Underworld Ascendant: Alpha Test Underway; Transforming the World Into an Interactive Playground; OtherSide is Hiring

OtherSide Entertainment’s Joe Fielder has posted yet another monthly update to the Underworld Ascendant website, in which he rather excitedly details some of the progress made on — and results of — the game’s Improvisation Engine:

As you know, we recently stood up the core tenets of combat, stealth, and magic in an early area of the game called The Challenge of Ishtass. There, the player is first introduced to the array of choices available to them with The Improvisation Engine. We set the challenge, the solution is up to you, and we reward creativity.

Our recent milestone has been a key next step in inspiring and supporting player experimentation: turning the world into an interactive playground. The idea is that the systems that simulate this underground realm make sense. A wooden door can be burned down or chopped down, water can put out torches, physics act in logical fashion, and so on. So, when the player tests something out, they get expected results.

The player might use a glue bulb and a crate to jam a trap, pass by unharmed, then use water to dissolve the glue, just

as an enemy steps into the trap’s path.Or they might cast a the Gravitate spell — a non-offensive magic originally designed as a way of creating bridges — on a pile of crates, setting them on fire, then to hold off encroaching enemies. Or, even better, lining them up just right and blasting them at enemies with a Repulse spell in a fiery rain.

It’s important to note that none of these results were planned in advance, they were discovered.

He also gave some details about what the OtherSide team will be working on next:

Our next major milestone includes work on new areas, new and refined creatures, additional gameplay elements, standing up player growth and quest selection, defining our visual target for animation, and more.

It also involves next steps in combat, stealth, and magic, so it’s about perfect timing to have you play the Pre-Alpha build and get your feedback through our forums, Developer Roundtables, and more. The recent survey was the first step in this; this is the next.

It’s worth clicking on through to read the entirety of the update; in addition to still yet more Improvisation Engine details, there are some new pieces of concept art showcasing the look of skeletons in the game.

More recently, anyone who backed Underworld Ascendant at the Adventurer tier and above (or who purchased the Prototype Access add-on) received — at long last! — access to the Pre-Alpha Backer Build of the game.

That build became available around 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on August 10th, and was delivered via Steam. I haven’t had a chance to dive into it yet, but I’d be curious to hear feedback from anyone who has!

It’s also worth noting that the System Shock 3 team at OtherSide is currently looking to hire a Software Engineer at their Austin, Texas studio:

The OtherSide Entertainment Austin studio is looking for a Senior Software Engineer to join our team in working on the System Shock 3 game. The ideal candidate will report to and work closely with the Technical Director to build gameplay systems according to design specifications. The Senior Software Engineer may also be called upon to troubleshoot existing features, optimize game performance, and work with other members of the team to improve the overall quality of the product and mentor other team members.

They’re also looking to bring another artist on board at their Boston studio:

Our Boston area-based game development studio is hard at work on the first-person 3D RPG Underworld Ascendant, the modern sequel to Looking Glass’ Ultima Underworld, which created the ‘immersive sim’ genre and influenced System Shock, BioShock, Deus Ex, and more.

We’re seeking a talented, senior game artist to work with our team to create props and architecture. Must have strong core art and technical art skills, and a minimum of 4 years’ experience working on at least several high-caliber PC or console games that have been commercially released. Part of role will be to provide effective visual direction of a small team of external artists. Should have a proficiency with Unity. Should have passion for making great games.

It’s good to see that both studios are growing, even incrementally.