Descent: Underground Kickstarter Interview

Descendant Studios, the developer behind the Kickstarter revival of the 3D space FPS, is looking to resurrect a well-loved title from the heyday of space-based games. We The Nerdy sat down with Rob Irving, the game’s creative director, to discuss the upcoming title and what drove him to resurrect this prominent gem from gaming’s past.


We The Nerdy: First, thanks for talking to WTN about your game. For those who aren’t familiar, could you tell us a little bit about the original Descent? What made you decide to resurrect the franchise?

Rob Irving: I come from a design perspective, so the two things that really grabbed me about the original Descent were the amazing flight model and the really unique level design. The idea that you could pilot a ship that did exactly what you told it in any direction was so new, so much fun, and so difficult to truly master, that it immediately grabbed my attention, particularly coming from a background in old-school flight simulators and space games. The levels were just so different from anything we’d gotten to play with before, and they were challenging, which I always like in games. The difficulty was that the graphics of the time just weren’t able to do justice to what the creators clearly had envisioned. With modern technology, it just seemed like an obvious choice to give a game that occupied so much of my early gaming career a new shot at life.

WTN: Could you tell us a little about how Descendant Studios got their hands on the property? Are you working with Interplay, or did you buy the rights?

RI: Ouch… touchy subject with a lot of the fan community out there. There are other projects out there that we are absolutely behind. This game style is bigger than one title. That being said, we (and I use that word for now, since I wasn’t on board when this happened) had always intended to bring the feeling of Descent back with some new twists and the advantages of modern technologies. Interplay reached out, and we reached an agreement for our use of the license. With or without that license, we would still aim for this great leap forward in that vein.



WTN: What are some modern technologies you’re interested in bringing to the new Descent? What would you say are the biggest new features coming to the reboot?

RI: A lot of what we’re aiming for begins with cutting edge graphics, sound, and lighting. Higher-fidelity models and terrain will add a lot to the game. Of course, there’s also multi-platform support and VR – which a lot of people are interested in, even if not all of us older folks will be using it. I think the biggest new feature is the introducing of the meaningful destructible terrain and the mining system, as it will introduce a lot of tactical game elements and new game modes in addition to building a meta-game that will add depth to the multi-player combat. There are other additions that I think will be game-changers, but we’ll talk about them more as we get more design in place.

WTN: Destructible terrain can really change how a game plays, as we’ve seen in titles like Red Faction: Guerilla. Will elements like that have a great effect on moment-to-moment gameplay, or be more for occasional setpieces?

RI: In multiplayer games, we certainly want to use the destructible terrain extensively for the mining/searching for goodies mechanic, and also for its tactical effects on the game. In the single player missions, I’d envision the destructible terrain to be more constructed for specific mission goals – as a way to get around a seemingly-impassable door, for instance, or to find mission-specific items and resources that will help you progress towards larger goals.


WTN: The original Descent had a loose plot to tie it together, but the storyline wasn’t really the point of the game. Are you planning to keep the emphasis of the reboot purely on the gameplay, or will there possibly be a greater narrative focus?

RI: We’d like to expand upon the storyline some, certainly – particularly since a lot of us have a background in games that incorporate big stories. I’m a big proponent of telling the story through the gameplay as much as possible, however, and the main emphasis will always be on getting the gameplay right first.

WTN: Is there any particular aspect or feature of the new Descent you’re personally the most excited about? If you were trying to hook someone into the game, to get them excited for it, what would be the very first thing you showed them?

RI: The thing I’m really the most excited about is just the idea that we’re bringing back the very unique play style and flight mechanics of Descent, but that we’re removing some of the barriers to entry by adding additional elements of teamwork. I’m really looking forward to being able to show off the mining/terrain destruction mechanics, too.

WTN: Are there any last thoughts you’d like to share? Anything I haven’t asked about you’d love to tell readers?

RI: There are so many different opinions of what “Descent” means – including a lot of younger gamers who have no idea what it is at all! What we want people to know is that our goal is to build an experience that has the key Descent elements to it, but that is fun for anyone, no matter what their background. Thanks for your time!