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Paul Neurath, the lead designer on Ultima Underworld and the founder of Otherside Entertainment, is busy putting the finishing touches on his studio's upcoming immersive sim Underworld Ascendant that should be launching on November 15, 2018. But in the meantime, he had a chat with bit-tech.net about the lasting legacy of the immersive sim subgenre of RPGs, the challenges it faces today, and more. Here's one sample question:
We've been quite spoiled for big-budget immersive sims since about 2010, with games like Dishonored and Prey and the Deus Ex reboots acting as a second wave. That seems to have come to an end now. How does that affect you?
I do feel like as an indie game developer, any game developer, certainly this is Warren and mine's philosophy, you have to bring something new to the table. It's gotta be something new that the player hasn't seen before. Because, you know, it's entertainment at the end of the day. You don’t want to play a slightly more polished version of the game you played last year or five years ago. So we're always trying something new.
I'm not sure I'd call [immersive sims] a genre per-se, but as a style of gameplay that could be overlaid into a particular genre like a fantasy RPG. I think it's around for the long haul, but how it gets expressed, that's continually evolving and we really want to push that forward.
One example is that, when we created the Looking Glass immersive sims back in the nineties, there were not real social channels, no ability to share your experience with friends or other players. So if you came up with a cool solution in Thief, that few other players or maybe no other players tried or knew existed, pretty much no one else, it was very hard for anyone to know that you did that or learn from it or share it. Now with all the social channels out there, and the way a lot of players do a lot of watching of gameplay as part of their experience, that's all changed, [and it's] an area where we want to make sure that we're feeding back into the game-player community. Oh, ok, this player came up with this really cool, unique, way to solve this particular challenge, and they get kudos for that, in-game, tangible rewards for coming up with novel solutions.