Q. What kind of game is The Temple of Elemental Evil?
A. (I.B. 2/8) The Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE) is a turn-based RPG set in the DnD world of Greyhawk. Tim Cain has claimed that ToEE is the most accurate 3rd Edition game to date. The game uses a 3rd person isometric view, with pre-rendered maps and 3D characters. There will be no multiplayer; instead, expect to find a rich single-player universe that will have replay-ability up the wazoo.
Tim chose the module for many reasons, one of which is that "it is not just based on a dungeon crawl. There are a lot of politics on the outside that can affect and be affected based on what you do"
Each quest will have multiple solutions, and no race, class, alignment, or skill set is explicitly needed in the party to beat the game.
Tim sums this up in his IRC Chat statement...
Our goal is to make the game complete-able for all kinds of characters, but that is NOT to say it will be easy. We have dozens of NPC followers you can pick up, and speech skills make that easier. I think any party will be possible.
Q. What makes this game better than other PC DnD games?
A1. (T.C. 3/4) We are staying VERY close to D&D. No new rules because we decided to change things. We also have a very cool, multiple start, multiple path, multiple ending story
A2. (S.M. 3/4) It is important to point out that we are trying to make a faithful translation of pen and paper D&D to a CRPG with a non-linear story. I don't think any other games hold the pen and paper rules as important as we do.
Q. How long will the game be?
A1. (T.C. - Gamespot - 12/20/02) It's hard to tell, really. The original module was epic in scope, taking hundreds of hours to play, but that was mostly due to the fact that combat takes a long time in pen-and-paper gaming. Of course, you don't get save games in pen and paper, so people will play some sections multiple times if their characters die or if they want to test alternate paths, and that will make the computer game longer. I guess it will depend on how people play. If you skip the side quests and dialogues, you can probably make it through in 30 hours, but that's just a guess.
A2. (T.C. 3/4) I am guessing around 40 hours. No one has finished it yet, so we don't know for sure.
A3. (S.M. 3/4) We're thinking in the 40 hour range, but it is totally dependant on how you play the game. I'm sure you could take your time and spend a hundred hours on it or power your way thru it in 30.
Q. Will there be a time limit to complete the main quest?
A. (T.C. 3/28) Nope.
Q. How difficult is the game on the normal settings?
A. (T.C. 3/29) Seriously, it's hard to tell. Some of the big monsters don't do their special attacks yet, and all of the magic items are not in yet. Combined with the variability of your party (an all-bard party will be tougher to finish the game with than a more balanced group), and I don't think I can answer that.
Q. How many CDs will the game be?
A. (S.M. 2/11) We are still only 1 CD. We may break into 2 CDs though. Lots of content isn't packed in yet.
Q. What is the target ESRB rating?
A1. (S.M. 2/11) I'm thinking we'll get rated M, but with luck wall mart will carry us :)
A2. (T.C. 2/11) We have some Mature stuff. Maybe Teen. I mean, we're not Vice City.
A3. (H.N. 3/6) everyone believes ToEE will get an M rating, but you never know! (and it's up to the Ratings Board, of course)
A4. (T.C. 3/29) Let's see: parleying with demons, alcohol abuse, sexual situations, adult themes. Yeah, we're getting an M.
Q. When is the expected release date?
A1. (S.M. 2/11) We are on track to release a game in June. There are other factors that may make the game released later. I guess the ID response applies, it'll be done when its done.
A2. (T.C. 3/4) [We are planning on going gold] this summer. We are headed for a Q3 release.
Q. When will a website or in-game screenshots be released?
A. (S.M. 2/11) We've got um, we don't know when they will be publicly released.
Q. Who is publishing the game?
A. (S.M. 2/11) Infogrames is the publisher, but we are using a licensed setting.
Q. Will there be a demo? If so, when will it be released?
A1. (S.M. 2/11) [Yes!] On the schedule, the demo is slated for the same month we deliver the final game, so I don't think it will be early.
A2. (S.M. 3/4) I don't think a demo will be done before the game is finished. But one of the milestone deliverables is a demo, so there will be one. We may fragment off after code freeze to do a demo simultaneously with bug fixing.
Q. Will there be any sort of external beta test?
A. (H.N. 3/10) QA/testing not done internally by us will be done by Infogrames (of course). on top of anything else, legal stuff or otherwise, the chance of getting stuff leaked is too great. (in a broad sense, I'm not questioning your own personal integrity)
Thoughts on Design
Q. In what development stage is the game in now?
A1. (T.C. - RPG Vault) All of the major locations are in the game, and they have been stocked with all of the creatures and items needed to complete the game. We are still adding additional creatures and items, and we still need to finish some interfaces, some monster special attacks, and some magic items and spells. But the game is playable - and fun! You can talk to people, barter and travel to other locations along the world map, having encounters along the way. You can fight, throw spells, use items, open chests and die horrible, painful deaths. In a word, it's a game now. I am confident we can ship on time, barring unforeseen bugs or external delays.
A2. (T.C. - HomeLAN - 1/16) We have completed all of the dialogs and quests and most of the game's features, and we are entering QA this week. We are on schedule for a summer release.
A3. (S.M. 3/4) We are entering playtesting on the publisher end. We're still a bit off from code complete or a code freeze.
A4. (4 (H.N. 3/6) we are entering the game balance/testing phase (soon)
Q. What programming milestones have you reached?
A1. (T.C. 3/4) Let's see: most spells are in, most monsters, all major maps. Dialogs are being tested, combat, quests, map traversal. I die a lot.
A2. (S.C. 3/4) Nearly all feats and class abilities are in...
A3. (M.M. 3/4) only a few places with temp art still in. Most everything is done. We have the time left to make the game great, not just shippable. Should be polished and extra cool.
Q. How much has changed in the game since the Gamespy preview?
A1. (T.C. 3/4) We've hooked all the maps in, and added a lot more monster types. Plus, probably a hundred more spells went in. Oh, and the opening vignettes went in. And the party alignment restrictions. Item creation went in.
A2. (S.M. 3/4) I'd say 50 - 60 more spells went in, about 10 class abilities, tons of art (we weighed it). Oh yeah, all of the vignettes got hooked in. Now the game starts up in different maps, which is a pain in the ass for debugging. Metamagic feats when in. Ton's of cool stuff.
A3. (S.C. 3/4) The *goal* for the game remains the same. But the game itself has continued to become closer to that goal... Druid wild shape is in! You can maul people as a polar bear! It rocks!
A4. (M.M. 3/4) Our real time hair and cloth is working better now.
Q. Why is there a delay on releasing screen shots?
A. (S.M. 3/19) We make upwards of 20+ screenshots each month. However it isn't up to us on when they get released, how they get released, or to who they get released. We are just as stoked and excited making the screenshots as you are waiting for them. On a side note, Mike went to Infogrames, Santa Monica on Monday and both our producer and our PR guy said they liked the shots. So all I guess we can say is hang on tight, they should be out eventually...
Q. What was the biggest challenge while making this game?
A1. (S.M. 3/4) I'd say the time constraints. It has been a short project
A2. (T.C. 3/4) Yes, we've had to make this game quickly. But we didn't want to cut corners, so we simply went insane for 18 months
A3. (M.M. 3/4) I think this project has been managed EXTREMELY well. This game will look and play more like a 3 or 4 year project than a 18 monther.
Our team is fast and super good. No weak links. There has never been a DnD game that sticks closer to the rules than ours. Hands down the best game I have worked on. I am very proud of this one. You guys will dig it.
A4. (S.C. 3/4) Yeah I also am amazed at how much we've done... every week it's a new, better game...
Q. What issues caused the most disputes among the developers?
A. (S.M. 3/13) There have been a few little fights, but in general we are all very good listeners. Most disputes come from when 3rd ed will not be fun in a CRPG. Or when things in a CRPG make 3rd ed not fun. We originally wanted accelerated game time (so you can watch the lighting change, and people go to their day/night waypoints before your eyes more often), but that made a lot of the 1 minute/level spells only good for one combat (rather that 1 or 2 combats). There are also a few spells that are cool but only useful in certain very specific situations. We usually drop them, but sometimes I wish we could redesign them. But there has never been any agony. Maybe a raised voice or two, but never any agony.
Q. What aspect of the D&D rules has been the hardest to implement?
A1. (T.C. 2/26) I'd say magic items. There are lots of them, and many of the 1st edition ones are gone or are different enough to warrant taking time to decide what to do. And their effects are so varied that each one is almost a special case.
A2. (S.C. 2/26) Besides items, spells are consuming an entire programmer for the almost whole length of the project, and he doesn't really sleep (Huy is a machine). That's not counting special effects or the core system the majority of the spells sit on top of. So there's a lot of time and effort going into spells in general. There's just so much there.
A3. (S.C. 2/26) Just about every single programmer has spent weeks if not months on various aspects of the UI, and it's for UI reasons that we've had to make the majority of our changes to the 3rd edition rules. No matter how good a spec you have, you end up changing the UI as many times as you possibly can, because you never know how it's going to feel until you've got it up on the screen. I think the hardest part of D&D rules to adapt is the fact that you can just tell the DM what you want to do. Natural language is a difficult interface to replace.
A4. (H.N. 2/27) I think dealing with the inconsistencies and exceptions (as someone already mentioned) is the hardest part - the core of 3rd ED is set up well; just there is always something in there that breaks all those rules, hahah. usually some obscure rule, item, or nasty spell! in fact, breaking stuff is like part of my job description; I'm always going to Sean and asking him (or asking permission to) to break or add something in the d20 system!!
A5. (T.C. 2/27) Wow, how could I forget spells? They consume a huge amount of effort to add to the game. There are so many exceptions and special cases. I want to change my answer.
Q. Why isn't there any multi-player?
A. (T.C. - RPG Vault) Multi-player adds a host of additional design considerations, and it forces many design issues to be resolved a particular way, often to the detriment of the single-player game. I doubt if we'd have made a turn-based game if we were multiplayer, and that decision alone would have changed the whole nature of the game. No, this time around, the team wanted to focus on making an awesome single-player game, and leave multiplayer and user modding out of the picture.
Q. What game engine is ToEE using?
A. (T.C. 3/27) We are using a heavily modified version of [the Arcanum] engine, which now uses 3D characters and particle effects. We began modifications after Arcanum was completed, and when Infogrames came asking about the possibility of doing D&D, we showed them a demo of the new engine's capabilities, and they really liked it. Without having such an engine available, we would never have agreed to such a tight schedule (18 months to make an RPG!). So we have spent that time primarily making content and encoding the D&D rules into the game layer, but we did continue to add new features like cloth rendering, so we could do robes and capes, and procedural spell effects, so spells like Chain Lightning can behave as they are supposed to, in this case leaping from one enemy to the next.
Q. Why did Troika go with 3D characters?
A. (T.C. - RPG Vault) For a given amount of memory space, 3D characters give us a bigger range of animations and personalization than sprites. Pre-rendered backgrounds give us more detail in the scenes than 3D backgrounds, so we like that combination. And we are using 3D particle effects everywhere, from smoke in the village chimneys to magic items like flaming swords and frost arrows, to each and every spell having an individual spell effect.
Q. Why were prerendered backgrounds chosen instead of a tile based engine?
A1. (S.M. 2/11) We liked the prerendered backgrounds because of the level of visual quality. We lost the dynamic features, but we didn't need the VAST world size that tiling gives. We had a limited number of explicit maps that we wanted to look visually diverse. Tiles don't give that feeling like the backgrounds do. And of course we found two GREAT level artists to do the work for us.
A2. (T.C. 2/11) We also wanted irregularly shaped areas to be true to the module.
Q. How has the original pen-and-paper module been changed?
A1. (T.C. - Greyhawk Chronicles - 1/9) I believe we have changed [the module] a lot. First, third edition D&D has a lot of support for role-playing besides combat, such as its dialog skills like Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate and Sense Motive. And second, Troika is known for its multiple paths to follow through quests and through the story. Together, these provide a lot of roleplaying opportunity beyond the mere hack and slash that people associate with dungeon adventures.
A2. (T.C. 2/11) Since there were no dialogs and no quests in the original, yes, there's a lot of new stuff. So ToEE is how we might have run the module. And we did change some things... Some new NPC's, new maps, new items, new dungeon dressing."
A3. (T.C. 2/17) You would be amazed how under described the [original] module actually is. In the module many NPCs just have stats and simple character descriptions. Lots of life and purpose have been given to these characters.
Q. Where any areas of the module trimmed away in order to translate it to a CRPG?
A1. (T.C. 3/4) Um, the planar stuff was HUGE. We changed that. It's cooler now. We added some new areas though. And we have a lot of side quests that are only hinted at in the module.
A2. (S.M. 3/4) I think we shrunk the elemental nodes and we cut the traveling to other planes so that it would be fun and not instant death.
Q. How closely are the developers following the module's design of the actual Temple of Elemental Evil?
A. (S.M. 2/16) I would say to the T but we did resize/remove a few (not many) rooms so that the game would play better from our camera position. In general all of the room layouts will be exactly the same as the module (except for where balance makes it unfun). If it says there are 7 gnolls in this room, one by each exit and one in the alcove that's what is in the room. Now once we enter the balancing phase if the game isn't playable or fun we may deviate more, but it is our hopes to recreate the Temple of Elemental Evil as true as possible (for our ruleset, etc).
Q. How complex can the traps and puzzles in the game be made?
A. (S.M. 2/16) Again, Tim could probably answer better. Because of the engine, most puzzles/traps/quests are dialog, item, container, NPC oriented. There are not plans for any special interfaces for specific traps/quests/puzzles. A mixture of dialog and scripting can make the current engine do a lot of that anyway.