If you would like to add your own additions to the transcript, please do so on the Google Doc here. ANYONE can edit, so please be courteous.
So, I went ahead and transcribed some 15 minutes from the second half of the last roundtable. I did only the questions and answers, trying to leave out any banter not directly related to UA, and I also prettied it up a bit, trimming some repetition and filler words (“like”, “you know”, etc) that are common in spoken language. Whenever possible, I copypasted the questions directly from chat in order to give the most context for the answers.
There were also some places I couldn’t make out what was said due to audio quality or people talking over each other or just my lack of language skills probably (English is not my first or even my second language). I marked them with a [???] and a timestamp, so if anyone can make out what’s said there, that would be great.
[size=18pt]Underworld Ascendant 2nd development roundtable[/size]
First hour, from left to right: Chris Siegel (senior designer), Will Teixeira (lead engineer), Justin Pappas (senior level designer), Sam Luangkhot (community manager), Parker Davis (executive producer)
0:02:15 — 0:03:55
Sam: I just realized that I could give some quick updates. I know there’s a few of you who haven’t checked in with us since the last Roundtable, and a lot has happened. So the first thing is, you might notice, the setup is quite different from our first Roundtable and that’s because… we’re in our new office!
Chris S: We’re real boys!
Sam: We’ll have an office video coming out in the next 2 months or so. Also, for some of you who aren’t aware, we have a publisher! 505 Games is publishing Indivisible, has published Brother: Tale of Two Sons, ABZU, Terraria, and Payday 2. For those of you asking when the game is coming out, we’re aiming for the second half of 2018. Remember to check your emails, especially now, because you should be getting some reward questions. And the next newsletter is coming out this month, hopefully before the holidays.
1:00:06 – 1:15:40
Q: Can we expect some HUGE areas? Modern game areas are too tiny!
Chris S: Huge areas. Hmm…
Will: The huge areas thing, this is something we were talking about before. We’d rather have a small area that has lots of good interactions instead of spreading our paintbrush out so far and not being able to make every spot really fun. So there’s a big balance of: we don’t want to make enormous areas, because it will take a lot of time to make every section very fun. Also, there’s the performance considerations that this is actually an extremely physics-heavy game. So we don’t really want to make enormous areas where there’s dozens of crates lying around and you interacting with the crates and doing all these spells on them and all these AIs moving around that are also fiddling with objects.
Chris M: That said, something that Justin has been talking about working on is making large areas where you can get a view of the whole thing, so you get some space to plan and see your options. They are not Skyrim sized open areas or anything. These are designed to be large and visible.
Chris S: Right, they are not as tiny as Thief 3 levels. They are, you know, they are modest.
Will: They are pretty good.
Chris M: They are visually impressive. They feel big, though.
Q: Classic games used to have cheat codes and other fun metaactivities when the game was completed, due to a depth satisfactory to the gamer. Would Underworld Ascendant benefit from such things in any way?
Will: So the modern thing for cheat codes is… you’ll see this in Grand Theft Auto… is that you can put in cheat codes in Grand Theft Auto, but it flags your savegame and you can’t get achievements. That was pretty much the fix, because achievements were the reason that everybody moved away from cheat codes, because you could just put in a cheat code that says, “Give me every achievement” and then you got every achievement, so we’ll pretty much be doing the same thing that once you put in the cheat code, you can do command line or other stuff, cause, whatever, might as well give you the command line, who cares, and then your save game will be flagged as a cheater and obviously you just can’t get the achievements if you’re cheating.
Chris M: And of course we take no responsibility for whatever dumb stuff you do with those powers.
Will: And please share any videos you make when you’re spawning hundreds of things, cause that’s awesome.
Q: What is the status of fast travel? Is there any? Moon doors? Or bs Skyrim “click on fast travel and be there”?
Chris S: Fast travel… no. Well, something like moon doors.
Chris M: Isn’t this the Underworld 2 thing, the portals?
Chris S: Yeah.
Will: So we’re talking about that or…?
Chris S: Yeah…
Sam: So that’s that answer.
Will: Yeah, I’d say Underworld 2 is the closest setup to it, because in Underworld 2 you didn’t really need fast travel, because the portals would just kind of take you where you needed to get. We are close to that, I guess, I don’t know. Calling it fast travel is a weird way to…
Chris S: So, fast travel – no, there’s no such thing.
Chris M: And that system is also still kind of…
Will: We are still building it up, in the end.
Chris M: It’s not done. I don’t know.
Chris S: Classic Otherside design right there. “It’s not done. I don’t know.” “What are you building?” “I’m not really sure yet.”.
Chris M: It works right now, but we could definitely pretty it up.
Sam: Just ship it.
Q: Will there be a hardcore mode? Where you can only save at the sapling?
Chris S: So this was an early debate that we are going to have to come back around on. I’m more than happy to just do the UI elements of hardcore mode and iron man, however you want to put it. There are some others that have fought against that, but I think we should make it official and just be like, can you beat the game without killing anybody and actually put that in as a mode.
Will: I’d be curious to find out how many of our backers would want that.
Chris S: Well, it’s just a checkbox, right?
Will: You can enforce hardcore mode on yourself by not saving…
Chris S: And that’s the argument, right? One mode I wanted to… we actually talked about putting into Thief 2… was a hardcore mode that if you died in a mission, we just deleted that save file. Back to the beginning, baby!
Sam: That’s hardcore.
Chris S: That is hardcore.
Will. Awesome! Just delete.
Chris M: Something that we talked about a lot, actually, is UI elements and how many of them there should be and how much they should help you out. You know, a lot of games these days will have quest markers where if you’re looking at the quest there’s an icon on the screen that tells you what direction to run and that kind of thing. And it has come up in playtest if people are getting lost, so there’s been some discussion on if we should have systems like that. Obviously, a lot of people here are opposed to that, because it’s too easy. It sounds like how we are probably going to end up is having some of that stuff, but then letting players disable it, but, I don’t know, that stuff is complicated too.
Q: When you replay, can you skip certain things?
Chris S: No comment. Again, it becomes… The way we are lining things up, that’s sort of not an accurate way to put it.
Will: I don’t want to skip the tutorial.
Chris S: Yeah, well, we are definitely… We will fight that one to the ends of the Earth.
Will: Yeah, I think so.
Q: Can you use rope arrows to pull objects towards you?
Chirs S: There are no rope arrows. Sorry, folks. But there are ways to pull objects towards you, so you… We didn’t want to go down the road of, if there’s a spell for something, to duplicate the effort by making it like a thief-flavored one or a fighter-flavored one. So fighter skills do one thing, the thief skills do another thing and magic kind of fills the rest of the gap. So, that way we weren’t duplicating work, basically.
Q: What tools/commands are going to be to help Testers report bugs in a concise way…for reproduction/finding/squashing by the Devs?
Will: We already have a bunch of command line commands. We just put in a really useful one: that repeat command where you can repeat whatever command you put in. We can pretty much create any item in the game, spawn any monster, you can write down your location… I also have all the other ones, like getting your system info, up and running, so there’s that.
Chris M: I think they had a command to dump the console to a text file too if people want to see stuff like that.
Will: That would be cool.
Chris S: That’s just easier for me to read. My biggest complaint about Unity is it’s not made for 47-year-old developers. Freaking text is so small.
Chris M: We probably should have it upon reporting. A window or something, actually.
Will: I can add in something like that. I had that on a few of my games in college that you’d open up a window and submit a bug report and then it would go and…
Chris S: What’s nice about if you do that is that then there’s the next step that we can do it then after ship and leave it in there so people can just send us stuff.
Will: Because the game is… Since it’s heavy physics based, it’s kind of been buggy. Whee! So, having a player bug-reporting thing…
Chris S: Although… there’s a couple really common ones that I haven’t seen in our game yet. Like enemies just flying into space and stuff.
Chris M: I have seen that.
Chris S: Oh, have you?
Chris M: Because of work I have been doing. Water physics.
Sam: You were able to jump on… You were able to jump pretty high on certain things.
Chris M: Oh, there was that bug where you…
Will: Where you jumped on the rippers? Yeah. The best was when the skeleton AIs were like…
Sam: 50 feet into the air.
Will: …on top of the rippers being like boing boing.
Q: Is there going to be any combat based on the player skill, or will it just be working through skill trees to unlock abilities?
Chris S: Okay, so this is the Deus Ex versus the Thief question. We are not going to be gimping the player’s natural ability. He might not have the ability to do certain actions, but we are not going to artificially ruin your aim or artificially make you fatigued for swinging your sword or whatever. We are starting at 0 and going up. We are not starting at negative 58 and going to 0 and then up.
Chris M: Have we talked a little about the skill unlocks and that stuff at all? Should we talk about that?
Chris S: I don’t know. I don’t even know what you guys [the engineers] are doing. [laughs]
Sam: You could explain at a high level.
Chris M: At a high level… instead of just getting experience… grinding for experience points and using those to unlock skills, we are going to try to have a system where when you do cool actions that will be reflected in the system of unlocking abilities related to that cool action and give you skill points to accept it.
Chris S: Hope it works.
Sam: We’ll find out.
Q: If you had to sum up this game into one sentence, what would it be?
Will: See if I can do this. Underworld Ascendant is a… let’s see… immersive sim RPG sandbox where you are underground in a dungeon and interact with lots of things. It kind of broke down half-way through.
Chris M: Now do that with one word.
Will: I would say immersive.
Chris S: I’d say simulation.
Will: Ooh, simulation. Okay, yeah, I’d lean more towards the simulation…
Chris S: The thing that I always keep in the back of my head is I just keep thinking of this as a dungeon simulation.
Sam: That’s true.
Q: Will there be rewards for not saving frequently? Such as enemies that only pop up after x minutes of not saving, or items, etc?
Chris S: Hah, so like another version of hardcore, yeah that’s interesting.
Will: Oh, [??? 1:12:26] going to be done.
Chris M: No, just not [??? 1:12:27] anything.
Q: Will there be puzzle weapons, like in Bards Tale IV?
Chris S: No. No puzzle weapons.
Q: Will there be toggle switches in the options menu for things like object highlights for interactive objects?
Chris M: That’s actually basically what I was talking about, right? How much UI help are we going to give players. Hopefully the answer is some and we let you turn it off, but we are still figuring it out where the line is.
Will: Yeah, there’s a lot of us here that don’t want a bunch of crap on screen. Like I don’t want the health bar to always be on screen, because you don’t always want to know how much health you have and a lot of us have been coming to the conclusion that it’s… any time you look at an item and it tells you what name it is, someone in the room is like, “Can you add that as an option in the options menu to disable that?” So yeah, rest assured: you have a voice in the room.
Comment in chat: Tried to play the latest Mordor with UI disabled - just does not work.
Chris S: Yes, you are absolutely correct. Mordor was not designed to be played with the UI disabled. I tried to do the same thing. There’s a couple of them that have to be on, unfortunately. They were a little lazy on some of their reactions and stuff, so it was really hard to tell like… I’m in stealth or I’m not or guy can see me, but not really see me yet. They really rely on that chevron quite a bit.
Q: But apart from a fast travel mechanic a portal with a to the player unknown exit point could be fun, one way perhaps?
Chris M: I really like that teleport spell idea.
Sam: You just see a random portal and take a leap of faith.
Chris M: I think Tim would really like that. That would really play well into the creative spell system
Chris S: Yeah, alright, we are writing that one down.
Chris M: So maybe not a random place, but we try to guess and then maybe it’s interesting or maybe…
Will: …maybe it’s in lava. I like that. It’s cool.
Sam: Do you really trust a random portal you see? Maybe.
Chris M: Always.
Q: I suppose there will be swimming, but what about diving?
Chris S: We haven’t played too much around with swimming and water interaction too much yet, so…
Will: Diving? I wouldn’t expect that much from the swimming. Think about Half-Life 2 and how much swimming was in that. I don’t think we are going to get much more in depth than that. It’s like, yay, you’re in water and you’re swimming.
Chris S: I guess diving would be like falling with style, right?
Will: In first person, diving is like, okay, your arms will go like that I guess? [makes diving motion]
Chris M: I really love in Far Cry 3, if you’re jumping into water and if there’s enough distance between your jump point and the water, you actually do…
Chris S: That’s great. It’s actually funnier in Primal, if you do that, because you’re a cave man and haven’t figured out swimming yet, you just start screaming. And your arms will go like this. [waves arms frantically]
Will: That’s amazing.
Chris M: That game, out of the Far Cries, it’s pretty underrated. I really enjoy it.