After more than 10 years of abstinence from the mother of all games called Descent 3 I just recently (April 2013) found out that a small community of hard-core fans is keeping the legend alive, still beating each other online as in those good old days. So, for everyone who missed the game like I did because he/she is thinking it just faded away... here's the good news, and I really would like to invite all of you to get back and fight :)!
Running ancient software on modern systems
I've had no real luck with the Linux version so far, but with some tweaking you can get the Windows version working, more or less flawlessly (but there's one minor issue you can't probably fix -- I wasn't able to at least).
First off, you need to use the OpenGL renderer! The one for Direct3D is outdated (DX 7 based) and has major display flaws in the menus due to incompatible texture compression.
However, the OpenGL renderer has a small issue as well in case you're using an Nvidia GPU, due to some recent changes in their drivers (I haven't tried anything else). So when you get back from a game to the menus or on game endings, the screen may stay black -- however, alt-tabbing to the desktop and back to D3 fixes it.
Note that when I switch to the desktop in-game and then back to D3, I get a similar issue, but that cannot be fixed this way... so avoid that during a game :)!
Update: I just bought Steam's Descent 3 offering, and this version doesn't have any of these issues (using the OpenGL renderer, that is).
Other than that it works beautifully after tweaking it a bit. The first thing you should do after installation (from a retail CD) and update to version 1.4 (+ NoCD patch) is replacing the file "main.exe" with this patched one (see also here):
main.exefor 32-bit colors in OpenGL (backup the original file first!)
The OpenGL renderer in D3 had a bug so that it only supported 16bpp, which is not nice, but this patched
main.exe will enable 32-bit colors in OpenGL (which is very sweet ;)!).
Also note that there is an unofficial patch for version 1.5 from one of the original authors, but it's said to be buggy and most (if not all) servers are using version 1.4. So stay with 1.4 unless you only want to play single-player missions!
Update: None of this is required for Steam's version at least! It works out-of-the-box.
Trackers and Vortex
The most important game tracker at the time when D3 came out was PXO.NET, but it's long gone and other tackers took over... such as GameSpy (which was also tracking D3 games when PXO.NET was available, BTW) or http://d3.descent.cx/tracker.d3.
Those trackers won't work in-game, though, so you have to use an external tool called Vortex for match-making and direct game launch:
For reference, here are my D3 command line switches used in Vortex (you can overwrite them manually):
-launched -nointro -directinput -z32bit -usesmoothing -nooutragelogo -alternatejoy -useport 2090 -framecap 999 -width 1920 -height 1080 -aspect 1.78
Note these three arguments:
-width 1920 -height 1080 -aspect 1.78! Specify whatever fits your display, the example is for a 1080P 16:9 display (16/9 ~= 1.78 for the aspect ratio).
When you specify a fixed aspect ratio on the command line, the next time you start D3 it will just use a small area in the middle of your screen, but you can simply press +/- to change the FOV to full-screen dimensions (the key left of backspace is "+", the key left of it is "-").
And that's it -- have fun :)!
Update: When using Steam's version of Descent 3 point Vortex's setting for Descent 3 1.4 retail to
main.exe in Steam's "SteamApps\common\Descent 3" folder!
Can I still buy this game?
Yes :)! You have at least these two options:
- As mentioned above, Descent 3 is available on Steam (since April 15th 2014). If you still have the original CD or game box and are able to find its serial number, you can even get to it freely (AFAIK Steam accepts valid old S/N's).
- GOG.com sells Descent 3 too (since several years).
Trouble configuring the joystick: z-axis always active
The Z-axis is the throttle, not the rudder/twist (R-axis). You have to put the lever of the throttle to the center position, otherwise you will always assign axis to that.
(Source: Steam Descent 3 forum post by VEX-Boogie)
Yep, that fixed it for me as well -- thanks, VEX-Boogie :)!
FAQs specific to the Steam version
Steam doesn't log hours of actual play
You can get around this by renaming
Descent 3.exe and then adding the
-launched command line option (and everything else) in the Steam game properties. What this does is make Steam bypass the launcher and launch the game directly.
(Source: Steam Descent 3 forum post by Tarvis)
This works, I tried it (works when launched through Steam -- not when launched through Vortex, unfortunately). However, you should make backups of the original
Descent 3.exe files, and configure Steam to not automatically update Descent 3 in order to restore the original files manually before updating (yes, you heard right, more than just rumors say that the game will actually receive updates -- let's hope that's true :)!).