Project: Descent 3

When I was 22, I drove from Charlotte, North Carolina to Santa Ana, California. Three bazillion miles! Everything I owned that didn't fit in my car went into a dumpster before I rolled across the country. My friend Dan Elmaleh had given me a handful of dollars he had in his wallet before I left, Nicole Publick gave me a jar of change she was collecting, and I quietly prayed this would cover the gas and I wouldn't end up hitchhiking through New Mexico.

This was the start of everything for me, working as a game developer at a startup called Loki Software. I'd be porting video games to Linux and writing open source tools to aid that work. I didn't go there to pad out my professional experience; this was it, this was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

As it goes for many startups, Loki didn't last my whole life. But while it lived, I got to work on so many amazing things. Being a small company, you could walk in the door and be in charge of something almost immediately, and this is how I came to be in charge of Descent 3.

There are many stories about the work that went into this game, and I won't bore you with them, but I will say that a guy in southern California built a custom motion chair with some sort of pneumatic piston he created. We sent Andy, the QA guy, to the dude's garage to get it, because Andy had a truck and this is what startup life looks like, and I wired it up to Descent 3. Now the chair would tilt with your ship.

It was so wild, we flew it out to New York for LinuxWorld Expo, and Linus Torvalds thought it was kinda fun.

Support for this chair, which was never commercially produced, shipped in the Linux build of the game.  :)

Many of the people working at Loki were wicked smart and went on to important positions at important companies: Epic, Treyarch, Valve, Activision. One's in charge of the Unreal Engine, a few went on to make the best Spider-Man game ever, one built the Steam Link. Others started their own game companies and interesting projects. I decided to keep fighting the good fight, and kept porting games to Linux.

Not counting the expansion packs and the unpublished Deus Ex, Loki was responsible for 18 games. After Loki's collapse, I wanted to make sure these games weren't lost to time, but this has turned out to be a life's work in itself. Some of them were easy enough to hold onto, others had willing support from the original developers. Some games I almost got back but they slipped through my fingers, and some, well, who knows where to even start asking?

When an opportunity arises to get one of these titles back, I jump at it.

So two decades after Loki: prepare for Descent. Descent 3, that is.

I've not just re-ported the game, I've upgraded it in several ways. It's now 64-bit (the original was 32), built on SDL 2.0, and runs on modern Linux and macOS (the original needed glibc 2.0 on Linux and only ran on Mac OS Classic!). It can handle larger screen resolutions...the original would drop the screen's physical resolution back to 640x480 for cutscenes and movies. Now it renders to a framebuffer_object and scales up as appropriate.

Speaking of movies, I didn't have source code to the original movie codec, so those are now Ogg Theora videos, which makes a complete install of the game hundreds of megabytes smaller than the two CD-ROM beast it was at the turn of the century.

I'm thrilled to be bringing this game back to a modern Linux audience. It was the first big project at Loki that I was in charge of, and I'm super-thrilled to be in charge of it again today.

It's available on Steam now; if you already bought it for Windows on Steam, you already own it for Linux and macOS, otherwise, for $9.99 it can be yours right away. It comes with the Mercenary expansion pack included. The current build warns that it is still a beta release, so please be gentle while we get those initial bug reports in! Updates will follow.

Enjoy!

(Thanks to Hervé Caen, Rebecca Heineman, and everyone at Interplay that took a chance on me doing this work. I hope I made everyone proud!)


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