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Proto:Descent (PC)

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This page details one or more prototype versions of Descent (PC).

This cactus is UNDER CONSTRUCTION
This article is a work in progress.
...Well, all the articles here are, in a way. But this one moreso, and the article may contain incomplete information and editor's notes.

The shareware demo for Descent was unleashed onto the world on December 24, 1994, containing the first seven levels of the campaign. While the demo is practically identical to the final release, there are still some minor differences.

Hmmm...
To do:
  • As of right now, this article only covers changes found within DESCENT.HOG. Are there any differences in the executable itself?
  • A couple pictures from an older prototype of the game can be seen from the back of the 1994 UK Floppy Disc release; presumably the shareware version. It notably has space on the dashboard for what looks like where the afterburner would be before it was taken out of the game for unknown reasons. source
  • Check the pictures from MobyGames, archived from the Shareware (1994) and the Gamespot website (1996)[1], [2]
  • Check the 1994 UK Floppy Disc release and the "PC GAMER CD-ROM Edition - Vol.2 No.4" for any possible changes/older files. [3], [4]

Gameplay Differences

  • The game is a lot more finicky about CPU speeds than the later registered versions. The registered game will start running too fast only when the framerate exceeds 150 frames per second, but the shareware will start speeding up as soon as 50 FPS is reached.
  • When a game ends, the game always posts a high score if one was achieved, even if the player aborted the game manually. The final game will only post a score if the player completes the game or runs out of lives.
  • Saving mid-level is not possible in the original shareware release. The released source code indicates that this is because the savegame code was started only after the shareware was released. A later patch to the shareware version would backport this code, allowing saves mid-game.
  • Only Anarchy multiplayer is possible, both as a registration incentive and because the multiplayer robot code wasn't finished at this point.

Object Differences

The definitions for all objects in all shareware versions of Descent, as well as registered Descent 1.0, are stored in an encoded text file BITMAPS.BIN, using the normal TXB encoding. In the shareware version, objects that shouldn't be included are prepended with "@", which causes the BITMAPS.TBL parser to ignore all assets related to that object and not include them. This means that it is possible to see statistics for objects not normally present in the shareware build.

Robots

Medium Lifter
Has a mass of 8 units, making it easy to push them away with gunfire. The registered version beefed them up to 1,024 units.

In the shareware version, they drop a single energy powerup by default. The registered version changed this to a maximum of two shield powerups.

Cloaked Lifter
Has a mass of 8 units, which was beefed up in the registered version to 2,048 units.

The shareware version of the Cloaked Lifter also uses the alternative tearing sound. In the registered version, this is replaced by the robot's sight sound.

Class 1 Driller
Will only drop vulcan ammo in the shareware version. The registered version allows them to drop a vulcan cannon if you don't have one already.

Alternate Lifter
Has just 35 health. The registered version upped this to 250, along with changing its laser from blue to red and giving them unique sounds.

Advanced Lifter
Has a mass of 8 units, which was beefed up in the registered version to 2,048 units. Their score value was increased from 500 to 800 points, and their use of the alternative claw sound was also changed so they use their sight sound.

Supervisor
Awards 500 points. The registered game dropped this to 400, along with giving them unique sounds.

Heavy Driller
Defaults to using Class 1 Drone sounds, and gets unique sounds in the registered game. Their score value is reduced from 1,500 to 1,000.

Laser Platform Robot
Have their health increased from 35 to 70, are given the chance to drop energy powerups by default, and are given unique sounds in the registered game. Missile platform robots don't exist yet.

Gopher Robot
Have their health increased from 35 to 150 and get unique sounds in the registered game.

PTMC Defense Prototype
Gets unique sounds in the registered game.

Level 7 Boss
Health is buffed from 1,200 to 2,000. The smart missiles fired by this boss also use the much stronger player smart trackers, making them more dangerous.

Final Boss
Mostly the same, but uses player mega missiles. The registered game would add a difficulty-scaling mega missile for the boss.

Unused Robots

A number of robots are defined in this version that were later completely replaced with other ones. For the most part, no assets of them exist other than their statistics. Many use alternatively-textured versions of models used in the final game, but those textures aren't present in the final game.

test1

@$ROBOT robot22.pof name="test1" score_value=600 mass=4.0 drag=0.033 exp1_vclip=2 exp1_sound=21 exp2_vclip=60 exp2_sound=20 lighting=0.6 weapon_type=5 strength=10 rbot012.bbm metl131.bbm metl131.bbm metl131.bbm simple_model=robot22s.pof rbot020.bbm rbot019.bbm

This robot would fire the unused blue version of the Class 1 Drone's projectile. It shares the model of the Spider Processor robot. Would be replaced by the Cloaked Driller robot.

test2

@$ROBOT robot01.pof name="test2" score_value=300 mass=1.5 drag=0.033 exp1_vclip=2 exp1_sound=21 exp2_vclip=60 exp2_sound=20 lighting=0.6 weapon_type=5 strength=10 rbot012.bbm metl132.bbm metl132.bbm simple_model=robot01s.pof rbot031.bbm

Essentially the same as test1, but with a Class 1 Drone model. Replaced by the Cloaked Medium Hulk.

Splitter

Descent-robot30.png
@$ROBOT robot30.pof name="splitter" score_value=400 mass=2.75 drag=0.033 exp1_vclip=2 exp1_sound=21 exp2_vclip=0 exp2_sound=20 lighting=0.6 weapon_type=10 strength=35 rbot043.bbm %32

The robot that would create the split pods, unused in the registered game. If it could fire, it would fire blue lasers like the split pods are defined to. The model for this robot was mistakenly included in registered Descent 1.0. Replaced by the missile-firing platform robot.

Turret top

@$ROBOT turtop.pof name="turretop" score_value=500 mass=1.00 drag=0.010 exp1_vclip=2 exp1_sound=21 exp2_vclip=0 exp2_sound=20 lighting=0.6 weapon_type=3 strength=20 metl011.bbm metl016.bbm stripes.bbm

A turret that would fire laser level 4. Replaced by the Fusion Hulk.

Weapon changes

Some of the weapons are different compared to their final versions.

Vulcan Cannon
Uses 25 ammo per shot in the shareware build, which is reduced to 12.75 ammo per shot in the registered game. All pickup items still give the same amount of ammo, meaning that vulcan ammo lasts roughly twice as long in the registered game.

Spreadfire Cannon
Weaker in the shareware build, doing 6 damage per shot and traveling at 100 units/second. The final game would bump this to 10 damage and a speed of 200 units/second. The unused spreadfire blob has a damage of 6 and a speed of 120, and the silent blob has a damage of 6 but the final speed of 200 units/second.

Plasma Cannon
Also much weaker, doing 5 damage per shot and costing .6 units of energy to fire. The final game makes it do 11 damage per shot and cost .5 units of energy. Each blob also had the amount of light cast increased.

Of note, even if the @ is removed to compile the weapon in and assets are provided for it, it is impossible to fire this weapon as the needed code simply is not compiled into the executable.

Fusion Cannon
Does 40 damage per blob, costing a hefty 10 units of energy to fire. The final game increases the damage to 60 and the energy use to 2 units, as well as increasing the light cast. The released source code mentions that the charging feature was added on January 26, 1995, so this predates the ability to charge it. Like the Plasma Cannon, the code needed to fire the Fusion Cannon is not present in the executable.

Concussion Missile
All explosive weapons in the shareware build specify a damage force, which is applied to objects hit by splash damage. This was removed from the 1.0 registered release, and the force done is now the damage done by the weapon multiplied by 2. The Concussion Missile specifies a damage force of 100.

Homing Missile
The Homing Missile specifies a damage force of 80. In addition, the missile has 10 seconds of fuel, this would be doubled to 20 in the registered game.

Proximity Bomb
Proximity Bombs specify a damage force of 100.

Smart Missile
The main Smart Missile does 60 damage in the shareware version and has a damage force of 30. The damage would be reduced to 25 in the registered game. Each of the Smart Missile's children do 60 damage in the shareware version, which is reduced to 35 in the registered version, and their lifetimes were increased from 8 seconds to 12. Code needed to fire this weapon is not present in the shareware version.

Mega Missile
Specifies a damage force of 375, but is otherwise the same. Code needed to fire this weapon is not present in the shareware version.

Robot Homing Missile
The damage on the first two skills are 10 and 13, respectively. These would both get changed to 15 for the registered game. The speeds on the first 3 skills are 20, 30, and 45, these would all be changed to 60 for the registered game. The lifetime would change from 35 seconds to 20, the damage radius increased from 20 units to 40, and the damage force is 85.

Robot Concussion Missile
The damage radius would be increased from 30 to 40, and they have a damage force of 100.

Powerup Changes

Extra life
Given a unique pickup sound in the registered game.

Energy powerup
Given a slight light cast in the registered game.

Invulnerability
Given a unique pickup sound in the registered game.

Music Changes

briefing.hmp

In the shareware build, the tempo of this is half of that of the final, at 60, but it otherwise sounds the same.

endlevel.hmp

This song isn't present in the shareware build, the level's main song instead continues through the escape cutscene.

game0.hmp/game01.hmp

Shareware Registered

The lead instrument has echoing not present in the final game, and slight instrument changes are present. This song would also get a special mix for OPL devices in the registered game.

game1.hmp/game02.hmp

The song lacks loop points in the shareware, fading out completely before playing again. This song would also get a special mix for OPL devices in the registered game.

game2.hmp/game03.hmp

Shareware Registered

This song has the largest instrument changes of all the songs in the shareware build, sounding almost completely different as a result. This song would also get a special mix for OPL devices in the registered game.

game4.hmp/game05.hmp

Shareware Registered

In addition to lowering the volume of the percussion some, the tempo of this song was increased by a bit.

Digital MIDI drums

Without -nodigidrums With -nodigidrums

A feature of HMI's Sound Operating System used by Descent is a software MIDI synth that works with sampled instrument sounds. When using the OPL2 or OPL3 MIDI devices in the shareware version by default, the drum tracks aren't played with the OPL synth and are instead played using the digi MIDI synth provided by SOS, using a small bank of drum sounds stored in drum32.dig. This feature can be disabled with the -nodigidrums command line parameter. This feature is removed from all later releases of the game, but the drum32.dig file is still present.

Text Changes

Text Strings

Descent uses descent.txb to define strings that are displayed in-game, whether it be via the HUD or the in-game menus. Several strings were changed between the demo and the final release, usually to fix typos or game engine features. A list of the changed strings is below.

(NOTE: \n calls have been removed for your viewing pleasure.)

String Number Demo Final Description
12 Copyright (c) 1994 Parallax Software Corporation Copyright (C) 1994, 1995 Parallax Software Corporation Updated copyright info.
57 Register Descent today! (Call 1-800-Interplay) CD-Enhanced Descent Coming Summer '95! Changed to promote the upcoming CD-ROM version of the game.
78 has destroyed the control center! has destroyed the main reactor! Control centers are now referred to as main reactors.
79 The control center has been destroyed! The main reactor has been destroyed! Ditto.
85 You destroyed the control center! You destroyed the main reactor! Ditto.
167 -NoDigiDrums Disables the digital drums on FM sound cards -NoLoadPats Disables patch loading for Gravis UltraSound Removed mention of -NoDigiDrums, added -GameServer. The remaining parameters are shifted up as a result.
168 -NoLoadPats Disables patch loading for Gravis UltraSound -NoNetwork Disables network drivers Ditto.
169 -NoNetwork Disables network drivers -NoSerial Disables serial drivers Ditto.
170 -NoSerial Disables serial drivers -NoJoystick Disables joystick support Ditto.
171 -NoJoystick Disables joystick support -NoMouse Disables mouse drivers Ditto.
172 -NoMouse Disables mouse drivers -GameServer Specify IPX address of machine starting netgame Ditto.
207 Anarchy w/Robots Robo-Anarchy Renamed multiplayer game mode.
221 Team selection
Select names to switch teams
press ESC when finished
Team selection
Select names to switch teams
Shortened string.
230 CLOSED, level: CLOSED Ditto.
306 Waiting for opponent... Waiting for remote player...
357 Joystick
Sensitivity
Joystick/Mouse
Sensitivity
Added mouse sensitivity.
360
Modem/serial game...
Modem/serial game... Removed unneeded \n (New line) call.
376 Turn ship to rotate. Flight controls move Reworded automap controls.
377 Slide up/down to zoom. Accelerate/Reverse zooms in/out Ditto.
413 Viewing Kill List Viewing Level Scores
426 Loading . . . Prepare for Descent... Changed message that is displayed when loading a level.
444 This is for players using
only the FCS. If you also
use a WCS or FLCS you
must configure for joystick.
See manual/readme for details.
Use this option for the FCS
and Wingman Extreme only
when used alone. If you
also use a WCS or FLCS you
must configure for joystick.
See manual/readme for details.
Reworded instructions.
506 This socket is already full.
Please restart Descent
with the -socket option.

for example: Descent -socket 1
This socket is ready full.
Please restart Descent
with the -socket option.

for example: Descent -socket 1

Opening Cutscene

The opening briefing between the Material Defender and Samuel Dravis was slightly changed between the demo and the full release. Censorship is a possible reason for these changes, although a more probable one would be for consistency with the cinematic intro for the then-upcoming PlayStation version.

Demo Final
Damn bureaucrats. They'd replace us all with robots

given half the chance. Briefings are hell. Air is
too sterile for human lungs, endless electric blue
schematics sting the eyes, and a suit from
Post-Terran whose droning voice would make
Armageddon sound boring. They needed me, they had
the equipment I needed. Why does this fool

keep babbling?
Worthless bureaucrats. They'd replace us all with

robots given half the chance. Briefings are awful.
Air is too sterile for human lungs, endless
electric blue schematics sting the eyes, and a suit
from Post-Terran whose droning voice would make
Armageddon sound boring. They needed me, they had
the equipment I needed. Why does this fool

keep babbling?

In the demo, Material Defender refers to Dravis as a "damn bureaucrat" rather than a worthless one, and he describes his briefings as "hell" instead of "awful". The formatting of the paragraph was readjusted as a result of the changes.

Demo Final
Translation from Bureaucratese: They're screwed

and I'm the only one who can cut their losses.
That's the trouble with working for the largest
bureaucracy in human history. Hail the glorious

Post-Terran Minerals Corporation. Huzzah.
Translation from Bureaucratese: They're hosed

and I'm the only one who can cut their losses.
That's the trouble with working for the largest
bureaucracy in human history. Hail the glorious

Post-Terran Minerals Corporation. Huzzah.

Material Defender uses a less-extreme word to describe PTMC's situation in the demo.

Demo Final
My stomach turned again. You'd think they would get

to the important part at the start of the briefing.
Of course, to PTMC, their mines are the important

part. Damn them all.
My stomach turned again. You'd think they would get

to the important part at the start of the briefing.
Of course, to PTMC, their mines are the important

part. I keep forgetting that.

Material Defender ends his rant on PTMC's priorities less harshly in the full game.

Mission Briefings

Despite the demo ending on Level 7: Mercury Core, briefings for the rest of the campaign are present in the game's briefings.txb. The descriptions for the robots that start appearing in these levels, however, are missing entirely.

Level 11: Io Sulfur Mine
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ag222 590


TO: MD1032, Processing Station Burton,
Jupiter orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Contact has been lost with all Jovian
mines, expect heavy resistance. Proceed
to Europa mining colony and keep up the

good work.
PTMC Directive CMD-ag222 590


TO: MD1032, Processing Station Burton,
Jupiter orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Contact has been lost with all Jovian
mines, expect heavy resistance. Proceed
to Io Sulfer Mine and keep up the

good work.

Io Sulfur Mine had its name swapped with Level 13: Europa Mining Colony.

Level 12: Callisto Tower Colony
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ag222 530


TO: MD1032, en route to Io

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Intellgence has no information on Io,

proceed with extreme caution.
PTMC Directive CMD-ag222 530


TO: MD1032, en route to Callisto

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Intelligence has no information on Callisto,

proceed with extreme caution.

Io was changed to Callisto, along with a typo fix.

Level 13: Europa Mining Colony
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ag563 633


TO: MD1032, Io orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Next target: Io sulfer mine MN5545.

Element of surprise may still be yours.
PTMC Directive CMD-ag563 633


TO: MD1032, Ganymede orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Next target: Europa sulfur mine MN5545.

Element of surprise may still be yours.

Same name swap as Io Sulfur Mine. The receiver's orbit location was changed as well.

Level 20: Oberon Iron Mine
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ak573 113


TO: MD1032, Processing station Otomo,
Uranus orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed to CO2 mine MN7871 on Oberon
moon. Satellites reports indicate an
increase in hostility and intelligence
in infected mechs. Don't become a

hostage.
PTMC Directive CMD-ak573 113


TO: MD1032, Processing station Otomo,
Uranus orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed to Platinum mine MN7871 on
Oberon. Satellites reports indicate an
increase in hostility and intelligence
in infected mechs. Some have been

seen carrying access keys. Be aware.

Both the name of the mine and its location were changed. The ending of the briefing appears to be a placeholder in the demo.

Level 23: Triton Storage Depot
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ak573 113


TO: MD1032, Neptune orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed immediately to Triton sulfer
mine MN3352. Work quickly, Material
Defender, intelligence reports from

Pluto are alarming.
PTMC Directive CMD-ak573 113


TO: MD1032, Neptune orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed immediately to Triton storage
depot MN3352. Work quickly, Material
Defender, intelligence reports from

Pluto are alarming.

The Triton Storage Depot was originally going to be a Sulfur mine, if this briefing has anything to say about it.

Secret Level 1: Asteroid Secret Belt
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ag232 570


TO: MD1032, Venus orbit

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Top secret military mine MR3325 is
reporting heavy infestation. Purge all
invading forces. All weapons and
equipment found are under military

juridiction. Proceed with caution.
PTMC Directive CMD-ag232 570


TO: MD1032, Asteroid belt

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Top secret military mine MR3325 is
reporting heavy infestation. Purge all
invading forces. All weapons and
equipment found are under military

jurisdiction. Proceed with caution.

The Asteroid Secret Base was going to take place in Venus' orbit at some point in development. A typo was also fixed in this briefing.

Secret Level 2: Asteroid Military Depot
Demo Final
PTMC Directive CMD-ag232 570


TO: MD1032, Asteroid belt

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed immediately to iron mine MN3322
on asteroid eunomia. Contents of this
mine are under top secret military
jurisdiction. Attempt no communications

until mine is cleared.
PTMC Directive CMD-ag232 570


TO: MD1032, Asteroid belt

FROM: PTMC Headquarters, Earth orbit

Proceed immediately to secret mine MN3322
on asteroid eunomia. Contents of this
mine are under top secret military
jurisdiction. Attempt no communications

until mine is cleared.

The "secret mine" is referred to as an iron mine in the demo's leftover briefing.

Audio Differences

Demo Final

Switching primary weapons plays a different sound in the shareware demo. The old sound is still used in the final game if you press a slot number that you already have selected.