Eurogamer Interviews Paul Neurath about Underworld Ascension

Underworld Ascension

There’s a new interview with OtherSide Entertainment’s Paul Neurath over at Eurogamer, in which the former Looking Glass co-founder elaborates on the nature of his agreement (with EA) to use the Underworld IP:

Neurath is making a new game called Underworld Ascension, a project he got the surprise nod from brand holder EA to go ahead with not long before it was announced at the beginning of July. “It was a surprise to us,” Neurath tells me in an interview. “EA had the rights and I’d been having discussions with them going back 20 years about doing a new Underworld. And finally the stars aligned and I was able to get the rights to be able to move forward with the franchise.”

He doesn’t have the go-ahead to use the Ultima licence, he clarifies, but the original Underworld game was designed without Ultima in mind, and having no fiction to adhere to may grant more creative freedom anyway.

To be clear: Neurath doesn’t own the Underworld brand, he’s leasing it, but he has what sounds like creative free reign.

“There’s no sign-offs or approvals or anything like that,” he assures me. “We have the rights to do anything in the future with the franchise. I guess the term would be ‘it’s leased’, but we can do what we want – what we feel is right – with the franchise going forward.”

As is noted in the interview (it’s in the part I cut out of the quote, above), the original plan for Underworld didn’t involve an Ultima connection at all; that came later. And as has been pointed out, the Underworld 3 story document that Pix brought to light a couple of years ago made no mention of Ultima either.

As to the state of the game…well, it’s still early on in development:

Underworld Ascension as a project is brand new. The studio making the game, Otherside Entertaiment, “It’s only been around for a few weeks,” laughs Neurath. He landed the Underworld rights and scrambled to make a studio, which has around a dozen people and some names we will apparently know, although he won’t yet say who.

In scope, Underworld Ascension will be a much more modest production than a blockbuster such as Skyrim. Its focus will be on gameplay above graphics, which isn’t to say it will look rough, and it will take a small team “a while” to make. “Not next year!” blurts Neurath when I ask about release. It’s a PC game primarily but other platforms are a possibility.

All of which sounds to me like something we could see on Kickstarter; he has a known brand, he himself is a known name and his experienced team could presumably put together a solid pitch. I ask whether that’s the plan and he says he’s undecided, and that he’s looking at three or four possible funding options for the game.

Obligatory closing statement about reading the whole thing goes here.

7 Responses

  1. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    Interesting that communications with EA were positive. I wonder if, after Ultima Forever, EA is now content to let other studios test the waters for them. Or maybe they just don’t give a damn anymore about the IP, as long as the potential violations aren’t blatant.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      I’ve heard rumours that they’ve either licensed or outright sold some of the old IPs they aren’t using anymore. And hey…why wouldn’t they be cheerful about licensing an old, dead (to them) IP; they get a cut of any revenues, and don’t have to develop a game themselves.

      • Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

        I agree with your logic there. I just wonder why it has been so long since Ultima IX that anyone showed interest in using or received permission to use the Ultima or Underworld IPs. For so many years they were completely dead, yet still held tightly within EA’s grasp, as if they were planning at some arbitrary future date to do something huge with it. I’m not a fan of IP squatting. Use it or lose it, I say. So for whatever reason EA’s slackening the leash, I’m very pleased. My only fear is that SotA and UA will either shit on their legacy or just be “meh”, which is perhaps even worse than the former. Perhaps surprisingly, my money’s on UA right now for delivering the goods.

  2. I recalled that Obsidian Entertainment was approached to reboot the Ultima franchise at one point. EA isn’t opposed to working with other studios and wants to find ways to make money off of dormant IP they’re sitting on. That’s just good business.

    It is interesting that they’d let Neurath use the Underworld IP when he didn’t even have a studio at the time, but wouldn’t let Garriott use the Ultima IP/name.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      To be fair, they weren’t really doing anything with the Underworld license itself, whereas they were (and still are) doing something with the Ultima license. Even if all they’re doing is just maintaining UO and trying hard to forget about Ultima Forever…that’s more than they were doing with Underworld.

      So it’s a bit of a different scenario here than the situation with Richard Garriott.

      Now, if UO ever gets shuttered…

    • Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

      You made me think of something semi-related. Anyone know why Chris Roberts isn’t using the Wing Commander IP? Considering how much money and interest came his way, I can only speculate that he felt he didn’t need it, or possibly didn’t want to change the name after the cash began pouring in. What would have been cool is if he found the IP holder of the board game (I think that’s what it was) “Wing Leader” and bought the name. Or if RG had called SotA Ultimatum. 🙂

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        I’ve heard a rumour that Roberts and EA were close to a deal at one point, but couldn’t agree on a delivery timeline.

        Take that with as much salt as you like.