3D Realms’ VP talks ‘exceeding’ Quake with Wrath: Aeon of Ruin and ‘dumbed down’ Call of Duty

You’d be forgiven for thinking that 3D Realms had packed it in years ago. Lost in a quagmire of legal issues and so-so titles, the developer-slash-publisher released Ion Maiden just last year and has now set its sights on retro shooters once more with Wrath: Aeon of Ruin, a title that runs on the original Quake engine. An interesting high-profile return is on the cards, and we had the opportunity to talk to 3D Realms vice president Frederik Schreiber to find out more about what’s sure to be a hotly-anticipated Summer 2019 release.

READ: Want to know even more about the newest game from 3D Realms? Check out our Wrath: Aeon of Ruin preview!

How 3D Realms plans to “exceed” Quake with Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

GameRevolution: Could you talk a little bit about how the idea for Wrath came about?

Frederik Schrieber: So, Wrath itself: we wanted to make a new first-person shooter using the fundamental gameplay elements that made a game like Quake so great [with] game elements that you rarely see in first-person shooters these days.

We did not necessarily want to make a retro first-person shooter, we kinda think the retro aspect niche is not something we want to latch on to. It just happens to be that this specific style engine [the original Quake engine] works so great for the game we’re trying to make here.

So, we’re not trying to make or look anything that feels retro, we’re just trying to make a fantastic first-person shooter that includes elements that Quake did so [well]. The game is made in the Quake 1 engine, runs at 666 FPS, that’s the frame-rate lock.

In the game you play as Outlander and the premise is that you’re adrift on the Ageless Sea and you wake up and arrive at this world and you’re met by the Shepard of Wayward Souls, this angelic figure tells you this world has been taken over by five Guardians… you have to take them down to save this world. Almost nothing is alive except for very creepy monsters, undead people, and so on. [It’s] a horrific world.

The game itself is based around the classic Quake formula in terms of verticality and speed. There’s also a ton of open-level design. We have this philosophy we call the “Open-level design philosophy” where each and every level has multiple paths which all loop back into the main path in each level to make it feel much more expansive.

It’s interconnected?

FS: Yep. It’s all integrated. We have tons of secret areas; we have tons of lore in the game. We have journals you can pick up… drawings and paintings you can use to solve various mysteries.

A lot of attention in the industry is sort of [devoted to] either AAA or indie. Would you sort of class yourself as in-between that?

FS: Yeah. So, I think the difference is that a lot of the elements that makes indie games great is that they take very high risks but can also do very creative, risky projects in general. We kind of like to do the same [but] one of the negative things about indie titles… they are done by first-time game designers and developers, so sometimes they don’t turn out as great in terms of quality as they’d like.

We like to mix the two. We like to get industry veterans on-board to develop the games but in an indie spirit. So, this is kind of that mix of extremely talented veterans who have worked in the industry for decades, working on something we not only call authentic, we also think it exceeds original games from that era [of the 1990s] tried to do.

There’s a lot of retro-type shooters currently and the good ones—they each do something really great, like take one element from ‘90s shooters… and run with it. But sadly they are trying to imitate the shooters from the ‘90s rather than trying to match it or exceed it. We felt the only way to match these games, especially Quake, was to exceed it. And to get the people who have not stopped working with Quake in the ‘90s on-board.

Obviously, Quake is a huge inspiration for this game. What other shooters, or other games, have you been playing during development that sort of inspired this game?

FS: So, I would say absolutely Blood, Hexen, and, of course, Quake. It is very dark-fantasy inspired, and it also has slight RPG elements to it. Not in terms of levelling up and so on, but, for instance, we craft the lore in the game to be world-based and environment-based.

How Wrath: Aeon of Ruin isn’t a “dumbed down” shooter

This is a game built in an old-school spirit. Are you catering only to that audience or are you hoping to grab a new audience as well?

FS: Hopefully, this game will grab a new audience. Simply based on the fact we like to think it’s a really good game first and foremost. That’s the number one priority for a game like this. We didn’t make it to be “old school” per se; we based it around gameplay formula that is mostly known from older shooters, and is kind of a lost art these days.

It’s mainly a lost art these days because the mainstream shooters become more and more “dumbed down,” unfortunately. If you look at the latest Call of Duty games and games like Fortnite and so on. Very simple and very dumbed down and requires a very simple set of skills. We really miss those shooters that require a little bit more from the player.

People are going to want to know about multiplayer. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

FS: So, multiplayer in the game: Right now for launch, we’re doing the basics. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, something like Capture the Flag. The reason we’re doing the basics is that, right now, we’re still working on the ideas of how to make a really unique multiplayer mode that works well with a game like Wrath, besides the obvious Deathmatch, TDM, and so on.

We want to do that post-launch because we want to put as much effort and as much thought as we’re putting into the single-player game. So, for the launch of the game, it’ll have the full single-player and the basic multiplayer, so you can at least go in and play against your friends and play together with your friends in co-op.

Then, post-launch, we’re going to bring a brand-new update that brings new multiplayer modes and we’re also likely going to do a specific campaign just for co-op.

On developing a mature game for the Nintendo Switch

This is coming out on Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. What was it like trying to work with Nintendo trying to get this on the platform?

FS: So far, we haven’t heard anything from Nintendo in terms of why they wouldn’t get it on [to the Nintendo Switch]. It’s a very simple process working with Nintendo these days. Back in the day, you had to go through a process where they curate what type of games they want on the platform. They still kind of do that, but the game has to be Adult-Only rating, which games rarely get… It has to be like straight-up nudity and violence in the same game to get that rating. I think those games they keep off the platform, otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.

With the sort of advent of games like Apex Legends and Anthem, do you think maybe single-player games are dying or is there still a market for those?

FS: I think there’s a huge market for it. But I also understand why people think regular single-player games are dying because all they see in the media and what people are playing, at least the majority, is everyone starts playing Fortnite and all the other games die out. That is not really the truth.

The thing is with great single-player games, they have a great audience, it’s just overshadowed by larger games. Also, these days, good games, and a game like Wrath, are getting cheaper to make than they use to be. Mostly due to the fact that when you develop a game with an art style like Wrath… it’s no longer seen as an outdated game. If we make this game in 1999 or 2001, it would’ve been so close to the original game and technology would’ve moved so far that people wouldn’t see it as an old-school game.

So, when these type of games come out, you don’t need to sell 10 million copies, or even 200,000-300,000 copies to break even and make money. And that’s why I think single-player games are doing pretty well nowadays. They’re just not selling double-digit million copies.

Just one final question: Obviously you’ll be focusing on this for quite a while, but what’s next for 3D Realms? Are you looking towards maybe the next console generation?

FS: Well, it’s not really that necessary. I think those games that are specifically designed for a new generation also have to be on the forefront of technology to really use the power. This game is running at 666 FPS, which is just ridiculous because it’s using this old technology… We don’t really gain anything out of it because it’s not like when a new platform comes out, more people start playing games. We could port this to even the Dreamcast if we wanted to, so new platforms don’t really make that much sense to us. We’ll put it on anything your toaster, your printer. Whatever can play Quake we’ll put it on there!