Interestingly, Vertigo was even more economical on level design; biggest one there was level 4, 558 cubes, and most levels were in the 300s to 400s - with quite a few in the 200s, even late-game. Level 19 was one of the smallest levels in any of the games, with only 183 (but it was also a pretty short level, on second thoughts).
Descent 1 levels quite often ran close to the game's cube limit. Level 7 used 786 out of a possible 800 cubes - it's actually substantially larger than any Parallax-built D2 level.
One of the fun things about Obsidian's ice levels was that they were the ones that didn't have to share music - nine songs, fifteen levels, so the first six were on repeat, but the ice levels got theirs all to themselves. I think they were among the later level designs, as well - which probably helped. All of them had earlier versions which we subsequently rebuilt; personally I had some kind of epiphany around about where I was building the anarchy/flag set Supernova, brought on most likely by seeing Entropy 2 and Pyrocide, which made me start to think about designing levels in a different way. So the two ice levels I had weren't up to quality any more, and Cygnus 61 Military Base (was on a bit of a D1-theme naming binge back in 1998) was rebuilt into Beryllium, and Cygnus 61 Military HQ
was rebuilt into Cerulea. I think both levels have small fragments of the original design left over - but only a couple rooms each at most. I don't recall the original name of Pelorus any more (wasn't my level, which probably makes a difference) but I do recall some bits of it. I think it was shifted to its final position from later in the level set actually.
I think there is still a surviving example of one of the super-early Obsidian levels out there from back when it was called Catacombs of Shadow; Koolbear's site has/had a level called "Alpha V Military Base" (seeing a theme with these names yet?). I believe that was probably the first one I built from early 1998 - it used to be level 2. Wasn't as good as the rest of the set and needed replacing, but I didn't want to touch it, so DH did it instead and built Acceleration... be damned if I can figure out why I didn't rebuild it myself, it's not like he wasn't right. Anyway. Pretty sure the earliest level that actually made it into Obsidian is level 5, and it probably kinda looks
it too. But it wasn't that bad, and we couldn't keep rebuilding stuff forever, so it stayed put.
Nice to hear you've tracked down Doug Hale. He should pop around and say hi
It's been a really long time since I've seen any of the old crew. Would be kind of cool if we could get some of them back together and do something new, actually... though I'd probably want to invite a good half-dozen to dozen other people from the current scene as well, because quite a few are at least as good.