Underworld Ascendant Dev Diary Shows Off Potentially Game-Breaking 'Improvisation Engine'

I'm all for a trip back into the Stygian Abyss, the living dungeon that served as playground (and death trap) in Looking Glass' Underworld games. By the looks of things, OtherSide Entertainment, stocked with LG veterans (including Paul Neurath), wants to take the "living" aspect to another level in Underworld Ascendant, with most of the fun coming from the game's so-called "Improvisation Engine".

In the developer diary above, several members of the Ascendant team explain the title's emergent elements, something that's been a massive focus in all aspects of the game from the narrative to the environment.

The Improvisation Engine, however, sounds like the cornerstone of Ascendant, as game director Joe Fielder explains:

The Improvisation Engine is a series of interwoven systems that ensure that the game has plenty of variety and challenge for the player ... one of the best things about [it] to me is the replayability, the idea that I can come back to a level and have a widely different experience with different quest goals; different creatures that I'm fighting; different creatures that are there that are potentially helpful.

Image: OtherSide Entertainment

In fact, lead engineer Will Teixeira is confident that the game is so flexible, players will do "kind of broken" things:

...the more that we allow players to mess with the world — even if it looks kind of broken — I think that's great. I love it because it means that players have way more to do in that game.

To be honest, I'm on the fence about this. I love emergent gameplay, but not if has a negative impact on immersion (for games where ambience and setting are important). Just something to keep an eye on!

A teaser trailer (watchable below) was released simultaneously with the developer diary.

Underworld Ascendant: Crafting An Immersive Sim I Developer Diary 2 ESRB [YouTube]


Comments

    I don't think I've really come across an improvisation engine that's been done in a way that makes me sit up and take notice. The Director AI behind L4D keeps you on your toes but gets predictable if you play long enough. This particular flavour sounds a lot like the Nephilim dungeons from Diablo 3 which mixed things up but didn't really provide any coherent narrative opportunities or interesting "What ifs". I guess we'll see how this one turns out. It would be cool if we had reached a point where we can randomly generate believable ecosystems and cultures in games.

    I'm still waiting for a game with even half of the life as Stalker's A-life system. That did broken as hell things all the time and it was glorious.

    About a week ago i was playing the Call of Chernobyl mod for Stalker CoP. I thought I could handle taking out a military base, but I underestimated the number of troops there. I was cornered and ready to load a saved game when one of the soldiers tried to flank me and accidentally aggro-ed a bunch of boars. He died and then the boars came roaring through, attacking the soldiers from behind. When it was all over I picked over all of their carcasses and walked home with a nice new sniper rifle and kilograms of ammo.
    It's broken as hell in that it occasionally allows you to put yourself in unwinnable situations, but it's so dynamic that unwinnable situations are sometimes the best ones.

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