If you've gotten excited at the thought of the many six degrees of freedom games that are coming out over the next year or so, your eye might have run over the original Descent games. And that's a good thing, because they're excellent titles that hold up exceptionally well today even without HD texture packs and fan patches.
But if you've looked for the game lately, you might have noticed it's no longer available on Good Old Games. And it's supposed to be pulled from Steam shortly too -- because Interplay, which has the rights to sell the originals, allegedly hasn't paid royalties for 8 years.
Good Old Games advised users just before Christmas that the original Descent trilogy, along with the Mercenary expansion for Descent 3, was being pulled "effectively immediately" a couple of weeks ago. No reason was given for the move, and at the time all that was said was that the site was sorry "for not being able to give everyone more of a heads-up".
Around noon today, Parallax Software -- the developers behind the original Descent games, which was later spun off into Volition, Inc. (makers of the Saints Row series) -- founders Mike Kulas and Matt Toschlog provided a little more information.
"Parallax Software still exists and still owns the copyrights to the Descent games. Under our 21-year-old agreement, Interplay has the exclusive rights to sell Descent and Descent II, and they have been doing so on Good Old Games and Steam," they wrote.
"The problem is that Interplay has not paid to Parallax any royalties since 2007. We've talked to them about this numerous times over the years, and finally took action this fall. We served Interplay official notice that they were in breach of the contract, and when they still failed to pay we terminated the agreement. This means that Interplay has lost the right to sell the Descent games, which is why they came down from GOG. (We're not sure why they're still on Steam; they shouldn't be.)"
At the time of writing the Descent games were still available for purchase, although that could change at any moment. (If you haven't purchased them yet, get a copy of Descent 2 immediately and apply the DX2-Rebirth fan patch; it's excellent.)
"Interplay does, however, still own the Descent trademark, which they are free to use or license as they see fit (such as for Descent: Underground) as long as they don't violate our copyrights. As for whether Descent and Descent II will be available for purchase again, we hope so. We'd be very happy to work things out with Interplay."
Interplay was founded by inXile Entertainment founder Brian Fargo, with others, in 1983 and published the Descent series when it first shipped. They're also the publisher for Descent: Underground and acquired the full rights to the FreeSpace franchise in the THQ firesale two years ago.