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Monday September 1st 2014

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Happy Birthday Wolf 3D!

Wolfenstein 3D is nine years old today, but the Wolfenstein series turned 20 this year. Muse Software released the first Castle Wolfenstein on the Apple II way back in 1981 and introduced gamers to the element of FEAR while playing a game on a computer. Silas Warner, the programmer of the original Castle Wolfenstein, was pleased when we showed him the brand-new version of his game back in 1992 shortly after its release.

Wolfenstein 3D had an incredibly fast development cycle of 6 months with a team of only five people which included Bobby Prince, our sound and music maestro. Even so, Wolfenstein had features designed that were dropped during development for interface and speed of play reasons. One of the early items dropped off the list was the inclusion of an EGA version, in fact, the game was begun as an EGA project. After a month or so, we decided to ditch EGA and go all-out VGA! Here’s what the orignial title screen looked like at Wolfy’s ALPHA stage:

EGA version

EGA version

VGA version

VGA version

We also designed bulletproof vests, dragging dead soldiers (so the living guards wouldn’t see them and be alerted), looking under rugs for items, opening chests for bonus items, and quietly opening doors and flipping switches. These features were similar to the original Castle Wolfenstein but were thrown out because it was obvious that the revolutionary aspect of this game was turning out to be pure speed and adrenaline. Anything that slowed the player down was chucked. I believe we even had another weapon, a plantable C4 explosive, but that was a little cumbersome and didn’t match the action of the other weapons (in retrospect, it would have been great to put C4 in the game!) Here’s what the status bars looked like back then (extremely alpha-state, by the way) in both EGA and VGA:

EGA version

EGA version

VGA version

VGA version

We went to a beta stage about 5 months into development, which just sounds insane. We were moving quickly and even by that time, John Carmack was thinking about holographic sprites and working on a post-Wolf3D engine that had sloping floors and eventually became the engine for Raven’s Shadowcaster.

Wolf 3D Beta title screenI’ll have more extensive information in my Wolfenstein 3D section on this site (when I actually have time to work on it!) But for now, I just wanted to provide you will a small glimpse into the development of a great game in a great series. And we’re all looking forward to Gray Matter’s Return to Wolfenstein this Christmas!

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3 Responses to “Happy Birthday Wolf 3D!”

  1. Wooo! Yay! Wolfenstein 3D! I played that game, loved it!

  2. [...] but I can’t seem to find one. A Google search turns up more forum posts than news stories. Here’s an interesting wrap-up John Romero wrote over a decade ago to make up for that. The shareware is still out there if you [...]

  3. Stan says:

    Was there any unused enemies? I read somewhere there was at one point Hitler Youth enemies that ran at you with daggers?

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