Rise of the Triad

Rise of the Triad
Rise of the Triad: Dark War
ROTT Packshot.jpeg
Game Manual Art
Developer(s) Apogee Software
Publisher(s) Apogee Software
Distributor(s) FormGen
Designer(s) Tom Hall
Composer(s) Robert Prince & Lee Jackson
Engine Wolfenstein 3D engine (heavily modified)
Platform(s) PC (MS-DOS)
Release date(s) December 21, 1994 (shareware)
February 17, 1995 (full version)
March 3, 2009 (GOG.com)
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, 2-11 player Multiplayer (LAN or Modem)
Rating(s) ESRB: M
BBFC: 12
Media/distribution Floppy disk or CD-ROM, digital download on GOG.com
System requirements

40MHz 386 DX CPU, 4MB RAM, 20MB hard disk, VGA graphics card

Rise of the Triad: Dark War (abbreviated as ROTT) is a first-person shooter video game that was first released on February 17, 1995 and developed by Apogee Software (now known as 3D Realms). The members of the development team involved referred to themselves as "The Developers of Incredible Power". The player can choose one of five different characters to play as, each bearing unique attributes such as height, speed, and endurance.



A team of special operatives, known as the H.U.N.T. (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.

Rise of the Triad was initially, during its early stages of development, meant to serve as the sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, titled Wolfenstein 3D II: Rise of the Triad. The presence of the MP40 sub machinegun and the outfits worn by the enemies allude to Nazi Germany and imply the original aforementioned intent for the development of ROTT.[citation needed]


Overall, the gameplay is straightforward and often linear, like that of other games developed during the same period of time (such as Doom). The objective is to kill as many enemies as possible along with the bosses, and to collect keys in order to complete levels successfully. Occasionally special tactics and simple problem-solving skills are required to reach seemingly unreachable locations. Although most maps are fairly linear, there are some maps that were intentionally designed to avoid that, which have multiple exits.

Characters and enemies

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: good health, good speed, good accuracy.

There are numerous different types of enemies in the game that have different strengths and capabilities. Certain enemies can perform particular actions. Enemies sometimes beg for their life if the player has delivered enough damage to them. If they are left alive while pleading for their lives, they would fake their death but get back up and start attacking once again after a brief duration of time. 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 Triad-cult.

All enemies are digitized actors, mostly played by Apogee employees and their friends and family.

An example of the gibs in ROTT.

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 also play an important role in later Build games such as Shadow Warrior and especially Blood. The gib-term itself was later popularized by Quake.


There are a total of eleven weapons in the game, divided into three groups: the bullet weapons, the missile weapons, and the magic weapons. Bullet weapons have infinite ammo. Missile weapons have limited ammo that varies. The missile weapons constitute the bulk of the entire available arsenal in the game, 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 and either a missile or a magic weapon, a realistic limitation to the player's burden.

There are several powerups in the game, that give different abilities to the player. Only one of the powerups can be active at once, and their effects last for a limited time. An example of a powerup 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, which enables the player to fly.


There are several ways to interact with the environment in the game, including elevators and pushable walls.

A major element of gameplay found in Rise of the Triad is the many 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. Hazards serve as obstacles and render the gameplay more challenging. 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.

There are also "jump pads" in the game, 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, etc. 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.

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. Also, 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.

The game features many different bonuses that are received for various achievements whenever a level is completed, such as 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.[citation needed] 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 Mode", 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.[2]

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.


Original concept

Rise of the Triad began its life as nothing more than an expansion pack for Wolfenstein 3D. The original full title of the game was "Rise of the Triad: Wolfenstein 3D Part II". It was to use the same game engine code as Wolfenstein 3D, and have new levels, art, and characters. As the game was getting into deeper development, project leader Scott Miller was contacted by John Carmack informing Miller that the Wolfenstein expansion pack project had been canceled. Miller suspected that this was because id Software didn't want to draw the spotlight away from their upcoming game, Doom.[3]

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.

More info can be found about the original game here.


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 the sole vestiges of the original Wolfenstein 3D engine. However, ROTT's engine was still the first to pioneer myriad features which would be found in many later games, such as panoramic skies, simulated dynamic lighting, fog, bullet holes, breakable glass walls, level-over-level environments (made possible by "gravitational anomaly disks"; suspended objects that collectively form stairs, floors, etc.), and more.

Developers of Incredible Power

The Developers of Incredible Power (DIP) is the team behind Rise of the Triad. The team's name was created by Tom Hall, the lead designer. Other members of DIP were: William Scarboro, Jim Dose, Mark Dochtermann, Steve Hornback, Chuck Jones, and Susan Singer. Rise of the Triad was the only game released by DIP. A second game that was planned, Prey, never took off, and the name and parts of the original design were recycled for the more recent game by Human Head Studios. The team was eventually disbanded.

Some of the members worked on the bestseller first-person shooter Duke Nukem 3D. Others started their own companies, or left the computer games business. William Scarboro died of an asthma attack in August 2002.[4]

Cut elements

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 voices for the female guards are on the registered CD version as a bonus.[5]

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". Joe Siegler of 3D Realms currently is in possession of the VHS tapes which contain the original recording sessions of those characters.

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.


Game releases

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. There was also a "Deluxe Edition" of the shareware version, marketed in retail by LaserSoft, which contains 3 extra levels, and 3 extra multiplayer levels that are not available on any other version.[6]

There were several versions of the full or paid game, which included three new episodes. The Disk and CD versions both contain 32 game levels for the three new episodes, with the CD version containing more multiplayer levels. There was also a Site License version, which contained 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.

Other releases

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 the videogame Doom), and some were not (like one where you played inside the popular videogame character Dopefish). Additionally, 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 only two developers from the original team, Tom Hall & Joe Siegler. Generally the maps produced in this add-on were considerably harder than the original game's maps due to tricks that Tom & Joe had learned in the editor since the release of the original. The Extreme ROTT CD also had several other goodies on it. There were some user made level editors, a random level generator from Apogee, maps, sound files, etc. It didn't 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. One was the '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 6 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 Joe 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, Joe theorized that it should be possible to do this. The Wolf3D level for ROTT 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 Tom and Joe 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'. It took place in February 1996. 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 Joe Siegler entitled 'You & Spray'. Spray was an internal nickname given to the NME boss character by the developers. This was done by Joe as a gag in 1998, mostly as a personal exercise to see if he could remember how to still use the level editor. Joe has said that he initially didn't 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.

Source code

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 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.

Easter eggs

The game has an easter egg related to various holidays. When the system time is set to certain dates, the image of the HUNT Team in the main menu will show one of the characters wearing or holding a holiday-themed item, such as a Santa hat or an American flag. In addition, stylized Christmas music will play during game play on Christmas.

An item in the form of a floating digitized image of the head of Scott Miller, who was the president of Apogee when the game was developed and released, is located in a secret area. (This is sometimes known as "Scott's Mystical Head" due to the audio clip that plays when it is picked up.) When it is picked up, the player is rewarded with 2,764,331 points; the numbers are the digits of Apogee's past phone number, which was 1-800-276-4331.

If the parameter "dopefish" is added to the executable, a sample of burping is heard and Scott's Mystical Head is seen spinning in circles on the screen. The names of the levels change to somehow pertain to Dopefish and on one level, "Eight Ways to Hell", there is a secret area where a series of walls spells out "Dopefish Lives!" in the Commander Keen language, Standard Galactic Alphabet. Also, the graphics data for episode 2 boss Sebastian Krist includes an unused animation frame that shows him holding a Dopefish plushie.

ROTT uses a pushwall system similar to that of Wolfenstein 3D, whereby a pushed wall would move until it hit a restricting object (either a stop flag or another wall). If a pushwall exits the boundaries of the level, the game quits with the error message "PushWall Attempting to escape off the edge of the map". During testing, someone encountered this error and joked, saying "I'm free!" which led to a drawing of a pushwall flying joyfully into space. The drawing and error message ended up in the final version of the game, and can be seen through the level select cheat in the secret level "This causes an error."


In a 2009 Gamasutra article, Scott Miller, head of Apogee Software, mentioned that Rise of the Triad will be getting a contemporary reboot.[7]


External links

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