by William Gall
I recently had the opportunity to interview Matt Toschlog, President of Outrage Entertainment and lead programmer of Descent III. Matt was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions I had concerning the upcoming sequel to the Descent universe. So with out further adieu, on to the interview.
3DGW: What, In your opinion, is the most notable new addition to Descent III?
Matt: The most obvious thing is that Descent 3 now takes place both inside and outside. With our Dual-Engine Technology we have a indoor portal-based engine hooked to a flight-sim-like terrain engine, allowing the player to fly in and out seamlessly. It really opens the game up and gives us the power to expand gameplay over the previous versions.
3DGW: What is the story line behind Descent III?
Matt: At the end of Descent II our hero, the Material Defender, was left floating, lost in the middle of nowhere. In D3 he gets rescued, learns some unpleasant facts, and gets involved in a fight against some very nasty people. I don't want to give away too much so I can't say anything more.
3DGW: Has there been any collaboration with Volition on their Experiences with Descent: FreeSpace?
Matt: One of our guys (Kevin Bentley) worked with Volition on getting Parallax Online up and running with FreeSpace, and we tested early versions of the game and provided feedback. But we didn't work on the game itself.
3DGW: What is the situation with the split of Volition and Outrage to pursue separate versions of the Descent Series?
Matt: In 1996 Mike Kulas and I, who founded Parallax, decided it made more sense to operate the two offices of Parallax as separate companies. We cooperate very closely, including on the Descent series. In addition to doing independent projects, we're trading back and forth on Descent sequels -- Volition is gearing up to start Descent 4 in the next few months.
3DGW: With the current trend of making the single player experience more realistic, what is in store for us with Descent III as far as AI is concerned?
Matt: We're making an effort to give each enemy in D3 the sort of distinct personality you saw in Descent II's Guidebot and Thief. It's important to us that each of the robots in Descent 3 really seems different from each other. It's very rewarding for the player to meet a new enemy, get to know him, learn his quirks, and figure out the best way to kill him. It's great when a game requires both thinking and quick reactions.
3DGW: What API's will Descent III support for Video and Audio? A3D,EAX, glide, Direct3D,etc.
Matt: For graphics, we currently support OpenGL, Glide (for 3Dfx Voodoo cards), and Direct3D. For sound, we support A3D and DirectSound3D.
3DGW: What video cards are you currently testing with Descent III and what do you think will be the recommended choice for gamers that want to get the full effect of Descent III?
Matt: Descent 3 will run well on a variety of cards. We'll recommend at least a Voodoo 1 card, and newer cards (3Dfx Voodoo 2, S3 Savage 3D, nVidia TNT, etc.) will run even better.
3DGW: Will Descent III support Team Audio like in Descent: FreeSpace?
Matt: We haven't decided yet. We'll be looking at that technology in a few weeks and making a decision then.
3DGW: With D3 can we expect Force Feedback support and fully customizable controls?
Matt: We haven't done force feedback yet, but we probably will. And of course we'll still have fully-customizable controls.
3DGW: Will D3 run as a dedicated server and if so can you give me some details?
Matt: We haven't implemented the dedicated server yet, so I can't be too specific, but we are definitely going to do it. And once the Windows- based dedicated server is working, we're going to look at porting it to Linux.
3DGW: What multiplayer modes will be available? Teamplay, Cooperative, Deathmatch?
Matt: We'll have all the games Descent II had, plus a lot more. In Descent 3 we've implemented the game logic for multiplayer in DLLs, so whenever you start a multiplayer game the program scans for DLLs and builds a list of the available games. This will make it easy for us to add new games, even after D3 is out. We've already created several totally new games, and we'll be doing more before (and after) the game comes out.
3DGW: How many people will be able to play at once? LAN, Internet?
Matt: We haven't done enough testing yet to nail down those sorts of numbers. We're supporting more players than Descent and D2 did, but the real factor is what type of connection each person has.
3DGW: Will there be any sort of GameBrowser support? Kali, GameSpy?
Matt: We've got our own on-line matching service, Parallax Online (PXO). It's a free service that will provide chat, statistics, and plenty of games to join. The system is already up and running with Descent: FreeSpace, so when D3 comes out people will be able to start playing right away.
3DGW: Will the level editor ship with the game and if so will it be the same one you used to create the levels?
Matt: This is another issue that hasn't been finalized yet. We will *probably* ship with an editor, and if we do it will be based on the one we use, but will be a lot more user-friendly. The problem with our editor is that we keep changing it as the game changes, so it's not as easy to use as if we'd designed the whole thing at the beginning.
3DGW: Rumor has it that Descent III will have a more open architecture to allow the Descent community to more options such as mod authors the ability to customize the game more than in past games. Can you elaborate on that?
Matt: We haven't figured out how much information we're going to release, but it's true that there's a lot of potential for customization. Descent and Descent 2 allowed add-on levels, but D3 makes it a lot easier for each level to have custom data such as robots and textures. And our scripting language means that designers of homebrew levels will be able to do things we didn't even think of.
3DGW: What are the recommended system specs looking like right now ?
Matt: The minimum system is a P200 with 32MB of RAM and a 3D accelerator card. The recommended system will have 64 MB of RAM, a Voodoo 2 or equivalent 3D card, and environmental 3D Sound Card, and a good joystick. And of course, a faster machine is always better :)
3DGW: What new games have you looked at or played to unwind from the long hours of coding?
Matt: The big games around the office these days are Rainbow Six and Motocross Madness. And we play a fair amount of Descent 3, even when we're not testing.
I would like to thank Matt for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope to be making a trip to the Outrage offices to get a first hand look at the progress of Descent III and hopefully will have some more info on it in the near future.
You die hard Descent fans will probably have noticed that the graphics I posted here are the same ones from the Outrage site. Unfortunately for me my PR Contact has left Interplay and so my screenshots have vaporized. Maybe next time.
Make sure you check out the Outrage web site and keep an eye on Descent III. This title is going to rock.
By William Gall
Date: Sept 7, 1998
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