Today, May 5, it is 20 years since the initially version of “the grandfather of 3D shooters” – Wolfenstein 3D – was released. In the two decades since 1992, can you imagine how many hours gamers around the world have spent with that game, not to mention its successors like the Doom and Quake run of sports meeting?
But what may not be as well remembered is that Wolfenstein 3D helped pioneer shareware as a distribution model for sports meeting and additional software. This turned out to be incredibly vital in a period when users were moving from BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) to the Internet as a house to get their software.
Although Wolfenstein 3D was not the initially game to carry the Wolfenstein mark, it was arguably the one that made the name well-known. It was also the initially one that John Carmack and id Software worked on, as well as widely regarded as the game that popularized initially-person shooters.
Wolfenstein 3D starts with the initiation:
“You stand over the guard’s body, grabbing franticly for his gun. You’re not sure if the additional guards heard his barely audible scream. Deep in the belly of a Nazi dungeon, you’ve only a knife, a gun, and your wits to aid your escape.”
After that, it’s up to you, taking on the role of Captain William J. “B.J.” Blazkowicz, to escape Castle Wolfenstein and make sure you fruitfully tackle all the hurdles you will face.
With today’s standards, it’s simple to look at Wolfenstein 3D and smile, perhaps even laugh. The ceiling was one solid affect, as was the floor. Sprites and textures were blocky and repetitive, but game play was nonetheless exciting and fun. But remember, this game came out just three years after the Intel 486 was launched.
Clearly, Wolfenstein 3D has had an immeasurable impact on the gaming industry over the last 20 years, not the least in terms of its distribution and sales model.
Id software distributed Wolfenstein 3D as shareware. Basically, the game counting the initially 10 levels were completely free for anyone to download, play, and share with others. If you wanted to buy the full game, it was available through the distribution company Apogee (now 3DRealms).
Giving away a limited version of the game for free and encourage further distribution helped spur on sales. By the end of of 1993, 100,000 copies of Wolfenstein 3D had been sold.
And, yes, quite a few of those copies were sold to geeks who now work at Pingdom.
So whether you played Wolfenstein 3D way back when or not, why don’t you go ahead and place a few more hours into escaping from the castle? At least now, if a name says something, you can say you’re simply researching computer history.
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