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Middle-aged gamers, rejoice! After nearly two decades in oblivion, one of gaming's most influential franchises is officially coming out of retirement. With nearly a week left on its KickStarter Campaign, Underworld Ascendant has passed its $600,000 goal.

Actually, the developer has managed to raise more than $650K so far, which means one of Ascendant's stretch goals is already in the bag.

The crowd funding campaign for Underworld Ascendant is the brainchild of Paul Neurath, and several members of the original development team. Neurath was the lead designer on Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and spent the last twenty years trying to convince Electronic Arts to let him bring Underworld out of retirement. Last year, he formed OtherSide Entertainment, a small development company that had a single purpose: revive Underworld.

Shortly after hitting the $600K mark, Neurath posted this on the campaign blog:
"[We're] Honored to have your support. To be honest, [we're] a bit relieved that we did in fact reach this milestone. [We're] incredibly excited that we can now make the game we have so passionately wanted to make for twenty years, and do it together with you."

Right now, the folks at OtherSide are concentrating on the campaign's stretch goals, which go all the way up to $1.2 million. Patrons have already donated enough to unlock the first goal, a new area called The Underswamp. And with four days left on the game's clock, there's a good chance that supporters will unlock the second stretch goal, a novel set in the Underworld Ascendant universe.

Underworld Ascendant Spider

If you're too young or were too inebriated to remember the early '90s, here's a little refresher: In 1992, The Stygian Abyss became the first role-playing game to employ a first-person perspective. It hit the market before every major FPS, but included features (such as jumping and vertical head movement) that wouldn't become standard until many years later.

The effects of Ultima Underworld still ripple through the gaming industry. Big-name developers like Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War) and Ken Levine (BioShock Infinite) cite Underworld as a major influence. And titles like Deus Ex, Skyrim, and Dragon Age still use many of the mechanics that were pioneered in The Stygian Abyss.

So, referring to Ultima Underworld as "revolutionary" is a little bit like referring to Henry Ford as "that guy who liked cars. "

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to speak with Neurath via email. I asked if his team was excited or nervous. Here was his response:
"Both! It’s actually quite wonderful to see how excited the fans are, and their passion. Makes us know that we have a vision that will be shared."

It's true. Fans are excited for Underworld Ascendant. And now that the game has been funded, most of them are probably ready for the next piece of big news: a release date.

In the mean time, don't be afraid to toss a little more cash into Ascendant's coffers over on the game's Kickstarter page.
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