New screenshots at GameWatcher


Flug, Tek and nodezsh have good arguments.

I noticed that the OtheSide logo also follows that cover art style.

That is why I pointed out that it is not only critique, but also a compliment, because of that nostalgic effect, but not sure if it’s a good way to go though.


This. I really like the look and the concept you’re going for, but just because you want them to look “like” minatures does not mean that you want them to look plastic. This is doubly true for the environments where you want rock to read as rock, cement to read as cement, etc.

But other than that, I really like it. It doesn’t look cartoony, but it does look fun, colorful, and like a place I’d enjoy exploring.


Well explained. I hope they develop those WIP’s further toward a more natural look when it comes to surfaces and how those reflect lighting, and go a bit easier on the overly gaudy colour palette.

I believe a good blend of a believable/natural look and a unique art style might achieve the best results overall. :wink:


They’re definitely onto something, and I hope they don’t take the criticism too hard. Overlaying detailed bump maps to add some grit and texture, dialing down the specular reflections, and maybe doing some subtle color correction or changes to the lighting could go a long way. Little tweaks can really make all the difference.

They’re trying something very different here. It seems perfectly reasonable that they’ll need to experiment a bit to get it just right.


Take the criticism too hard. HA!
Don’t worry about that. We’ve been doing this for a long time. Hard to hurt our feelings. But to be clear we are listening, and discussing, and tweaking in real time. Will changed the anti-aliasing at the end of the day today, I spent a good amount of time mucking with the shader, exc. I think i’ve licked the ‘plastic’ feel. We shall see. We are not too worried about the skeleton, he looks great in motion, and when you see him, I think you will agree.


I didn’t plan on commenting on this, but since everyone else has… :wink:

OK – bearing in mind a) WIP, and b) more work has already been done on this today, here’s my take (after also reading the quoted info).

  1. I don’t automatically hate the idea that the look of actors in the UA world is inspired by tabletop models. There is a direct relationship between this art design choice and Nate’s comments soon after he came on-board:
So for Ascendant, what if the world bore the Authorship of a tabletop game? Think of the old lead figures, the miniature play fields and what if Ascendant used that philosophy of everything being hand crafted and looking hand crafted? Natural, man-made...all of it. All of it looks like it was sculpted by an artist. That and bringing back some of the levity to the fantasy. We don't have to be so deadly serious and bleak. A little more whimsy, and a little less brooding.

A couple of screenshots aren’t really enough to judge the extent to which the game so far is moving toward that concept… but I think it’s fair to say these images deliver on it.

  1. The first thing that struck me about the images (before I read the background info) was that they seemed to have a dark outline. A closer look suggested the lack of anti-aliasing (not surprising for a screenshot).

I didn’t hate this because I remember seeing some of Ray Harryhausen’s later movies when I was a kid, as well as Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoped marvels such as Wizards. The first of these two images in particular, with its overly-clear textures (esp. the helmet), and its dark outlines as though it was hand-composited, instantly took me back to what most fantasy and science fiction movies looked like before and up to the first couple of Star Wars movies. That was a good feeling.

I would agree with some of the comments above that subsequent versions of these characters will look better and feel more “right” if the texturing, lighting, and blending are smoothed out a bit and appear more natural for their environment. (Just please don’t cheat this with “fog” or motion blur. :wink: )

And now that I think about it… it might be fun to support a “stop-motion” post-processing mode in which mobile actors have dark outlines slightly accentuated, especially if you also skip a few animation frames.

  1. Overall, I think the original Underworlds did try to achieve a kind of realistic art style for the day. Look at the floors of the various locations; you can see how an effort was made to simulate natural-looking surfaces and debris. So I would not have thought it was wrong to continue that path in UA using today’s much more advanced graphics technology. I think I would have enjoyed that kind of look in UA.

But I also understand that this is ground that’s been covered already, and that there’s room for an art style that focuses more on the fun of the original UU games than on mindlessly walking a linear path from that art style to photorealism. “Tabletop” is a pretty good conceptual touchstone for a different path for UA – that covers not only a miniature-inspired art style, but ideas of gameplay where the world (courtesy of an imaginative DM when playing a tabletop game) is much more reactive than in most games.

So I think I’m on-board with this style, even just going by these early tests. I hope it doesn’t go too much farther toward a cartoony style than this. Dishonored actually edged a bit too far in that direction for my tastes; I prefer that characters who act like people also look like people, not caricatures.

But the “tabletop” concept seems like a win to me, and these first new images are definitely in that ballpark. Nice job, all!


Took another look at the skeletons this morning. Still look like Captain Pugwash meets Bluebeard, powered by a blue brandy-pudding flame to me, I’m afraid.

For skeletons, and their animations, check out the old Into The Shadows demo by Triton. Fairly sure it was early go at mo-cap. I like the art style too… bony…stony…about all you want for skeletons…shame the game never materialised. Any ex-Triton guys onboard, by any chance?


I’m not quite sure what you mean by dark outlines in this case, but the Ray Harryhausen reference is interesting. Double Fine did a prototype of a game that was meant to look like a Ray Harryhausen movie, and it looked pretty neat:

Well I didn’t mean that. I meant that I hope you don’t stray too far from what you’re doing, because I think it’s great, and that it’s just a matter of polish/tweaking.


Yeah… we will see.


And now that I think about it… it might be fun to support a “stop-motion” post-processing mode in which mobile actors have dark outlines slightly accentuated, especially if you also skip a few animation frames.

We thought about this, and we may try it, but it is really hard to pull off in PC land. The Lego games are the only ones that have done it really well. I’m not sure that would be awesome if it was ‘everywhere’ it may-and probably would- just look like the animation is bad.


I’ve mentioned it once, but I think the main reason the scene looks so reflective/garish is the reflectivity shaders are a little high. It makes everything “too clean,” and is probably creating that plastic look everyone is complaining about. Hope my $0.02 helps.


I am in favor of innovation at any stage, so my vote says yes.


It could be really cool as an extra mode you can toggle, but definitely not what I want for the actual look of the game even if the effect itself looks good. I don’t think many people would be down with that.


First the new art style and now talk of stop motion animation? Please no.

What happened to the original concept art style, which is a large part of what sold some of us on backing? I didn’t back a retro cartoonish, plastic tabletop figurine version of Underworld, but was incredibly pumped about backing the gorgeous original concept art brought to life in the dark, gritty, creepy Underground. I was looking forward to having the wits scared out of me as those concepts emerged from the dynamic shadows, created using modern technology and art style.

I have to say, I feel this is quite a departure from what was pitched on kickstarter. I’m not sure I would have backed what this seems to be becoming. Will there be any recourse for those who may feel this has strayed too far from the original concept?


I don’t know that the direction can be changed at this point, especially if you brought someone on just to have them do this…but yeah, I’m not a fan at all. It definitely feels “man-made” but in the “this looks like a low quality thing I made in my basement” way. Not a good thing at all, and it certainly doesn’t give me any nostalgia. But that could be due to me only being 35, and the nostalgia you’re going for is D&D red box type stuff, which is aimed at older folks than I…


So what I’m getting is ‘too plastic’ -yes shader was screwed up and ‘too bright’.
As for concept art from a year ago, yes we changed direction. We brought in an art director that has a pretty spotless record - Bioshock, Last of Us, and want to push the envelope a bit. Besides do you REALLY want another photoreal game? Really?

So I’ll make you a deal, I’ll take a few screens–from the same level, with the Anti-alias fixes, and the shader fix. Darkness. Part of the reason we haven’t been shooting screens in darkness is because…well, darkness. It doesn’t play well with pics.


EDIT: oop a little late to the thread ^^^

hi all, new here. I’m in agreement that the shots have a plastic / clay look that I’m not too fond of. Sorry to beat a dead horse. I like the contrasting colors though. Not so sure where we are headed with talk of tabletop / miniatures / stop motion animation in a modern 3D game. I’d like to see that the art tip it’s hat to legacy, but also clearly depicts it’s own new style.

So if it is not too late, is there a chance we could see a few iterations that demonstrate a few potential paths you might take?


It doesn’t have to be a binary choice between ‘authored’/ cartoony, and photo-realism. It requires sensitivity and tact to what made the first Ultimas work so well, and the reason so many people are here.

And not wishing to be personal in any way, nor does a having someone esteemed in one art style (and a pretty strong one at thatt) guarantee success somewhere else. If it has the wrong signature look and personality it could kill the game.

‘Whimsy’ was always the wrong word, IMO, though we knew what they meant. It’s very difficult to pull off…it can easily slide into look-isn’t-this-light hearted self-reverential banality.

Maybe ‘surreal’ is closer to the mark, but I’m not sure that suits UU.
I also worry that things are straying…not because I want it to stay purist-old-fart…but because it may become anonymously cute.

Sure, shaders can be experimented with, effects can be added, but if all the in-game assets are authored in a particularly strong cake-icing house-style all of a sudden, then a certain proportion of people will lose interest, I guess. We may be in a minority - and it’s early days - but these things are important.

When I saw the box-cocr art style entrance, I thought: they’ve nailed it,absolutely nailed it,despite the lights and scale foibles etc. Didn’t matter. When I see the latest shots I think: oh my god,what have they just done.


Well, it’s not unfair to prefer a more realistic look when that’s what earlier art suggested. Of course, one also assumes the risk that a project can change directions after they’ve donated to it but it’s still a legit criticism.
Out of curiosity, is this previous image:

from the same level as these more recent ones? Certainly it’s more in the vein of what people would expect from Underworld, even if the red saturated lighting is excessive (unless there’s a lava flow just off-screen).

Also, you’re reminding me of old screenshots of Thief 1 in magazines and stuff where the gamma was maxed out because the regular pics would be a black rectangle. :slight_smile:

That pic was damn cool. A while ago when I read the first description of this art style, before screenshots of it were out, Dennis Loubet’s cover arts came to mind. Parts of these new screenshots also give me that vibe, namely the ruins, and that’s what I like most about them.

I think part of what’s throwing me off here is the scale of the room in these screenshots. If you showed me these images without telling me the title of the game they’re from, I wouldn’t guess that it’s meant to be underground because the ceiling is so high. I think a claustrophobic feeling was essential to UU (and System Shock and Thief, for that matter) and I don’t get that from these screenshots, and that’s why I prefer the one I posted. Not that a larger area like this is necessarily a bad thing but I should hope it doesn’t make up the majority of the game.


Since the prototype should be updated with the new style this month, I’ll wait until we can see it to make any more judgement calls. I loved the original concept art, but I understand things change. Until I see it in action, I won’t know for sure.