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Rise of the Triad

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 shareware version, which contains ten original levels, is titled Rise of the Triad: The HUNT Begins. 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 are allusory to Nazi Germany and imply the original aforementioned intent for the development of ROTT.


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 a myriad of features which would be found in many later games, such as panoramic skies, simulated dynamic lighting, fog, bullet holes, level-over-level environments (made possible by "gravitational anomaly disks"; suspended objects that collectively form stairs, floors, etc.), and more.


Rise of the Triad's gameplay consists of various unique and interesting elements such as: hazardous environments (traps, fire pits, etc.), a vast and creative arsenal, destructible objects in the environment, various methods of accessing distant places (elevators, jump pads, etc.), and a broad range of foes.

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 successive levels. 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.


The player can choose between the following characters:

  • Taradino Cassatt, (the only character available in Rise of the Triad: The HUNT Begins)
  • Thi Barrett
  • Lorelei Ni
  • Doug Wendt
  • 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 shareware character and has average statistics: good health, good speed, good accuracy.

Most of the playable characters in ROTT share the names of characters in Tom Hall's Doom Bible, which was the original design document for id Software's Doom. Most of the ideas in the design document were not used in Doom. Ian Paul Freeley is meant as a joke for "I pee freely".


There are numerous different types of enemies in the game that have different strengths and capabilities. Certain enemies can perform particular actions.

Notably, one enemy, the Lightning Guard, can snatch a missile/magic weapon or armor from the player if the Lightning Guard finds himself close enough to the player; the Lightning Guard can then use the stolen weapons. These same 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.

The Strike Team guards tumble and roll to either side to dodge the player's fire and Low Guards can sometimes be found lying on the ground, waiting to ambush the player once the player walks up to where they are reposing. Overpatrols shoot nets that restrain you in one spot until you either manage to wiggle out or cut through with a knife that you can obtain from a statue that wields a knife.

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


  • General Darian - Sequentially the first boss that is fought; totes a bazooka and presses switches that lower crushers.
  • Sebastian Krist - The second boss that is encountered. He is always seated in the moving chair that is shown, which fires series of rockets and explosive projectiles. He can also attempt to crush the player by running them over with the chair.
  • NME (Nasty Metallic Enforcer) - The third boss -- a robot that fires multiple heat-seeking missiles and projectiles and that gradually begins to fall apart as it sustains more damage.
  • El Oscuro - The head of the Triad cult -- when attacked, he returns fire in the same fashion (e.g. when hit by a heat-seeking missile, fires a heat-seeking projectile in return).


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. In fact, at the start of the third shareware level, a dozen enemies are cut down by the spinblades regardless of the player's actions. Generally, at least one dismembered hand giving the finger will fly by at that point, provided the "violence" setting is high enough (the game can be set so that no blood is shown, or increasing amounts, including "gibs" (see below) at its highest setting).


The weapon system is ahead of many other games of the time in terms of complexity, brutality, and realism. 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.

  • Pistol - An ordinary pistol. The default weapon.
  • Dual Pistols - Two ordinary pistols, John Woo -style.
  • MP40 - An automatic submachine gun.

Missile weapons have limited ammo that varies. The missile weapons constitute the bulk of the entire available arsenal in ROTT and include:

  • Bazooka - Can hold up to ten missiles; fires a straight-flying missile.
  • Heat-Seeker - Holds up to seven missiles; fires a single heat-seeking missile; slightly weaker than the bazooka.
  • Drunk Missile - Capable of holding up to seven rounds; simultaneously fires five heat-seeking missiles that fly in different directions.
  • Flamewall - Highest possible ammo is five missiles; fires a straight-flying missile that eventually hits the ground, and when it does so, produces a swift-moving wall of flame that stretches as widely as possible, from one side of a room to the other, and explodes upon impact with an obstacle and reduces enemies that are in the way into heaps of charred bones.
  • Firebomb - Probably the most powerful weapon in the game. It can have a total amount of five missiles; fires a straight-flying missile that, upon impact, produces an X-shaped, earthshaking pattern of mushroom cloud explosions.
  • Split Missile - At most, can have seven missiles; if the key to fire a weapon is clicked once, this weapon fires two heat-seeking missiles that travel in opposite directions. If the said key is briefly depressed and then released, this arm will fire a single missile that would eventually split into two heat-seeking missiles.

Magic weapons, like missile weapons, hold varying limited ammo, depending on the weapon. There are two magic weapons, which are:

  • The Dark Staff - Maximum possible ammo amount is seven; an enchanted staff that fires a fast-moving, powerful projectile which penetrates every enemy standing in its fireline.
  • The Excalibat - Ammo can be up to ten; an ensorcelled baseball bat that, when the key to fire a weapon is pressed once, is swung. When the key to fire a weapon is depressed for an appropriate duration of time, the bat launches a simultaneous series of baseballs that explode on impact.

Players can carry a total of four different arms at once; all three bullet weapons and a missile or magic weapon--a realistic limitation that is the first of its kind to be found in an FPS.


  • God Mode - Turns the player invincible to all attacks, as well as increasing the height of the player. During the duration of time the power up is active, the player shoots enemy-seeking balls of energy that vaporize the enemies that it comes in contact with, and can hit multiple enemies. While in 'God Mode', the player's character moans ominously.
  • Dog Mode - Turns the player into a dog by decreasing the height of the player and displaying a dog's nose instead of a weapon. The dog is invincible to all attacks, and can charge up its 'bark blast' which is an attack that kills every enemy in view. The dog can also bite enemies in melee range during the duration of this powerup. This mode is sometimes needed when the player needs to go through small holes in the level.
  • Mercury Mode - Enables the player to fly during its duration. The player moves up and down using the look up and down buttons respectively.
  • Shrooms Mode - Makes the player appear to be on a bad drug trip. The view wavers all over the place, and enemies and items are just colored silhouettes.
  • Elasto Mode - Eliminates the player's friction and makes them bounce off walls. This does not prevent the player from taking damage, however.
  • Random Power - Gives the player one of the above powerups at random.

Note: The player can still die while in God or Dog mode by stepping outside the boundaries of the map, i.e., falling outside the fortress. The game manual states that this is "to make things somewhat fair."


Jump Pads

Would 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.

If a player jumps over an "outer" (perimeter) wall of the level (even in Mercury mode, or the God or Dog modes), they fall outside the fortress and lose a life.

Destructible Environment

While id Software's Doom only featured exploding barrels, ROTT had numerous objects that could be destroyed. Most of them were ornaments or plants that had no actual role, but in some cases they blocked a secret door. Also, if light poles and firepots were shot, they would dim the area. Lastly, there were "walls" of glass that could be shattered by shooting or walking through them.


One unusual feature, which most likely hearkens back to Apogee's Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II, is the bonuses received whenever a level is completed. There are many different bonuses that are received for various achievements, such as picking up all the missile weapons in a level (one of the Republican bonuses; see below), 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).

At the end of the game there are two special bonuses: the DIP (Developers of Incredible Power) bonus, which is awarded for finding all three hidden DIP balls in the game, and the genocide bonus that is awarded for killing/destroying every one of a particular type of enemy in the game. The bonus is received once for every enemy type completely annihilated.

Two rather humorous bonuses included the Democratic and Republican bonuses, of which there were two each. The Republican bonuses were awarded for acquiring all the missile weapons and for destroying all of the plants on the level; this was thought to parody traditional Republican attitudes toward defense and environmental policies. The Democratic bonuses were awarded for not using handguns and for using all of the "shrooms" powerups on the level; the former is a jab at the party's association with gun control and the latter reflecting the party's perceived lenient attitude towards drug use. There is also one other bonus, the "Bonus Bonus", which is supposed to be very hard to obtain and requires the player to receive every single bonus that can be given in the game.


Gibs, short for giblets, are the result of an enemy (or a player) coming into contact with an explosion; the flying bits and pieces of gore to which the actors in the game become reduced. The concept was first introduced in the computer game Doom. On random occasions, there may be an especially gratuitous amount of gibs produced, presenting the player with the comical and famous Ludicrous Gibs! message. There is even a cheat code, EKG, which activates the EKG Mode and tremendously ups the amount of gibs produced every time an actor meets an explosion. This could also be controlled through the options menu, which allowed 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. The Quake series would then elevate the use and the sheer quantity of gibs.

Gibs make an appearance in the Game Over screen: the player's boots are left smoldering (part of the player's lower legs are still in them), and there is a pile of gibs around them, with the text "Game Over." This happens regardless of the level of goriness set by the user.

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 will show one of the characters wearing or holding a holiday-themed item, such as a Santa hat or an American flag.

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."


The multiplayer mode is notable for the time the game was released, allowing up to eleven players simultaneously. 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 are:

Name Description
Normal Standard deathmatch. Players compete for the most kills.
Score More The same as normal, but rewarding more difficult kills: Killing with bullet weapons scores more than killing with missile weapons (2 points instead of 1). Killing an airborne player scores more killing than one on the ground (again, 2 points instead of 1). Killing an airborne player with a bullet weapon scores 3 points Landing on another player and crushing them scores the most (4 points).
Collector Players compete to collect as many triad symbols as possible. No weapons.
Scavenger The same as Collector, but with weapons.
Hunter One random player is chosen as "prey", and has no weapons. The other players (the hunters) must kill them for points. After a certain time, another player becomes prey, the previous prey becoming a hunter.
Tag Based on the children's game. A random player is "it". They must tag another player by running up to them and pressing their use key to score a point. This player then becomes "it".
Eluder Players must tag Eluders, which are moving triad symbols.
Deluder Similar to Eluder, but the Eluders must be destroyed for points.
Capture the Triad Essentially the same rules as Capture the Flag (for FPS games), with triad symbols in place of flags. It is probably the first computer or video game incarnation of CTF.

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.

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 release

The source code to Rise of the Triad was released under the GNU General Public License on 20th of December 2002. Shortly thereafter, fans of the game ported it to Linux, Mac OS, Xbox, Dreamcast and Nintendo DS (homebrew) and 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

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

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.

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".

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.

External links

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