Rome Total Realism interview with Tyr

Ace_Cataphract interviews Chris "Tyr" Krause from Rome Total Realism

Ace: So, you've been active for a long time. When did you start the modification and what sparked the desire to start it?

Tyr: I had been an anticipant of Rome: Total War as many of our fans, yet CA was generally tight lipped when it came to the specifics of the game - especially in regard to historical details such as nomenclature, unit lists, provinces, the map setup and what not. When RTW came out it was clear to everyone in the scene, which was now flourishing, that the game lacked the level of historical merit we, like many of our fans, demanded. Back right after RTW came out a bunch of disgruntled armchair generals on twcenter.net began to band together with hopes of making a realistic RTW. The original members of RTW were GaiusJulius, ZaPPPa and Khelvan. GaiusJulius ran the mod while ZaPPPa and to a lesser extent, Khelvan, helped out. Khelvan left RTR to work on EB by 2.0. Over the next couple of months 3.0 and 4.x came out. Gaius now was having some personal problems and left me in ultimate control of everything. He said he would be gone for 2 weeks max because all he had to do was move into a new apartment he had already scoped out, but also reported that he might have to sell his computer to get by the first month of being in his new place. During the next month+ without word from Gaius, the small team we had all fell apart - some members joined EB, others just got bored and left, others left because there was no team leader. RTR was basically dead. As time dragged on I decided I was not going to let RTR drift. Now I built a new team from scratch, rebuilt the website, reintroduced the IRC channel and started to create a features list for what would become 5.0. I posted a brief notice on the TWC RTR forum (which I was now exclusive admin of) that Gaius was at least 3 weeks overdue and I still had no word from him, so I was going to resume development until he came back. RTR was now a serious project and we had plans to do things which no one had done before, though was frequently talked about among other mods, like expand the map, add new factions and completely modify the game. While Gaius' public relations were cold and distant at best, I transformed RTR into a complete community's mod, and in doing so, quadrupled the number of downloads of RTR from our website (which I was paying for myself) in 3 days. My job now was director of a democratic/elastic system of development and I changed our development process to be much more liberal, so team members would feel like equals - unlike Gaius who was an absolute dictator who didn't really care what anyone wanted. By release 5.4 (with still no word from Gaius, now almost 2.5 months later) not one line of code remained the same from 4.x (Gaius' last version) and we were making huge leaps (such as expanding the map to India, Scandinavia, Britain, working on a prototype AOR+ system, adding in full skin sets, modding the eye candy of the game, etc). There was an average of 200,000 RTR downloads a month for 5.x. The scope and community of our mod as compared to 4.x had multiplied hundreds of times over and our mod was not only the most played RTW mod but was also featured in professional gaming magazines such as PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World - but was also the most played RTS mod period.

While development for our next version began GaiusJulius finally showed up on IRC and the first thing he did was come off hostile and aggressive by verbally attacking me and demanding all rights to RTR - because it was supposedly his mod. At least 2 months overdue, with a brand new modification, heading into the unknown, with our development schedule already created, and a team and community pretty loyal to our ambitions, I informed Gaius that not 1 line of code/skin or model that he had modified remained in our newest version and he needed to calm down and join our team as a equal, not a dictator. Gaius finally agreed to this reluctantly, but this is the last time I, the Punic: Total War Team, and the entire community ever heard from him again. To be frank, he has nothing to do with the mod anymore, and not only has he not developed since 4.x, but I have spoken to him only twice since then, he has 0 contact with the team and has done nothing since the original incarnation.

Enter 6.0 - our most ambitious project yet. With a new roster of professionals to work with and huge ambitions our goal for 6.0 was one: complete modification. From a humble, little known mod to a gigantic monster, complete modification with a surging community, RTR has come a long way.

Ace: So, I realize that your mod was a humble mod designed to correct the game's inaccuracies. When did you decided to go all out and create a full conversion? Was it more when you took over the mod, or did you really kick it into full gear when starting to work on 6.0?

Tyr: Well, with 5.x it was obvious that we were going to go beyond what GaiusJulius envisioned. Our first significant jump was editing the map. We were the first to significantly edit the map, which we stretched from Caledonia (present Scotland) to the Indus River plain. When it was clear that we could *really* mod the game things started to boil up. There was never a decision to go full modification, however when we began to carve up our features list for 6.0 it was clear that there was going to be a much larger emphasis on complete metamorphosis, and before you knew it, what we originally had hoped for was a distant memory and we were talking about adding factions and were complaining if any skin or aspect of any faction was not addressed. I then conveyed to the team that we would make 6.0 something to remember - something that would rival any other modification and really stand on its own - comparable to a retail package. Our first alpha build of 6.0 was cool and all, but as individuals on the team such as Caius really began to pop out skins and models on their own, we realized that we had finally accumulated the skills required to fully remodel all the factions, and through our doing so, you have 6.0. Basically, things planned for 7.0 were transferred to the 6.0 list. 7.0 became 6.0.

Ace: Are there any ideas that you wanted to implement, believing it was possible, but couldn't due to an unforeseen limitation on Rome Total War's engine? If so, can you give an example?

Tyr: There were at least a dozen ideas a day that we wanted to implement that never made it to release because of engine limitations - the RTW engine is very restrictive and not very modder friendly. The ZOR++ system, for example, was one of the original prototype theories that Wesley had come up with that made it to maturation, but hundreds, if not thousands of similar concepts lay dead by the wayside. I want to note that one of the RTW's engine's primary limitations is that it's not designed for mods in multiplayer - which is frankly unacceptable. The way it is now, it's impossible.

One of the many concepts that never made it to release was our fleet model, which offered more realistic and comprehensive fleet creation that was dependant on natural resources (such as cedar). This model increased the importance of certain areas such as modern day Lebanon, which were home to cedar trees, and also, made port cities such as Carthage much more important. The idea was that you were no longer building individual ships and the number of men in the "unit" was actually representative of number of ships, but in the end this never worked out in the game and was scrapped.

Ace: You guys seem to have a very complete looking mod. Will there be a definitive "complete" version, or will you just continue expanding the mod until it peacefully dies with the size of the Rome Total War community?

Tyr: I haven't discussed this much with the team, but I think 7.0 is going to be our final version. We will need to dedicate all our energy and time into our next mod - Barbarian Invasion: Total Realism. We still have some cosmetic stuff to do, and we want to really smooth out the gameplay and make it flawless in terms of balance, but other then that, there isn't much left to do. We do plan to fully remodel the barbarians for 7.0. 7.0 is going to be a fluff pack; we're throwing in everything that was considered "secondary" before: things like faction videos and a custom GUI. If 7.0 doesn't "do it," we will continue of course - so 7.0 being the end is not an absolute end.

Ace: Thanks for the interview. You've got a huge mod, and 7.0 promises to make Rome Total Realism look like a truly finished Rome Total War Remix done masterfully.

Tyr: Thanks for the interview.

Ace: Thanks to you!

Some exclusive screenshots courtesy of the Rome Total Realism Team (by Def and Chigga) can be found in our Gallery

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