

You guys came to US, the remaining fans of an age old “classic”. You asked US for input. You strung us all along, using us only as a stepping stone to whatever it was you really wanted.

Its not fair to have one team member saying, oh well live and learn already moved on, and another group of “people saying oh no, we are still working on finishing this thing”.

Granted, that was a couple months ago, and I guess portions of the team stuck around to make these updates.

Flug?

Can I ask you a question, and just be honest with me…

Is this game better than Thi4f?


#3

Sandro, take it easy me ol’ mucker…you’re normally in the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and ‘let’s wait til it’s done’ camp … :slight_smile:

I dont take Chris’s comments to be that alarming. Yes, the early comments are glib and a bit tone-deaf, but that’s in the face of the release gale-force negativity, and disappointment.

There are a few takeaways: they are still patching this up out of their own pocket. And there is one more to come (i.e.that’s it after 3). As far as the dev process goes, they simply lost sight of it (the reasons will come out later…but there’s enough to make decent educated guesses).

One area where I agree: they can only improve things by doing, not saying; that horse has bolted with UA…and SS3 sounds like it has been reprieved, and is (so far) benefitting from a more sensible approach. But who knows.

Some things I will never agree with i.e. it was failure to communicate the new directions. They were communicated plenty; on the premise that the old ones would be there too. They weren’t. And a lot of the newer stuff doesn’t seem to be have made the cut, and a lot of the stuff that did, didn’t work.

Still, we are where we are,and those of us who prize System Shock almost as much as UU, are hoping lessons are learned meaningfully. If that’s a bit patronising, it’s the flip-side of following 4 years of dev closely (well, 2 in reality, but that’s another story).

One thing that must happen: get a few folks tasked with properly figuring out the originals, and making sure their is a common feel. Oddly, original people are not always the ones to do it. This is one area that stands out in the disappointment surrounding UA.

Sandro…I’d love to offer an honest, wise, brilliant precise assessment of which game is better, but honestly…but I haven’t played Thief 4. Also, I haven’t had much time with UPD2 UA due to stuff, but it’s definitely a big improvement.


#4

Ah yes, the… “dark years”.

prize System Shock almost as much as UU… uh oh.

Yeah, this might be a problem for me. As one of those lucky folks who was blessed with being able to grow up watching crpg explode the computer industry, System Shock was just the next monumental and massive victory for the ever evolving general cause of the day!

This time though?

This time Im NOT drooling all over the game.

They can figure it out for themselves, what made these games so memorable, lasting, and replayable. Not explaining it again…

/Sandro -out


#5

Wait, really?

Wow, that’s scummy. Up until now I have been giving them the benefit of the doubt, that they are the usual dirt-poor indies and had to cut stuff because of budget, but because this was a passion project, they would keep chipping away at it NMS-style as long as the company was stable (which linked thread says it is).

But if they have the cash power and the supposed passion to keep working on UA so as to maybe one day deliver an approximation of the advertised game -but won’t? If they simply abandon it after one more patch, having used it as a mere stepping stone for company stability without any intent on giving back? That is some evil publisher crap right there.

A remaster of the originals the way he talkes about is THE LEAST backers should see as a consolation prize if that is true. But even then, it would mean my rose-tinted goggles are well and truly off. The big martyrs of early PC gaming, revealed for what they truly are.

And here I thought the Steam fora were just a bunch of doomsaying faithless. To imagine they were right is a hard blow to my LGS fandom.


#6

I read Chris’s comments on that other thread, and I’m really sorry to say, but I call bullskittles on that.

It all comes down to “we were involved too deep and didn’t see the bigger picture that we were headed for a disaster”.

Where it makes no sense is that their community has been telling them, month after month, that it wasn’t good. The alarm bells were ringing 6 months before the release already.

Also, in no way does it explain all the dishonest stuff, like “we never intended to make a proper UU sequel, it was always intended to be a Thief / Dark Messiah inspired game since the beginning” and other “ooops we lost our investor and had to downscale, sorry we didn’t tell you that until after the release”.

Also, keep in mind that they’re working on porting the game to consoles, so PC patches are just a natural side effect of their work to fix and prepare the game for consoles. It’s doubtful they have any interest in the PC version anymore, in fact they admitted they’ll stop working on the game after Update 3, which I’m guessing will be timed for the console release, and then… game over.


#7

At the risk of being called a toady (heck, you can’t win so it doesn’t matter) I’m surprised at the reactions so far.

Yes, I can see why people’s backs are up (mine is still not down) but it’s also a question of tone/style I think. Not all devs do atonement, especially in the public style. But yes, there’s something to be said for posting here (as I’ve said all along) not just elsewhere. Also, there’s a fine line between being hard-bitten, to survive the industry, and hard-boiled.

To me, the comments basically say ‘Look,most of this stuff is obvious, besides I’m not in a position to spell it all out, and penance will be done if we can get SS3 half-right. So move on’. In other words, practical bravado, but fundamentally truthful…you can’t go back in time. Others will look at that and say: you did have my trust for SS3, you don’t know, not after what happened with this game.

Still, I get the deep ache at how maddening it all is, still. No amount of move-ahead will just cause that to disappear. There must be tons of us who just want a modern ruddy UU game that owes something to the original. That market is still there in spades. And oldaxes. And bones.

Sandro…I hold SS every bit as heartfelt as UU…it’s just that UU was first, that’s all, and blew the bloody doors off. And conversation trees.

IHaveReturned…I have zero idea on the budget personal/professional thing, none at all. The problem when you declare you’re working for free is that camps form: people assume either you’re glory-seeking, victim-playing, altruistic, living for the fans, or doing what you bloody hell ought to be doing with such a shambles, or riding high at your own leisure, or the next idea…it’s shaped by how you see the game, and the devs. For me, I haven’t got a clue. The only time I ever worked for free was from a sense of personal pride because the thing had my name on it, the company was a distant second.

Nyast…agreed on the community making itself clear. There was a worldwide shortage for months of loudhailers…because we’d bought themall to use them on here…industrial sized ones mounted to the sides of battle-ships moored off the coast.

I can still remember as the gales of anguish and laughter that washed down at the thought and first mention of Feats, Aelita…and that was the relatively trivial stuff. Weren’t we discussing, in detail,the look and feel of the game from the very beginning…it was invested in just about every forum post for the first two years…what to do, what not to do…feedback on everything put out. Let’s not go there. If only a fraction of that had been truly actioned…the lip-service part was fine, but the actual, not so much. That is the single area where I have a hard time keeping a sense of equilibrium and not getting genuinely angry (or more angry).


#8

Dunno where you see free work being proposed.

OS got paid during the KS campaign. Then more once the game went up on Steam. And they would keep getting paid by the long-tail of an ever better game, a long-tail that in the modern industry is more valuable than it traditionally was. Hell, barely anyone has touched the game among reviewers, meaning a polished version would be ripe for a “real” full fanfare release.

Its why this 3 patches thing took me by such surprise. Even OS own actions seemed to suggest they were just going to keep working until it was ready, then hold a real release with codes spread far and wide.

And being indies means they have already eschewed max money for artistic freedom and passion, so abandoning the AAA cost-effectiveness mentality was pretty much expected. Its what allowed me to defend them as just cash-strapped so far. That they would keep working on this passion project as long as stability could be insured, else why not go earn money some better way to begin with?

I’ve been brow-beating people I thought were idiots for proposing that OS were merely greedy, as if that is a word ever justified about an indie gamedev. Yet here I find myself learning that they will abandon their passion project worth leaving AAA for, once it stops being cost efficient. Joke is on me, I guess.


#9

I am taking what was said at face-value, until I have reason to do otherwise. The comments was that they were trying to finish up the game out of their own pocket. Let’s not define ‘finish up’…we’ll be here for a decade)

We don’t know what form the next update will take, yet, assuming it goes ahead; or how big it will be, or what it will try to do.

I have serious doubts that it is going tomake the game into Ultima Underworld, but that’s not say it won’t make the UA world much more playable and refined, and complete.

Some clarity from the devs would be good, once they have had a chance to assess a decent amount of feedback from update 2.

I’m not sure leaning into the financial side helps in a situation like this. Besides, it can vary person to person, reason to reason. Owners of properties, rights-holders, producers, devs and contractors can all differ in their interest. We don’t even know who is actively working on the game, and who isn’t. I’m assuming most of the core team are.

Perhaps I’m not having a heart attack that others are because I see this game as being on a different roster, essentially. For me the real disappointment was earlier, when the direction was pulling away from the ethos of UU towards a narrower, more hybrid game.


#10
Major_Malphunktion 2018-11-14 16:55:45 UTC #540

Its closer to DM MOM than the original, and that is what we said we were building. Sadly it seems that was not communicated as clearly to some, and people expecting a redo of UU are not happy. That was never the plan, its not what we would have built back at LGS after Shock and Thief, and frankly we already built that game 20+ years ago. Maybe we should have just done a remastered for those people, but as designers that was not exactly something that made us happy. I’ll be glad to post- mortem post launch about some of the stuff, but not pre-launch. For a team of 10 it is what it is. Skyrim was never an option, and I think in some ways we put ourselves in an uncanny valley between - obviously indie 16-bit styles and AAA but didn’t hit it. As with any project hindsight is 20:20 and I can point to a zillion things we could have done better, or different or whatever. That said, there are things in there that I love- the magic system works really well for a small example. Granted I cant be objective at this point–too close–no sleep-- but it will be interesting if people beyond the ‘you didn’t make UU’ crowd get it or like it. The reality is you never know–if you think we knew at launch that Thief was any good…hah.
Already onto the next thing, but it will be interesting what people think- good or bad.

“Those people”? What a condescending $#@%. Wow. Did he ever actually read what was on the KS page?

#11

To be fair, the recent comments on QT3 are much less stinging from Chris, while not exactly being conciliatory. Those comments were in the sleepless thick of it, and it shows. And many of us have posted similar stuff, only in the opposite direction, going so far as to question basic competence, QA etc.

So it goes both ways. It cannot all be laid at Chris’ door, any more than devs can blame people like me for having wrong assumptions.

I posted for the purpose of bringing stuff to light that some might otherwise not know about. I would not like to see this turn into scapegoating.

Working on software, especially new states with old links, is not easy, especially in this commercial environment. That doesn’t excuse various decisions, but it can help explain the pressure, and therefore the tone, sometimes.

It’s worth pointing out that Chris does take responsibility in those comments, and says he should have stayed at altitude, not got down in the weeds. But that can be a manpower thing.

I don’t think there are any simple pat answers.


#12

I’m hoping Chris will post here when he gets a minute, but in the meantime this is what he posted a few days ago on QT3:

When the deadline is in stone, you have more work than hours available…yeah it is hard to pick your head up and look. like I said, I’ve always been in the big picture role- producer, manager whatever…I never thought I would lose that perspective…but it happened. I guess as a dev, I just had to run on faith that other people are watching that. So being in the trenches personally was interesting, and I learned a ton, but I’m going back to 10000 feet ASAP, that is where my real strengths are.

Sounds like contrition, and recognition, to me…not easy to say.
But it should be posted here, not just in a fellow-dev environment.
On the whole I’d say this place is pretty fair.


#13

I agree. I just feel that despite their protests (they doth protest too much and all that…) that the KS WAS pitched as a legit UU sequel and UA is nothing of the sort.


#14

Hiya Zanderat.

:slight_smile:

Not sure if you saw my responses, but we seem to have been hit in the same way by this…

:frowning:


#15

I took their pitch as “What UU would have evolved into had the series continued” and so I naturally imagined something that back-incorporated a lot of the stuff that was inspired by UU, like Thief, System Shock, as Dark Messiah.

But of course the vision for the game did change a lot, in design, in scope, in aesthetic. It was a moving target and I get why people who were in love with certain particulars rather than the broad concept would feel disappointed.

But there’s a difference between being disappointed something got cut and seeing this game as a betrayal of what UU was, or that it’s not a true sequel because it lacks a dialog system or whatever. This game is still an immersive sim to the bone drawn hugely from Looking Glass’ traditions, and if it lands a little closer to System Shock or Thief than you thought, well… That probably would have been the case if the series continued anyway. Take it for what it is.


#16

wow…‘those people’ was not meant as derogatory at all, just shorter than ’ the side of the fan base that was expecting something closer to the original than an attempt at the next step LGS would have taken if they ever did UU 3.’
Did we miss…yep.
Did we probably overscope, yep.
Are we trying to course correct? yep.
As for ‘did he read what was on the kickstarter page’…I probably wrote it, what 4 years ago. Did design direction change in 4 years…yes for 100 different reasons. I just won’t apologize for that. Good call or bad, that is how development works.
I will say, it’s as frustrating and disappointing to us as it is for you guys and gals. We are trying to make it better with every update. We didn’t abandon it and just take the lumps. We are trying to land it in a respectable place. Update 2 is getting there.


#17

/falls to the ground weeping!

Understanding of course, I have not seen the game yet! My failing was giving way to speculation, which goes against the very nature of obscuring oneself from all media in the first place.

:frowning:


#18

You really, really don’t get it, do you ?

Of course you’re allowed to change the direction of your game. But at no point you’ve communicated that to your backers. To all the people who paid your salary all these years and who naively thought, until the last minute, that they’d get a proper UU sequel.

And you never communicated about the scope changes which was caused by your investor loss. You had a moral obligation to communicate that to the people who supported you. What the hell were you thinking ?

And still, none of that explains your defense of “we didn’t think the game was in such a bad state, honnest !” when your forums was full of people warning you. Did you guys never read the forums ? Or threw your alpha tester’s feedback to the trashbin ?

We’re mad because you treated us like milk cows with a total lack of respect, not because you changed the game design.


#19

Not sure what to say at this point…

I penned a long waffle before Chris posted but an ongoing situation intervened (btw Flatfingers, forgot to say thanks for your kind words recently). That pearl will have to wait.

One good thing from this - we’re getting to the nub on all sides, and better to air it later than never. Please keep it civil though.

As for what Chris has posted, as I said before, park your ‘tone’ receptors and take the mea culpa at face value. The KS debate will be the only thing that survives along with the locusts.

But yes, design changes should have been communicated (as Chris himself said on QT3)… But then info has always been dropped later, or flushed out under duress. So sympathy may be limited.

One thing seems reasonably clear: no-one really ‘got’ what made the originals tick ie those elements that would carry over. Or if they did, they were discarded for whatever reason… Independent of finance, staff, license constraints etc.

As Chris is man enough to say: they got it wrong, including the decisions along the way. This compounded the comms failures. And on that note, it wasn’t the comms as such… they were fine after fits and starts, and when they wanted input…it was the (tactical? Legal?) omissions at key points.

The feedback was here all along. And the quality of it was decent.


#20

Come on man, it doesn’t, not like this. Can you acknowledge that the story of this game’s production is singularly bizarre? I mean, “we are in an alternate timeline” levels of bizarre. How did you guys end up spinning your wheels for three years chasing an impossible vision without a budget? In what context did that ever make sense?