Here is an interesting off topic post. Not much to do with World of Warcraft, or church, or personal life, or much of anything like that. It’s more of a nostalgic post with a bit of an attempt to draw some attention to something I personally enjoy. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what I’m about to talk about.
So, with all of that in mind, I want to talk about something that I have been involved with for the last 15 years.
Descent was a video game for the PC that was made by Interplay back in 1995. It utilized a lot of the same things that made DOOM popular. The big difference was that it added a third degree of freedom to your play. Instead of running around on the ground (Hence the term “Ground-Pounder”), you were given the ability to move forwards, backwards, left, right, up, down, and rotate a full 360 degree clockwise and counter clockwise. This gave you unlimited freedom of movement. Interplay dubbed this “A full 360 degrees of freedom”, or as the player community called it “6 Degrees of freedom (6DOF)”. This was a HUGE advancement in game play that the other gaming communities just couldn’t compete with. The problem with this though was if you had a weak stomach, there was always the chance for vertigo to set in.
When I first found this game, it was the shareware version of Descent on my father’s laptop from work. I was enthralled by this concept. I played every chance I got. I was always a little afraid of dying in the game, or of getting in over my head, but I still figured it out and I loved it.
Fast forward a couple of years and Interplay released a sequel. Descent 2. It was the same successful formula of game play, but added better graphics, new weapons, new robots to fight, and improved multiplayer support. Now, this is where I get in to the meat and potatoes of this post.
Descent 2: Multiplayer! There used to be an online gaming community called HEAT.NET. Heat.net was awesome because you could talk to people on the internet in a chat room type of fashion, and when you wanted to play a game of Descent, you just clicked the icon, and you were able to play with up to 8 people in one game. It was great. I spend almost two years straight playing on HEAT.NET before they shut down. That was a sad day for me. But, I found a replacement. Kali.net. It was just as good, but it turns out that this is where the “greats” of Descent played. All those people that essentially ran the gaming community hung out here.
When I started playing on Kali, I used the free version of the software which would let you play in a multiplayer game for up to ten minutes at a time. Now, I have ADD so 10 minutes was an eternity for me, but I was happy to play like I did. After I realized that I loved playing this game as much as I did, I broke down and made my first online purchase. I spent $20 to buy a registration key for Kali. My addiction to 6 degrees of freedom only got worse at this point.
Then… I met Andrea!
I started dating the girl that I eventually made my wife. I would go over to her house and connect my 800 MHz laptop to her 300 MHz desktop by way of a direct serial connection and we would play Descent together. She died a lot in those games. A whole lot. But she married me anyways. Anyways, as we played in her guest bedroom, I would let her log in to Kali occasionally and play online with my friends. Then something happened. I figured out that I was serious about this girl. To this day, she still doesn’t know this story (Surprise Andrea!) How did I figure out that I wanted to be with her forever? Simple. I went home, logged on to the Kali.net, and I purchased her a registration key. I bought my girlfriend access to my online gaming community. Pretty dorky huh?
Fast forward a few more years. The guys that made the first two made a third. Descent 3. This added the ability to get out of the mines and fly around outside as well. This was a huge advancement. It added improved online play through Parallax Online (PXO) and the introduction of two new ships to fly. I’ll get in to the ships and all of that in a few minutes. But this made the addiction worse. I would get my friends to play with me. I would throw LAN parties where we would play descent until people just got so tired they couldn’t play anymore. It was amazing.
Then life changed. I got married. I joined the Coast Guard. I had a child. Then I picked up World of Warcraft. Then I had another child. Then I moved. Then I moved again. Eight years I was detached from the community that I loved. And now, here I am. I’m stationed on a boat that is gone for weeks on end. I am rarely home. And I had to find something to fill my time.
Something that I could do for a few minutes. Something that I could do for a few hours. Something that I could do without internet. Something that I could with the internet. Something that I could play that would keep my brain occupied while the boat rumbled around me for hours on end.
That was it. That was the answer.
I went down in to my basement and I dug out my old joysticks. I pulled out an old copy of the game. I snagged a copy of those games and expansion packs that I didn’t have any more. I downloaded the add-ons, the level packs, the upgraded texture packs, and the art to make my own cases, CD labels, and game play books. I went to www.kali.net and I downloaded the software. I dug out those two dusty Kali.net registration keys and I plugged them in. I installed my games, configured them, hooked up to my trusty iPhone internet tether, and then it happened. The words that primed me for this post.
Prepare for Descent
I sat there for a moment. My ship hovering in the entrance corridor of level 1. The Lunar Outpost. This was it. I was playing again. I was actually doing it. For a few brief moments, life felt… happy. Nostalgically happy. I slammed the throttle forward, gripped the joystick tightly, and prepared to unleash hell in a game play environment I hadn’t touched in almost a decade. And it was good.
Now, this post is only about half over. While the words that I have typed are personal experience and I hope you can take some sort of joy or entertainment value from them, the next few paragraphs are the part that I hope pique your interest. I hope that you can read them and say “Wow, this looks kind of cool.” Or “Hey, I should really consider this.”. So with that, here it is.
DESCENT: The reason I have been flying blind since 1995!
Let me start with some of the technical aspects of this game. What it is, and what’s available.
Descent: First Strike – This is what started it all.
Descent 2: Counterstrike – The new and improved version. This is my personal favorite.
Descent 2: Vertigo – The expansion to the wildly successful Descent2.
Descent 3: Retribution – This was the amazingly beautiful version that took you out of the mines.
Descent 3: Mercenary – The expansion to Descent 3.
Doom didn’t just introduce the masses to a first-person, action 3-D shooter, it spawned a variety of first-person clones. Some of these clones, like Dark Forces, were welcome additions to the genre. Others were just more of the same. Only one 3-D shooter adds a whole new dimension to the field: Descent. No exploding body parts or fireball-vomiting demons here–Descent puts an industrial spin on the genre by taking you into the bowels of huge factory-like space stations to fight mining robots gone mad.
Consider this: in space, there is no up or down. Descent uses that concept to hit you like a 9G turn with a labyrinth environment and free range of motion on the x-, y-, and z-axes. Nudge your spaceship into a room, and watch out—attacks can come from your left or right, from above or below you. You’ll spin your ship around while firing missiles and lasers until vertigo isn’t just an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but a way of life. Surrounded by this chaos you must rescue scattered human hostages and gather powerups while trying to keep your firepower and shields at their max. A 3-D rotating map is available for those who can’t handle the bewildering turns of each level.
Now, the multiplayer for me is where the money is at. Shooting at friends is fun in things like Quake and UT2K4, but it gets even better in this kind of scenario.
Now, I wanted to try and explain a bunch of the facets of this game in this post, but I find that my creative prowess right now is a bit stifled. So with that, I’m just going to say what I’m thinking instead of making it awesome.
This game is fun. It’s TONS of fun. There is a high learning curve, I won’t dispute that. A lot of people that play it for the first time walk away after two minutes saying it’s too hard. But those of you that are reading this right now know that we play hard games. (World of Warcraft anyone? Crazy hard when the theory crafting is involved) So, seriously, take a look at some of the links that I have below. Do a little reading on it. Download a demo or two. Hell, try the full game. If you are interested in what you are seeing or reading, then shoot me a message and I’ll hook you up with some AWESOME stuff. But seriously, this game was epic before epic was purple. (Actually, the Fusion Cannon was purple and was considered epic.)
Anyways, I’m going to quit prattling on and get to the awesome resources that are available. Enjoy.
Forums and Message Boards:
http://www.planetdescent.com – This was the second most used forum for the game. The casual player went here for discussions and most everyone came here for downloads, demos, maps, and other sundries for the game. If you want the demo, this is the place to find it.
http://www.descentbb.net – This is where the hardcore players hang out. It’s primarily a forum, but still has good discussions considering the small size of the Descent community. A must for assistance with some of the more difficult aspects of the game.
Descent 1 Demo – The noise that started it all. Low-res, but a classic.
Descent 2 Demo – This was the mainstay of the multiplayer community for years. Better resolution, but still fairly low res. This one is my personal favorite.
Descent 3 Demo – This brought you out of the mines for a new experience. Better online support, better graphics, better sound, and an actual story line. If you want something single player that’s good fun with an actual goal, this is the one for you.
Now, Descent was awesome on its own, but to make it better for online play, there was an update made by a group from Denmark called D2X-XL. This made it so you could have insane resolutions and better network support. It’s a MUST for anyone who wants to play online.
Online multiplayer support:
Http://www.kali.net – This is the chat interface that will let you find people to play with. This one is a must if you want to try it online (Which is recommended.)
http://www.slyclan.de/ – This is where you get VORTEX. It’s the software that lets you chat and play Descent 3 online. If you decide to pick up the game, then this is where you get your multiplayer from.
If you have read this far, then you are most likely interested in what you saw. Just drop me a comment or an e-mail or hit me up on AIM (rubyhunter4) and I’ll do what I can. I’m looking to build the community. Maybe you want to help.
Peace out. Hopefully, I’ll see you in the mines when I’m not hanging out in Azeroth.