Ultima Underworld 3 Ascendant Is Funded

get a haircut, dude

Two years ago, if you’d asked me how a spiritual Ultima Underworld sequel made by assorted Origin/Looking Glass veterans would fare on Kickstarter, I’d have said “funded in 60 seconds!” then smiled smugly. In 2015, that really doesn’t happen unless you’re a funny watch or a card game about weapons of mass kitty destruction. It looked a little touch and go for Underworld Ascendant for a while there, but it’s now crossed its $600k finish line with a few days to spare.

…I was going to write a bunch of other stuff about Underworld, but I just found out while I was working on this post that the wonderful Leonard Nimoy has died. This was supposed to be a celebratory post, but now I am very sad. This is the loss of someone truly iconic. I shall revisit Civilization IV and his note-perfect narration of it in his honour.

Congratulations to Otherside Games. I’m glad you to get to make this game, and I’m sorry for making this a post about something else.


  1. JM says:

    “In 2014, that really doesn’t happen unless you’re a funny watch or a card game about weapons of mass kitty destruction”

    What about in 2015?!!

  2. Myrdinn says:

    While I have love for Looking Glass Studios, I didn’t back this because I never played Ultima Underworld (for some reason I played Daggerfall). Still glad to see that it will get made and will probably buy it upon release.

    Also, RIP Spock.

    • Psychomorph says:

      “While I have love for Looking Glass Studios, I didn’t back this…”

      Then thou hast no love for Looking Glass Studios…


    • Shadowcat says:

      While I did play (and love) Underworld, the biggest reason I’m backing this (and certainly the reason I’ve pledged more money than for any other kickstarter project I’ve backed previously) isn’t because it’s Underworld. It’s because this new company is something of a phoenix from the ashes of Looking Glass, and they want to push this art form forward once again.

      If you have any love for Looking Glass, it’s because you’ve played some of their games and most likely can appreciate how amazing they were. You needn’t pledge for Underworld; but if you would like more games in the style that Looking Glass were renowned for, then at least consider making a pledge for the sake of supporting OtherSide in their mission to continue that tradition — a pledge that says “thanks for those incredible games that I did play — in retrospect they were an absolute bargain, so I’m happy to give you a bit extra now to support the new endeavour”.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Then go and play both Underworlds now. And King’s Field. And System Shock 1+2, and the first three Thief games!
      OtherSide deserve your money! You do realise they have brought in many of the original LGS staff?

      • Bugamn says:

        What has King’s Field to do with this? I searched it up and it looks interesting, but it’s a PS game from From Software (that also made Dark Souls).

  3. Psychomorph says:

    “…but I just found out while I was working on this post that the wonderful Leonard Nimoy has died.”

    Nooo! He was just 84 years old.

  4. suibhne says:

    I suspect the strong-but-possibly-weaker-than-expected KS campaign performance is due, in part, to an extraordinarily weak pitch that hasn’t improved all that much in the past three weeks. The prototype is pretty unimpressive, and the team keeps touting “revolutionary features” that have been de rigeur in other “immersive sims” (or, if you will, Ultima Underworld-a-likes) for years now. It’s almost like they haven’t played any games since UU2 was released.

    I backed this, but I’ve been tempted to un-back it in the past few weeks. I’m still hanging in there only because of the strength of the team they’ve assembled around this project.

    • khamul says:

      I suspect it’s partly that if you’re a Looking Glass vet you’re probably not that short for offers of work. So it’s probably quite a bit harder to justify sitting down for a month, unpaid, to write a design bible for a game you don’t yet know you’re going to make. Which makes it harder to put a detailed pitch together.

      Also, the features they’re talking up are features games have been talking up for years. Can’t say that many have actually delivered them though – maybe Underworld is getting treated just like another lot of empty promises? I guess if you weren’t there, and playing Looking Glass games at the time, you don’t know how they just .. felt different to everything else. Still can’t remember anything else that gave me that same sense of place. The original Deus Ex, perhaps? But it’s a subtle thing, when a whole load of little details come together – it’s got to be quite hard to describe how you’re going to do the same thing as everyone else, but differently, so it’s Right.

      Finally, have to say I’m quite excited about the details they’ve shared on magic and combat. The way you slowly collected runes, and then got play with clever ways to combine them in Ultima Underworld (2, the only one I played) gave you a real sense of power and achievement. The description of the fighter’s smart approach to taking down a dire faerie reminded me a little of Thief – not just the stealthy approach, but the slower combat that gives you time to think, the need to plan ahead. Exciting stuff, IMO, and I wish they’d shared some of it earlier.

      I’d back higher, but I’ve already maxed out my budget.

    • waltC says:

      I thought for a sec that this game was going to be called “Attack of the Mushroom People.”

      News here is reporting that Mr. Spock was 83 years old–died of pulmonary obstructive heart disease–which he blamed on smoking, although he had quit 30 years earlier. Plenty of folks who never smoked don’t live to be 83, so I say Nimoy lived a grand life. Indeed, Spock was his defining role.

    • Farsi Myrtle says:

      “revolutionary features” that have been de rigeur in other “immersive sims” (or, if you will, Ultima Underworld-a-likes) for years now.

      Which games are you talking about? I can’t think of many games that even deserve the name “immersive sim”. Just making something first person is not enough, so I’m curious which games you mean.

  5. Philopoemen says:

    I find it interesting that HBS can get $1.2M for what is basically a new campaign and some extra polish (and i backed it it) for a rather old-school style RPG from people not that well versed in PC game design, yet with the pedigree UA has in terms of developers, nostalgia etc etc, they struggled to make half that.

    I guess the Kickstarter boom is well and truly done.

    • suibhne says:

      You might compare the original Shadowrun pitch to this UA pitch, but I don’t think the recent HK campaign is quite so relevant. At this point, HBS has an established track record and fan base. UA has the latter, maybe, but definitely not the former, and the pitch has been weak.

      In general, tho, I do share your impression that nostalgia-driven pitches seem to be losing gas, or at least nostalgia alone don’t seem to carry them quite so far.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > I guess the Kickstarter boom is well and truly done.

      You might be counting the misses and forgetting the hits there? Last 2-3 weeks, the following PC games achieved their basic goals: Shadowrun, Goetia, Children of Morta, Strafe, This is the Police, Project Scissors: Nightcry, Strength of the Sword, Car Mechanic 2015, Crowfall, Edge Of Eternity.

      Of these, most are small, that is true. Only Crowfall and Shadowrun well end up over 1 million, Underworld might. But at the same time you have Exploding Kittens and Pebble 2 breaking 8-10 million, so I think it is lack of really strong pitches that is holding it back more than anything.

    • blimey says:

      It’s partly due to HBS having a really good kickstarter track record. Their previous Shadowrun campaign over delivered in terms of reward tier you pledged (I was one of the backers). In the previous campaign, for $15 we were promised the main game with a short expansion. At the end we’ve got the base game, the Dragonfall expansion (as big and better than the base game), and a remastered Dragonfall director’s cut version. All that without paying extra for the backers (dragonfall retails at $15 alone). I think it’s safe to assume that most of the backers for the new campaign are swayed by the potential of getting a good bargain overall.

      • suibhne says:

        The HBS track record of improvement from title to title is also evident, and pretty darn impressive.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      I think it’s worth noting that, beloved though Looking Glass absolutely are/were, none of their games sold particularly well leading to their eventual demise. They’ve never enjoyed mass appeal, criminally. But, yes, Kickstarter’s taken some PR flak of late too, although I suspect this is frothy Journalistic Narrative more than the bald truth of things.

      Still, this is exceedingly happy news. I’m very much lookng forward to seeing what they’ll come up with.

    • lordfrikk says:

      I find it completely unsurprising. You’re basically preordering a game that has a high chance of being finished AND being at least decent with the added bonus of helping improve the game with your money. I haven’t backed the original game nor this one but I’ve heard tons of good things about it.

  6. jeffpk says:

    Thanks, its a bitter-sweet moment for us at Otherside too.

    Mr. Nimoy will be greatly missed.

  7. karnak says:

    I confess that I’m also sad because U:A took so much time to fund.

    Our world is getting stranger every day. And not in a good sense.
    Not so long ago, everytime we went to an RPG message board we could always see a person or two saying that Ultima Underworld was one of the best RPGs series ever and what a pity it was that we never got to see another one.

    Finally, after more than 20 years, a new Ultima Underworld starts getting made and we can see that it’s barely funded. I mean… WTF??

    As for mr. Spock: may he live long and prosper, now that he’s boldly going where no living man has ever gone before.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      >Finally, after more than 20 years, a new Ultima Underworld starts getting made and we can see that it’s barely
      > funded. I mean… WTF??

      Look at the bright side, it did get funded. 5 years ago, who would have thought that? Or that we might see a sequel to Planescape: Torment, a spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate/Icewind Dale, Looking Glass studios essentially reformed, Grim Fandango remastered, a resurgence of adventure games, old school point&clicks, turn based strategic RPGs etc etc?

      Not all is going the wrong way.

    • Emeraude says:

      I’m kind of… really saddened by how little (comparatively to what I think they deserve) support they got so far.

      I *think* part of it is the pitch, but I’m willing to bet that had they gone with a Thief or System Shock spiritual sequel proposal, they’d have had a bigger success.

      Ultima Underworld is a lot more niche and has far less brand power nowadays. While the Thiaf fiasco by itself could have garnered them support.

      Oh well…

    • MadTinkerer says:

      That’s because the game is from a time when PC gaming was far more niche, and RPGs were far more niche, and 3D Immersive Sim style RPGs were a decade ahead of the time. The nostalgia factor is strong with us, but not as widespread as for things that were more popular at the time, or for things that came out 6-10 years later, or for franchises that survived long enough to outgrow the niche.

      If Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis had been the last Lucasarts point & click adventure game, the Double Fine Adventure probably still would have been funded, but not as fast or by so large a margin. If Wolfenstein 3D had been the last id shooter, the Catacomb 3D 2 Kickstarter to revive the classic nearly-forgotten first-person shooter genre might not even get funded.

  8. Creeping Death says:

    The dark elf on the left looked like he stole his breastplate from an Uruk in the LotR trilogy.

  9. derbefrier says:

    Oh shit Mr. Spock died. That sucks:( I feel a weekend long star trek marathon comming. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

    Also yay for the game being funded.

  10. DrManhatten says:

    “..happen unless you’re a funny watch or a card game about weapons of mass kitty destruction.”

    Or a dubious MMO. Crownfall got funded pretty quickly and it asked for even more. Guess stupid money is partial back at Kickstarter. Looking at Shadowrun making more than 1Million$, and now this and this one too

    • khomotso says:

      I funded Crowfall and not Underworld. I’d like to think I have reasons beyond my stupidity.

      The main one is that I fund ideas that seem to be reaching for something rather different in genres that are otherwise caught in a rut. MMOs are certainly in that camp, and I’ll happily put a little money toward encouraging their diversity. Fantasy RPGs not so much; added to which, I saw more nostalgia than vision in the pitch.

  11. Josh W says:

    I haven’t backed, but I’m very glad other people have, I’m probably going to watch this with slowly increasing interest, as it develops from merely pedigree and the idea of choice, to the actual systems they implement and can start showing off.

    The paradox is that I want it to be that way; I want people to be able to launch kickstarters for iterative design and just play out the development process, I just tend not to be the pre-ordering type. I really want them to be able to take risks and experiment, just not specifically with the money I use for my games/entertainment budget.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Then you should back it! This is essentially Looking Glass Studios reborn. Is that not enough to convince you?

      I’m concerned that they won’t be able to put together a mod toolkit, though. They haven’t raised enough money to reach that goal and the one thing Underworld could have done with is the facility for user-made dungeons. It would have significantly lengthened the lifespan of the game.

  12. Emeraude says:

    I’ll back as soon as I can. Hopefully the security mess I’m in (been victim of a fraud attempt) is dealt before the Kickstarter is over. I’m mad enough already for not being able to pledge to the Shadowrun one.

  13. Jade Raven says:


  14. Snowcaller says:

    Lock eyes from across the room
    Down my drink while the rhythms boom
    Take your hand and skip the names
    No need here for the silly games
    Make our way through the smoke and crowd
    The club is the sky and I’m on your cloud
    Move in close as the lasers fly
    Our bodies touch and the angels cry
    Leave this place go back to yours
    Our lips first touch outside your doors
    The whole night what we’ve got instore
    Whisper in my ear that you want some more and I


    P.S. The lower case text is more back story than relevance.

    • zentropy says:

      Hahahaha, unexpected reference but I must say that I also, need a change of trousers after receiving this wonderful news.

  15. Tyrric says:

    For me it was the weak pitch plus the fact that almost all of the Kickstarters I have backed have taken at least a year to be released, so the thought of waiting until 2017 dampened my enthusiasm.

    Also, I haven’t really done any backing since they dropped Amazon Payments. That option was very convenient, just a few clicks and I did not have to worry about entering any information. Yes, I know, I’m lazy :)

    • Borodin says:

      Not backing the Kickstarter because of a weak pitch is a little perverse. If you believe in the team and imagine that you would like the game they are proposing then you should back it. It sounds like you’re punishing Otherside (and yourself) for not marketing a great game properly. I think it takes nothing more than a look at the quality of the development team, and perhaps a realisation that they have a huge reputation to keep, to expect that Underworld Ascendant will be well worth owning, and the more pledges they get just gives more scope for that remarkable talent to create something outstanding.

  16. April March says:

    The people who are sad that this game took long to fund will get no sympathy from me. I’m still bitter about The Black Glove failing to get funded.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Agreed, that that and Case of Charles Dexter Ward failed made me sad.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I don’t understand this attitude. Even if the developers flub the pitch, as long as the budget is on target and the actual production is handled correctly, any game that makes it’s funding should be essentially the same game that gets double it’s funding. Stretch goals are extras, and sometimes end up being added in post-launch anyway. Slow funding is only a tragedy if the funding is so slow that the project doesn’t get funded. If a project gets funded, then that should be enough money to make the game that was pitched. In my experience, it often (but not always) is.

      • Frank says:

        Um, how about because I like extras… and because budgeting is hard (see: Molyneux recently). The Quest for Glory folks have had a helluva time getting things done with their 102% funding, for example.

        So: I’d like to see the devs’ jobs made easier and for them to make cool extras, yes.

        • pepperfez says:

          I always kind of hope for projects to get funded above their goal but short of the next stretch goal, just so the developers can actually pay themselves a reasonable wage. So many ask for just enough to keep themselves alive while they work, but (a)if I like them enough to back their project, I like them enough to want them to live comfortably and (b)having a little financial security lessens the risk of personal disaster derailing the project entirely.

  17. Casimir's Blake says:

    I hope this will encourage other developers to consider first-person “free look” and “free movement” dungeon crawlers. No more grid-based movement, please! Leave that in the 80s/90s.

    • Snowcaller says:

      Cas’, I would disagree, sir. with caveats.
      Please forgive my pontificating style of rhetoric, I mean no overbearance.
      For me, it is wholly important that gaming moves forward but any place trodden is a land best having been walked.
      I am pissing in public places with the excitement of a modernised Ultima U.

      Yes at all times gaming should progress, imo.
      But i think it foolish to throw babies out the the bathwater.

      If you require an FPS crawler, it’s totally cool, dude.
      I’m with ya.
      But also, i still play Moria; In black and white with all ASCII graphics to this day.

      For those who have read the Dragonlance chronicles…
      There is a Kender saying…
      “New roads demand a hoopak… No road is ever old”


  18. drewski says:

    I’m glad it got funded. I hope it gets finished. I hope it’s great.

  19. MajorMalphunktion says:

    Yeah we are not disappointed. It was nice to have a meeting today and talk about the game for a change.
    There are a number of reasons why this was not as strong as it could be. Maybe there is a gamasutra article in the future.

    Anyway funded. Happy. Aim for the stretch goals. Start building game finally.- ProducerChris