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With many organised mod teams prefering to work with Half-Life 2, Doom 3 has almost been forgotten as a modding platform. Here to talk about their project and Doom 3 modding in general is the team behind Recall to Hell.
First off, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to participate. Just to start it off, who are you, and what do you do on the Recall to Hell project?
Legion_x [mod leader]: We are an ambitious modteam consisting of 20 permanent members, 2 technical supervisors and about 15 freelancers who are working in different areas. Under the name of "Gridlock" we are primarily working on the "Recall to Hell - Ascend of Blood and Steel" mod, which we are going to introduce to you in detail below. Additionally some of us are also trying themselves at other projects like Quake4 multiplayer maps or planned campaigns for the coming Prey..
So how long has Reca|| to He|| been in development?[featureimg1284 NOT FOUND]
Legion_x [mod leader]: Recall to Hell is in development since October of 2004. A little less than 2 years. At first there was only the story and some ideas about the individual locations. From there it took a few months until we could estimate which parts were practicable with the engine which were not. Even today our process is made up by a multitude of new ideas, which have to be checked, tested and possibly given up in unfortunate cases, because they are simply too extensive [for example neural networks, which the KI uses to learn from the actions of the player] or they can?t be solved with the doom? engine in a satisfying way.
All right. I can't resist this question. I noticed the strange spelling of the mod's name. Why choose "Reca|| to He||" instead of the more obvious Recall to Hell?
Legion_x [mod leader]: This purely optical gimmick is nothing more than the result of the order of characters.
Tain Infernus [story editor]: Well, it was just a small escape from the norm. Personally, I kind of like the style but we all use Recall To Hell in conversation.
Most Doom 3 mods tend to work around themes of horror, especially to do with Hell and demons, almost echoing the base game. Why do you think that Doom 3 modders seem less inclined to explore other themes and settings for Doom 3 mods?[featureimg1285 NOT FOUND]
Legion_x [mod leader]: Optically as well as in content, the given set of Doom? corresponds mostly to abandoned research facilities and classical hell-sections. The monsters spring from the horror genre as well and the engine's light and shadow system supports this in a special way. So one has to invest quite a bit of work and effort in order to create a completely new and unseen set and to offer the player a completely different feel beyond doom. Realizing this with all components in a credible way needs a lot of people and much work new map-textures, monster- and weapon-models are only a small part of it. Some of the bigger mods, who have enough rescources, capacity and members at their disposal can afford such an enormous step. Dark Mod for example. All the others are just using the given rescources of Doom?. And an example which proves that these are not necessarily inferior would be "in Hell".
Tain Infernus [story editor]: Yes, there's only so much one can do with Demons and Hell without it seeming similar to Doom 3 or even just a copy. Many mod-teams see this and tend to either make a horror game of a different type or quit the game altogether and go make a HL2 mod.
Satan [modeler]: Firstly, it's not really that we are running away from the horror. But we are trying to make all the story elements completely different from the regular Doom3esque stories so it's very practical and strengthens the reason for the player to be scared of. Often players try to find proper reasonings for things that happen, at least in these days of next-gen games. Even people who is not a hard-core horror fan, can't deny with any of the elements that are present in this very mod called "Reca|| to He||".
Now about the real answer to the question. See the Doom3 renderer was typically made so it's ideal for horror environments. We are not talking about any medium budget companies here who hire a generic standardized game engine to make their game. Speaking of iD Software, they are capable enough to develop an engine (or renderer in this case) so it reflects the typical mood of their game. So it's a bit difficult for modders to think a bit differently than the same old Doom3esque environments. This is my personal opinion though.
Recall to Hell seems to be going down a slightly different route. Your mod profile boasts a "deep, complex and conclusive" story. Will the cut-scenes be rendered in the engine, or will they be pre-rendered?
Psyschokiller [lead mapper]: Actually the doom3 engine is one of the most powerful realtime renderers available. The great scripting, lighting and animation system makes it possible to create everything that you wish to have in your Cinematic. There are no limits.
Styl3 [shader artist]: As Psyschokiller said before there is no need to prerender cut-scenes. The Doom 3 Engine gives us all we need, for example the amazing lighting.
Your story seems to be about human evolution, would it be all right to get an overview or introduction into the story prepared for Recall to Hell? Without giving away any spoilers of course. :D[featureimg1286 NOT FOUND]
Legion_x [mod leader]: Our story is about evolution. The human has always been in the center of it and worked his way to the top, thanks to quick development and constant research. But what happens when he loses control of his everlasting research and development?! When his own technological creations turn against him with human-like finesse and malignance and humanity is displaced in evolution by their own offspring of flesh and steel, becoming entangled in a merciless campaign of annihilation.
We know that the action will take place on each of the nine planets in the solar system. Will the majority of Recall to Hell take place on human complexes built on other planets, or will the action take place elsewhere as well, like on the actual surface of the planet?
Legion_x [mod leader]: We extended the setting over all planets, since they provide just as much optical variety as they do physical. For example we will be able to experiment with gravity, atmospherical pecularities and cosmic effects and thus offer ever new game experiences to the player. In this wide-ranging cliffy planet surfaces take turns with dark and narrow indoor passages. But there will be much more outside-area than in Doom? itself. Some of the dusty mars-canyons are going to be so large that you can only explore them by vehicle. For contrast there will be extremely narrow and really dark mining tunnels deep beneath the surface of the moon. On Mercury you descend into boiling lava caves, while on Neptune you will find yourselves in a huge explorable ice-wasteland. Under stormy methane-rain you have to penetrate deep into a sinking underwater base on one of Uranus? moons, while once again elsewhere you are high up in a meteorite belt around Jupiter, infiltrating a high security complex. So there shouldn't be a lack of variety...
Tain Infernus [story editor]: There will be a mixture of surface and complex exploration. Some planets are incapable of supporting structures (Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus) so the settings will take place on the moons of these planets.
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You seem to be putting a lot of effort into getting the atmosphere in Recall to Hell at a level where fear will surely ensue. How are you planning on creating a sense of tension and atmosphere?
Skystalker [mapper]: We want to produce some kind of horror that is really terrifying you, not a splatter-evidence. You will feel as if something is alive in dead corridors and that the walls are hunting you. We will use plenty of story scripts as well as enemy-scripts - forget monsters teleporting in in front of you! The mappers wont be satisfied until the atmosphere is perfect and you are cowering in front of your PC.[featureimg1287 NOT FOUND]
Legion_x [mod leader]: The mappers contribute a lot to the base-atmosphere. With impressive lightning and fitting fog- and particle effects they transform architecture into downright chilling scenarios, which are accompanied by the right acoustic effects as well, thanks to the excellent work of our sound artists. Did you hear silent steps just now, or was it just your imagination? A very important part is the predominantly subtle and chilling horror instead of ever returning shock effects like in Doom?. The uncertainty that somewhere close something might lurk around, which is quietly sneaking up on you from behind is much more powerful and long-lived than enemies which are jumping directly into your face every three steps. We are going to take you for a ride and use directed acoustic and visual effects to mess around with you. You are supposed to get the feeling that the enemies are tactically superior to you and cleverly toying around with you before they attack. And when you think that you can finally see through the tactic, we just turn the tables once more. There will be no kind of predictably spawning enemies. Instead we are going to use all the spacial possibilities for potential attacks. Enemies have the ability to move along ceilings and walls and favor silently approaching you from behind. For this part, which is just as important, we are working closely together with our modellers, animators and coders.
Have you found it difficult to get the lighting and mist effects just right in the Doom 3 engine?
Elusive [lead mapper]: Here is the power of the Doom 3 engine. Dynamic lights, the physics, the true six channel audio system are a very good base to create a dark and gloomy atmosphere. It's very important that sounds and lights play together. Also music can increase the tension as well as decrease. So we try to put these things together to set up the atmosphere we were looking for.
The sound seems to be a major selling point of your mod. What kinds of sounds will there be in Recall to Hell?[featureimg1288 NOT FOUND]
Tain Infernus [story editor]: All kinds. Every sound will be made to ensure quality of listening and give the effect we want.
Legion_x [mod leader]: There will be little continuous background music in Recall to Hell, because we will rather concentrate on background noise and music just interferes, drowns out or distracts there. In return the sound effects will be all the more intensive and manifold.
Not only are you guys set to make lots of sound, according to your site, you're implementing visual effects like bloom, parallax mapping and weather effects into the engine. How much progress are you making on getting these effects going, and have you run into any major problems so far?
Legion_x [mod leader]: The Doom? engine marks our base and defines our possibilities. Within these we are trying to distance ourselves as much as possible from the familiar look and to move into our own optical direction. For example you may look forward to optical tidbits like LensFlare effects, atmospheric BloomShader, sharpness filter and simulated HDR, which have, for the most part, already been smoothly integrated.
Satan [modeler]: Trust me, the visual effects of RTH is something you've never seen in any other Doom3 mod, and I mean it. Our coders and shader artists worked together to make some of the most complex stuff the Doom3 community has witnessed. But lots of things still remain. All in all I think we are on the right track.
Your website states that there will be vehicles in the final mod. What sorts of vehicles are you planning on having?[featureimg1289 NOT FOUND]
Tain Infernus [story editor]: A sort of jetski to help you move through water and sewer pipelines. Also a buggy vehicle to navigate the rocky and harsh surface of the planets.
Legion_x [mod leader]: A fork-lift is planned as a controllable vehicle. You may use it to move objects and enemies out of the way. Furthermore there will be various futuristic jeeps and buggys in our vehicle fleet. And you will need them to move through the large terrain. So variety is guaranteed.
You guys seem to be putting a lot of work into your A.I. features. What impact do you hope this improved A.I. will have on gameplay?
Tain Infernus [story editor]: We hope to develop a smarter, more surprising AI. We need to make the enemies react to the player with increased speed and intelligence...
Legion_x [mod leader]: ..so we intend to make the enemies act more skilfully, depending on your actions for example. If you meet them with a short-range weapon like the shotgun, they won?t close in on you. But if you use grenades, they will get to you much quicker than you want. Some will prefer to attack silently from behind, others will sneak up on you in the shadows. Again others have the ability to move along walls and ceilings. We still have a lot of work to do here until the idea will be implemented in working code.
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You plan to focus on mainly close-range weapons. What benefits can you percieve for the gameplay to be more focused on close quarters combat?
Tain Infernus [story editor]: Fear. The wonders and security of guns is the ability to attack from afar and be well outside of the danger zone, outside of the enemy's reach. But with a weapon like the pickax; you have to get right there, in the face of your enemy, staring a monster in the jaws, to even begin attacking.
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According to the website, you have a new system for determining your arsenal before any given mission. Could you explain the details and theory behind the "Dynamic Weapons Arsenal"?
Legion_x [mod leader]: We want the dynamic weapon system to take a considerable amount of action out of the game. In the beginning of any mission, you will be able to fill your backpack with weapons, ammunition and items, like in an RPG. At first you will only have a small backpack with little storage space, but enough for the smaller weapons in the beginning of the game. Later you will carry improved backpacks, in which you can story bigger weapons as well. Nevertheless it is always important to think carefully about which of the at least 15 currently planned weapons you are going to take for the upcoming mission. There will only be space for a small part of them. So before the start of each mission, you have to carefully choose your weapons according to the tasks, conditions and expected enemies at hand. A major strategic element.
Great! Well it sounds like you guys are putting together a really interesting mod, and something that sounds like it will expand on the Doom 3 formula to make something quite different. On to the real important question: when should we expect a release?
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Skystalker [mapper]: You know the answer. Dont ask ;)
Legion_x [mod leader]: When it's done. In the truest sense of the phrase. Because we are a hobby-team with limited spare time, which we are of course dedicating to this project, but of course not on the scale on which professional game producers are working. It seems like it will still take a little while. But we will keep sweetening the waiting time, as always, with some impressive media-tidbits. Promised.
Tain Infernus [story editor]: Whenever it's done. We know that people hear that all the time from game makers and distributors but that's really the only answer we can give. It's very hard to estimate how much time it will take to accomplish certain goals. That's why Legion has had to push back several news releases because we just weren't ready to display a finished model or idea. That's another thing: media releases. Every several months we release shots of a new level or area along with new enemy ideas and weapons to keep people with us. We wish it could be more often, for the fan's sake. We know how annoying it can be, waiting anxiously outside the loop for any sign of release or a sneak peek. Trust me, as Betruger said "Anticipation, after all, is everything", and it really is. The best thing about waiting for some major game is seeing all the cool E3 releases and such before playing the final product. Given we don't have such cool video showcases, YET!
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Some of your team members are working on side projects. Do you have anything up your sleeve, or anything you plan to work on after Recall to Hell?
Jack [concepter]: Imagine the amount of public praise we'd get if "Possibly reviving Hell on Earth" were to get out.
Tain Infernus [story editor]: Perhaps an abandoned Doom 3 project, based in the Doom 3 universe, but we will take it to another engine. Perhaps the ET:QW engine. Something the fans of Doom have wanted to see since they finished Doom 3?
Well, there it is folks. Recall to Hell is shaping up to be one hell (oops, bad pun) of a mod, with some very interesting, if ambitious ideas. In any case the scale and scope of the work to be done, and the work that has already been done makes this a mod worth watching for just about anyone.
Thanks to legion_x and the entire Recall to Hell team for taking part in this interview.