Wolfenstein 3D, the grandfather of all first person shooters, has turned 20 years old today. Its creator studio id Software, along with Bethesda Softworks, is celebrating by providing the classic game free of charge in both mobile app and browser formats.
Wolfenstein plays out in a castle of the same name, where a prisoner of war must escape his Nazi captors by any means necessary. The title is largely considered, among first person shooters, to be the “game that started it all” back in 1992. Its intense action and advanced graphics ushered in a whole new interest and genre of computers games. Wolfenstein was the spiritual predecessor to 1993 hit Doom, which went on to become one of the biggest first person shooters of all time.
Following its initial success, ports of Wolfenstein were released on a variety of computers and consoles, including the Super Nintendo, which was heavily censored due to the game’s graphic content. Dogs were changed to giant mutant rats, human blood became green, and all references to Nazis were removed from the game entirely.
In the clip below Wolfenstein creator John Carmack discusses the game’s technically inferior first person predecessors Hovertank and Catacombs 3D, the impact of releasing the game’s source code and the passionate modding community that followed, and even does a live commentary as he plays some of the game’s opening levels around nine minutes in.
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When talking about the kind of games id has created in recent years, Carmack recognized the staggering progress game development has undergone since the 90s. “I literally couldn’t have imagined twenty years ago what we would be able to do in the games today,” he said.
It’s been a long road on a technical side – certainly the results but also what we wind up doing to go through and make it. And it’s interesting to go back and see how much we were able to accomplish with so little… The fun core elements of things aren’t the ones that take a man century of effort like so many of the big [titles today] do.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to fight a chain gun-wielding robot Hitler or steal countless stashes of Nazi gold, do yourself a favor and pay Wolfenstein 3D a visit on its twentieth birthday. You’ll be glad you did.