Following the Outrage interview on August 30, I decided to ask Volition, the other half of the company formerly known as Parallax, some questions. Since most Descent-related questions were laid to rest with the Outrage interview, most questions here have to do with Volition's independent projects and such.
The interview (transcription)
These questions were answered by Mike Kulas, a veteran of Parallax Software. Mike Kulas is the president of Volition Incorporated and helped program Descent I and II:
(PD is Planet Descent, as other staffers contributed to the questions)
PD: As you know, the Descent I source code was released a while back. Did you hope that the Descent community would create total conversions and unofficial upgrades to the engine, to make it look more like Descent 3?
Kulas: I don't recall what my expectations were. When Matt and I decided to release the code, it was because, when we were out of industry, we'd have loved to see code from a published game. I supposed I figured some things would be developed as a result, but that wasn't the motivation.
PD: When you built the engine for the two Freespace games, how did you do it? Did you start over from scratch, or did you use the D1/2 engine as a basis?
Kulas: We largely started from scratch. There was a little bit of Descent code, but it was more a matter of pulling in small pieces for specific purposes. We didn't start with the whole Descent code base and turn it into
PD: What was the original inspiration for the Freespace idea? Anything more than simply the notion of Descent without barriers?
Kulas: The conception of FreeSpace was not influenced by our work in Descent. We wanted to do something pretty different than Descent. Adam Pletcher wrote the proposal and script for
FreeSpace. Here's what he has to say:
"Several FS team members had been space sim fans for some time. TIE Fighter and Wing Commander were really the biggest influences on
FreeSpace, not too surprisingly. We really just wanted to do the best space sim ever made, with everything we'd always wanted. Other bits of inspiration also came from the Orson Scott Card book Ender's Game and the TV series Space: Above and Beyond."
PD: Where did Summoner come from? I mean, you guys have a track record for shooters; why a role-playing game?
Kulas: An RPG is what the majority of the company wanted to do next. When we were nearing completion on
FreeSpace, I asked everyone what they wanted to work on. I told people we'd be starting on Descent 4 and a new project. The type of new project that got the most interest was a fantasy role-playing game. We never have actually thought of ourselves as a shooter company.
PD: I'm sure that you realize that a lot of Descent fans have expressed certain feelings on Red Faction. Is there anything you'd like to tell them to dispel the notion that Red Faction won't be as good as, say, a Descent 4? Aren't you worried about alienating loyal Descent fans?
Kulas: Well, it's hard to live up to people's conception of a game that doesn't exist. ;) We're doing the same thing we did with Descent and FreeSpace—we're trying to create the best game we know how. I think Red Faction is going to be a great and original game. People who are looking for something that continues the Descent story or Descent-style gameplay will be disappointed.
Am I worried about alienating loyal Descent fans? Yes. Unfortunately, sometimes you can't choose. In our case, making Descent 4 the game we wanted isn't, and wasn't, an option. I hope those fans will give Red Faction a look. I have no doubt it will be a great game. Whether it will be the kind of game they want to play is up to them. I hope there will be a free demo on the PC so they'll get to make an informed choice.
PD: It has been said that Volition and Outrage are taking turns with the title of Descent. Is it at all possible that sometime in the future, after Red Faction has been completed, that it will be Volition, and not Outrage, that creates D4?
Kulas: It seems very unlikely that we'll work on a Descent title.
PD: Seeing as Volition changed publishers to THQ, Interplay isn't too conducive to Volition games in development, apparently. How much did they want for the license for Descent and
Kulas: That type of business matter would have to be confidential. I wouldn't say we went to THQ because Interplay wasn't interested in what we're doing. There are a variety of reasons why people work together, or don't work together. Unfortunately, those must typically remain private.
PD: Assuming Red Faction was supposed to be D4 (it certainly has all of the plot points and characters in place), was it going to be a prequel? It seems to me that Martian mining wars were the reason that Material Defender 1032 was thrown into corporate prison in the first place.
Kulas: Red Faction is a new game. Descent 4 was canceled. Sure, a lot of the technology that was going into Descent 4 is present in Red Faction, but the story is very different. Yes, there are similarities, but I don't think it will make much sense to view Red Faction and Descent as being part of the same universe.
Descent 4 was going to be a prequel to the original Descent.
PD: Since the "Geo-Mod" part of Red Faction's engine is possible only because of portal technology, it would appear that you're still using the Descent engine as a core basis. Is that correct?
Kulas: Interesting theory. I wouldn't exactly agree that geomods are only possible because of portal technology, though Red Faction does use portals. I do think it would be very challenging to get them to work in a
BSP-based world, but I suspect it could be done. In any event, we are not using the Descent engine as a basis. I don't think there's any code from Descent in Red Faction.
PD: Do you have any idea what might come after Red Faction, whether it's from you or Outrage?
Kulas: Yes, I think Munukuru will come from Outrage after Red Faction comes from Volition. ;) As to what Outrage will do next, I'm not sure. As to what we'll do next—I'm afraid we haven't announced anything.
PD: Thanks Volition, and good luck on Summoner and Red Faction!