Happy 20th, Wheel of Time!

Can you believe that it has been 20 years since Legend Entertainment Company released the original Wheel of Time computer game? It’s true, and a walk through the wayback machine confirms it.

To get this out of the way, if you’re a fan of the game and you find yourself here, then you have no excuse not to check out the Story Behind WoT, right on this page. There’s a ton of behind-the-scenes, making-of stuff you probably didn’t know about the game.

Now, 20 years later, people are still playing the game; a dedicated group of fans is even now planning a 20th-anniversary celebration. And I’ll talk more about the game in a moment, but I also want to take this opportunity to discuss how the Wheel of Time has continued to evolve as a property, even many years after the death of the books’ author: Robert Jordan (James Rigney).

Fans’ enthusiasm for the series hasn’t diminished, and you can even count a large number of contemporary authors among them. If you haven’t seen it, here is a video that discusses the impact Robert Jordan has had on the face of epic fantasy.

But it gets better. George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones proved that viewers are hungry for deep, powerful, well-presented fantasy stories–and so it only made sense that someone would snag the chance to make a Wheel of Time TV series. In this case, Amazon stepped up–and so far, even the most hard-core book fans are warming to the choices the production company is making (believe me, I know personally how difficult those fans can be to please). Here, look at snippets from the table read of the first episode’s script. This show should be amazing.

So, now, indulge me in a quick look back. In October 1999, the Wheel of Time PC game went gold, to be released in stores on November 11th (on my birthday and just in time for Christmas). It received a passionate response, both from the press and from players.

Some reviews focused on the fact that it was one of the first games that introduced a strong female lead in a compelling story (not common in a first-person shooter). Some praised the stunning fantasy art come to life. Others enjoyed the ground-breaking multiplayer gameplay. The incredibly talented team at Legend produced one of the titles I’m most proud of in my career–and I hope they feel the same way.

Back then, in addition to designing the game, I moderated the WoT community at our web site and produced regular dev updates (kind of a precursor to the updates you see on kickstarter projects). To wrap up, I thought I would reprint the post when we went gold, which includes the description of our trip to show the game to Robert Jordan himself.

Thanks for joining me here, please lift a glass for WoT turning 20, and make sure to return for updates about The Child of Chaos, my upcoming debut fantasy novel published through Rhetoric Askew Publishing.

Development Update 11/2/1999

If you ask most game development studios when their latest release is due, chances are you'll get a response something like, "It'll be done when it's done."  Ask me, and you'll get something much simpler and more satisfying.

It's done.

Sometime during the evening of Saturday, October 23rd, The Wheel of Time officially went gold.  Release candidate number eight proved to be the pick of the litter while all of his runt siblings got stuffed into a sack and thrown into the Potomac.  GT immediately put lucky number eight into production with the intent to get the game into your hands as soon as possible. The end result is that you should be seeing a bunch of shiny new WoT boxes on store shelves possibly as soon as November 10th, one day before my birthday.  Now that's an official WoT present that I'm looking forward to.

The event struck me like an anvil.  For the last five years, my professional life has been devoted to somehow changing this game, whether it be rethinking the fundamental design or tweaking the amount of damage that fireball inflicts.  In one searing moment, it's over. The game will be the way it is. The order of bytes is fixed.

It's wonderful, though.  Although one never feels completely finished, I've been looking forward to showing this game to the world for years.   There are so many elements to be proud of, things that the whole team should be proud of, that I can't wait to hear what the public thinks.

Here is an excerpt from the letter I sent internally to the team, which sums up many of my feelings about this game:

"The single player game is wonderful. The levels are beautiful, fun, and solid. The story is compelling. The experience is satisfying. 

"Arena is a blast. We will introduce the multi-player community to something they've never seen, and they're going to love it. 

"Citadel is as solid as ever.  It will at least give people a fun diversion, and at most become a staple.

"Everyone should feel very good about what they've done: programmers, artists, testers, designers, everyone. Your literal years of hard work have paid off. This game is the most impressive thing that Legend has ever produced, and you're all responsible. Very soon, the public is going to be telling you the same thing. We are making history.

"Thank you for making this game possible."

Enough of my gushing.  Let's move into the future.

Right now, the team is catching its breath, but still running and putting together a demo for the game as I type this.   People are already producing some wonderful new and distinct assets for it. The multi-player maps include two cool Arena levels, and the single-player section presents two disparate missions from the SP storyline (I'm still trying to figure out how to fit them into some sort of coherent package, but we may just give them to you as-is just to get a taste of the game without the story to explain it; you'll just have to buy the game to understand how these chapters fit into the whole).  We'd like it to hit at about the same time as the retail product, so we're moving quickly to finish it up.

Following that, we'll be setting up Legend's official WoT hot tub party of fun: a dedicated T1 with four to six servers, all with multi-player sessions of WoT on the brains.  Craig "No More Changes!" Lafferty and Grant "Food Man" Roberts will be sharing the captain's chair in this effort (although my money's on Grant to push Craig off of the overstuffed cushion), so you can yell at them if a server has problems--or if you're just losing and want someone to blame it on.  I'll keep you all up to date about the status of our bank of servers, and any events or contests you might want to know about. By the way, as soon as they go up, you know that members of the development team are going to connect, just so they can kick ass before anyone else gets good! So if you want to run with the big dogs, bring it on!

Many of you have made it clear that you're waiting to hear how the visit with Jordan went.  In fact, some of you have waded through all of the sentimental crap above just to get to this section.  So let's get to it.

As you know, Mike Verdu and I trekked to Mr. Jordan's house with a pre-gold version of the game.  I wasn't really nervous, at least up until we actually started the game. The first cinematic began to play.  Through all three minutes of introduction to his world, Jordan and his wife stared at the screen expressionless.   My only thought was, "What if this wasn't exactly how he saw it all in his head?" By the time it was over, I was almost a wreck--then his wife looked at me, smiled, and said, "That was beautiful."  Jordan immediately agreed.

After that, it was much easier.  We played through more of the game, watched more cinematics, and had a good time.  Jordan kept repeating that it was "absolutely gorgeous" and that he really appreciated our attention to detail, especially since this activity was very important to him while writing the books. Soon after, he stopped commenting on the game and wanted to talk about possible sequels.   He was excited about pushing new areas of technology and implementing some of the untouched and more ambitious design ideas from my original concept. Given that my mind had already starting wandering in those directions, I was happy to discuss them.

In all, Jordan was impressed and excited about the possibility of future projects.  This doesn't guarantee anything, but it's always nice when the author wants to see more.  And, I have to admit that I enjoy playing in his world.

This update is too long already, so I'll finish up with a summary of the latest media coverage (if I miss a piece, please let me know).  Previews have sprouted up all over the web, and reaction to the game continues to be great. 

PlanetUnreal weighed in with this nice piece (on a similar subject, I will neither confirm nor deny the rumors about a PlanetWheelofTime). 

GamesDomain did a head-fake toward a preview, indicating that more will follow. 

When GamePen's servers are working, their preview is dang fine readin' (and you have to like the quote, "If Half-Life was the answer to Quake, then Wheel of Time is the answer to Unreal."). 

Gamespot UK went over and above again (remember the 102 screenshots they released?) with a nice walkthrough of the first level (not the third as they reported). 

And Incite just wrote this bad boy up.  Whew!

Finally, I'm pleased to welcome the newest member of the WoT on-line community: MGON's WoTgame.com.   Although it's too new to peg them yet, their layout is very cool and I've got high hopes. Check 'em out!

That's more than enough for now.  Until next time!

13 thoughts on “Happy 20th, Wheel of Time!

Add yours

  1. Such a great game, loved it, loved the community. Was one of the first on the original forum to reach 100 posts.

    My first clan was the immediately defunct children of the dragon, after launch I joined the black tower, then I spent time in Legends and and Band of the Red hand. I was also in a clan where our identities were secret but I don’t recall the name.

    I went by The Word of Tolkien, Leonidas, Misery and I’m forgetting my Legends name.

    Eventually I joined the children of the light and they were part of a larger clan that played other games, I went on to play some competitive counter strike and time moved along.

    Miss it

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was my first Shooter to play and I loved it! I actually didn’t know the game was based on books back then, but I became a big fan of the series later on.

    Also the game community was great, it was fun to play together on EU servers and chat on the Atari forums. I’m still in contact with my friend Mir from Singapore, who I met thru the WoT game! Oh, and I will always fondly remember those lan parties in the Netherlands. Timeripper, Brainiacus.. ah dang can’t remember the other peoples names, but it was an awesome time!

    Thanks for being a part of it Glen and making it happen!

    Miss those times!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not only did this game bring me so much joy for YEARS, but I also spent many hours of my teenage life on the Forums that Atari and Legend put together. The forums were my number one source of WoT theories and news. I miss those days.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey gang, TFD_Ram’i-Ro here. This game…. that has cost me some greatly enjoyable hours. The fact that it had counterspells to almost everything, kinda grounbreaking back then. Indeed, our Dutch LAN parties were famous but also our little outings to Italy and the US… Man miss those days indeed. About the tv series…. I am not sure guys. I remember the horrible tv adaptation of the Shannara chronicles. If it resembles anything like that, we are doomed. And…. it so happens that there is a lead role in WOT for one of the Shan actors. Not bad per-se but there will always be that link. Stll curious tho. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m standing in a corner surrounded by the explosive wards I’ve placed. I initiate find target ter’angreal and swap. The green pixels take off as they lock onto a random target. I smile and wait…….. DONG!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A-Kic-‘N-De-Nutz here… My first, and only, game as a birthday gift cuz’ my friend knew I loved the books! WOW!!!! What an experience!!! Seriously addicted to it for years and remember once I did 7 hours gaming on it!!! YIKES!!! BUT what a time!! Learning the game, gaming etiquette, how to use the TA, find the hidden rooms and crevices, setting traps… balefire arena wars, not my fav cuz I sucked at BF but was truly fun!!! Cit was a great team event and loved how others could set such elaborate traps around the seals. Making friends… Lord Kram (who is a great friend and met him on my travels!), Privateer (met him for dinner when he came to my town and great guy and friend!), and even hosted “O” one night on his way thru my town and setting up shop in my livingroom and battling it out with him only feet away. Owen and his crew who gave us another few good years after the servers went down – THANK YOU!!!. So many good times… really miss that WoT community in it’s hey-day, and so glad I had years of it!!! THANKS EVERYONE!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. BT Ashaman / C13 Nynaeve here. Played the game seriously for years, mostly citadel [including late-night balefire games ;)]

    Thanks for all the fun. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great to read these old posts!

    The Guardian here!

    I think I started out clanless, but spent the majority of my early time in the Black Tower before moving on to Army of Light. And I still miss the old 5v5 cit games before we all decided the lag was too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved this game, and the incredible community we built. So many names from the past. And it is awesome how many of us are still in touch today. Loved starting my day at 6am with a game of Cit before our BT meetings, then off for practice. Still remember getting up at 4am to get the maps off Tilt’s dreadful orange website *ugg my eyes*, and my silly puppy chewing through the phone cable just as I was about to cap my very first seal. Oh the days of having to have 2 phone lines into the house to keep dial up on at all times and still be able to use the phone.
    Loved FUBAR and all we stood for. Laugh still for Gator sending me the battle plan for our game against them, getting my email mixed up with Twisted. Mongoose, Bane and the crazy BT chat room. Salute to the ones no longer with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been contacted by people interested in bringing back WoT, but the problem is securing the book rights, made even more unlikely by the TV series (since it’s a hotter commodity than it used to be). I’d love to see it happen, but I can’t imagine it will. Sorry.


  10. Every now and then I remember this game and the amazing community we had.

    Still remains the most underrated game I’ve ever known and I will sing it’s praises to my dying day.

    I played in [SaC] as Manhammer back then, though it’s a name I haven’t used for a long, long time. Many familiar faces in the comments here too. I hope you’re all doing well.

    I keep dreaming that some day, maybe, this game will see some form of a resurgence. GoG.com, perhaps. Or even though a straight remake is borderline impossible, a man can dream.

    Anyway.. thank you for the nostalgia. I hope you all stay safe and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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