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|Rise of the Triad|
Cover art by Les Dorscheid
|Engine||Wolfenstein 3D engine Heavily Modified|
|Platform(s)||DOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, iOS|
December 21, 1994 (shareware)
February 17, 1995 (full version)
March 3, 2009 (GOG.com)
July 1, 2013 (Steam, as part of the Apogee Throwback Pack)
February 6, 2010
Rise of the Triad: Dark War is a first-person shooter video game, developed and published by Apogee Software (3D Realms) in 1994. The player can choose one of five different characters to play as, each bearing unique attributes such as height, speed, and endurance. Its remake was designed by Interceptor Entertainment and released by Apogee Games in 2013.
Rise of the Triad is a typical early first-person shooter game, as the single-player mode's objective is to stay alive, kill as many enemies as possible, and collect keys in order to proceed through the game's levels successfully. Occasionally, special tactics and simple problem-solving skills are required to reach seemingly unreachable locations. Although most levels are fairly linear, there are some maps that were intentionally designed to avoid that, which have multiple exits.
The player can choose between several characters: Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley. Each character bears unique characteristics; for instance, Doug Wendt moves rather slowly yet can sustain a particularly large amount of damage, while Lorelei Ni has fewer hit points but is very quick and accurate. Taradino Cassatt is the only character available in the shareware version of the game and has average statistics: average health, average speed, average accuracy.
There are numerous different types of enemies in the game that have different strengths and capabilities. Certain enemies can perform particular actions, such as sometimes begging for their life if the player has delivered enough damage to them and faking their death. Some enemies dodge the player's attacks, while others lie in the ground to ambush the player. Other enemies can shoot nets to restrain the player, or steal and use weapons from the player.
There are four different bosses, which are tough enemies that the player has to defeat at the end of each episode. The bosses are General Darian, Sebastian Krist, NME (Nasty Metallic Enforcer), and El Oscuro, who is the head of the cult known as the Triad. All enemies are digitized actors, mostly played by Apogee employees and their friends and family.
On random occasions, there may be an especially gratuitous amount of gibs (flying pieces of characters or enemies) produced when an enemy is killed, presenting the player with the "Ludicrous Gibs!" message. The amount of gibs produced every time an actor meets an explosion can be controlled through the options menu, which allows the player to set the graphics to various levels of goriness, from completely bloodless to extreme. Gibs would eventually and similarly appear in 3D Realms' next first-person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D. Gore and gibs went on to also play an important role in later first-person shooter games such as Shadow Warrior and especially Blood. The "gib" term itself was later popularized by Quake.
There are a total of 13 weapons in the game, divided into three groups: bullet weapons (using infinite ammo), missile weapons (using limited ammo that varies), and magic weapons. The missile weapons constitute the bulk of the in game arsenal, and are usually powerful enough to attack groups of several enemies. Magic weapons, like missile weapons, hold varying limited ammo, depending on the weapon. Players can carry a total of four different arms at once: all three bullet weapons (a single pistol, dual pistols, and a submachine gun) and either a missile or a magic weapon.
There are several power-ups in the game, that give different abilities to the player. Only one of the power-ups can be active at once, and their effects last for a limited time. An example of a power-up is the God Mode, which makes the player invincible plus gives them an attack that homes in on and disintegrates enemies instantly, and the Mercury Mode power-up, which enables the player to fly. Conversely, a Dog Mode power-up turned the player into a dog, lowering their height and giving them the ability to maul enemies. A bulletproof armor power-up enables the player to take no damage from the bullet weapons used by the majority of enemies.
There are several ways to interact with the environment in the game, including elevators and pushable walls. There are also jump pads that catapult a player in the air, following some physics. If the player just stepped into it, it would propel him straight up, while by running up to it the player can make long jumps. Jump pads are often required for getting past certain obstacles or reaching a ledge to retrieve a key. They can also be used for collecting powerups and bonuses; the latter is often arranged in an arc such that the player can collect all of them if the jump is timed right.
A major element of gameplay is the many obstacle hazards that the player can encounter in the environment. There are many different hazards that vary in the amount of damage that they may inflict on actors in the game and in how they do so. An example of hazards in the game are spinblades which are stacks of gyrating blocks to which large blades are attached; these cause any players or enemies to lose health rapidly when in contact with them. Enemies are susceptible to traps as well, as they will walk into flamejets and spinblades.
The game has numerous objects that can be destroyed. Most of them are ornaments or plants that have no actual role, but in some cases they block a secret door. If light poles and firepots are shot, they will dim the area. Lastly, there are "walls" of glass that can be shattered by shooting or running through them. These features were later expounded upon in the Build engine games, and the more extensive use of pushwalls as a game play mechanic (as opposed to just for secrets as in Wolfenstein 3D) also foreshadowed the technique of dynamic sectors used in Build. The technique of player translation to imply a change of level used by the game's elevators is also similar to how room-over-room was simulated in Duke Nukem 3D (most notably for underwater).
The game features many different bonuses that are received for various achievements whenever a level is completed. Examples include picking up all the missile weapons in a level (one of the Republican bonuses), using all the healing items (Bleeder Bonus), or ending a level with only the last shred of health (Skin of Your Teeth Bonus; gives the player full health to start the next level).
The multiplayer mode (called COMM-BAT in the game) is notable for the time the game was released, allowing up to eleven players simultaneously. Each could have separate uniform colors, but in team mode, teams were defined by uniform color. There are nine multiplayer modes, some of which do not necessarily involve players shooting each other.
These modes include a standard deathmatch mode, and the similar "Score More", which assigns different points depending on the weapon and way that a kill was done. There are other multiplayer modes that consist of collecting or destroying as many triad symbols as possible. There are a few "tag" multiplayer modes, similar to the children's game, where a player must tag another player or moving symbols. There is also a "Hunter" mode, in which a "prey" player with no weapons has to be hunted by the rest, and a capture the flag mode, which is probably the first first-person shooter incarnation of CTF. There are many options that can be set for a multiplayer game, allowing a level of customization similar to many later games. These include player attributes, and whether or not things like health, missile weapons or traps are spawned in levels.
A team of special operatives, known as the HUNT (High-risk United Nations Task-force) is sent to San Nicolas Island to investigate deadly cult activity taking place in an ancient monastery. Their boat, the only way back, is destroyed by patrols, and the team soon learns that the cult plans to systematically destroy nearby Los Angeles. The operatives, now unable to return whence they came, are then left to fight their way into the monastery on the island, and eventually put a stop to the cult's activities.
During its early stages of development, Rise of the Triad was initially meant to serve as the sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, titled Wolfenstein 3D II: Rise of the Triad. The presence of the Walther PP pistol, the MP 40 submachine gun, the Bazooka, and the outfits worn by the enemies allude to Nazi Germany and imply the original aforementioned intent for the development of ROTT.
Rise of the Triad began its life as a follow-up to Wolfenstein 3D (though it reportedly shares some similarities with Hall's "Doom Bible", which laid out Hall's conception of the video game Doom and even shares the name of one of the protagonists). The working titles of the game were Wolfenstein II and Wolfenstein 3D: Rise of the Triad. It was to use the same game engine code as Wolfenstein 3D, and have new levels, art, and characters. The artwork took around six months to do. As the game was getting into deeper development, project leader Scott Miller was contacted by John Romero, informing Miller that the project had been cancelled. Miller suspected that this was because id Software did not want to draw the spotlight away from their upcoming game, Doom. In order to keep as many of the numerous game assets the team had already created from going to waste, Tom Hall came up with a new storyline which still incorporated the Nazi themes seen in the Wolfenstein series.
According to the Apogee website, the original storyline was the following:
After the fall of Hitler, the true powers behind him have drawn into seclusion, planning their next strategy for world domination. Three large corporations guided Hitler as a puppet, and now plan the subjugation of the planet to their organization, the Triad. Their new plan: having developed nuclear weapons and new V-3 rockets to carry them, they plan to get a stranglehold on the world with the threat of Armageddon.
The engine is an enhanced variant of the Wolfenstein 3D engine. The level design is chiefly characterized by 90 degree walls and unvarying floor and ceiling heights in individual maps, limitations that are vestiges of the Wolfenstein 3D engine. However, the Rise of the Triad engine pioneered myriad features which would be found in many later games, such as panoramic skies, simulated dynamic lighting, fog, bullet holes, breakable glass walls, and level-over-level environments (made possible by "gravitational anomaly disks", suspended objects that collectively form stairs, floors, etc.). The level layouts were created with Tile Editor version 5 (TED5), which was also released with "Extreme Rise of the Triad" for user to customize their own maps.
The team behind Rise of the Triad called itself The Developers of Incredible Power (DIP). Its name was created by Tom Hall, the lead designer of ROTT. Other members of DIP included Mark Dochtermann, Jim Dose, Steve Hornback, Chuck Jones, Nolan Martin, Tim Neveu, William Scarboro, Joseph Selinske, Susan Singer, and Marianna Vayntrub. Rise of the Triad was the only game released by DIP. A second game that was planned, Prey, never took off, but its title and parts of the original design were eventually recycled by Human Head Studios. The team was disbanded and some of the members worked on the bestseller Duke Nukem 3D. Others started their own companies, or left the computer games business. Scarboro died of an asthma attack in 2002.
Several planned elements were cut from the game. One well-known example included female versions of certain enemies, like Low Guards, Strike Force soldiers, and the Overpatrol. Most of the alternate guards had to be cut due to technical limitations at the time. Originally the game was going to load both sets of guards into memory, then determine randomly which to place at each appropriate point. This had the side effect of making memory requirements much higher than normal for the time, so in order to conserve performance, the alternate versions of the enemies were removed. Stills of the alternate enemies can be seen during the credits, as "actors who were cut from the game". Other cuts survived, like the ROTT Reject Level Pack (stages that were cut), some artwork (some can be found on the CD), and several other resources.
As most Apogee games, the game was distributed as shareware, with the first episode released for free. The shareware episode, which contains ten original levels, is titled Rise of the Triad: The HUNT Begins. This version has some limitations, including the ability to play only as Taradino Cassatt, and the availability of only four of the multiplayer modes. A "Deluxe Edition" of the shareware version, marketed in retail by LaserSoft, contains three extra levels, and three extra multiplayer levels that are not available on any other version.
There were several versions of the full or paid game, which included three new episodes. The floppy disk and CD versions both contain 32 game levels for the three new episodes, with the CD version containing more multiplayer levels. Site License version contains several multiplayer levels, and allowed the game to be played in multiplayer mode in up to 11 different computers in a single network, without each requiring a different copy of the game.
On July 25, 1995, Apogee released a Reject Level Pack as freeware online. During production of the game, many levels were rejected for one reason or another. This pack was a collection of multiplayer maps deemed unsuitable for the original release. Some of these were serious attempts at levels (one even attempted to recreate a popular deathmatch level (1-5) from Doom), and some were not (like one played inside the popular character Dopefish). The final level of the pack causes the game to crash intentionally, showing the sense of humor of the developers.
There was an official retail add-on level pack released by Apogee for ROTT entitled Extreme Rise of the Triad also released in 1995. The add-on was produced by two key members from the original team, Tom Hall and Joe Siegler. Generally the maps produced in this add-on were considerably harder than the original game's maps due to tricks that Hall and Siegler had learned in the editor since the release of the original. The Extreme ROTT CD too had several other goodies on it. There were some user made level editors, a random level generator from Apogee, maps, sound files, etc. It did not sell very well, and had rather short shelf life. However, after the game came off retail shelves, most of these materials were rendered unavailable. The levels ended up being released as freeware on September 1, 2000. The remaining materials on the Extreme ROTT CD were released as freeware online as part of a "ROTT Goodies Pack" on February 15, 2005.
There were a few other level packs released from Apogee, including Lasersoft Deluxe Shareware Maps. They were identical to the released shareware packs, except that a shareware company back then named Lasersoft paid Apogee to design six exclusive levels for their shareware release of the game. After this company went out of business, Apogee released these levels in October 1999.
Another was a level called "Wolf3D", which was done by Siegler as an exercise to see if he could replicate the level geography from Wolfenstein 3D in Rise of the Triad. As ROTT uses the same basic game engine, Siegler theorized that it should be possible to do this. The level copied the complete level geography from Episode 1 Level 1 of Wolfenstein 3D, down to the exact placement of characters, doors, secret areas, and artwork. Some of the adjoining levels to this were added, but not completely.
The final release from Hall and Siegler was the "Ohio RTC" pack. This is a four level multiplayer pack which was designed for a group in Ohio that was holding a game tournament called 'BloodFest 96'. After the tournament was over, the pack was released online for everyone.
The final level to be released by anyone from the original team was one level done by Siegler called "You & Spray" (Spray was an internal nickname given to the NME boss character by the developers). This was done by Siegler as a gag in 1998, mostly as a personal exercise to see if he could remember how to still use the level editor. Siegler has said that he initially did not plan on releasing that, but after mentioning its existence online, he was cajoled into releasing it in November 2000. All of the levels in this section can be downloaded at the ROTT page on the Apogee website.
The source code to Rise of the Triad was released under the GNU General Public License on 20 December 2002. Fans of the game ported it to AmigaOS, Linux, Mac OS, Xbox, Dreamcast, PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS (homebrew) and 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows. This has led to the game being included in the Fedora software repository, which downloads the free source port engine used as well as a free installer which downloads the shareware version's data.
Scott Miller estimates that the game eventually sold around 110,000 copies.
A reviewer for Next Generation assessed that Rise of the Triad is an entertaining but ultimately undistinguished Doom replica which fails to rank with the best of the genre. Remarking that the game "has its own style but never strays far enough from the Doom herd to fully break free", he gave it three out of five stars.
In 2009, Scott Miller said that Rise of the Triad would be remade. Gameplay footage of the new Rise of the Triad was revealed at QuakeCon 2012. The game was designed by Frederik Schreiber and his company Interceptor Entertainment and was released on July 31, 2013, through Steam and GOG.com.