Wolfenstein 3D

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Wolfenstein 3D
Missing image
Wolfenstein 3D game cover

Developer(s) id Software
Publisher(s) Apogee Software
Release date(s) May 5 1992
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M)
Platform(s) MS-DOS

Wolfenstein 3D (commonly abbreviated to Wolf 3D) is the computer game that started the first person shooter genre on the PC. It was created by id Software and published by Apogee Software on May 5 1992 for DOS. The game was inspired by the 1980s Muse Software computer games Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple II. According to id Software programmer John Carmack, the game's engine was inspired by a technology demo of Origin/Looking Glass's first-person CRPG, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss from 1991. It has been ported to many systems, including 3DO, SNES, and Gameboy Advance.



In Wolfenstein 3D, the player is a soldier attempting to escape from the eponymous Nazi stronghold; there are many armed guards, as well as attack dogs. The building has a number of hidden rooms containing various treasures, food supplies, and medical kits, as well as three different guns and ammunition.

Wolfenstein 3D was originally released as shareware, which allowed it to be copied widely. The shareware release contained one episode ("Escape from Wolfenstein"), consisting of 10 missions (levels). The commercial release consisted of three episodes including the shareware episode (the new ones being "Operation: Eisenfaust" and "Die, Fuhrer, Die"), and a mission pack called "The Nocturnal Missions" (consisting of "A Dark Secret", "Trail Of The Madman" and "Confrontation") was also available. Like the shareware episode, each commercial episode contained 10 levels, bringing the game to a total of 60 missions.

Each episode had a different boss who had to be killed in the final mission in order to complete the episode. In order to complete an episode, only 9 of the 10 missions needed to be completed; hidden in one of the first eight missions was an entrance to the tenth, secret level. The secret level of the third episode was notable in that it recreated one of the original Pac-Man levels, complete with ghosts, seen by the player from Pac-Man's perspective.

A sequel (actually more of a prequel), Spear of Destiny, was also released.

Wolfenstein title screen
Wolfenstein title screen

The game was originally released on the PC and then ported to Macintosh computers, Apple IIgs, Super NES, Atari Jaguar, Game Boy Advance, and 3DO. The source code of the game was published by id Software in 1995, starting the long tradition at id Software of releasing the last engine as open source when a new one is out (only later with DOOM II did they start using the GPL for this purpose). Some enhanced ports to different platforms like Linux and Addons have been developed.

Wolfenstein 3D was the first game to use the ExMx map/level identity.


The first three episodes of the game focus on the character of William 'B.J.' Blazkowicz's attempts to escape from Castle Wolfenstein and overthrow the Nazi regime.

Initially armed only with a knife and a pistol (obtained by overpowering the guard in his cell), B.J.'s initial goal is merely to escape the castle prison. Taking on SS guards, stealing their machine guns and ultimately acquiring a chain gun, he eventually finds himself face to face with the Episode One boss, the ultimate prison guard Hans Grosse.

Having defeated Grosse and escaped the castle, B.J. moves on to Operation: Eisenfaust. Immediately the episode begins, it becomes apparent that the environment is no longer that of a prison; the walls are covered in mulch, and the first enemies found are mutants with machine guns in their chests. The Operation of the title appears to be the creation of these mutants; the episode boss, the scientist Dr Schabbs, throws syringes at you. His defeat signals the end of this biological war.

Die, Fuhrer, Die! is, chronologically, the final episode. Fighting through Nazi soldiers, and attacking the bunker under the Reichstag, the major centerpiece of the game is reached in the final mission, where the boss is none other than Adolf Hitler himself (equipped with a robotic suit).

The Nocturnal Missions form a prequel storyline, focusing on the Germans' plans for chemical warfare.

A Dark Secret deals with the initial pursuit of the scientist responsible for the development of the weaponry; B.J.'s task is to enter the weapons research facility and hunt down Dr. Otto Giftmacher (Poison Maker) that fires rockets at him.

Trail Of The Madman is a rather ornate episode taking place in a clean and stylish castle. Ostensibly, the episode's goal is the maps and plans of the chemical war (Giftkrieg), guarded by Gretel Grosse (Hans' sister; essentially the same character, only in a pink suit instead of a blue). Hitler's image appears throughout this episode, as posters and wall mosaics, symbolising his imminent rise to power. All levels are designed with fashion, much decoration and opulence.

The story comes to a close in Confrontation; a summation of everything that has gone before, including the mutants (in the secret level only), Hans Grosse (in the secret level only), and the overall "feel". The final battle is fought between B.J. and the leader of this war, head planner and all-round very bad guy, General Fettgesicht (Fat Face).

It should be noted that, despite the presence of Hitler as an episode boss, the game bears no resemblance to any actual Nazi plans or structures. Indeed, many of the level designs are highly fanciful; at least three levels heavily feature swastika shaped room layouts and maps, going as far as having one level built entirely of a tessellation of them. However, the overall premise could be said to be loosely based on the frequent and elaborate escape attempts made by Allied POWs from such Nazi prison strongholds as Colditz Castle.

Legal issues

Due to its use of Nazi symbols and the Horst Wessel Lied as theme music, the PC version of the game was confiscated in Germany in 1994, following a verdict by the Amtsgericht München on January 25, 1994 (Az. 2Gs167/94); the use of these symbols is a federal offense in Germany unless certain circumstances apply (see articles 86 StGB (http://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/86.html) and 86a StGB (http://dejure.org/gesetze/StGB/86a.html) (in German)). Similarly, the Atari version was confiscated following a verdict by the Amtsgericht Berlin Tiergarten on December 7, 1994 (Az. 351Gs5509/94). (Also see [1] (http://www.heim-im-web.de/atschie/index/idx_4000.htm).)

Due to concerns from Nintendo, the Super NES version was modified to not include any swastikas or Nazi references; furthermore, the attack dogs in the game were replaced by giant rats, and blood was replaced with sweat to make the game seem less violent. Three new weapons and a score system were added as well. However, the Super NES version was not as successful as the PC version. Many reviewers and Wolfenstein enthusiasts believed that the censorship of elements regarding Adolf Hitler and Nazis made the title incomplete and almost an entirely different game.

Technical implementation

To render the walls in pseudo-3D, the game used ray casting, a special case of ray tracing. This technique sent out one ray for each column of pixels, checked if it intersected a wall, and drew textures on the screen accordingly, creating a one dimensional depth buffer against which to clip the scaled sprites that represented enemies, powerups, and props.

Before Wolfenstein 3D, the technology had already been used by id Software in 1991 to create Catacomb 3-D for Softdisk, albeit using only EGA 16-color graphics. Other games using the Wolfenstein 3D game engine or developments of it were also produced, including, for example, Blake Stone, Corridor 7, Rise of the Triad, and Shadowcaster.


Wolfenstein 3D is generally credited as being responsible for the first-person shooter craze that continues to this day. Released at the height of the 'Interactive CD-ROM' era, there were surprisingly few clones until Doom's release in 1993, the most notable being Rise of the Triad in 1994 and Duke Nukem 3D in 1995. Most of these games were distributed via the same shareware strategy as the original. Though some of these games were superior to Wolfenstein in some ways, none came close to garnering the same attention or market share as Wolfenstein.

The game success ensured that id Software quickly became a high profile developer. id's development efforts were closely watched by fans of the game, and when it released its next first-person shooter, Doom, it was guaranteed a receptive audience. Rather than rely on the technology that made Wolfenstein a hit, however, Doom introduced several technological leaps over Wolfenstein 3D. Doom's technology outdid that of Wolfenstein by providing multiple levels of detail and characters with more detail and animation than those in its predecessor. Wolfenstein would later be recreated in a Doom II fan modification aptly titled WolfenDoom. id again later revolutionised the FPS genre with the release of Quake in 1996, the first FPS to feature full 3D graphics.

A new first-person shooter, Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RtCW), a loose sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, was released in 2001. The gameplay and the setting are similar to the original, but the graphics and audio elements receive an upgrade due to the Quake III Arena rendering engine. RtCW begins as the first game does, but from there the two games' storylines diverge. A spinoff to RtCW, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, was released in 2003, which was a free full-version multiplayer-only game, featuring elements from RtCW.

Overall, RtCW bears little resemblance to its predecessor, beyond the title and the setting. A small bit of nostalgia is available to players of RtCW with a console command. Activating 'cg_uselessnostalgia' via the in-game console overlays a replica of the original game's interface across the bottom of the screen. However, as the name of the command implies, this interface does not keep track of vital game statistics, such as the player character's health or remaining ammunition.

See also

External links

es:Wolfenstein 3D fr:Wolfenstein 3D nl:Wolfenstein 3D pl:Wolfenstein 3D fi:Wolfenstein 3D sv:Wolfenstein 3D


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