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Thursday April 17th 2014

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The P4 Upgrade Edition

logo_p4_orangeWell, I finally upgraded my machines to P4-1.5Ghz and let me tell ya, you definitely need to know a few things before going out and buying the stuff you need. I went to Fry’s here in Dallas and picked up the Intel 850i motherboard, RDRAM and P4-1.5Gzh processor.

The first hint that I didn’t know everything I should know was when I asked the sales guy for 256Mb of RDRAM. He told me I had to buy 2-128Mb sticks because the RAM has to be doubled. Wow, I thought that idea went out in the late 80′s. Okay, so I bought two sticks, which ended up being more expensive than one stick of 256Mb RDRAM and it was even more expensive than the P4 itself!

So, I get home all excited to upgrade (because I like that sort of thing!) and after doing everything, I turn the power on and…. nothing. Then I see this piece of paper with blue ink on it that came with the motherboard and it tells me that I need a special P4 power supply (the ATX12V). Uh. This is the first time since the PC was introduced that the power supply changed. There’s 3 power plugs: one for the P4, one for the heatsinked chipset, and one for the motherboard and peripherals. Geez.

Next day, I go and get the power supply, get home, install it, and … nothing. I figure it’s the motherboard because I’m not even getting POST error codes. So I wait another day because Fry’s is closed.

I exchange the motherboard, bring it home, do the complete replacement of everything again, and turn it on. Nothing. What the hell. I’ve pretty much had it — I’m taking the machine to Fry’s and have them figure it out.

Took the machine to Fry’s and find out that I made a pretty dumb mistake first off by not paying strict close attention to the placement of the jumpers for POWER LED and POWER SW. From my case, the POWER LED jumper has three slots with a wire in slot one and one in slot three. So, common sense-wise I thought I was putting the jumper on correctly, but the 850i motherboard only takes two prongs for the POWER LED, so my jumper had to have one slot hanging off the edge of the jumper bank. The incorrect placement of the POWER LED made the POWER SW jumper be off by one slot so there was no way I could get power to the motherboard. Lame.

The other problem was some mysterious grounding problem. The tech there didn’t know where the grounding problem was located so he just took everything out of the machine and put it back in after verifying that all the components that I bought worked correctly. Then my machine would turn on, but give a boot error when Windows 2000 loaded. The tech said that because the P4 architecture is so different, I would need to do a complete rebuild of the OS — it wouldn’t just auto-install all the low-level motherboard drivers as expected. I buy another 40Gb hard drive.

I get home to install Windows 2000 and everything goes great with it, except for the fact that I had to install it in the first place. Then, I install my new Radeon 64Mb DDR video card. Doesnt’ work. The drivers are dated from September 2000, so my guess is that they were written without the new P4 architecture in mind. I download the latest drivers (10Mb ) and install them and finally the system works perfectly. Let me just say this: the Radeon is amazing. The 64Mb DDR will display 2048×1536 in 32-bit @ 75hz (and every single resolution below that, of course).

Then, I experience 1.5Ghz speed. Whoa. It’s more than twice as fast as the 800Mhz PC I was used to. I love it and can’t wait to try out all the games again with the Radeon at 1.5Ghz! Time to upgrade Stevie’s machine too!

Cool things about the P4: Hibernate works great with Windows 2000; booting up the 850i motherboard is cool because all the bootup text is hidden and a full-screen P4 graphic is shown; booting the machine is ultra-fast!

photo_pro_gamerIf you check out Intel’s site, there’s a cool quote from Makaveli about the awesome speed of the P4. That’s right — Pro Gaming is gaining momentum. What else could be driving the purchase of ever-faster processors other than the gaming industry?

rs_stevieAnother mention: the CPL is hosting another event here on June 28th and will have a QuakeWorld tournament and DOOM II competition! Whoo!!! I’m definitely going to be playing in those!
Other news: Stevie is in Amsterdam today after being in Germany for a couple days for some interviews and such. She’s the hostess for the Pentium 4 CPL Holland event and is wearing a pretty tight sponsor-emblazoned dress….. can’t wait to see pics of that!

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A Healing Wolf

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.

Wolf_email_01

Here is another:

Wolf_email_02

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.

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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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Starband Broken

Well, Starband broke again. Then we had a WinProxy problem. Cobbled enough things together to get net access working again.

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Starband Satellite

Finally got Starband working correctly so I could update the site!  An update is imminent!

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The First Quarter

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!

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Hummer Audio Mega

hummerSo… 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 GPS

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!

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