After Hours

Dinosaur sightings: Wolfenstein 3D changes everything

Every once in awhile a PC or video game comes along that changes everything. Wolfenstein 3D from id Software and Apogee certainly qualifies as one of those games. This is the game that established the first person shooter (FPS) as a major game genre. The visceral feel of fighting your way through a maze of hallways filled with enemies trying to stop you was such a new experience in 1992 that many gamers found new reason to love their past time.

Wolfenstein 3D was also marketed using the shareware model. I distinctly remember that I stopped playing after the first level, so I could order the entire game. My thinking was it would arrive about the same time as I completed the first set of scenarios. Only one other shareware game has captured my imagination like that since --- Doom, which would come along a little over a year later.

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Mark W. Kaelin

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

50 comments
erikmidtskogen
erikmidtskogen

It was called "Castle Wolfenstein" and it ran on an Apple II back around 1982 or so. It was both hokey and cool at the same time. The noises made by the Nazi guards were hysterically funny.

zabius
zabius

still have the orignal w-3d on cd it was a good game not over challenging to loose interest

richard.stroud
richard.stroud

I loved it. Then it got old after a while but something new came out that added new spice to the game...Sexy Wolf!

dplesspe
dplesspe

I've first played it in 1995, now at age 52, it is the only game I play on my XP machine, with DOSBOX. It is only the shareware version, as I could never get to buy the full version in Southern Africa where I live. Question: How do I get to the level editing views as in Imagwes 36 - 38?

modmypsx
modmypsx

I have Keep it on there just so I can show my kids what life was like after Pong. My wife began playing with computers when Duke Nuke'm 3D first came out. She occasionally does Beta testing for MMORPGs. I guess we're a family of geeks. ;-)

john
john

Now that I'm older, but not so much wiser, I wish i could buy back all the hours I spent playing Wolf3D. Of course i could say the same about many games since, but that one was the source of my addiction. I'm not a gamer, but there have been a few i truly enjoyed; Bettlezone I & II, Homeworld and its sequel, Quake II. If there is a PC God, you should not age while gaming....

vishwajit
vishwajit

Its difficult to express in words all the emotions aroused by reading this article .. rather even the mention of this master piece. I rember spending days n nights playing this games. Killing the Hitler / Giantess in the last level was really frightening then. even blue commondos were nasty when groups. The best part of game was the addictive music tracks as well as sounds. I still recall them ..btw that was in 1996... a decade has past..phew! Thanks for putting up the retro here! It reminded me of my friends as well . we used play togather / discuss strategies at school / guide newbies over phone ! It was fun and one undelateble memory of my life! My journey... Prince(brief) -> Wolf 3D -> Duke Nukem -> MK3 -> OMF -> Shadow warrior -> Blood -> Half Life -> Age Of Empires and related. -> work ->work ->work . ( I skipped Doom and Quake , never liked the ugly creatures) Parth , Sandesh , Jayraj , Hrishekesh , Ninad , Vaibhav , Mithun , Kunal I miss you all. -Vishwajit Girdhari Nov 2006

NemesisTWarlock
NemesisTWarlock

After this came Doom and for me thats when networking really came onto the radar. Wolf3D inspired Doom which inspired a whole generation of kids and adults to learn about networks in order to play. It also taught a bunch of existing NetworkD admins how to identify root causes of bandwidth issues and probably drove IT departments to increase bandwidth levels more rapidly than any pathetic business reason ever could. Wol3D, Doom and then the rest created a real-time multi-player culture that drove the networks to improve within businesses.

Tank252ca
Tank252ca

I played all of those games. Wolf3D, Doom, Doom2, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem,... the list goes on. They were all fun at the time, but I certainly don't want to play them all over again. After playing something with blow your mind graphics like F.E.A.R. or Half-Life2, I couldn't handle more than 5 minutes of Wolf3D. That's enough reminiscing for me.

madan80
madan80

Sigh!!! old memories come flooding back! :)

J.C.Alexandres
J.C.Alexandres

I remember staying until late playing Wolfstein 3D, it was addictive! Internet was boring then, I had enough of it as I was using it accessing the world trade center, so my nights belonged to SIM City and Wolfstein games. By now there should be a web-capable version of Wolfstein. It will certainly rock!

J.C.Alexandres
J.C.Alexandres

Thought my first message didn't go through ... my posting in on the next one.

dfarrich
dfarrich

Anyone out there recall the days when it was an option instead of DOS?

alankru
alankru

I played that game. It was great. I'm 19 years old now, I must have played it when I was 6 or 10. It actually scared me for a little until I completed the game that was. It was great, I had no idea it was the first first person shooter. I still remember it fondly today, especially the big (was it mechanical robot?) guard right at the end of the level before you escaped from the castle. I had never known/seen a gun that fired loads of bullets constantly as it rotated around...or Hitler.

olgerdviz
olgerdviz

My dad still plays this game

AnswerMan
AnswerMan

I got the shareware... ten levels, plus hidden floors that sometimes were bigger than the original level.... I bought the game. I went through all 6 games each consisting of ten to twelve levels, not counting hidden floors and levels that were sometimes more intense and larger than the original level you were on. That was in 1991. Now I have the floppies to load the game, but it is SO old one of the floppies won't load. Plus the graphics drivers today are way more powerful than what this game relied on.... shouldn't be a problem right? Well.... I can't get it to load. Does anyone know where I can get the original COMPLETE 6 game (x 10 or 12) game on CD, with an installer that'll work on W98? Thanks

RexWorld
RexWorld

Trying to play Wolfenstein and Doom when I was young gave me the first inkling that I was to be left behind by the FPS (first-person shooter) genre. These games made me horribly motion-sick, even with the simple graphics of the day. At least Wolfenstein I could play for a little while before getting completely nauseous. A modern FPS like Halo, with its photo-realistic graphics makes me sick within seconds.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Great! Looking at these screenshots took me right back to playing the game. I must have played this game a hundred times as many of the pictures were so familiar that it seems like just yesterday. Thanks for the memories!

AnswerMan
AnswerMan

you wouldn't want to burn me one would ya? thanks....

donaldcoe
donaldcoe

Now I know I am the OLD man on the block because the game that did the graphics trick was Links 386 (a golf game with background sound effects of birds, wacking the ball sounds, sidelines commentary, high definition color shading of greens, sand pit browns and water hazard blues) all in diskette DOS boot format. This game forced the real hardware changes in video graphics memory and resolutions requirements, sound cards redesigns and harddrive size capacities. Links 386 was the end of the DOS era and Wolfenstein 3D was the beginning of windows based games thus forcing Microsoft to a graphics resolution redesign. Games have always been the deciding element for changes in the computer technologies era.

kpak44wh
kpak44wh

My first desktop was a 386dx 40mhz with a full version of wolfenstien 3d. That was the bomb, until 3 months later I bought a performa 475. It kicked the pc's butt on wolfenstien 3d . The graphics were awsome, and it came with a hack to speed up the game really fast. i have been hooked on macs since then. Oh yeah, it had Mickey Mouse in a wizard suit screensaver, that was cool back in 1996. I also played doom1 and 2 on it. Duke 3d was great too. Resedit, you could edit any mac program with it, and it was easy to use. that was a great tool. I used it on wolf3d

gar123
gar123

I remember most of these games. Played Wolf3d, Duke Nukem on a 286 using floppy disks if memory serves me right. Did anyone here ever play CornCob 3d? Flight simulator that would run on 286/386 PC's?

taskman
taskman

now there's a game I had forgotten, really enjoyed that one, with so many different ways to die! It had much better graphics if memory serves me right.

crhend
crhend

According to Amazon's site, they have new and used copies available. An it's available for $15 brand new at idSoftware's webstore.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

play this on a web page now - surely...

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

the lack of peripheral vision drives me mad.

hailet
hailet

I've never been bothered by the motion sickness you mentioned but I've been told that changing the refresh rate of your monitor can cure this. Try different settings until you find one that gives you comfort. Good Luck.

cenzo20
cenzo20

I used to get dizzy and sick also so I stopped playing FPS's till one day I got a new desk. The desk was great but it was a little dark in the corner where I set it up so I installed a light under the monitor shelf to light the keyboard. To my surprise it reduced the dizziness enough to allow me to play for short periods at a time. Now my tolerance has built up to a point that I can play for hours, much to the dismay of my girlfriend. LOL. Also try starting out with the Tomb Raider games. They are Second Person and don't swing around so fast. You may be able to acclimatize yourself as I did. Good luck!

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Many an hour spend on such games. Call of Duty 3 today....

Akais1
Akais1

I like how the dead guys feet always point at you. You shoot someone and they fall on their back, you run past the body and turn around and their feet are still facing you! I also liked how the SS troops in the higher levels would yell LEON! when you entered the room and when you shot them they would yell MEN FROM MARS!

jpnagle59
jpnagle59

Man I remember those games. I bought a laptop in Ohio one year while I was at the home office. It was a Compaq- 30 meg hard drive, 128k memory, black and white screen. Weight, about 12 pounds. Anyway, I found the share ware version of Wolf and Duke Nukem at an electronic supplier, bought them with company money, and played that dude forever. Two things happened- one, my son, 8or9 then, could play it better, faster, cleaner than I could. The 2nd thing that impacted my life by having that game, was that by watching my son playing it- I had instantly became an 'old folk' the kids were always gonna do it better than I, even though I could waddle through it, he could live it... I guess I owe the company $6 dollars.

MrLeprechaun
MrLeprechaun

There was a patch to change Wolfenstein to Aliens where you were one of the marines searching the empty base. It was always nighttime and there was really creepy music. I played it at about 3am with no lights on. The first time an alien jumped out of a hidden passage I actually screamed. It was time to go to bed and finish in the morning!!!

Burt
Burt

I stopped by a friends house and was told about this new game he had downloaded. Packard Bell, 8 megs ram and win 95 was the machine. I sat down and started playing on the first level and did not stop until I had beaten all level on the shareware version. I have been a first person shooter since that day!!

raphael.rambert
raphael.rambert

The first game called Wolfenstein was Castle Wolfenstein, that I played on a Apple II. It has a voice emulator (kind of !) and was not a FPS (You see yourself on the screen).

raphael.rambert
raphael.rambert

Remember ! The first game called Wolfenstein was Castle Wolfenstein, playable on Apple II computer. It included a voice emulation (kind of !). That's Jurassic Game Park :-)

mjwx
mjwx

Is available for download for Linux and XP, legitimately. Even though I still have the original star control CD it doesn't work on XP. http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php (also available for Mac OSX too.)

trossi
trossi

Wolf3D was a DOS game not Windows. (From vague memory Links386 was Windows.. or maybe it just had 'windows' in its UI.. don't remember..). Even Doom 1/2/3 and Quake 1/2 that followed were DOS. Ultima Underworld was the first commercial 3D game (Wolf3D was 2.5D) and it was BEFORE Wolf3D, but Wolf was the first FPS as we know them. 3D-like games were around much earlier, e.g. the Wizardry series, but they didn't have fluid movement nor radiosity (shading) like Wolf3D. Wolf changed everything.

AnswerMan
AnswerMan

Most of the hundreds of kinds of "console" games out there, complete with their web-enabled software controls, and the similar looking graphics, are just not the same thing. Either they don't have the complete license, or (as some programmers do) they change it somehow, and the only reason is "because they can"... I remember painstakingly going through about 10 different emulators and consoles, just trying to find something close to the old arcade version of DonkeyKong.... and they were all close.... but paled by comparison to the original.

PJfromOttawa
PJfromOttawa

I was fine with the Wolfenstein / Doom / Quake / Duke / Unreal ground-based FPS games. But it was "Descent" with it's no gravity, 3-axis rotation that would get to me after a while. I found myself many times tilting my head unknowingly.

mpinter
mpinter

Do you remember snapping off the flip door of your floppy drive to try to keep the game from writing your "death" back to the floppy disk? I learned quickly how to repair those doors before my parents came home! How about learning how to steal the bulletproof vest from the SS before you shot them? Man, that was the most fun you could have in CGA video! Does anyone remember Sabatoge!, the text-based Apple II game where you gave short 2-5 word commands to navigate around a nuclear power plant to find a saboteur before he blew up the plant? "open door" "use key" "frisk sab". Now THAT was a UI! If anyone knows a DOS/Windows version of this vintage game, let us know.

NunyaBZ
NunyaBZ

My first computer, the Apple IIe - boy I played the heck out of the original top down version called Escape from Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel, Return to Castle Wolfenstein - and yes, the recent game was named the same as that one from the 80s. Basic idea of the first was the same - you killed your guard, got his gun and tried to get out...I still have the boxes and disks for those 2 :-)

radams36
radams36

Did you ever try MAME? I found it to be an excellent emulator for Donkey Kong. And has anyone here ever tried the Wolf 3D follow-up 'Spear of Destiny'? Played that one all the way through (which I never did with the original). Some surprises after what I THOUGHT was the last boss....

radams36
radams36

Did you ever try MAME? I found it to be an excellent emulator for Donkey Kong. And has anyone here ever tried the Wolf 3D follow-up 'Spear of Destiny'. Played that one all the way through (which I never did with the original). Some surprises after what I THOUGHT was the last boss....

radams36
radams36

Did you ever try MAME? I found it to be an excellent emulator for Donkey Kong. And has anyone here ever tried the Wolf 3D follow-up 'Spear of Destiny'. Played that one all the way through (which I never did with the original). Some surprises after what I THOUGHT was the last boss....

hailet
hailet

I've tried this on several old DOS games and I've never seen it work.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

to Windows 95 and it will run just fine in its own DOS window with full sound and control. Recall that Windows 95 was still sitting on top of DOS, unlike the NT kernel based versions like NT, Windows 2000, XP, or Vista.

mjwx
mjwx

But I prefer to use DOS or Windows 3.1 under VMware for old games.