|Descent to Undermountain|
|Designer(s)||Chris Avellone, Scott Bennie, John Deiley, Robert Holloway, Steve Perrin|
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 Gardener, 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, the Underdark. Real-time combat would mix with puzzles to provide a variety of challenges throughout the vast dungeon.
From the game box:
- The stone belly of Undermountain below Waterdeep plays home to horrific monsters, dark magics, and unspeakable evils in DESCENT TO UNDERMOUNTAIN.
- In this spell-ridden maze of dungeons and rips in the very fabric of reality lies the ultimate prize: The Sword of the Spider Queen, the Goddess Lolth. Stolen from her long ago, in a time when gods wrestled with the primal energies of creation, those who dared possess it were destroyed.
- Based on an enhanced, SVGA version of the 3D engine from the immensely successful Descent game, all the horrors of the Abyss come to life with superior graphics that pay frightening homage to stunning detail. 360 direction movement makes no apologies for shameless attacks from behind. True to the AD&D system, you can develop your character from 6 different races, and create single as well as multi-class characters. Gain experience and discover magic items you'll need just to survive. In the end you'll trust no one but yourself. May the gods be with you.
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 to focus on the single player campaign. The game was sort of a pariah at Interplay where it was hadnled by no less then 3 dev teams over the span of nearly 2 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 do to unfinished code left over from the previous dev 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 Descents 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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