Joe, this is a lot to chew on, and I think much of it is news to me. so, I’ll try some theories on the easy stuff.
The natural cycle of the abyss is much like that of earth’s volcanoes and plate tectonics. though the source of the energy in the depths is in question, it’s understood that a great crevasse hidden beneath our very feet is actually a dimensionless rift, a tear in time and reality. It’s influences contort the very world around it with an incalculable variability. the flowing magma seals and smooths the bedrock that crumbled when that lava receded. In the caverns left behind life swells where it can or perishes terribly in unfortunate and often bizarre circumstances. Only time or great forces will reveal any civilizations and wildlife that have thrived for millennia cut off from the surface while still safe from the insatiable abyss below.
Sir Cabirus could be some sort of an undead. Maybe it relates to the undead and how they use mana in the game. Perhaps he is willing to use any means necessary to make his utopia happen. As such he probably seeks to manipulate the player and anyone else not put off by his undead form.
As for the Abyss, could be it’s just deeper underground or perhaps it shifted into another dimension, but where’s the magma coming from, then? Or maybe the Abyss is an important gateway to somewhere and it’s protected by some magical means from destruction. Either way, it has since been cut off from the outside world, whether by tons of rock or by a dimensional barrier.
Memora – something to do with memory or remembrance?
Aelita – a princess from Mars?
Resherak – a lizardman?
Outstanding! Thanks for this taste of things to come, Joe.
Since we’re being invited to speculate (because certainly we’d never do that without invitation ), I see two points as maybe related:
The description of the Big Bad as much worse than either the Slasher of Veils or the Guardian (!)
Memora, which is connected to the Silver Sapling (which in turn is presumably related to respawning the player character after death)
Together these sound to me like the great danger in UA is the fracturing or even obliteration of reality. That’s an existential threat worse than the somewhat more pedestrian “keep it but control it” goal of the Guardian and, presumably, the demonic Slasher of Veils. (Or is slashing the “veil” of reality to unleash chaos what a Slasher of Veils does? When Garamon sent the inhabitants of the collapsing Stygian Abyss somewhere else, apparently where the action of UA takes place, is that also where the SoV wound up being banished?)
Memora, and specifically actions taken by the player character to preserve/produce/collect it, would be the means by which the assaults on reality are countered. By doing things that generate memora, the player keeps the threads of the veil of reality knitted together – we fight the Big Bad’s attempts to unmake reality by “remembering” reality as it is. (Memora = memory.)
(Note that this creates the opportunity in the later game for bargaining: what if the Big Bad offers the player character the chance to choose which parts of reality to remake, possibly for the better?)
How this is connected to the Silver Sapling is fuzzier for me. One possibility is a mechanical function; maybe dying and being reborn via the Silver Sapling “spends” some collected memora. That seems pretty brute-force to me, though – maybe someone else has a better idea.
The elf and shambler duo who have roamed beyond the known realm of lizard, dwarf, elf, shambler and man. they’re descension into depths revealed how shallow the view we hold of the world around us. they are even believed to have achieved the accolades of the abyss; completing the ishtass challange; gathering the bone of a lich; and witnessing the great evil (big bad?). which is what brought them together for a while as they amassed the many treasures they then could retrieve.
You know who that description reminds me of? Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, from Fritz Leiber’s wonderful Lankhmar novels. Not only did Terry Pratchett include his own versions of Leiber’s duo in one of the pastiches that made up the first Discworld book (and notice the similarity between “Lankhmar” and “Ankh-Morpork”), I believe Paul Neurath also cited the Lankhmar novels as one of the narrative inspirations for Ultima Underworld.
It would be pretty amazing to see and hear echoes of Quarmall in Marcaul… and there’s a certain similarity between those two names, too, isn’t there?
At a medium level, the lore created for UU2 says that the universe contains many highly varied worlds. That’s basically a license to print money, narratively speaking; I’d have no complaint if UA just ignored it in order to constrain the challenge-solving action to the new Abyss. But I also wouldn’t mind if it were used as the explanation for the occasional surprise.
At the level of specifics, I’m looking forward to seeing how the memory of Ishtass has produced some of the social features of the new Abyss. I’m guessing the “Avatar” framing conceit will be dropped for UA, but if it were retained it might be a lot of fun to tell the Lizard Men, “I knew Ishtass. Ishtass was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Ishtass.”
As for what I’d like to see from from the original two games making an appearance in UA, it would be pretty neat to get to chat with Rawstag again in some way.
But if I’m being honest, I really only hope for one thing: another meeting with the Trilkhai. Or the Drakhri. Even if they were kind of a goofy easter egg, it blew my mind that the Wing Commander and Stygian Abyss universes were said to be connected. It would be a total hoot to bump into another reference to this in Underworld Ascendant.
Cabirus could have come from another time, tried to bring civilization to the inhabitants of The Stygian Abyss using knowledge from the future/the past? And maybe he didn’t die, he just went through a time portal that looked like he vanished in a sphere of fire, so they made a grave for him and the story of some factions murdering him got hold because they wouldn’t believe he had died for no reason. But actually he didn’t die at all, he just went “back” through time. (Or maybe ended up in yet another time period?) And maybe The Abyss itself has some backstory of its own as well, and being destroyed in Underworld 1 was just part of its history, but an important part and the philosophy of peaceful relations between the factions (that Cabirus layed the foundation of) had to be introduced before this incident in order for history to unfold. (A time travel paradoxon: someone from the future lays the foundation for a future from which he/she is part of, but that wouldn’t be possible without him/her altering the past first… or last… depending on the point of view. That said, Cabirus could have been completely reverse in his thinking in his early years, but as an old man came to realize that it was his fate to change the past into what would become/had already become his past, a culture and a way of life that he as a young man was in opposition of. Hope this makes sense.)
I’m not as good a story inventor, but I loved to play the first game. I did not come from the Ultima side, so it kind of helped that Ultima Underworld 1 was more Underworld than Ultima. I didn’t play Underworld 2, at least not farther than the first parallel world, Fyrna.
I hope that not too much Ultima knowledge is required to play the game and have fun. But I guess I have to be okay with it since most backers will probably want that too.
Long story short: I’m looking forward to discovering the true story of The Stygian Abyss, its inhabitants and its history.
Bishop opined that there is an infinite number of worlds (or “planes” in UW2 speak). Nelson mentions “The Battle of Rhyna” and “The Homeland of the Daemons” as additional worlds known to scholars of Britannia (though no one seems to have traveled there at that point).
Altara says that “Powerful and violent magics, such as the Guardian is so fond of, cause gateways to open between realities, where the same magic repeats itself more faintly, like an echo.” In a similar vein, Nystul speculates that the “aftershocks” of a “crude casting … as if the caster had so much power he thought there was no need to work skillfully” created the Blackrock Gem in the sewers (and the smaller copies) in the first place. It is unclear if those aftershocks could have been avoided had the Guardian been less sloppy in casting his spell or if they are an inevitable side effect of a large magical casting.
In the latter case, it would probably be reasonable to assume any spellcasting of similar proportions as creating the Blackrock Gem is likely to cause disturbances in the ether and open pathways to other planes and dimensions.
So whatever Tyball might be cooking, it might not stay in the Abyss.