In 1992 a game was released that set the bar for me in quality, gameplay and just pure immersion. It was a time when the PC was on the rise as a gaming platform and the other computers at the time were fading out. The Amiga which most of my friends owned and the Atari ST. My dad had just bought a mighty 486 DX2 66mhz powered PC with, I think, a massive 4mb RAM and a 60mb hard drive. How times have changed. I remember spending a lot of time editing autoexec.bat and config.sys files to squeeze as much memory out of it as possible to run games.
The game in question, as you may have figured from the title of my blog, is the great Ultima Underworld. My actual copy pictured here.
Ultima Underworld is a first person RPG. You could do things in it that you couldn’t do in any other game. Things that today we take for granted but back then were new. You could jump, fly, swim and look up and down. It was released the same year as the classic wolfenstien game which had none of these features ( but was still fun of course). Most other first person RPG’s at the time, like eye of the beholder, limited the player to moving forward in a grid style like a chess piece and only let you turn 90 degrees at a time. Ultima Underworld allowed you complete 3D movement like today’s first person games. It was technically brilliant but what made it even more special was the story and the atmosphere it created. I really believed I was in the game. Even with the very basic (by today’s standards) graphics it drew me in and still, to this day, is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had
Because this game is a very old DOS game you can only really play it today on a DOS emulator. But you are still limited to the same old graphics and same old sound and music. Over the years several people have started projects to remake Ultima Underworld but none of them were ever finished.
You can see a few of them listed on the link below.
I have always been interested in games development but my skill set is more 3D modelling and texture artist. I’m not really a programmer but I can read code and figure out what it does. I always thought it would be great if someone remade Ultima underworld in a modern engine so, in 2011 I thought I would give it a try myself.
Ultima underworld is a rather big game for someone to attempt on their own so I decided to set myself a more realistic first target. Origin first released a demo of the game which included the entire first level of the Stygian Abyss which is pretty much what you can see on the map in the picture above. I set myself the goal of completing the first level of the Stygian Abyss and effectively remaking the free demo. If that went well then I could think about doing the rest of the game. I started looking for a game engine as the base for my project and found a few contenders in Unity3D, Torque 3D and shiVa 3D. I had settled on Unity3D when epic went and released the UDK. This gave people like me access to the best game engine around without any up front costs which was great. So I began where my skill set was strongest and started building assets.
Here are some early screen shots of my work. These are old screen shots from UDK and are out of date. new stuff will be posted on the blog post page.
After a few weeks of building and texturing I wanted to start building the gameplay elements. This is where everything started to go wrong for me. It involved programming and that was like a brick wall in the path of my project. I could use kismet for very simple things but without an understanding of unreal script it was hopeless and I’m just not suited to writing lines of code. Eventually I gave up and started to look at unity3d to see if this would be easier to learn. As it turned out there was a plugin for unity 3d called uScript which was very similar to kismet but enabled me to script anything I wanted visually with nodes. This was a way of coding I could understand. Unfortuantely I had just started my new job and It was taking up a lot of my time so my project was put on hold again.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Oculus Rift was in the wild. I immediately ordered one and in July it arrived. It was breath takingly good for a first VR experience and it rekindled the passion for my Ultima underworld project. What if you could really be in the Stygian Abyss? How cool would that be!
So I first decided to see what I could do with the Oculus and also purchased a Razor Hydra.
I was quite pleased with the results but unity3D, as good as it is, just doesn’t have the graphical quality I wanted but I didn’t have much choice. It was then that I saw a video of unreal engine 4 and blueprints. Oh wow. It was everything I needed but it wasn’t available and there was no way of knowing when or indeed if it would be released like the UDK. It did look perfect though. So with my job keeping me busy and Unity not really giving me the best results things slowed a bit.
Then Epic did something….well epic. They released Unreal engine 4 to the masses including the source code! (Source code doesn’t help me much but still…) This was truly awesome and I signed up immediately. Blueprints is everything I had hoped it would be and I’m well on my way to learning it. Oculus Rift is supported out of the box and a wonderful guy named getnamo on the unreal Engine forums has written a plugin for the Razor Hydra. You can get it here. https://forums.unrealengine.com/showthread.php?3505-Razer-Hydra-Plugin
So this brings me to today. The stars seemed to have aligned with access to one of the best game engines around coupled with the arrival of true virtual reality including all the accessories that go with it. I own an HTC Vive, Oculus CV1 and Perception Neuron body suit with a Cyberith Vitualizer and a 5 sensor STEM controller backed on Kickstarter and a bit more free time than before, I am currently in the process of porting everything over to UE4. I’m still learning my way around but it shouldn’t take too long and once I’m fluent in using Blueprints things should progress. I can’t promise regular updates and I certainly can’t give you a release date but my aim, as I said before, is to compete the first level as a demo and see where it goes from there. This is a personal project and a labour of love so I will certainly do my best. Thanks for reading. and keep up to date on my blog page ( link at top of this page)
See you in the abyss.