Wolfenstein 3D, As You Never Imagined It.

When tracing the history of first-person shooting (FPS) games, where do you credit with the genesis of the genre? Anyone who played 3D Monster Maze on the Sinclair ZX81 might dare to raise a hand, but we’re guessing that most of you will return to the early 1990s, and id Software. Their 1992 title Wolfenstein 3D might not have been the first to combine all the elements, but it’s arguably the first modern FPS and the first to gain huge popularity. Back in 1992 it needed at least a VGA card and a 286 to run, but here in 2023 [jhhoward] has taken it back a step further. You can now slay virtual Nazis in 3D on an 8088 PC equipped with a lowly CGA card.

Whether the gameplay survives in the sometimes-bizarre CGA color schemes and whether it becomes too pedestrian on an 8088 remains as an exercise for the reader to discover, but it’s a feat nevertheless. The textures all need converting to CGA mode before they can be used and there are even versions for the shareware and paid-for versions of the game.  It’s possible that an 8088 may never be able to say yes to “Will it run DOOM?”, but at least now it can run the predecessor.

21 thoughts on “Wolfenstein 3D, As You Never Imagined It.

    1. What me surprises is why Doom, Castle Wolfenstein, Unreal Turnament and Counter Strike are so popular.
      What happenend to classic arcade games, point&click, textadventures, flight simulators, or virtual life simulations etc (Little Computer People/C64, Creatures!, Fin Fin etc) ?
      Why a killer games soooo popular all the time? Don’t they get old by now? Please?

      1. I’m not sure they are really that popular these days, I think it’s more that they are ‘references’ for computing (gaming) power from certain generations.

        Maybe this could be reversed and somebody should port The hobbit text adventure to the Ryzen 9! :)

      2. I honestly feel like shooters are just an evolution of point-and-click games, aimed at kids with short attention span (needing instant results instead of puzzles)

        And when people grow up they are most fond of (and want to relive) the games they played as kids ^^

      3. 3d shooters/sneakers are as worn out now as sprite games were at the end of the C-64 era.

        Just the same old stuff, rearranged. Nothing new since Akelabeth. Just improved framerate and graphics.

        With game engines at the point they’re at, 3d is now comparable to sprite games in the flash era. Don’t even need a coder, just ‘artists’ with a slight clue about code.

        Flight/tank/ship/racing sims are going strong though. But little new there, just more players in sim at a time and better eye candy. Asking ‘what do you want’ there is fair…I want Gs in VR.

      4. Wolfenstein 3D and Doom had their source code released many years ago, makes them very popular to port. Neither of those 2 were the best selling games of their year, games console games sold significantly better.

        Shooters are also popular due to being online and being challenged by real world people, rather than a poor AI (bot).

  1. I remember wanting a computer upgrade so badly as a kid in part to play that game. I would have been very excited about this. Although… my 8088 was a Tandy so if it had Tandy/PCJr graphics that would have been even better! It was like CGA but without the built in colorblindness simulation.

    1. Speaking of CGA and colour..
      Many CGA games were made with monochrome monitors in mind (Composite CGA excluded).
      It’s clearly noticeable by the use of the colours as gray shades.
      In colour, they look weird but on a green/amber monitor they look great.
      Like a 4 colour Gameboy game.

    1. I played Catacombs 3D on my system, it only supported EGA and it was a lot of fun. It was a series of several games and included that Wolf 3D style health indicator of your guy’s face getting progressively worse looking.

    1. I agree. Composite CGA was really special, despite being incredible low-res.
      It was of similar appearance to the Apple II colour graphics, imho.

      On a real CRT, the image is much more impressive.
      Not so much because of scan lines, but because of the CRT mask.
      It makes the image more organic, more real, I think. Like a texture, a canvas.
      Like an surface of an orange vs a ball of glass, hah. :)

      Maybe that’s being emulated properly in the future.
      I mean, photos of real CRT images seen on an TFT/LCD look good enough, already.

      Scan lines and NTSC simulations as such aren’t enough, I think.
      – A faithful emulation of a PAL/NTSC Commodore 1702 monitor would be neat.
      Including the knobs below the front panel, of course! :D

      If you like, please have a look at Mobygames.
      The database has some screenshots of other old CGA classic, unfiltered sadly (rawwr).
      Like Start Flight, Oo-Topos, those CGA comics (say, Lane Mastodon vs. the Blubbermen), Wizard and the Princess (Adventures in Serenia), Rendezvous with Rama etc.

      Some games like Oo-Topos use vector graphics to draw beautiful scenery,
      due to storage shortage of the medium of the day.
      With a slow CPU, you can litterally watch the PC drawing the scene. Really cool!


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