Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil Interview, Part 1 (07/04/2003)
Recently we had the chance to talk about the upcoming Troika D&D CRPG Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil with the game's Project Leader, Tim Cain. What first started as a moderately sized interview soon grew into a small monster of 42 questions which we will be posting in two installments. Enjoy the first 20 questions, and make sure to come back again for the rest, which will follow shortly.
SP: For those of our readers who are not familiar with the world of Greyhawk, please describe the setting and its major characteristics in comparison to other D&D settings.
Tim Cain: The Greyhawk setting was one of the original, if not the first, D&D settings, being invented by Gary Gygax himself. It is a very rich and complex world, filled with many nation states and various political alliances. Unlike most other D&D settings, the Greyhawk world is very dynamic, with these political alliances shifting constantly and, with the Greyhawk Wars, changing dramatically. It's a world in which it's easy to become a hero and even easier to become dead.
SP: In short, what will Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil be about, and what role does the Temple of Elemental Evil play in it?
Tim Cain: ToEE is about a group of adventurers coming to a small village, for various specific reasons, but generally to seek their fortune. Their foray into a small local bandit camp uncovers something bigger and more mysterious going on, and they eventually discover that the previously defeated temple is not quite abandoned, and its leaders are not dead. How they respond to this threat is, of course, up to the player.
SP: How intricate is the game's plot going to be?
Tim Cain: We have provided multiple ways to advance the plot as the game progresses. Unlike the original module, which assumed the party was of a good alignment, we make no such assumption. There will be ways to complete the game that are dependent on how you handled yourself earlier.
SP: What will the ratio between questing and fighting be like?
Tim Cain: That's hard to say. We have added a lot of side quests that do not depend on fighting, but fighting can always be used as a solution. D&D is a very combat-oriented game, and we don't intend to change its nature. But we do provide alternatives when we can.
SP: Is the game going to be very linear?
Tim Cain: I don't think so, but of course we don't prevent the player characters from taking the obvious main path though the module. My guess is that during the first game, people will stick fairly close to the main story arc. On subsequent games, and especially with different party alignments, I expect people will experiment more and discover that they don't always have to go the same way through the game.
SP: What kind of graphics can we expect to see in ToEE? Has the graphic engine been developed from scratch for ToEE? Which resolutions will be supported?
Tim Cain: We are using an existing game engine (from Arcanum) with a lot of modifications, especially to the graphics engine on top of it. We use pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D objects rendered on top. We store a clipping geometry for the background, so we can have creatures pass behind walls and scenery, so the map appears three-dimensional. The game runs at 800x600 by default, but you can increase resolution up to 1280x1024.
SP: What would you say makes your implementation of the 3rd edition D&D rules better from the 3e games that preceded ToEE? Will you be implementing the upcoming revised 3.5 rules?
Tim Cain: I think our implementations of the D&D rules are as close to the PnP rules as any CRPG has ever done them. Our use of turn-based combat makes us different than almost any other modern D&D game, and I think people will find our game to be a refreshing take on the whole D&D dungeon crawl experience. We are more than hack-slash-loot.
I have no comment on the revised 3.5 rules... yet.
SP: How closely are you following the pen & paper rules in regards to spellcasting? Will mages need spell components and have to undergo XP or money loss with certain spells?
Tim Cain: Our spells follow the rules VERY closely. In fact, both the programmers and the artists sat with the Player's Handbook open on their desks, using each spell description as a guideline for the looks and effect of the spell. Any effects we could not reproduce due to engine or interface limitations we are carefully documenting in an appendix in the manual, so you can quickly see how we had to change some spells from their PnP versions. Adn while we don't require components, we do charge gold and XP from the mages if the spell calls for such costs.
SP: There have been many complaints that the turn-based rules implementation in Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor really bogged down the game. How is your turn-based implementation going to avoid the kind of pitfalls PoR: RoMD had? Will the game have a time limit for the turns? How quickly are the opponents going to make their moves?
Tim Cain: Several things should speed up our turn-based combat. We are looking at settings to control the movement speed of monsters in combat, so you don't have to wait for them to walk over and start beating you. We are also experimenting with letting monsters with similar (i.e. adjacent) initiatives take their turns simultaneously. So if you are fighting two zombies who both go last in the round, they will both strike at the same time. You can also relinquish control of your PC's voluntarily and let the AI take their turn, which can relieve the drudgery of finishing up a simple combat that you know you can win. Finally, we have added some ways for your party to avoid combat, by using skills and feats already present in the game. For example, one use of Wilderness Lore will be to avoid low CR encounters while traveling on the world map.
SP: Which classes are you implementing, and will we be able to pick any prestige classes? If so, how many prestige classes will there be to pick from?
Tim Cain: We have implemented all of the basic classes, barbarian to wizard, but we decided not to put in prestige classes in this game. We have the hooks to add them, but we did not have the time. Perhaps in the sequel we can add them.