Video: Fan remake of Descent is in the works and looking good

Modder Madmax1998 is making us the Descent we deserve.

Many years ago, in the wake of DooM, the gaming world was inundated with variations on the first-person shooter, many of the gimmicks didn’t stick for various reasons, and the genre has evolved a long way since those days, but one unique title that still sits firmly in the nostalgic brain centers of gamer geeks is Descent.

The gimmick here was full six-axis movement, something that very few games allow even today. Shattered Horizons is a good modern attempt, but that game is very open, and only supports multi-player matches.

Descent was a close-in maze which was as disorienting as it was difficult. Trying to keep the game maps in one’s head while flying around shooting at robots was particularly challenging.

For me personally, the rough spot was the game’s controls. One of my few regrets in my life as a video gamer is that I never mastered the flying in Descent. The game was back before the days of ‘mouse-look’, and all the controls of the ship had to be on the keyboard. Though it was customizable, I could never get the hang of all the turning and spinning and whatnot. I remember trying to map all ofthe movement controls to the numpad, so I could control it like DooM, with my left hand being my move and look, while my left was just for firing the weapons. It sounds crazy now, no one would be able to play a modern FPS that way.

I’ve often wondered how I would do  if I could go back and somehow play descent with a modern controls in a modern FPS engine, and with 20 years of WASD-mouse controls under my belt. Soon, hopefully, I won’t have to wonder anymore.

Yes, Madmax1998 is working on putting Descent into the Unreal 3 engine, using the Unreal SDK. As you can see in the video, he has the six-axis movement down, and a rudimentary AI for the enemies is in place along with some simple models. It already looks like a blast to play, but it’s far from finished. According to the project website, the list of features planned for the finished product are thus (the items in bold are the elements Max has already completed):

  • complete 6DOF movement with proper acceleration on every axis and double/triple chording
  • weapon system basics for primary and secondary weapons that can be fired simultaneously
  • laser and ball fire projectiles
  • basic robot AI, currently tailored to the Class 1 and 2 Drone
  • spawn points for easy placement of robots in a map
  • a retelling of the original story
  • remakes of the original levels, with an emphasis on a thriller/horror atmosphere
  • remodeled and animated original robots with advanced AI
  • all the weapons from Descent with potential new ones mixed in
  • high-detail Pyro-GX ship model with 3D cockpit view
  • more diverse gameplay, but with a strong focus on the basics that made Descent great

You can also see from the video that the game still lacks a lot of assets, and while Max will be handling the code himself, he’s looking for help with the art and design assets of the game, which will need the original levels recreated, and new models and textures drawn up for everything. “There is no reason this could not become a Descent community project,” says the author on the project page, “especially with many talented modellers and mappers out there.” 

It’s unfortunate that, as an unlicensed homage, Max can’t charge for the project’s results, otherwise Kickstarter would send this project into immediate overdrive. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to seeing the final result.