Wolfenstein 3D secrets revealed by John Romero in lengthy post-mortem chat

erek

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"While the game series Doom and Quake have been heavily chronicled in convention panels and books, the same can't be said for id Software's legendary precursor Wolfenstein 3D. One of its key figures, coder and level designer John Romero, appeared at this year's Game Developers Conference to chronicle how this six-month, six-person project built the crucial bridge between the company's Commander Keen-dominated past and FPS-revolution future."

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2022...s-wolfenstein-3ds-history-in-gdc-post-mortem/
 

HeadRusch

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Man I can still remember the first time we fired this game up as word began spreading like wildfire across the BBS's to immediately download the shareware (no, really) copy with the first demo levels.......and that was it, everyone was hooked. When the Doom pre-beta build leaked with a few levels later our heads literally exploded...if you were running on something like a fast 386 or one of those crazy 33/66mhz 486 DX chips....well...you were probably getting a locked 30 or higher FPS (no GPU's yet, we were all looking for fast rasters on our ISA Orchid boards and such)......this game and Doom changed gaming for all of us who had grown accustomed to what video games were meant to be since the late 70's.

Great article, thanks for sharing OP.
 

buttons

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Man I can still remember the first time we fired this game up as word began spreading like wildfire across the BBS's to immediately download the shareware (no, really) copy with the first demo levels.......and that was it, everyone was hooked. When the Doom pre-beta build leaked with a few levels later our heads literally exploded...if you were running on something like a fast 386 or one of those crazy 33/66mhz 486 DX chips....well...you were probably getting a locked 30 or higher FPS (no GPU's yet, we were all looking for fast rasters on our ISA Orchid boards and such)......this game and Doom changed gaming for all of us who had grown accustomed to what video games were meant to be since the late 70's.

Great article, thanks for sharing OP.
if you like this article, check out the audio book "masters of doom". Really enjoyable to listen to their story.
 

Lumpus

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So.... when is John Romero going to get around to 'making me his bitch'?
/Dakatana was a real POS
//Romero + Carmack(s)=genius - but they were crap solo
 

OutOfPhase

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So.... when is John Romero going to get around to 'making me his bitch'?
/Dakatana was a real POS
//Romero + Carmack(s)=genius - but they were crap solo
Everyone is better in a team. Silly ideas get tossed, good ideas from even non-geniuses often save the day.
When someone believes they're a solo rockstar, it rarely if ever goes well.
 

Youn

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Carmack hasn't exactly been "solo" has he? Not like Romero I mean, carmack was never really a design director, more of a nuts/bolts type, even now with the VR stuff he's kinda just behind the scenes tinkering with optimzation kinda shit...

anyways, this article was still a treat as I hadn't heard much of this stuff about wolf 3d. I too remember the first moment I laid eyes on it, in my case it was a classmate running it off a laptop showing it off to a huge group of us in the hallway (laptops were also relatively new experience for me... then he pulled up some nude photo and I got my 10-year old away from the group quick!)

Doom though, just a short time afterwards, seeing it in the computer lad, just melted my young brain. such a huge jump in realism, we'll never experience it again
 

Aurelius

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So.... when is John Romero going to get around to 'making me his bitch'?
/Dakatana was a real POS
//Romero + Carmack(s)=genius - but they were crap solo
Romero has done a few interesting things in the years since, including for Doom — there was that Sigil episode for the game that got some pretty positive reviews, from what I understand. As it is, I think he's quite content to do lower-profile work and live off royalties from his id Software days.
 

Unabomber

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By putting out this game, I honestly believe they helped pave the way for the restrictions on video games to get loosened up a good bit.

I still remember those US Senate hearings in the 90's where Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) were doing a full fledged blitzkrieg against the video game companies, and this game was among the ones they were targeting.

Once they gave up on trying to get Wolfenstein 3D banned, and then passively allowed Doom to manifest itself, they realized they couldn't put the djinni back in the bottle.
 

zamardii12

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Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS game I ever played, and also was the first time I saw blood in a video game. My parents really hated the game for it's violence, but I played it anyway. lol
 

westrock2000

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anyways, this article was still a treat as I hadn't heard much of this stuff about wolf 3d. I too remember the first moment I laid eyes on it, in my case it was a classmate running it off a laptop showing it off to a huge group of us in the hallway (laptops were also relatively new experience for me... then he pulled up some nude photo and I got my 10-year old away from the group quick!)

Shoot man, one of the best experience I ever had as a kid was combing those 2 things. Gratuitous pixelated naked lady textures for the walls in doom. Did naked ladies make sense as a wall texture? Yep!

Insert joke about Doom wad.
 

Armenius

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Everyone is better in a team. Silly ideas get tossed, good ideas from even non-geniuses often save the day.
When someone believes they're a solo rockstar, it rarely if ever goes well.
Romero was the design guru, Carmack the tech guru. They needed each other to create great games. These days Carmack has all these great technological ideas, but nobody around him to put them to real practical use. Romero, meanwhile, is still living off of the glory days by occasionally inserting himself into the news cycle with new mods for old games. It's just too bad that their egos clashed hard and split them apart.
 

Aurelius

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Such a game-changer. Wolf 3D laid the pavement for other great FPS's to follow:

Doom
Quake
Duke Nukem 3D
Half Life
...etc etc etc

That and the Catacomb games — I remember playing Catacomb Abyss (years after it shipped, mind you) and realizing just how much of a prototype it was for Wolf 3D. An early form of the engine, some familiar mechanics, you get the idea. With that said, Wolf 3D was more polished and established some of the gameplay formulas that last to this day.
 

Unabomber

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That and the Catacomb games — I remember playing Catacomb Abyss (years after it shipped, mind you) and realizing just how much of a prototype it was for Wolf 3D. An early form of the engine, some familiar mechanics, you get the idea. With that said, Wolf 3D was more polished and established some of the gameplay formulas that last to this day.

Quite true. Those Catacomb-3D engine games were certainly pioneers when it came to bringing out the next generation of games.

The big problem with the Catacomb-3D engine games, though, was that they were extremely power-hungry for their time, and not many folks had the hardware back then, to run them when they were released.

I remember trying to play Ultima Underworld on my 386 SX-25 system with its 2 megabytes of memory, and having a very miserable time with it.

On the other hand, I remember Wolfenstein 3-D actually running decently on a my miserable Packard Bell 286-12 system with its 1 megabyte of memory. It occupied 20% of my pathetic Western Digital 40 MB IDE drive (registered version), but it actually ran OK, except when more than 3 enemies were on screen. I remember trying to avoid those areas, or I'd reduce the screen size, until I played it on the above 386 SX-25.

I think some clever fellow out there even recompiled it for the 8086. I doubt it could ever run decently, though, unless you overclocked it...
 

Armenius

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Quite true. Those Catacomb-3D engine games were certainly pioneers when it came to bringing out the next generation of games.

The big problem with the Catacomb-3D engine games, though, was that they were extremely power-hungry for their time, and not many folks had the hardware back then, to run them when they were released.

I remember trying to play Ultima Underworld on my 386 SX-25 system with its 2 megabytes of memory, and having a very miserable time with it.

On the other hand, I remember Wolfenstein 3-D actually running decently on a my miserable Packard Bell 286-12 system with its 1 megabyte of memory. It occupied 20% of my pathetic Western Digital 40 MB IDE drive (registered version), but it actually ran OK, except when more than 3 enemies were on screen. I remember trying to avoid those areas, or I'd reduce the screen size, until I played it on the above 386 SX-25.

I think some clever fellow out there even recompiled it for the 8086. I doubt it could ever run decently, though, unless you overclocked it...
One of the reasons why Carmack is considered such a programming wizard.
 

DejaWiz

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That and the Catacomb games — I remember playing Catacomb Abyss (years after it shipped, mind you) and realizing just how much of a prototype it was for Wolf 3D. An early form of the engine, some familiar mechanics, you get the idea. With that said, Wolf 3D was more polished and established some of the gameplay formulas that last to this day.

I totally forgot about Catacomb 3-D! Which is probably why Wolf 3D gets the bigger piece of the attention pie...because a lot of others forgot about it, too.

The Descent series really sticks in my mind, since it took FPS style to another level (on a grand scale) using X-Y-Z axes for movement and target elimination.
 

Aurelius

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I totally forgot about Catacomb 3-D! Which is probably why Wolf 3D gets the bigger piece of the attention pie...because a lot of others forgot about it, too.

The Descent series really sticks in my mind, since it took FPS style to another level (on a grand scale) using X-Y-Z axes for movement and target elimination.
I have very fond memories of playing Descent. Once you got used to the zero-G movement, you could feel like a badass. That and it somehow eliminated motion sickness for me — the first time I played I was queasy, but I've never felt nauseous (due to motion, anyway) since.
 

Armenius

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Rise of the Triad
Apogee did some amazing stuff with the Wolf3D engine, but it doesn't really stick out as a tentpole title in the genre. It got overshadowed by Doom, which came out a couple weeks before ROTT.
 

1_rick

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I have very fond memories of playing Descent. Once you got used to the zero-G movement, you could feel like a badass. That and it somehow eliminated motion sickness for me — the first time I played I was queasy, but I've never felt nauseous (due to motion, anyway) since.
In college, I played Descent in the computer lab. I'd do stuff like fly down one of those square tunnels that twisted in one direction, and I'd rotate the *other* direction. Once, someone watched me for a couple of seconds and then ran out of the room retching.
 

Bigbacon

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I have very fond memories of playing Descent. Once you got used to the zero-G movement, you could feel like a badass. That and it somehow eliminated motion sickness for me — the first time I played I was queasy, but I've never felt nauseous (due to motion, anyway) since.

loved descent and as someone who gets motion sick REALLY easily, it didn't make ill. Sucks descent 3 kind of killed it.
 

Bigbacon

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One of the reasons why Carmack is considered such a programming wizard.

and to this day, their games still run without issues even on modern machines. Take quake, copy it from your 20+ year old CD-R, launch winquake and it just runs....perfectly...every time.
 

HeadRusch

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I have very fond memories of playing Descent. Once you got used to the zero-G movement, you could feel like a badass. That and it somehow eliminated motion sickness for me — the first time I played I was queasy, but I've never felt nauseous (due to motion, anyway) since.
Ok, I gotta ask this "Was it just ME or....??" question:

Descent you were in a ship flying around in caves of a mine or whatever the hell the narrative was..........but then you had to find those cells and rescue flat sprite based people. Except that when you got close to their doors or they themselves they appeared HUGE compared to you and your ship, which always messed me up because it was like...either my ship and I are miniature and these people are giants, or the scale of the doors and people compared to you, your ship and the "mine" you were flying around it was just plain wrong. :)

It didn't happen in later games I think but in the first Descent it was one of those "immediately throws me out of the moment" kinda things.....anyone else get that? :p

PS: There was a different Descent-like game that was actually, I think, a bit more fun...can't remember the name but I recall it being just so much more colorful.....and this for yuks....the 6DOF in Descent and it's ilk was great fun, especially with the later games that had LAN play multiplayer....

ZDPCw_tI%2fAAAAAAAAAMo%2fSlidly_3JsU%2fs1600%2forb.jpg
 

Burticus

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PS: There was a different Descent-like game that was actually, I think, a bit more fun...can't remember the name but I recall it being just so much more colorful.....

You are thinking of Forsaken. It was a glide/3dfx powered 3d Descent type game... and it was glorious in 1998. It also gave me massive motion sickness, but so was so cool to play and look at that I would force myself to do it until I got physically ill.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forsaken_(video_game)

Also props to the space orb controller.... my friend had one of those and ran circles around me compared to me using M+KB
 

DejaWiz

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Yeah we all remember the Larry games and King's quest. One of my personal fav's were the Space quest games.

Loved all three of those series.

BC:QFT and Sierra On-Line Boxing were a couple others that I have many, many hours in.
 

HeadRusch

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Forsaken, that's the one! IMHO the Descent games came into their own when they got outta the mines/dungeons and became space flight sims but I appreciate them for their time....multiplayer was crazy, I remember that for sure.

But back on point.....the best fun I ever had with Doom (because we played the hell out of it anxiously awaiting more build3d style engine games to hit) was the Aliens Mod, whoever put the work into that to give us smart guns and the flamethrowers and that single player wad with levels.....I tip my hat to them.
 

Armenius

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Forsaken, that's the one! IMHO the Descent games came into their own when they got outta the mines/dungeons and became space flight sims but I appreciate them for their time....multiplayer was crazy, I remember that for sure.

But back on point.....the best fun I ever had with Doom (because we played the hell out of it anxiously awaiting more build3d style engine games to hit) was the Aliens Mod, whoever put the work into that to give us smart guns and the flamethrowers and that single player wad with levels.....I tip my hat to them.
The Aliens TC is still one of the best Alien games ever made. It probably was the best until Isolation came along.
 
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