Matt Chat 52: Wolfenstein 3D featuring John Romero

Matt Barton's picture

Hi, all. This week, I return to my extensive Romero footage to bring out the story of one of my favorite first-person shooters, Wolfenstein 3D. Many historians argue that this game was the first "modern" first-person shooter, though there were of course plenty of precedents. Romero points out that it was the first texture-mapped 3D game with a guy holding a gun (earlier ones tended to be tank turrets or flight sim-style games). We also talk here about Silar Warner's Apple II masterpiece Castle Wolfenstein, which inspired Romero and Carmack's game.

Be sure to check out Balgorg's incredible channel as well. He has a comprehensive history of first-person shooters that is simply a must-see collection. Watching his videos really made me think about how closely FPS is related to flight sims. Tank games seem to be a step in between (very similar to a flight sim if you think about it), but I agree with Romero that playing something like Wolfenstein 3D feels entirely different than something like Arctic Fox or Battlezone. I guess it's just the relative security we feel being in a vehicle vs. on foot with a weapon in hand. I noticed a different experience playing Mech Warrior 2 than any of id's games.


Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008
Ahh man

Talked about this a little in your episode 51 blog post, but wow - Wolfenstein 3D. I bet that audio podcast will be amazing. Are you going to setup an Armchair Arcade podcast on iTunes and just dump the audio in there? Perhaps you might as well just get the logo, description and everything on iTunes so you can roll out items in the future.

I think Romero made a lot of good points about what made Wolf3d work. I have to agree with him. VGA was really just getting mass adoption in the games industry at that point. While many displays had VGA capabilities, it seems like things were still getting released in EGA/VGA. Obviously, a lot of the id/Apogee games as well as Sierra games were EGA/VGA. Wolf3d presented a lot of things at once - graphics, speed, sound, and intensity. I couldn't remember feeling that way about a PC game before Wolf3d came out. There were plenty of good games, and Star Trek 25th Anniversary certainly dazzled VGA monitors, but Wolf3d really amped things up.

One thing Romero didn't mention specifically in the interview we saw in ep 52 was the face of the player in the bottom center of the screen. I think watching BJ's face as he took damage just *really* added to the intensity of the game. You have a percentage on the bar at the bottom that defines your health, but the face instills a bit more of a fear of dying. I mean when you get down to the teens, his face is pretty messed up! Very nice work. Wolf3d is one of those games I wish I could go back and experience again for the first time. It really was just unlike anything else I had played at the time.

Did Romero talk about the aardwolf E2L8 level of Wolf3d? It was an Apogee thing more than a id thing, but how interesting...

The death animation of Hitler is something else fun to talk about. Heh - also the "deathcam" was hilarious. The idea of having an instant replay of a boss's death up close is just awesome.

Thanks again, Matt.

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Agreed about the 'face'

The face changing for the worse when more damage was taken evoked a very visceral response of angst / anxiety in my being whilst playing Wolfenstein 3D. It was an excellent game. But back in the day to me it was just one game in the whole range of excellent apogee/ID games that came out on the PC platform. Early 90's PC gaming was big in the Netherlands! I was enjoying it immensely.

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Martin Touhey
Martin Touhey's picture
Joined: 02/10/2010
Truly a milestone

Wolfenstein 3D was truly a milestone in gaming. When I first played it I was incredibly impressed with the 3D engine and how blazingly fast it was. I may have to dig up a copy and play it again for old time's sake.

Joined: 05/20/2006
I saw this game at a

I saw this game at a computer expo (can't remember which one) and had never seen anything like it. Was it really almost 18 years ago? Id Software practically spawned a whole industry dedicated to ripping off their games ("Blake Stone", "Duke Nukem", etc)

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