- Descent to Undermountain
Descent to Undermountain Developer(s) Interplay Publisher(s) Interplay Designer(s) Chris Avellone, Scott Bennie, John Deiley, Robert Holloway, Steve Perrin Engine Descent engine Platform(s) PC (DOS) Release date(s) 1997 Genre(s) Role-playing game Mode(s) Single player Rating(s)
- ESRB: M
Descent to Undermountain is a computer role-playing game created and distributed by Interplay in 1997. It was developed by Chris Avellone, Scott Bennie, John Deiley, Robert Holloway, and Steve Perrin. The game is based on the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, which was published at the time by TSR, Inc.. Programmers were Andrew Pal, James Gardner, Robert Holloway and Chris Farenetta.
The game partially derives its title from the use of the Descent 3D graphical engine. Undermountain allowed the player to interact with NPCs, monsters, and the general environment from a first-person perspective. The quest took place within the environs of the infamous super-dungeon of the Forgotten Realms, Undermountain. Real-time combat would mix with puzzles to provide a variety of challenges throughout the vast dungeon.
The game was not the first to bring PC role-playing into a 3D environment, having been preceded by several titles such as Bethesda Softworks' Elder Scrolls series and Looking Glass Studios' Ultima Underworld series. It was, however, noted for being the first RPG to use a dedicated 3D engine such as that behind Descent to create a 3D world based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons license.
As the back of the box has stated, the game included six different races that could take on single or multi-class professions with a variety of unique abilities such as thieves being able to climb walls. Over fifty different 3D monsters were in the game along with 160 magical items and forty different spells.
Players and critics alike have noted the unfinished feel of the game upon release. Cooperative multiplayer support, previously promised as a part of the title, was cut late in development because of severe technical issues and efforts were refocused on the single player campaign. The game was sort of a pariah at Interplay, where it was handled by no fewer than three development teams over the span of nearly two years. The final team to receive custody of the game was given an extremely limited amount of time to finish the product and had to start from nearly scratch due to unfinished code left over from the previous development teams.
The decision to use the Descent 1 engine was also cited as a design issue, as it required heavy rewrites to the code in order to support an RPG setting such as Undermountain. Bugs, embarrassingly weak AI, the unappealing and shoddy nature of the graphics, and several other issues have attributed to a general consensus of the game as an example of a title that was pushed to release before it was ready. Technical issues existed in the concept which delayed development, forcing redesigns and re-engineering. Ultimately the "quick change" to Descent's rendering engine proved to be extremely challenging which exceeded the technical understanding of the corporate leadership who were resolved to predetermined delivery dates. This lack of understanding led to a hurried development cycle.
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