Recently, OtherSide Entertainment has been in the news for another announcement they made, that they are working on System Shock 3. However in that hoopla, what may be forgotten is that they are also working on another title that they crowdfunded, a little thing they called Underworld Ascendant. Underworld Ascendant is a sequel to the Ultima Underworld games that some of their staff created back in the 90s, and raised over $860k back in February of this year. Unlike many similar circumstances, OtherSide owns the rights to the Underworld series, and can use assets and elements from them as long as they do not pertain to the Ultima license, meaning it is a true sequel and not just a spiritual successor. Work on Underworld Ascendant has been progressing, with some backers getting early access to a prototype of it, which OtherSide is now opening up to more backers if they want to join in.
There is a bit of a catch there thought. While the Prototype is available to all backers at the Pioneer ($20) level or above, it is a bit of a weird Add-On. Those who have backed can, via Backerkit, purchase the Prototype Access as an Add-On and be able to play it, but they’ll also earn $5 coupon towards a future pledge or other Add-On. Essentially with that you can pick up some of the $5 Add-Ons or if you wish to pledge more, and can pick up things like other copies of the game. At the $5 level, the available options are a digital copy of the Underworld Ascendant novel by Tracy Hickman, a Dark Elf Kinsman Badge (A crossover item with Shroud of the Avatar), or a Jabbering Bertha, another crossover item with Shroud of the Avatar. This is in addition of course, to the Prototype Access, which is a special early pre-alpha build. Do note, that the coupon expires March 31st, 2016.
For those who haven’t been following the kickstarter community and are wondering, ‘what is Shroud of the Avatar‘, I’ll briefly run that down. It is Richard Garriot’s (the creator of Ultima) new title designed as a spiritual successor to Ultima Online. It is a third person massively multiplayer online sandbox that is presently in Early Access, and also features a single player offline mode.
The information on the Prototype states that it is essentially a very early, early access with a chance to look at core game mechanics and see the game get periodically updated. They have only recently gotten an internal Prototype where they can smack things with an stone axe, which may help give an idea of how very early this prototype is – you can move around, interact with physics but a lot of things aren’t available. They plan on having a playable build featuring the combat for backers to try out early next year; presumably to those with Prototype Access.
Backers who were at the Lore Seeker ($300) level or above, have already had access to the Prototype for about a month as part of their reward before the Prototype Access was available to purchase as an Add-On.
A bit of an interesting take on Early Access and helping to raise more funds part way through development, one hopes that backers considering it do take the time to realize the state the game is in – basically its nowhere near feature complete or even roughed out that way as things like the combat show. For those who have backed it and want to get more involved in discussing what works and what doesn’t, and know what they are getting into, it could be an interesting experience. While I’m not a fan of the coupon’s expiry date, or the ephemeral nature of such a purchase, it is nice they let you pick up something else small with that coupon there which helps mitigate it some.