15 February 2007 00:57 GMT

It's been a little while, to say the least, since I've used any Descent version for development. Apocalyptic Factor was the last time I did any serious level design, and that was released nearly 6 years ago, although I revisited it a year later to fix some bugs and make some alterations.

I never really got into Descent 3 the same way. It took far longer to make a good level with it - perhaps I just didn't

have enough patience to get anything sizable done. This seems to line up with most of the third-party levels that were released for the game. They were fairly boxy, and where there was any detail it felt gimmicky. Two of the most beautiful things about the official single-player campaign, meticulous texturing and subtle use of fog, were usually omitted from third-party levels because the former took too much time and the latter ended up disabled by most users.

Now that I'm using Blender to construct the meshes for levels, it should be significantly faster to build them.

Texturing them may be a different story; if D3Edit imports UV mapping it will be fairly fast, but if I have to use the D3Edit texturing controls it probably won't.

Then there's the really tricky bits. Scripting was something I never had to touch in Descent 2, and depending on the complexity of the storyline it can get quite involved. Custom robots could take a while - fortunately, I've had plenty of practice with the technique through developing MW4 models and the Obsidian robots some time before. After that, there's still custom doors, a handful of textures

(though I don't plan to go crazy on these), music, and major alterations to the handling of the game. This is largely personal preference, so I'll elaborate on my reasoning.

Descent 1 and 2 were fun in single-player, despite identical objectives in every level for over 20 levels straight. They were best on Insane, because you had to watch how much damage you took and you didn't have many lives. It took some care, but it was something you could work out.

Descent 3's single-player was also fun, in ways. I personally enjoyed the atmosphere of its levels more than Descent 1 and 2, which barely even resembled mines at the beginning and became surreal virtual worlds with even less resemblance to reality at the end. Descent 3 was more like another world, rather than another dimension. It had more interesting objectives, even though they still came down to destroy this/collect that/end of level.
The major problem with Descent 3's single-player was the robots. It took forever to hit them. There was more space, and both the player ship and the enemies moved so fast

that Vauss and Mass Driver became the best primaries in the game simply because it took far less time to kill something with them. You couldn't fight eight Gunslingers on Insane simultaneously - even if you were an experienced pilot, they dodged as much as you did. Fighting eight meant you were going to take damage eventually, and if you were lucky you'd have two or three nailed before you ran out of shields. It made the game more challenging, but it also made it take forever to get anywhere.

And that's something I don't want to repeat. So, I plan to decrease the movement rate on both the player ship and the robots, so that the Descent 3 guns can do a better job of catching them. The other idea I'm looking into is removing the respawn - this would mean I'd have to make things easier to kill, and possibly increase the player ship's shields, but from what I've seen in Mechwarrior, playing with only one life adds another dimension to the game that actually makes it more enjoyable.