I just wanted to add something that some of you might find interesting from the era immediately following our release of Wolfenstein 3D. Back then, the primary method of communication was a BBS, be it Prodigy, AOL, Compuserve, or any of the thousands of other BBS’s (our favorite was Software Creations, hosted by Dan Linton). We received a lot of fan mail back then but most of it is lost, except for a couple that were memorialized to a text file. To present this email, I decided to show it as a JPG instead of a TXT file. Click to view.
Here is another:
In other news, Stevie and I went to Adrian Carmack’s birthday party Saturday night, which was being held at Adrian’s sizeable estate. Lots of Dallas game developers, of course, and lots of fun. Wow, Adrian’s had an amazing landscaping job done in his backyard — there was even a Survivor-esque Tribal Council rock circle with a continuous gas-fed fire. Very cool. Happy Birthday Adrian! Yes, his birthday is on Wolfenstein 3D’s birthday.
And finally, I gotta tell ya, hearing that Doug Myres didn’t survive an asthma attack was very saddening. Doug was probably Ion employee number 7, right after the founders, back at the end of 1996. He was such a nice, honest guy and a really hard worker. We met Doug when Ion moved into its first office on the 6th floor of the Quadrangle building on Routh Street and Doug was working for Bob Wright at a company called Buzz Click (website design). In fact, Doug was Ion’s first MIS guy just before we hired Noel Stephens, and then Mark Fletcher (The Master).
Doug had a lot of friends, in fact everyone he decided to associate himself with turned out to be a friend because he was so easygoing, softspoken and intelligent. He will be sorely missed.
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:
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:
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.
I’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!
Well, Starband broke again. Then we had a WinProxy problem. Cobbled enough things together to get net access working again.
Finally got Starband working correctly so I could update the site! An update is imminent!
Been pretty busy lately as you can tell by my non-updates. I’m pretty excited by the recent release of Steven Kent’s awesome video game history book, The First Quarter. You can get it on Amazon by clicking on the little pic — you really owe it to yourself to read this amazing recounting of the old days by the insiders themselves.
I wrote the stuff on the back cover of the book, so maybe I’m a little biased…. but not really. This book is definitely right up there with Hackers, seriously. And if you haven’t read Hackers, wow — you need to.
Sample cool piece of info from the book: The original name of the game Pac Man was actually Puck Man, but the executive at Namco in charge of getting the game over to the USA decided to change the name because he thought American teens would graffitti over the ‘P’ and change it to an ‘F’.
Shawn Green just got me hooked bigtime on the awesome group Solitude Aeturnus. Holy shit, these guys blow me away — very epic in feel and lots of Sabbathy guitar. Some of my favorite songs are Spiral Descent, These Are The Nameless, Chapel Of Burning, Personal God, Concern, The 8th Day – Mourning… Geez, it’s tough picking my favorites since every song is just amazing. I really wish I had this stuff back when I was working on DOOM and Quake — they definitely would have been perfect map-designing tracks. As it was, early Queensryche and Alice In Chains did pretty well for me. Every time I hear anything off Warning, DOOM/Quake mapping immediately jumps to mind.
Well, since Stevie ruined my last camera, I got myself a new CANON PowerShot S20 with a 1gig MicroDrive in it. I really like this camera better than the last one, so I’m kinda glad it got blasted down the stairs.
Oh, something cool I just got that I didn’t even know was available: an AC Power Inverter. This little box plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and provides 115v AC power, just like the outlet in your house. That means you can plug whatever you like (within reason) in your car…… so, I’m bringing my PSOne on our trip to Lawrence, KS this Thanksgiving!
So… I got my Hummer back from the audio shop – WOW. It cost quite a bit, but I believe it was worth it! The standard stereo that comes in a Hummer (back in 1997 at least) is a Clarion, which sounds pretty awful. The situation needed to be rectified, in addition to throwing in a few extra goodies. Here’s the list of stuff I added:
Two 12″ Focal subwoofers in a custom enclosure between the rear seats
4 – 5.25″ midrange/1″ tweeter Focal pairs
3 Orion amps (one 900 and two 500′s)
Kenwood Z919 MP3/CD player
Alpine DVD Video player
Alpine Multimedia TFT LCD monitor
Alpine TFT LCD monitor
K40 Radar/Laser detector, stealth install front and rear
Now the system is pretty much the coolest I’ve seen in any vehicle. The control over input/output sources is so complete that I can be watching the GPS, the second monitor can be watching DVD, while the audio I’m listening to is from the MP3 unit. Nice. I’m about to add an external input so I can have a Playstation One going…. all this stuff is great for long trips. But having the MP3 player is so much nicer than a CD changer. I can fit about 160 songs on a CD (the file format must be 128-bit MP3) and pretty much never need to change music.
Right now I’m listening to my girlfriend Stevie being interviewed on www.allgameradio.com. She’s attending the opening of The Stomping Grounds cybercafe and is having a pretty fun time. Hopefully she’ll have some pictures when she gets back… if my camera isn’t destroyed by water from a flume ride at the Mall of the Americas! Guess we’ll find out about the camera situation tomorrow, heh.
I haven’t done any work on the site in a while, I just need to get motivated. I know many of you are dying to see the DOOM section (and Quake, etc.) but those won’t be complete for a while to come. I’m going to finish up the first 2 years of games, then maybe skip ahead to the Keen era which will eventually lead to DOOM!
Well, I took Stevie to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for her birthday to ride all 14 rollercoasters there. She is a major ‘coaster fanatic so I think I planned the perfect present and she really did like it a bunch. Check out her site ’cause she can tell you better than I can about her little coaster problem.
The flights going out and coming back weren’t too bad … since I was DRUNK most of the time! I don’t have much of a problem flying on a plane if I’m a little tanked. so I did just fine both ways.
The ‘coasters weren’t too bad either — there was an awesome one called the Raptor that was inverted (hung from the track above you) and did spirals around the track….. pretty intense. Then, we went on a fun little carnival ride called CHAOS that flips you upside-down — Stevie was going to h0rk, but she dealt with it alright.
I’ve been doing a little updating on the site…… I finished restructuring all the existing pages finally so they have no frames and also integrated both my Flash menus into one. Just got Flash 5 too, which is really nice to use. So, I’m going to continue documenting my early games. I’m thinking that I might make the site live after I finish with all the games I made in 1982 (they were pretty awful, but you can see where I started). I won’t have the downloadable images available for a while though, but they’ll mostly all be grabbable when I put them up. I won’t be documenting the later games like anything after the 90′s for quite a while, so by the time I do them I’ll probably be able to make those pages pretty reasonable-looking.
Oh yeah, Stevie did a photo shoot for her website — whoa. I took about 1000 pictures on the digital camera and they are NICE! She put a few rough versions up on her site….. www.stevana.com. Clock ‘em.