Rise of the Triad returns, thanks to a boomer shooter super group

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A remaster of the cult classic FPS game Rise of the Triad is in the works, slated for release in early 2023, and in one sense, it’s a reunion. The developers working on Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition include some of the leading lights of the recent ‘boomer shooter renaissance’ who first worked together on the 2013 Unreal Engine remake of Rise of the Triad.

The developers creating the Rise of the Triad remaster are a classic FPS supergroup: there’s Apogee Entertainment, which created and published the original game in 1995. Nightdive Studios, which has created remasters of a growing catalogue of classic FPS games, is also contributing to the project. They’re joined by New Blood Interactive, the publishers of throwback shooters like Dusk, Ultrakill, and most recently, Gloomwood.

New Blood CEO Dave Oshry tells us that the 2013 version of Rise of the Triad led directly to the creation of the games that got New Blood off the ground.

“New Blood [started out] as Interceptor refugees,” he says. Danish developer Interceptor, now known as Slipgate Ironworks, developed the 2013 remake of Rise of the Triad, and that was where Oshry says he learned some enduring lessons about FPS game design. “If it wasn’t for Rise of the Triad 2013, there would be no Dusk, there would be no Amid Evil, there would be no Ion Fury – there would be no ‘boomer shooter renaissance,’ or whatever you guys like to call it.”

Rise of the Triad 2013 had problems, though. It used checkpoints in place of the classic quick save system – which Oshry says was a mistake he’ll never make again. “I learned that lesson one time,” he says. “I learned that doing Rise of the Triad 2013 – I’m never putting out a game and not letting people save ever again.”

Another challenge was conveying the original Rise of the Triad’s distinctively American sense of 1990s camp humour to a group of Danish developers almost twenty years later.

“Everyone that started off on that – and I hope you forgive me, Dave – was a noob,” Apogee president Terry Nagy says, sitting down to talk with us after a trip to this year’s PAX.

Oshry agrees wholeheartedly. “That was our first project,” he says. “It was the first game any of us ever worked on. It was a miracle that it came out.”

The remastered Ludicrous Edition of Rise of the Triad, revealed at this year’s Realms Deep showcase, returns to the original 1995 version of the game, adding support for 4K monitors, framerates above 60 fps, cloud saves, and adjustable field of vision.

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Rise of the Triad was an odd game even in 1994: originally conceived as a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, Id Software ultimately sold the concept to Apogee, which developed Rise of the Triad into its own thing. It was hyperviolent and unceasingly goofy, with powerups like drunken missiles and easter eggs like ‘Dog Mode,’ in which the gun you normally see in front of you is replaced by a hound’s snout.

Most of the enemy sprites are based on digitised photos of Apogee employees, which makes playing the original Rise of the Triad feel strangely like looking at a chaotic Twitch chat window – a barrage of real people’s faces that have been boiled down to a single moment of intense emotion.

While Rise of the Triad has never been a household name the way Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem 3D, and Doom were, it’s nonetheless a hugely influential game within the FPS genre, and one that was wildly innovative. Rise of the Triad was one of the first games (along with Bungie’s Marathon, which launched the exact same day) to pull off things like dual-wielding, rocket-jumping, enemies who dodge your projectiles, and asymmetric multiplayer modes. There’s a magic baseball bat, and a power-up that will trigger ‘shrooms mode.’

“I have to give credit to [creative director] Tom Hall for putting anything and everything into the original Rise of the Triad,” Nagy says. “I mean, he was able to get the core programming team back then to include things into that engine that it wasn’t even remotely capable of doing at the time.”

‘3D’ shooters of that era weren’t fully three-dimensional – they were two-dimensional spaces rendered to look like they had volume, which is why it doesn’t matter whether you aim up or down in games like Doom. But Hall got the original programming team to work out a way to have floating platforms players could walk on and ride in Rise of the Triad, something Nagy describes as “technically impossible” given the constraints of the engine in 1994.

Hall had pulled off similar feats working on Wolfenstein 3D and Doom – he’d successfully argued for the inclusion of secret areas in Wolfenstein and teleporters in Doom. “But the engine doesn’t do that” was not a good enough reason to cut a cool feature from a game, as far as Hall was concerned.

This time around, thankfully, the underlying technology is Nightdive’s proprietary KEX Engine, which the studio has used for remakes of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Blood: Fresh Supply, Doom 64, System Shock: Enhanced Edition, and the original Quake. Using KEX means console players will be able to check out Rise of the Triad in its original form for the first time ever, too.

Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition will also include a new level editor, plus some cut content that’s been sitting around on dusty old hard drives for decades, including old sprites made back when Rise of the Triad was still being built as a Wolfenstein 3D sequel.

The Ludicrous Edition will also include the ‘Extreme’ level pack and two episodes that did not appear in the original game: one is a rebuild of GZ Doom fan project called Return of the Triad that was built by the team that went on to make Amid Evil for New Blood, and the other is an all-new collection of levels created by teams and developers from Apogee, New Blood, and Nightdive.

“The point is that we want to keep not only the original game, but also the spirit of the time alive,” says Larry Kuperman, Nightdive’s director of business development. “If I have to describe Rise of the Triad in one sentence, it’s a shooter that harkens back to the days when games were fun. If you play Rise of the Triad for half an hour and you don’t laugh, you probably need to see a doctor.”

You can expect to see Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition launch on Steam in early 2023.

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