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'Temple Of Elemental Evil - Developer Interview

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Sept. 4, 2003 @ 1:44 a.m. PDT

"Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil" will feature all of the game play aspects from the 3rd Edition D&D rule set including an entire host of feats and skills. The product's traditional turn-based combat engine will allow more effective coordination of the large party configurations possible within the game. For the first time ever, the original Greyhawk campaign setting is brought to life in a computer role-playing game so we thought it was prime time to meet up with Troika Games lead designer Timothy Cain.

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

Hello, this is Tim Cain. I am the Joint-CEO of Troika Games, and the lead designer on the Temple of Elemental Evil.

2. First off, how has the development process been converting the old module to a new updated game engine?

TC: Everything went smoothly until we had the whole module reproduced as actual populated maps. That’s when we discovered (not surprisingly) that in converting from 1st to 3rd edition, there were several imbalances. Some monsters were much tougher in 3rd edition, but mostly we found that 3rd edition player characters are tougher hombres than their 1st edition equivalents. We had to add, move or change some monsters to make the game flow better.

3. What inspired you to remake this game?

TC: I love D&D. I have played it for 23 years (!), and the Temple was one of the first epic-sized modules I played. So I guess it was the major nostalgia factor that prompted me to make ToEE.

4. What kind of graphics engine did you use? In house or licensed? Why this particular choice?

TC: We used a revamped Arcanum engine for this game. We rewrote the tiled backgrounds to use pre-rendered scenes, and we replaced the sprite system with 3D characters, but we left other game elements, like the dialog or quest system, unchanged. This software reuse was the only way we could finish this game on such a tight schedule. Atari wanted the game completed in less than 2 years, and we did it in just over 20 months.

5. Why did you choose to use the new 3.5 rule set? What are the main/big difference over previous versions?

TC: With the new rule set coming out right before ToEE, we didn’t want to be obsolete as soon as we hit the shelf. And the new 3.5 rules really improved the game. Several classes, most noticeably druids and rangers, received new class features and had some existing class features modified to make more sense. Lots of new feats were added, and combat rules for actions like withdrawing from melee have been clarified. Overall, the team really liked the new rules, and we wanted to switch to them.

6. Can you tell us why you chose turn based over real time for the game play?

TC: D&D is, at its heart, a turn-based game. Combat and all of its related rules, like initiative, are inherently turn-based, and many of the feats, skills and spells depend on this aspect of D&D. Yes, I could have converted the rules to real-time combat and either thrown away or heavily modified the rules to adapt to this mode of play, but I didn’t see the point. I wanted to make a “true to paper-and-pencil” D&D computer game, and turn-based was the way to go.

7. As you have stated earlier there will be multiple endings that will require you to use other characters. How are you planning to keep the game fresh for those players who are going to try and accomplish all the endings?

TC: These endings are not simply choices you make at the last minute of the game. Many of them are simply not available unless the party is evil, or good, or has an item in their possession, or performed an action earlier in the game. If a player tries to accomplish a different ending, he will see quests and dialogs that were not there on his first time playing.

8. What sort of character races will there be, if any?

TC: We are supporting the seven basic player races: human, elf, half-elf, half-orc, dwarf, gnome and halfling. We had wanted to add sub-races, like drow, but we did not have the time. Perhaps in a sequel...

9. How in-depth will each class be? Can you specialize in a unique type of Wizardry or is it all generic?

TC: We have supported all of the major class features, so barbarians can rage, druids and rangers can have animal companions, rogues can sneak attack, and wizards can choose specialty schools of magic. When a wizard specializes in 3.5, he can cast one extra spell of the specialty school per spell level and he gets a +2 bonus to any Spellcraft checks to learn spells of that school. But he must also give up two other schools and can never cast spells of those schools again.

10. Can you give us some info on the alignments in Greyhawk?

TC: There are two kinds of alignment in the game. The first kind is the standard D&D concept of character alignment. Each character picks one of the nine alignments, and this determines the character’s outlook on life. We check for this alignment in dialogs, to give special choices to particularly aligned characters, and with aligned magic items, especially weapons, to determine how effectively the character can use it.

The second kind of alignment is party alignment. Party alignment is your way of telling the game what kind of characters you are making and how you intend to act. The game reacts to party alignment by changing the starting location of the game, which gives your party its reason for adventuring, and by changing dialog options and storylines in the game. The game has several possible endings, some of which are restricted to certain party alignments.

Your selection of party alignment will also restrict what alignments of characters you can add to your party. You can only pick character alignments that are at most one step away from the party alignment. For example, if you select “True Neutral” as your party alignment, then the five alignments of “True Neutral”, “Neutral Good, “Lawful Neutral”, “Neutral Evil” and “Chaotic Neutral” are highlighted, which means you can add characters of those five alignments to your party. Note that some party alignments preclude certain classes with alignment restrictions. For example, monks cannot be in any chaotically aligned parties because their alignment must be lawful, and paladins cannot be in any evil or chaotic parties. In fact, paladins provide an additional restriction in that they will never group with an evil character. So even though a “Lawful Neutral” party could contain Lawful Good and Lawful Evil characters, such a party cannot contain both a paladin and a Lawful Evil character. Once one such character is added to the party, the other is prohibited.

11. How about some info on the weapons, items, armor, and spells? How many armor types etc, etc…

TC: We have a lot of different types of weapons and armors in the game, literally dozens of types. We support robes and cloaks, which can be worn over armor too. We also added gloves and boots, which change the look of your character even though the rules do not have them adding any armor value. And we have over 200 hundred spells in the game, too! I could not list them all here.

12. Lets talk game difficulty, will you be able to select the difficulty or is it pre-set?

TC: Difficulty is pre-set, but we do have an Iron Man mode, which disables save games. When playing Iron Man, you can save and quit at any time, but you cannot save and continue playing. The game is much more difficult to play in this mode, but much more similar to actual tabletop playing.

13. What about the monsters that inhabit the world, how many types will there be?

TC: We have 103 different types of monsters, and that doesn’t count variations, like all of the differently armored and weapon-wielding bugbears, and the variously meshed zombies and ghouls. Trust me, you will have the opportunity to be slaughtered by all sorts of different baddies.

14. How large will the game world be? Will your adventure take across the planet or just some continents? Will the game be mostly indoors, outdoors or a healthy mix of both ?

TC: The game takes place mostly in the Temple and an associated outpost. There are about 20 dungeon levels, several of which are very large, and some are not on this plane of existence. And there are many more non-dungeon levels, including outdoor and village areas, for a total of more than one hundred maps.

15. How realistic will the game world be? Will you have night and day cycles? Change of climates etc?

TC: We have day and night cycles, which not only change the light levels, but also change environment effects and ambient sound. So as night falls in Hommlet, the lamps come on, crickets begin chirping, and you hear an occasional owl. As dawn approaches and the light level rises, you will hear roosters crowing and the night ambient sounds will die away.

16. “Five controllable characters and three followers in each party.” Can you elaborate on this?

TC: You can have five player characters in the party, and you have full control over these characters. You can also have up to three followers, which are NPC’s that join the party. These characters are controllable in that you move them about and direct them in combat, but they have their own inventories and will take their own share of loot. Finally, you can have up to five more uncontrollable followers, which are creatures like animal companions or summoned monsters, which simply follow your character and attack whatever you attack.

17. Will we see any multiplayer in this game or is it strictly single player only?

TC: This game is single player only.

18. Any chance of a toolset or editor so the player can continue the adventure after the story is completed? How will you, if at all, support the ever growing mod community?

TC: We have tools, but they are not of the quality that end users would need to mod our game. We made ToEE on such a tight schedule that elements like multiplayer or toolsets just had to be abandoned.

19. How do you think Greyhawk will stack up against Never Winter Nights and its expansions? What does Greyhawk have to make it stand out?

TC: Greyhawk offers a different experience than NWN. We were trying to make a strong single player storyline that offered multiple ways to play through it. And we were trying for a game that was as true to D&D rules as possible, so that people felt like they were really playing D&D. I think we have succeeded.

20. Can you give us a rough estimate of the gameplay time for an average gamer?

TC: It will take the average gamer about 30-40 hours to play through the game, and more if he wants to do every side quest in Hommlet, Nulb and the Temple. But then he will want to play again, to see what changes when he makes a new party.

21. Will we see a demo before the game appears on store shelves?

TC: We are working on the demo now. We will probably have it completed about the time the game hits the shelves, which was always the plan.

22. Finally is there anything you would like to add? Perhaps something I missed?

TC: I would like to thank all of the fans that contributed ideas and suggestions to our team during the development of the game. You helped make the game better, and we appreciate the support.

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