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Sunday April 19th 2015

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The Saga of Dangerous Dave

The original Apple II Dangerous Dave

The original Apple II Dangerous Dave

#1 – Dangerous Dave in The Deserted Pirate’s Hideout!(Apple II) 1988

Once upon a time, back in 1988, I co-founded my second game company: Inside-Out Software in Londonderry, NH. I had just left Origin Systems to start up this new company and my first project was the Commodore 64 version of Might & Magic II by Jon Van Caneghem (New World Computing). While doing this port, I was still pursuing my freelance coding/writing hobby after work, which at that point was a series of articles for UpTime (an Apple II monthly disk magazine headed up by my friend Jay Wilbur). The final third installment of my GraBASIC series was my current project and for each installment I published one of the supporting utilities for the language add-on and an example game that used GraBASIC. The game for this installment was Dangerous Dave.

I don’t remember where I got the idea for Dangerous Dave other than I was heavily influenced by the seminal Super Mario Bros. NES game, so that may be where it came from. The name was chosen randomly, but carefully so as to be alliterative in keeping with my eclectic naming convention! It took a month or so to create Dangerous Dave and then it was off to Jay for mastering. Jay and I had been friends for about 2 years by this time and I was busy supplying UpTime with a bunch of material — mostly all games.

Dangerous Dave PC, 1990

Dangerous Dave PC, 1990

#2 – Dangerous Dave (PC) 1990

Time passes and I’m at Softdisk in 1990 and have my own game department, Gamer’s Edge.

We hired John Carmack to be my programming partner (we didn’t have Adrian in our group yet) and we needed to get two games onto the first Gamer’s Edge disk, which was a bi-monthly. Yes, we needed to generate a game every two months, but for the first disk we needed to put two games on it to entice people to subscribe. And we had only one month for this first disk due to scheduling screw ups!

So, I ported the Apple II version of Dangerous Dave to the PC for one of the debut disk’s games. The other game on the debut disk was John Carmack’s Catacomb, which he also ported over from his Apple II version (which was John’s first game he wrote at Softdisk). I never thought of doing a sequel to Dangerous Dave… to me it was basically a one-off game like just about all my previous ones. Little did I know…

Very little-known fact: the fire with the word “Dangerous Dave” in it that you see on the main screen of the PC version was totally lifted from Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny on the Apple II. Basically, I thought that fire animation was really cool so I just pressed reset during Ultima V’s main menu and rebooted to a clean disk and saved out the 2nd Apple II Hi-Res screen that had all the animations on it. Move it to the PC from the Apple II, touch it up a little and voila.

#3 – Dangerous Dave GS (Apple //gs) 1990

The Dangerous Dave GS project was started by Tom Hall and it was basically going to be a port of my PC version of Dangerous Dave over to the Apple //gs. Tom actually got all the graphics over to the GS, but didn’t have the time to finish the project. I’m not sure if anything exists to this day, but it’s doubtful.

Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement

Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement

#4 – Dangerous Dave in “Copyright Infringement” (PC) 1990

Late one night at Softdisk in September 1990, John Carmack was up working late on his new side-scrolling EGA engine and was close to figuring out the panning registers (thanks to Michael Abrash’s Power Graphics Programming book). I had gone home for the evening already, but Tom Hall was still working in the Apple II department. Tom came over to see what John was working on and when he saw that John finally had the smooth scrolling engine working, they were both really excited!

They wanted to do something to blow me away, so Tom looked over at the Nintendo that was running Super Mario Bros. 3 and said, “You know, we could make the first level of SM3!” Carmack said, “Okay, let’s do it” and so they commenced to spend the next 6 hours or so banging out the graphics, game map and programming for a little demo Tom titled Dangerous Dave in “Copyright Infringement” (meaning that they ripped off SM3, so it was copyright infringement!) So Tom didn’t have to draw all the walking and jumping frames of a Mario character, he just took my Dangerous Dave graphics (from the PC EGA version) to speed along the process.

ddici game screen

ddici game screen

Tom and John finished up the demo at 5am and put it on a 3 1/4 floppy that they propped up on my keyboard that said “Run me” on it. When I rolled into the office the next day, I saw the disk and put it in the drive. Interestingly, the EXE file was named DAVE2.EXE (which would be the EXE name for Dave’s upcoming sequel!). I ran the file and started moving around. The second the entire EGA screen smoothly panned left was the second that my entire reality was shattered. I was completely and utterly blown away. My brain was ruined, wiped out.

I couldn’t work for the next 3 hours. It was just amazing. I knew the games available on the PC very well by this point (1990) and NO ONE had ever created a Mario-style smooth-scrolling game on the PC. This was the first one — right here in front of me. I was thunderstruck because I knew what we had. We had our ticket out.

By the time John and Tom came into work, some of the people at Softdisk had already seen the demo because I was showing it around to my friends there. Some of them were not terribly impressed, but it’s because they didn’t SEE what I saw — the future. When I got back into my office with John there, I was just gushing. Jay happened by and heard me telling John and Tom and Lane (Roathe) that this was it — this was our ticket outta here. Jay laughed and I said, “I’m serious.” Jay then closed the door and I went into more detail.

That was the beginning of id Software, right there that day, in that room, with John, Tom, Jay, Lane and myself talking about what was going to happen next. It was September 21, 1990 and our world was about to change. Many things happened shortly after that demo, but that has been covered extensively in the book Masters of Doom.

DAVE2 title screen

Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion

#5 – Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion (PC) 1991

dave2 creditsdave2 mansion 1dave2 mansion 2

Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion

On February 1, 1991, id Software was officially, legally born. At the beginning, we were doing games for Softdisk since we kinda left them in a bad spot after leaving so soon after starting the Gamer’s Edge disk. To compensate for their loss, we continued to crank out the bi-monthly games and decided to do a sequel to Dangerous Dave called Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion. This was the first game we wrote that had a shotgun in it!

This was a really fun game to make. John upgraded the Shadow Knights engine that he created while we were at Softdisk and added smoother character movement code. We gave Dave a shotgun (that auto-loads only when he’s standing still) and filled a huge mansion with tons of creatures — all trying to stop Dave on his quest to rescue his brother Delbert! Some might say this game helped spark the idea to do Redneck Rampage

Tom came up with a great game design that had some mini-innovations like closets that open with loot in them. Aiming in 8 directions was a nice upgrade and not having to deal with ammo was definitely a new twist. Grinding out 16 levels in 2 months was a herculean feat complete with all the art, animations, AI, and boss code. And on top of it all are plenty of secret areas.

We knocked this game out in a little under 2 months. There’s a ton of levels and monsters in it and it’s really great fun — it has my vote for the best Dave ever created. And it’s also the LAST Dangerous Dave that id Software or myself have created, in fact. If you’re curious, you should click on the link to Softdisk’s online store at the bottom of the page and download it (it’s only $10)…. it’s a real (shotgun) blast!

The game was so good that it’s been thoroughly dissected by a couple different coders and discussed in-depth. Here’s a link to the first one by a person who calls himself gawd at gawd’s museum of dissected games. You can find the DD2 link on the front page. Another great guy is Frenkel Smeijers and he’s gone deep into a lot of my games. Check out his awesome site

#6 – Double Dangerous Dave (Apple II) 1991

Just after creating Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, I created a special version of Dangerous Dave for Softdisk’s Apple II product — Double Dangerous Dave! The main difference between the original Apple II version and this one was the fact that it was in double-res (16-color mode) on the Apple II, which was a pretty difficult feat of programming back then, and it used the same levels as the PC version I did the year before.

Also, it was the subject of a coding contest between Carmack and me; a contest that John won, of course. (The contest was to see who could code a game in the fastest time possible. John was working on a double-res version of Catacomb, I believe.) Softdisk decided to rename the game to just Dangerous Dave for some reason, even though the previous Apple II version had the same name.

#7 – Dangerous Dave Returns (Apple II) 1992

In 1992, Softdisk decided to use my Double Dangerous Dave game, make new levels, then call it Dangerous Dave Returns and release it for the Apple II disk. The levels were done by Jay Jennings, an old-time Apple II programmer.

I emailed Jay and asked him if he would elaborate on the story of how this game came to be. I’m still waiting on the story so I can post it here. Maybe you can ask him as well – he has a website at

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue

Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue

#8 – Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue (PC) 1993

After a year of fulfilling our end of the Gamer’s Edge agreement with Softdisk, we were finally off doing our own thing with no more ties to Softdisk. But Softdisk considered my Dangerous Dave character to be a valuable asset, so they had two more sequels made in the ensuing years (using the Keen Dreams engine, I believe): Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue and Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz!

In the credits list of Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue, Greg Malone was the designer and producer. That means the creator of the classic Apple II games Minit Man, Moebius, and Windwalker worked on a sequel to my games! Strange how the world works.

#9 – Dave Goes Nutz! (PC) 1993

In the credits list of Dave Goes Nutz!, Stephen Vekovius did all level design. Stephen is the son of the founder of Softdisk, Al Vekovius. Stephen is now a doctor of medicine. And Judy Mangham tested the game before mastering it. Judy is the ex-wife of Softdisk founder Jim Mangham. The project manager, Sean Golden, used to be the managing editor of Softdisk’s Macintosh monthly disk.

#10 – Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz! (Apple II) 1995

It seemed that after 1993, Dave was dead. But, no! In January 2011, I learned that he was resurrected in 1995 (on the Apple II no less) by Peter Rokitski for the Apple II version of Dave Goes Nutz. Peter used the Double Dangerous Dave engine and made new levels for it to fit the PC Dave Goes Nutz story. It seems fitting that Dave was born on the Apple II and ended on the Apple II almost a decade later.

Ten versions of Dangerous Dave….. wow. Brings a tear to my eye, thinkin’ about the little fella. Is this the end of the Dangerous Dave saga?

I think not! happy

You can still purchase the last three Dangerous Dave games through Softdisk’s Online Store (click on Games) or get it at the Virtual Software Store, as well as some of the other games we did for Softdisk back in 1991. So, in summary, here are all the Dangerous Dave games created thus far:

  • Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate’s Hideout, 1988, Apple II, 6-color, UpTime
  • Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement, 1990, PC, EGA, non-published
  • Dangerous Dave, 1990, PC (CGA, EGA, VGA), Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave GS, 1990, Apple //gs, never completed
  • Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion, 1991, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Double Dangerous Dave, 1991, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave Returns, 1992, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue, 1993, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Dave Goes Nutz!,1993, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz!,1995, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
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Reader Feedback

16 Responses to “The Saga of Dangerous Dave”

  1. Julio says:

    I enjoy listening to the stories about the “old days” when you and the old ID crew were making your way trough the games and building all the pop culture that we have witness over those years. How much love you put on those releases and the effort you made to make them fun is impressive.

    The side scrolling adventure games amuses many of the guys like us who came from that era. Back then we had the design and the vision that the fun would on the top of all. Rare companies (and people) had that talent to translate those to the 3D era. I live in South America and when those releases reach us we were all very excited. I remember when the Console games were very powerful when compared to the PC. When that scenario started to change due to pioneers like you and ID, we all had to celebrate. It was all true… the vision you had. Your ambitious on having the games that nobody dreamed at that time been possible. Time gave you the tools to forge the unbelievable.

    I remember having a good time playing “Raptor Call of the Shadows” and “Test Drive the Duel”. Two great pieces of Software as well on the PC. But as we can see time passes and technology shows new ways of excitement. When 3D came to place the scrolling Adventures (and Adventure games in general) stayed behind. I guess that we can always back to revive our memories. Playing those games and never let them die. Also taking some time to listen to inside stories of how everything came to place trough guys like you. And only wait to see what the future holds for us.

  2. WulfCry says:

    I remembered that game got it from a monthly disk in Netherlander was awesome never realized then U programmed the game. haha back then I played more games then learn to programming them.

  3. Nilabh Verma says:

    I am a big fan of Dangerous Dave.. I started playing this in 90s and still remember it.. This game is very close to my heart..

  4. Calvero says:

    The disk image of the Gamer’s Edge Sampler disk that contains Dangerous Dave and Catacomb is on MegaUpload:
    It’s okay to copy this disk, it even encourages you to do so when you exit the main menu.

    On the disk are also some early Keen 1 files and a tiny bit of its source code. In this early Keen 1 version there’s a cutscene of a Vorticon stealing four parts of Keen’s spaceship that he has to recover in the game.

    [JR: Download the disk image and rename it to ge.dsk. You can mount the image in DOSBOX by typing this:
    mount c ~
    imgmount d c:ge.dsk -t floppy

    The GO.BAT will run the shell program I wrote on that first disk.]

  5. Aspirin says:

    Hello. I am a big fan of “Dangerus Dave”. I collected a very large collection for this game and now publish on my site. A couple of weeks I will finish and everyone will be able to download it. Only way I can not find the game “Double Dangerous Dave” for Apple II (16-color). Please publish this game.

  6. Bijish says:

    Dear Romero,

    Me and my twin brother are big fans of you and your dos game”dangerous dave”. We saw your article in game sauce,last week.I am handling game/level design/art modules and my twin bro is doing coding modules for our games.

    Dave was the most addictive dos game we have ever played. We played the game in our PIII 800. Needless to say I finished it first time – gone through all warp levels. Great game play. When I finished it first time, it was an unforgettable experience.

    You made us a star through out ‘dave’. winning after hundreds of failed attempts I felt man can never be defeated.

    Thanks for your game which brought us into this field.(By the time we were about to finish,we decided we will atleast try to make one game like this. Such was the passion.)

    Once again thanking you from “our hearts”,
    Yours sincerely,

    P.S: we found 2 undocumented features too –
    6th level – When we tried to move to left we found an incomplete warp
    9th level – If we fall into a pit we can’t escape although there was a bonus gun there

  7. Aspirin says:

    Finally, I ended up creating a page about Dave on his website. Now everyone can download it. And I’m very happy.
    I still could not find the “Double Dangerous Dave”. If this game is published, I will add it.

  8. raul says:

    Hello there!
    Im another very big fan of “Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion”, i was just playing a lot this game, even last month i was doing it, i just like it a lot!, the saga continue but i think this one was the best dave EVER, and i also develop this year a version of this game just for me and my firends (for copyright publishing fear)i called it “Dangerous Dave In The Theater”, smoothing the tiled images to 24×24 and some filters, and it was really good to play it for us.
    once again thaks John Romero for your greats ideas and grettings to the entire Dave comunity.

    • Aspirin18 says:

      Can you show me your game? Write to me at the mailbox (Aspirin.Cowboy @ I promise not to publish it on my website without your consent and I also have something to show you. All materials about all Dave`s posted on my website. There you will find many interesting things, a level editors for 3 & 4 Dave`s, for example.))

  9. […] get different results depending on which direction to collided from (if you’ve ever played Dangerous Dave, you might remember that if you fell down at the side of a wall, Dave’s leg could get […]

  10. Aspirin says:

    Does anyone have DSK image of Softdisk issue #115 ? Please, upload it here or send me an E-mail. I am ready to give $10 for it. Really.

    My E-Mail: Aspirin.Cowboy hotmail com

  11. Jordan the Cat says:


  12. Radhika says:

    Plz tell me how to download it :/ i started playing when i was 6years but now im 12 and i miss it soooo much

  13. Hi John Romero!!
    Dangerous Dave is the old school PC games!!!.

    I played a lot Dangerous Dave and Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion in PC with MS-DOS System in my chilhood,at that time, I dreamed of being a game designer.

    Today, I finished my study in Game Design in my country (Chile) and I designed my first game as a student, you can download it on my website and play(is a Freeware)!!

    If you have time, write me to give me your opinion of my game in my blog.

    Thank you very much!!

    PS:You could adapt one of the Dangerous Dave games for mobile and tablet! big grin

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