Descent: Underground Is Verti-Go On Kickstarter

Descent Underground concept art

You wait fifteen years for a proper Descent game, and then several come along at once. Tsk.

A group of industry vets have licensed the Descent trademark from Interplay and begun development of Descent: Underground [official site]. They launched a Kickstarter campaign a couple of days ago; as I write this they’ve already passed the 25% mark. Their pitch video follows.

The Descent games were pretty popular in the 90s golden age of PC gaming, but the series has gone untouched since 1999’s Descent3. It’s a pleasant surprise to see it dug out of the archives for a reboot (though at this juncture I must tip my hat toward Sol Contingency and Sublevel Zero, since these games have also been keeping the ‘six degrees of freedom’ torch burning).

The Descent: Underground team, led by Eric “Wingman” Peterson, have some notable games in their collective portfolio including Wing Commander IV, Ultima Online and more recently Star Citizen. The elephant in the room, though, is that none of them worked on any of the original Descent games. On top of that the original creators of Descent aren’t involved at all; Matt Toschlog is working on the recently-Greenlit Rustbucket Rumble whilst Mike Kulas has been off the videogame grid since 2011.

There’s more reason for pause: the focus as outlined on the Kickstarter page is explicitly multiplayer, and some reportage on Descent: Underground has seen it described as a MOBA (which is not something Descendent are currently claiming – it seems to have come from an old comment on Peterson’s LinkedIn profile). There’s no talk of a single-player component for the game, except in comments left by Peterson elsewhere on the project page, in which he promises that single-player will be discussed soon. Possibly it will be among the stretch goals, which at the time of writing aren’t listed, although they are referred to elsewhere.

None of this is necessarily cause for concern; it could largely be down to communication mistakes from the team. Kickstarter projects are a risky proposition as it is, though, without having your confidence dented by confusing messaging. Reservations aside, there’s plenty of experience in the team, they’re not asking for the moon on a stick, Michael Morlan has a lovely voice and hey – this is a Descent game we’re talking about. If you’re interested, more detail on planned features can be found on Kickstarter.

49 Comments

  1. Tutamun says:

    Good luck WingMan!

  2. Tutamun says:

    btw. Single Player is now mentioned on the main kickstarter page.

    “We haven’t forgotten the puzzle-solving single-player experience of the original Descent games, either. Descent: Underground’s initial release will include a single-player mini-campaign that serves as a prologue to the full campaign.

    As we continue to raise funding and can grow the studio, our plan is to deliver a full-blown single-player adventure worthy of the original franchise. Given that our team has such a rich background in epic single-player games, we have very lofty goals for the prequel story that tells about the origins of the PTMC, the Material Defenders, and even the crazy robots.”

    • Razumen says:

      Hmm, that sounds better, I was extremely wary after I founf out there was absolutely no mention of SP and they claimed MP was the core of the Descent series-a statement I think many people would disagree with. I hope they’re not just adding that in because of backlash though.

      • EhexT says:

        Of COURSE that’s why they’re adding it. Seriously after Godus, Elite, Dyelist (or however it’s spelled) do people seriously still fall for the post-launch added feature that people really want but wasn’t part of the original pitch?

        The only reason there’s a single paragraph about singleplayer is because people that love Descent don’t give a toss about everything other than that single paragraph that wasn’t even part of their pitch.

        • Josh W says:

          Yeah exactly, let this one fail, and then later, someone can come up with their own better descent, which has a focus from the start on the right things. There’s no point using kickstarter to support old games if they’re going to be the same “in name only” sequels that the publishers tried to produce.

        • Juan Carlo says:

          Ditto. Single player will never happen for this game. They are promising to make it with the money they make post release, which is unlikely. The KS page lists the retail price as 50 dollars, which is absurd for a multiplauer only game. If this is funded by some miracle, the game will flop on release and multiplayer will die within a month.

      • peterako1989 says:

        yup I disagree with that statement. I never played descent in multiplayer.

  3. omf says:

    It’s interesting that these guys are getting Interplay’s blessing even though Sol Contingency had things nearly ready to go many months earlier. The fact that Interplay isn’t funding this and that they’re using Kickstarter instead also doesn’t feel right.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Isn’t Interplay one of those names nowadays? As in: just a name, no real people behind it from the days they were best known. It’s possible whoever owns Interplay asked for a sum of money. After all, its not as if something was being done with the IP.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Oddly enough, if you actually read the words up there, it talks about these very things…

  4. metric day says:

    Do they have a stretch goal that involves fessing up to why they parted ways with Chris Roberts? I’d feel a lot better about sending them my money if I knew why.

    • airmikee says:

      link to citizenstarnews.com
      “Story seems to be that the migration of the Ship pipeline to LA left several individuals needing to either move to California or leave the company.”

      Happens all the time at large and growing companies that have offices in vastly different geographic locations.

      • metric day says:

        I don’t believe that for a second. Their replacements work in Austin, don’t they? Who moved to LA? Sounds like horseshit.

  5. Tichinde says:

    Peterson left CIG ages ago due to the travel he was having to do.

  6. Zenicetus says:

    No, it’s not Descent if it’s strictly third person view and there is no in-cockpit flying experience. A focus on multiplayer is also a turn-off for me.

    No sale, unless there’s a decent cockpit, support for HOTAS controls and TrackIR with VR at least in the pipeline somewhere (this is 20015, right?), and enough singleplayer content to be interesting.

    • Razumen says:

      Where did you get that there’s only third person? a FP view is mentioned on the Kickstarter. Also, there will be a full SP campaign.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I got it from the video they’re actually showing here to fund the Kickstarter. All third person, arcade game.

        If they want me to chip in for a Kickstarter game that’s focused on a cockpit experience like the original Descent, then show me a cockpit. Otherwise I know what kind of game this is, and I’m not interested.

        • horrorgasm says:

          There are also some chubby old dudes in the video, therefore the game must be all about chubby old dudes.

          Nowhere does it say that that’s gameplay footage. In fact there is an actual cockpit gameplay video below it. Why they didn’t put that in the main video, I don’t know, but there it is.

  7. Catweasel says:

    They’re focusing on the opposite of what I like about descent. :(

  8. Telkir says:

    Sorry Descendent, I wish you no ill but I’ll keep my money in readiness for when Sol Contingency eventually run their own Kickstarter. Everything I’ve seen from both games leads me to think that MadMax’s team, even without being able to use the Descent name and IP, are coming up with something much closer to the modern Descent I want to play.

  9. Kaeoschassis says:

    Eh. Sounds like yet another series I love being handled by people who have no idea what it actually was. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I aint backing.

  10. Gron says:

    Mmm.. Reading all lines from a behind camera script is.. well.. lame. I’m under impression the fat ‘wingman’ (or whoever he is) doesn’t give two flying fucks about the project he’s promoting… Neither am i.

    • instantcoffe says:

      – Put on you best shirt for the KS video!

      – I have a black one with two huge white stripes!

  11. EhexT says:

    All the Pay to Win you loved in Star Citizen now in a franchise you might actually give a frack about!

    You liked Descent right? How about something that’s nothing like Descent, Multiplayer only and you have to pay for every ship! You don’t want that? Here have a token “mini campaign” so people that singleplayer buy into our Arena PvP P2W game!

    This Kickstarter is the saddest piece of nostalgia cash-in bullshit I’ve seen in a long time. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

    • disorder says:

      Watching their pitch, I couldn’t help but think even as I was watching that it did seem to include by implication all the classic hitboxes for the f2p genre – with staple features like buy your way through a tech tree, new paint – the harbingers of the usual after-sales nickel and diming native to that platform and which they seem to care about a great deal because they talk more about it than actual gameplay. And really, star citizen as a reference for credibility? That’s a reach. What buttons are they trying to push? Because ‘fire lasers from a spaceship’ was not one of them.

      Is it a Descent they’re making; I don’t know. I certainly can’t tell, but I’m so starved of the kind of game I want it to be I may back it at some level. Even MechWarrior Online was ok – to a point.

      What’s wrong here is that I should be excruciatingly excited and yet, somehow – I’m not.

  12. ZIGS says:

    The single-player is clearly an afterthought. Screw this, I say

  13. Zenicetus says:

    Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s all chip in on a Kickstarter to buy the license for the Wing Commander series, and we’ll make it a 3rd person behind-the-ship shooter. Much easier to program than all that cockpit and campaign storyline stuff.

    Oh, and multiplayer, because that was what sold the original Wing Commander, X-Wing, and Descent series… Yay!

  14. Jason Moyer says:

    It’s not Descent unless there’s a massive campaign than can be played co-op.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Did the first two have co-op, then? I know the third had a campaign specifically for co-op but hell, if 1+2 could be co-opped then I know exactly what I’m doing this weekend.

      • jnik says:

        Yes! I played all of Vertigo co-op with a roomie. It is AWESOME, you go through just like the single player. It makes boss battles fantastic. Hmmm, I wonder if I could get my girlfriend to play…

  15. Urthman says:

    That title makes me wonder if this is actually inspired by Descent to Undermountain. I’m not sure those are the memories they want to be triggering.

  16. bill says:

    In a break from my lifelong gaming habits, I actually think of Descent as basically a multiplayer only game.

    I’ve been a single player gamer almost all my life, with much more interest in sotries and characters than deathmatches. But there was one period, when I was at university, when we could install Heretic and Descent and Duke Nukem 3D on the university network and spend hours blasting each other.

    And Descent was the king of those battles. Heretic and D3D were both great too, but they had decent single player stories to boot.
    I could never really get into the single player of Descent. Same went for several other Descent clones and Descent 3 when I tried to play it a while back. Unfortunately space ships don’t have much character and have limited interaction with the world. Robot enemies don’t have much character. Having every mission have the same objective doesn’t do much for the story.
    I don’t think I ever got past a couple of levels in single-player.

    But multi-player on a lan? That was awesome.
    Problem is, I’m not sure what could be really done to improve it, other than just more graphics.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      “Robot enemies don’t have much character.”

      I’m sorry, I disagree entirely with this, both in a general sense and very specifically regarding Descent. Its robots had TONS of character, especially for a game of its era. Their unique visual style, their instantly recognizable, almost animal sounds, their (still surprisingly intelligent) behaviours. Is there anybody here who hasn’t got into a game of brutal hide and seek with a thief-bot and found themself swearing at the monitor?
      Robots can have every bit as much character as Man with Sword or Other Man with Gun.

      • HunterKing says:

        If they don’t make it a little more claustrophobic then they’ve missed the entire point

  17. rowan_u says:

    6DOF is not dead, Elite dangerous with flight assist off is very very 6DOF. So is Lunar Flight. I do miss Descent though, I still remember the feeling of firing a flare off into a dark tunnel and watching it snuff out. Some suggestions: I hope they don’t forget the rouge-like nature of Descent, flying back into the tunnels to try and collect the shattered pieces of your previous ship was Intense. Also, a single player campaign is a must. Music is a huge part of Descent, I still have the entire soundtrack in my playlist (one of the first “redbook audio” games). Lastly, I don’t think you can do a cockpit game in 2015 without including VR. First play Lunar Flight to see how to do it properly ;)

    • disorder says:

      I found the descent music (talking descent 1/2) to place you with what you were doing, in the environment perfectly. For quite a lot of games that otherwise aged catastrophically, I find listening to it filled the gap left by what you were seeing and especially, the minds-eye.

      This was posted on on sol contingency forum and isn’t even linked with that project but > link to soundcloud.com has some of the ‘most descent’ inspired tracks I’ve listened to since, maybe including descent.

  18. jnik says:

    Well, my excitement lasted for only a few seconds. The pitch got the premise of the original wrong (“battling for control of a space station” did we play the game, or just read the original Inferno concept docs?). The footage, which I’m guessing is concept and not in-engine, looks a LOT more D3 and less of tunnel-rat D1/D2 awesomeness…something about 3 just didn’t quite work. The closest connection to Parallax is having someone who worked on Thief….3. (Parallax grew out of Blue Sky/Looking Glass.) Oh, and single-player as an obvious afterthought.

    On the plus, they are promising DRM-free (given it’s so multiplayer-focused, does that mean local multiplayer?) and seem to be running a communicative campaign with good feedback. I just don’t think their vision of Descent matches what I found great.

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  20. onionman says:

    Who the hell cares? Freespace 3 or GTFO

  21. Ludomation says:

    This looks good and I hope it gets funded – but I can’t bring myself to back it. The pricing structure is hideous. Why should I have to pay $150 for a game just to get all the features? If I back at the lowest tier I feel like I will be missing out on so many things, and won’t stand a chance against other higher tier backers in multi-player. Also, as has already been mentioned here – I find your lack of single player focus disturbing, Commander.

    I realise they have to have the claws out to get the funding they need and like I say – I hope they get it. I think they probably will. I’m just not sure I want to jump in on this one just yet. Arrrg, the pangs of nostalgia are strong with this one!

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      If you read back what you just wrote, and think on what they’ve shown, well, I wonder whether you really want this kickstarter goal to be met. Personally, I liked descent, but it’s not a game I would back for. Maybe it’s all the kickstarter ‘mishaps’, but I’m not really certain we should fund these guys.

  22. MikhailG says:

    Descent 1/2 (and to some extent 3 tho it was very different) was and is one of my favorite games even if its not in my top 3. It had great level design, terrific atmosphere and a pounding industrial electronic soundtrack, as well as iconic robot design AND the design of the player ship.

    So what are these guys promising? Exciting multiplayer matches, sprawling maps with resource gathering, A TECH TREE(?!???), various different ships to chose from of which none have any distinguishing characteristics, and an orchestral soundtrack blaring in the background of the section of the video showing us concept gameplay.

    See a problem here? Yeah my heart is a bit crushed that another name of my gaming past is just going to be another nostalgia cash in.

  23. mich5man says:

    This saddens me a little. I love Descent 1 and 2 for the entire point of weaving in and out of the labyrinths especially after destroying the core and heading for the exit. Other players were interesting but never the same as checking all angles above and below to find the robot miner taking pot shots at me.

    This just seems like a buy in on a name to sell a re-skinned EliteCitizenCraft 2015.

  24. mich5man says:

    Oh and the original title for this project for them was Ships That Fight Underground (STFU). So I’m not getting too much in the way of interest in the original games.

  25. oldschoolgamer says:

    There are many thing that just doesn’t seem right with this game.
    If you listen to the real Descent fans, it is clrear that this game hasn’t deserved the ip.
    Starts with the multiplayer focus and ends with background story.

    What I can’t understand that many people backed it because they like Wingman or think he is a funny guy and so the game will the fun.
    Come one, if you really are gamers the game is important and not the humor of the developer!

    He is also mocking Star Citizen on different occasions. Of course never in such a way that you could say he said anything bad about SC.But he should know, people can read between the lines
    I think IF Peterson really cares about having a good relationship with CIG he should stop with those jokes.
    Because in my opinion the reason he did not accept an invitation of CIG for one of the latest events was that he knew they might ask him about the mocking, or let’s say “joking” against Star Citizen.
    And on his Hangout Videos that “I still support SC, everything is cool between CIG and me, blabla….” Should we believe that?

    I also agree that the announced single player is an afterthought. So in case the game will be funded, which I doubt, I wouldn’t be surprised if they say: “I know we announced a singleplayer campaign, but let’s focus on the multiplayer for now!” ;)
    For me the single player thing is just talk so people stay interested enough to pledge money, so the game get’s funded.

    Long things short: Too many things I don’t like about this. So no, I am not interested in supporting this game.

    • _TRON_ says:

      I would say you should take a look at what some other very hardcore descent fans have posted.. at they very least keep an open mind :) link to descendentstudios.com

      • oldschoolgamer says:

        In his last video Peterson explains that his game will not be pay 2 win.
        The problem here is, that the focus still is on multiplayer on not on single player.
        Means, if I can buy ship and other stuff with money, I have an advantage over otehrs who don’t.

        Remember that was also said that the most valuable currency “PAL” can just be earned if you win your multiplayer matches.

        So I can see aöready see that there will be teams who just accept members who buy their stuff in the shop to kick asses of teams who still need to unlock everything.

        I see it like a football match between a team players with protective gear, because they can afford it and another one that has no protective gear because they can’t afford it.
        Easy to figure out that the team with the better gear tackles the other one into ground and wins.

        So sorry, but that is pay 2 win and not just saving time.

  26. _TRON_ says:

    WM is doing an AMA on reddit for you folks who have questions, concerns etc.. link to reddit.com

  27. oldschoolgamer says:

    And by the way: My opinion is based on al the videos Peterson has done to explainand introduce the game and not just because some fans of the original game said they don’t like what Peterson is creating with the Descent IP.

    I also watched the interview they have online. Even the guy that interviewed Peterson could not exclude that the Kickstarter campaign could fail.
    So also the press is not 100% sure if this game will be a success.

    There are not so many videos, so you can watch them all and if you listen closely you wil notice I am not so wrong with my opinion.

    So again, if you listen you will notice:
    Most important Currency is “PAL”. You just get “PAL” if you win your team matches.
    That information plus the info the is a shop where you can buy drones and other stuff, that clearly gives me the information it’s multiplayer focused and you can equip yourself better with buying things with real money.
    To me that clearly means Pay to Win!

    And so far Peterson said nothing that let me think different about it.
    Yes, you can save time. Because Pay 2 Win safes you the time to do hundrets of matches in the hope you have any chance to face a team that has not bought the shop “empty” (not literally) to have an advantage with drones and whatever else you can buy there.

    If the shop will just offer skins for the drones and merchandise, or just stuff that helps you in the single player, I take my opinion on the pay 2 win back. If not, I might not be that wrong with it. ;)
    But there would still be the fact that it’s focus is on the multiplayer and the singleplayer will just not be what old Descent fans would love.

    About the reddit: Yes, but as I lnow from the videos, there are too many questions he will not answer. And ther is still the impressiom that the single player is an afterthought and even if he does the single player as he described it, it will be a tutorial where you unlock your drones.