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Classic ’90s shooter may return to life after dev drops source code

Descent 3 might be coming back after one of its original developers posted most of the game's source code under an open source license.

Classic 3D spaceship shooter's source code released as open source: Deep underground in Descent 3 an enemy robot attempts to stop the player, but they've come armed with many, many guns.

Early shooters were easy to get lost in but none were more confusingly laid out than the original Descent games. Navigating your spaceship through fully 3D spaces in a series of labyrinthine asteroid mines led many to desperation, lost in an endless series of caverns trying to find the missing miners they needed to rescue in order to make their escape. In 1999, Descent 3 launched, revolutionizing the series by allowing players the ability to leave the mines behind for the first time, blasting enemy robots while jetting around above ground.

Despite being available on Steam and GOG for a few years now, Descent 3 has been a little tricky to get running. Unlike many classic FPS games, there’s been no real dedicated source port that would help get it running on modern hardware. If you trawl the comments on Steam, for example, you’ll find many complaints about issues getting it working correctly. As one of the first wave of games working hand in hand with the then-new graphics cards, there’s been a raft of problems for players to overcome in order to indulge in a bit of spaceship shooting action.

All that may be about to change, thanks to one of the original developers. Kevin Bentley is a programmer who worked on Descent 3 way back in the ’90s and he’s just released most of the original source code for the game onto GitHub under an open source license.

A screenshot from Descent 3 where the player has ascended out of the game's tunnels and is blasting happily away on the surface of an orange planet.

This means that anyone interested in getting their hands dirty with the code can now do so without fear of being slapped with a cease and desist notice or something even nastier. Finally, it should be possible for someone to cobble together a source port for the game, similar to DXX-Rebirth for the first two titles in the series, which should make playing Descent 3 considerably easier on modern systems.

As originally reported by Game Developer, it’s important to note that not all the game’s source code has yet been released, with some proprietary audio and video libraries being held back at the moment. “I have that code if someone wants to help make a converter so the old cutscenes work,” says Kevin Bentley. “It’ll take some effort to stub out that code so it compiles.”

Already some decisions have been made regarding the next steps for the project with several contributors already working on the code, so for the first time in almost 25 years, the future may be bright for Descent 3.

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Additionally, since the initial release of the game’s code on Tuesday, April 16, Kevin Bentley has set up a Descent Developer Discord to gather prospective coders in one place. You can grab the link over on GitHub, where you can also take a peek at the source code if you’re interested in helping out.

If all this has set a hunger in your heart for other classic titles, our guide to the best old games you can play on your PC in 2024 should satisfy. Should you instead prefer to step into the void, our best space games guide will get you the right stuff.

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