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Tuesday September 30th 2014

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id Software: 20 Years Old Today!

When John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and I officially started our first day at the lakehouse on Cross Lake in Shreveport, Louisiana, we had absolutely no idea that our company would last twenty years.

After three months, Tom Hall officially joined us in May 1991. He wanted his transition from Softdisk to go smoothly, so he stayed to train his replacement. Our first year at id was spent mostly developing games for Softdisk’s Gamer’s Edge subscription disk – the product I started, but then left when the company could hold us no longer.

In our first year, 1991, we created Shadow Knights, Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, Rescue Rover, Hovertank One, Rescue Rover II, Keen Dreams, Commander Keen: Secret of the Oracle, Commander Keen: The Armageddon Machine, Commander Keen: Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter!, Catacomb 3D and Tiles of the Dragon. Eleven games in one year! Not counting the Keen games, Softdisk paid us $5,000 for each game. It was a good thing our first Commander Keen trilogy was making money and gaining each month, otherwise our trajectory would have been drastically different. (In the halls of id Software, some of these games are on display in hanging frames.)

When we started creating Wolfenstein 3D in January 1992 (in Madison, Wisconsin), we still had one more game to create for Softdisk, but we didn’t want to do it. We were too excited to create Wolfenstein 3D! So, George Broussard, co-founder of Apogee Software/3D Realms, offered to create the final game for us. The result of his labors, using our game engine, was the rare and obscure game, ScubaVenture: The Search For Pirate’s Treasure! (An interesting trivia point about the game’s title: one of my programming heroes, Nasir Gebelli, wrote a game called ScubaVenture back in 1983.)

Our first year was the last time we were so prolific. As the games got more complex, and better, the time to develop them grew. Wolfenstein 3D took 6 months, DOOM took one year, Quake took 18 months. In between, our sequels took less time (Spear of Destiny, 2 months; DOOM II, 8 months), but they were using existing code we’d already written.

Twenty years, wow. That is quite an impressive accomplishment, due in large part to the torch-carrying efforts of John Carmack and Kevin Cloud, both of whom remain at id Software today. May id Software live another strong 20 years!

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Making Mail.app Act Like Gmail

I use GMail a lot, and love the Archive feature. The problem is that when I use Mail.app on my iMac it doesn’t have an Archive button or Archive the messages when I delete them. It actually DELETES THEM, which is not what I want. So, I figured out how to do this in a real easy way.

In Mail.app:

1) Near the bottom, expand your GMail folder
2) Expand the [Gmail] folder inside
3) Select the All Mail folder inside
4) Go to the menu item Mailbox >> Use this mailbox for… >> Trash
5) Collapse the Gmail folder now; no need to look at it again
6) Press Command-, (comma) for Preferences
7) Select Accounts tab
8) Select the same Gmail account in the Accounts list
9) Click Mailbox behaviors
10) In the Trash section, KEEP CHECKED “Move deleted message to the Trash mailbox”
11) UNCHECK “Store deleted messages on the server”
12) Set “Permanently erase deleted messages when:” to NEVER
13) Close the Preferences window and click SAVE

Voila! Now when you delete messages from your Inbox, they get Archived. You can double-check this by logging into Gmail and deleting a message in Mail.app then refreshing your web Gmail inbox. I’m using Mail.app version 4.4, but i’m sure this setup works on many previous versions.

In addition, if you want your Mail.app emails to look just like GMails with threaded conversations, make sure you’re viewing your GMail account, then go to View >> Organize by Thread.

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Duke Nukem Forever Returns

I’ve been asked several times by people on Twitter what I think about Duke Nukem Forever having an actual due date; that the game might actually come out.

Well, I think it’s awesome for several reasons. First, because I’ve been a huge Duke fan since Duke Nukem 3D. I absolutely loved that game. My memories of playing DN3D are as awesome as my memories playing Dark Forces, Outlaws, Jedi Knight, and Ghost Recon. Secondly, I’ve been friends for years with Randy Pitchford, the man who bought the Duke IP from 3D Realms; to carry the torch as it were. I’m really proud of Randy for doing that – Duke is a great character that deserves another major release, and I’m interested to see what directions Gearbox will take Duke in the future.

I visited 3D Realms in May 2000, right after shipping Daikatana. I went over to check out the latest on DNF. George Broussard showed me the game, and it was seriously awesome. Granted, I was seeing the best stuff they had available at the time, but what I saw was really great. I was excited to play the game. Alas, development of the game went through many changes, and not having a dedicated producer early on took its toll. When I heard 3D Realms had halted development of the game, I was half surprised, and half not. It had been 12 years, and that’s an incredibly long time to be in development – I mean, it’s really incomprehensible. I can’t fathom what it must feel like working on a game that long, then not releasing it, especially if you were there at the start of development.

But now we can all breathe a sigh of relief, those of us who kept the excitement at bay for so long. The Duke Nukem Forever development team that continued creating the game, even after being laid off, without being paid, for the pure love of the game, deserve an epic amount of applause and attention. These guys are the heroes. And I’m still excited to play DNF.

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GameTales: HomeCourt

HomeCourt Box Concept

I recently tweeted about the fact that there was actually a sequel, mostly finished, for Origin Systems’ game, 2400 A.D. titled 2500 A.D. MobyGames and Wikipedia were updated with the information which prompted someone on my TwitterFeed to ask about an unreleased Origin game titled HomeCourt.

Luckily, I’m one of the few people to know about this project. HomeCourt was a basketball game designed by two brothers, Don and John Walker. They were stronger on the design side than the coding side, so they had help from classic game programmer, Steve Meuse. I believe the game idea was brought to Origin in 1987 to make a full court basketball game (One on One was a half-court game).

HomeCourt ad concept

Steve Meuse worked with the brothers, mostly with Don, to get a graphical prototype working. The prototype had players on a projected 2D court running around and passing the ball on an Apple II. I saw this prototype working once when Don Walker was visiting, and it looked pretty nice. It was black and white graphics at the time, and the running and ball-passing worked great. Unfortunately, Steve left Origin in 1988 shortly after I left to co-found my studio, Inside Out Software.

The New Hampshire office of Origin Systems closed, and the company was consolidated in Austin, TX at the start of 1989. That effectively put an end to HomeCourt. Says Steve Meuse, “The game design aspect was getting more complex, and by the time I left Origin in 1988, it seemed to me to be only getting moreso. With the company move and all, the Walkers probably could have used more help and guidance than they got, but that’s just the way things turned out.”

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Unintended Acceleration

I was reading CNN today and there was a story about a guy whose Toyota randomly started accelerating and he crashed into two cars at 70mph. This was back in 2006 before all the recent Toyota issues. The man has finally been freed as the court found it wasn’t his fault.

It brought back the memory of how the same thing happened to me back in 1991 when I was working on Commander Keen 4-6. I was driving my brown 1975 Cougar in the winter down a pretty short road that was just in front of id’s apartment. I had the accelerator down to get some speed, and when I took my foot off the car kept accelerating! I started messing with the pedal but it didn’t stop. I realized the smartest thing was to put the car in neutral and hit the brakes before I got to the intersection. It worked and I quickly pulled over and popped the hood while the car engine was whining loudly as it was still accelerating. I pulled the fuel hose out to stop the engine and then pulled back on the accelerator cable to get it back to normal. That was pretty terrifying for about 30 seconds.

The reason the accelerator got jacked is because I changed the cable assembly because the previous one broke. But it wasn’t calibrated correctly and the cable snagged on something that time.

The lesson? DON’T TRY TO FIX YOUR OWN CAR! Lol.

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Gamesauce #2!

There’s a new magazine in town for game developers, and its name is Gamesauce. The first issue had an interview with Trip Hawkins. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for the second issue by Brenda Brathwaite and answered some of the more interesting questions I’ve been asked thus far.

There are some other great articles inside, such as Ensemble Studios’ development transition from Age of Empires 1 to 2 (Age of Kings), a short interview with my friend Randy Pitchford, and an article with ideas about how to you can spend your time if your game has been canceled.

The people who put this magazine together are a great bunch. They have many, many years of experience in the industry and want the magazine to be only the highest quality. I worked with Jessica Tams and Jake Simpson, and they are both very kind and generous to include me here. Gamesauce is only for professional game developers and those in the game industry.

You can read the entire magazine right now.

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WordPress Hacked

My WordPress install got hacked a week or more ago, and I couldn’t work on figuring it out until tonight. Well, it looks like some hacker found out my wp-config.php file had some bad permissions set and he inserted some code in there that basically scanned every php file on my site and injected every php file with code that will redirect users to various malware sites.

It was easier for me to edit every php file rather than re-download all my plugins again (except the W3 Caching plugin – it has about 100 files). I also had to reinstall the theme because it was fully infected, too.

So, everyone, make sure you have proper permissions set on all your files or things like this can happen.

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