Rise of the Triad embraces absurdity at PAX Prime 2012

Rise of the Triad returns to its roots and embraces absurdity at PAX Prime 2012.

Calling Rise of the Triad fast is like calling the hinged iron webbing over a pit of spikes troublesome. It's true as far as it goes, but neither quite gets the point across.

There was a guy in a flannel shirt and backpack playing the reboot of the over-the-top 90s-era first-person shooter on the floor at PAX when I walked up to the RotT PC. As I watched over his shoulder, I assumed that there was a speed-based mod running that had been tuned to light speed.

I stand behind the guy with flannel shirt, watching him spar with weapons familiar to RotT fans and giggle-inducing new ones. There's Excalibat, a baseball bat with the creepy animated eye that stares out of the screen until you swing it and it hurls exploding baseballs across the map. There's the Flamewall, a gigantic fiery gun, an archetype of 90s-era shooters with a wall of fire that envelops the battlefield.

The speed hasn't been cranked up, I learn as Dave Oshry walks me through the multiplayer level that the team had created for QuakeCon, where the game was revealed in August. In fact, it's been tuned down on the show floor to speed 666, and Oshry tends to play it at around 800.

The original Rise of the Triad cut its teeth in 1995 with over-the-top antics that the weapons personify, and as players fall into spike pits and die from explosions — in each case, ending up as piles of charred bones — as they're rocketed through the air at what must be hundreds of in-game miles per hour across the board from man cannons, the game's appeal becomes obvious. The fun is in the absurdity.

Oshry tells me that he's been the game's advocate since he learned that the original publisher, Apogee Software, still owned the IP. He set out to convince the publisher to do some resurrection. A faithful reboot. Rise of the Triad for modern audiences. All the absurdity of the original plus leader boards and Unreal Engine 3.

As Oshry told me the story of the game's rebirth, the guy in the flannel kept playing. He'd grin and chuckle his way through a round of multiplayer, and after each, he'd look up to see if anyone wanted his place. If they didn't, he was right back into the action. If they did, he politely surrendered and queued for the next round.

He and Oshry spar as we conduct our interview. Like the guy in the flannel, Oshry been a RotT fan since its golden age. They chase after each other at breakneck speed, intent on winning but unconcerned when they're bested. Even in death, both are content to be in the game again, laughing even as the flames envelop them.

This kind of interaction is what developer Interceptor Entertainment hopes to achieve: a mix of nostalgia for a beloved game to get the Triad rolling, and an experience so fundamentally compelling in its absurdity that it will draw newcomers into the arena. The $14.99 price for a DRM-free product that includes an eight hour campaign, several multiplayer maps, modification tools, and a host of free DLC, is designed to welcome everyone into the fold.

Rise of the Triad is, in many ways, the polar opposite of another PC shooter, Rekoil, which I'd seen earlier. Where the latter prefers no-nonsense, straightforward sparring, the former prefers absurdist explosions interspersed with Matrix-esque reload animations that juggle clips for no other reason that they can. It's like Duke Nukem without the schlock.

The international team at Interceptor has been working on RotT for about six months, and they're aiming to finish the game in mid-December and hoping to launch on Steam in January, but Oshry offers no hard dates. He's pleased with the progress the team has made, but he's more comfortable with saying "early next year" because it's better to have a launch window than to have a launch date in case it gets bumped.

Oshry and I step away from the PC, and the guy in the flannel follows. As my interview winds down, he asserts himself. Will the old toggles be there in the menus? Will players be able to choose not only the old style sounds, but the updated score by the original composers? It's all there, Oshry tells him.

I look back as I walk away, and their arms flail as they talk. Rise of the Triad is back, and they're both smiling ear-to-ear.

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