Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Patrol1985

Why is Wolfenstein 3D considered the first "proper" FPS game.

Recommended Posts

As far as the genre goes, Wolfenstein 3D is often considered the game that started it all. Id Software released two FPS games prior to Wolfenstein 3D, namely Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D.

So why exactly did Wolfenstein 3D get so much attention when compared to those other titles? Catacomb 3D doesn't look that much inferior, it has textured walls, etc.

Sure, Wolfenstein 3D used VGA graphics, but "the concept" was basically the same as before. So why Wolfenstein?

Share this post


Link to post

Because wolfenstein had release over the internet to a FAR wider audience, and Spear of Destiny just as much so due to retail.

Hovertank and Catacombs 3d were released by softdisk; and softdisk was a subscriber-model. Only those who were subscribed to them got the stuff they made. To say the least, exposure there was like a bucket compared to the ocean that is the internet, even then.

Share this post


Link to post

The Internet? I assume you mean some usenet / BBS service? Was it really so popular back then? I assumed that hardly anyone had Internet access and most got shareware versions of games via floppy disks etc.

Still, subscription model sounds like something REALLY unpopular. I never knew about Catacomb / Hovertank before I got Internet access and read Id Software's history. After reading your post I think I know why :D

Share this post


Link to post
Patrol1985 said:

Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D

Softdisk only, so they were kind of confidential. I never even heard of them back in the days.

And it's not like they were a new concept. There had been FPS before. Heck, even deathmatch-oriented FPS: MIDI Maze dates back to 1987 and featured 16-player deathmatch.

Wolf3D, though, is the first FPS game that made a ton of money. Then Doom and Quake escalated that even further.

Share this post


Link to post

I wanted to post a link to The Eidolon like I always do in threads like these, and found this gem on Wikipedia:

Computer Gaming World disliked The Eidolon. The reviewer stated that it was as difficult as Koronis Rift but with no save game feature. While praising the graphics and sound, he criticized the game for "a lack of imagination. You get transported to god-knows-where ... and you basically shoot everything in sight. Is this a reasonable—let alone responsible—way to explore a new world?" The magazine later described the game as "one of the worst" of 1986.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know anyone who had or played Catacomb 3D or Hovertank 3D back when they were released, and only found out about them many years later as part of video game trivia.

I don't know anyone who played games on their computer who DIDN'T have at least the shareware version of Wolf3D. It was everywhere.

Share this post


Link to post

Woflenstein 3D is considered the first "Proper" FPS game because of how many people were able to get their hands on it and because of how addicting and revolutionary it was for the time.

A bit off topic:
Somebody tried to explain how Bungie's Marathon was the first ever FPS (You know, that game that came out in like 1995/1996 for Mac's?), what was sad is that he thought Wolfenstein 3D came out in 2001 and Doom in 2011 (In other words around the time of the XBLA release of Doom), seriously.

Share this post


Link to post

Bouncy said:
Because wolfenstein had release over the internet to a FAR wider audience, and Spear of Destiny just as much so due to retail.

This also implies that what "we" consider is more than anything what commercially oriented gaming sites have published. In other words, it's hardly something we all agree about and is tied to certain economic interests, or "the industry".

Two reasons why we can consider that it is not the father of the FPS genre is precedents in other games but also that it lacked some of the features that make up the FPS genre. It lacks multiplayer, its "3D" is purely cosmetic and it retains an arcade scoring system. I'd say it's more properly the grandfather of the FPS genre (which says there are also great grandparents out there.)

plums said:
I don't know anyone who played games on their computer who DIDN'T have at least the shareware version of Wolf3D. It was everywhere.

Yeah, although my brother and I dug it up in a shareware compilation only because it was the earlier game the DOOM creators had made. It made a first step but DOOM managed to have a much clearer impact, especially internationally. The term "DOOM clone" says a lot about this.

Share this post


Link to post

IMO Wolf3D counts as the first FPS because the 1) graphics and 2) the others don't meet the definition.

Hovertank 3D fails the definition because it's sort of not "first person". Well, it is, I guess. You're not just controlling a person who's wandering around shooting things: you're controlling a tank, and seeing the view from the front of the tank. There's no texture mapping: the walls are flat shaded. The iconic FPS "gun barrel" view is also missing.

This might seem like a bit of a contrived way to just write Hovertank out of FPS history. But if you think about it, it isn't much different to other games that already existed: for example, Elite had shaded 3D graphics years before Hovertank did, and gave you a first person view as a pilot of the craft. Certainly Hovertank is a big step in the direction of being an FPS, but I'm not quite sure it yet counts.

Catacomb 3D has a better claim: the texture-mapped walls are present, and it's undeniably "first person". But its Dungeons and Dragons theme makes the claim still a bit dubious. There's no gun-barrel view: only the magic hand that pops up when you fire your Magick Missiles. And that's the point really: is it a First Person Shooter if you're not actually shooting? Heretic and Hexen did the Dungeons and Dragons theme too, but they both had weapons you were firing.

In the end it all comes down to personal opinions and how you choose to define things. I kind of see Hovertank and Catacomb as "proto-FPSes". Wolf3D is the first game that is clearly recognizable as having all the elements a modern FPS: the texture mapped walls, digital sound effects, staring down the barrel of a gun, wandering around a maze shooting Nazis.

The Nazi part is important, too - Id's previous games (Commander Keen, Hovertank, Catacomb, etc.) were all rather light-hearted and "cartoony". Wolf3D keeps some of that tone but makes a big step in the direction of being more serious and gritty. Doom took that progression to its logical next step: while Wolf3D and Doom have things in common, there's nothing that, say, Commander Keen and Doom have in common.

Share this post


Link to post

Wolf3d pioneered the direction fps games went and still are today. Its fast paced, had a strong engine to support the run and gun game play that hasn't stopped being fun to this day. At the time, wolf3d was competing with other first person games like myst which was stagnant and boring. Wolf3d made fpss simple and highly interactive. Catacomb 3d and hovertank and must, despite being first person, didn't really have a whole lot of influence on the future of first person gaming.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember playing a demo of Catacombs 3d, Doom, Quake and other games on a shovelware disc. Oh those were the days!

Share this post


Link to post

In DOOM, the fact the player isn't named and the potential and real interaction of multiplayer do a lot to create a game where you're "in there" participating. Having a game like DOOM and not being able to enjoy it or at least try it in multiplayer kind of leaves one wanting. That arm with a gun belongs to you, not some Pole called Blazkowicz. Mutliplayer also partly explains why the player has no name. While the "you're the marine" feature is absent in many other later FPS games, it nails the way the genre is trying to immerse you in the game. That's why in these two senses, while advancing some aspects of the development of the FPS, Wolfenstein 3D also takes a couple of steps back compared to some of the earlier prototypes.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, think about it this way. Would you call all sorts of 3D military vehicle/flight simulators that came waaaaaay before even Hovertank 3D "First Person Shooters"? Let's see...

  • They take place in first person view (obvious, since they are simulations that put you in the pilot's/driver's seat) but there are multiple view and some games that give you a more indirect view of the action (e.g. only a "commander's view" of the tactical situation, rather than direct piloting/driving/sailing).
  • They let you shoot at stuff with direct fire (in some you can only issue orders or bomb/attack indirectly, though)
  • They use a 3D view. Ironically, most of those game were MORE 3D than Hovertank, Wold3D or Doom, because they used wireframe or polygon graphics. "Fake 3D" graphics were more used in driving games, which you could also argue that they have some connection with FPS.
So what are the main difference with "proper" FPS? On the top of my head:
  • The concept of controlling a person rather than a vehicle.I think this is the most important of all. Strange as it sounds, this wasn't explored much -or at all- until then, or was done in way more limited ways e.g. Dungeon Master, Castle Master games. Perhaps because simulating walking speed and mundane objects was incredibly boring with the limitations of 80s 3D technology. Just try to find the Castle Master's demo, and see why yourself.
  • An emphasis on arcade action, rather than realistic simulation. That's the one aspect that e.g. Ultima Underworld didn't get quite right IMO, alienating many people and feeling more like a simulation. While Doom and Wolf3D, as we all know, have lightining speed and frantic action. Vehicle-based games, as refined as they were made, were much slower and complicated to play, and there was really no comparison between the final player experience. For an advanced example of that, compare Descent with Doom. It's more sophisticated and complex, undeniable. But is it more fun?

Share this post


Link to post
myk said:

I'd say it's more properly the grandfather of the FPS genre (which says there are also great grandparents out there.)

Amongst those great (or great-great) grandparents is a fast paced 3D shooter from 1984 called Encounter. I should still have a copy of it somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post

Patrol1985 said:As far as the genre goes, Wolfenstein 3D is often considered the game that started it all.

I've never seen it mentioned that since 1993 in all my years of Dooming.

Though I had the same feeling when I first saw Wolfenstein (thinking 1992 but possibly 1991); if I remember correctly it seemed like an upstairs attic with computer-monitor laying on floor (monitor on top of desktop) and I was sitting cross-legged watching my buddy play it. I'd probably consider it as such.

Think the reason I never heard Wolfenstein regarded as: "father of FPS", "the game that started it all", etc; is because it wasn't popular like Doom was. How many people really had a computer in the early 90's, let alone one that was a 386 or faster? Everyone had either a regular nintendo, sega genesis or super nintendo. Only computer users with Internet access or computer friends, knew or heard about Wolfenstein 3D. Computer games back then were nothing like they are now (popular, ported from consoles, easy to find in stores, mandatory internet just to actually play it, and straight forward to setup in a GUI based OS).

Computer games now days aren't as impressive as computer games were in the early 90's (even up to 2000). Seriously, if you had a computer and had the capability of operating it (no Windows for dummies at the time), you could buy Wolfenstein 3D and/or Doom. Imagine what that was like after watching everyone play something like Castlevania on SNES.

Now all computer games have nothing unique anymore or cool about them, and are pretty much for the spoiled-rich kids that want the highest resolution with quad-SLI and no point whatsoever.

Share this post


Link to post

So the idea is Wolf 3D started it all while Doom popularized the fps genre further or something.

Share this post


Link to post

I remember buying a shareware copy of Ken's Lab from those people who sold mail-ordered shovelware back then when Internet access was a rare and wondrous thing. Because they claimed it was a clone of Wolf3D, and I couldn't find Wolf3D anywhere.

It was quite a disappointment. And especially since, a few months later, Doom came out.

Share this post


Link to post
Belial said:

The Eidolon


Close, but no cigar: this falls squarely into the "vehicle simulator" case I mentioned before (you're supposed to be aboard some steampunk-esque vehicle, the Eidolon, after all). For some reason, very few games put you in the "clothes" of an actual person. Even Wolf3D, if it wasn't for the graphics, could very well be a sort of hovertank going around in an abstract maze. The only thing really setting it apart from being just Hovertank with different graphics, is the speed of the action and the sort of interactivity you can have with the environment. Doom also introduced view bobbing which made walking believable, but as we all know Doomguy handles and accelerates more like some sort of hovering tankette or helicopter flying in ground effect, than like a person.

Games like Castle Master, even if you were clearly controlling a person, did so with a clumsy interface that had nothing to do with FPS or even vehicle sim games, plus the speed was nowhere near the "action" territory.



I wonder if a game resembling a polygon/wiremesh Doom with gameplay similar to modern FPS was ever released....I mean, not even a soldier sim game?

Share this post


Link to post

Some good arguments/suggestions here and many with which I agree. Certainly the ease of getting hold of Wolf3D played a part (it was on the cover or every PC magazine for a while). I think that Wolf3D being (very) popular is what really cemented its position as the grandfather of the FPS genre. It was the first one that most people had heard of and played. Simple as that. If you had a PC (or access to one) and were at all interested in PC gaming, you had played Wolf3D. Anything before it was just too "niche" or not strictly a FPS (as discussed).

I know that the graphics have been mentioned by a few people but I think they played a significant part in popularising Wolf3D. I remember there being something of a stir created by the fact Wolf3D was VGA only. Imagine that; a game that you could only play if your PC was VGA capable! Certainly, having a game as good looking as Wold3D was part of what kept me coming back to it over and over. Then I got me a sound card! Oh my lord! Yes, the graphics (and sounds) of Wolf3D were probably a big part of what allowed it to be the first "modern" feeling game of its type.

Share this post


Link to post
40oz said:

At the time, wolf3d was competing with other first person games like myst which was stagnant and boring.

No wonder Myst was so unpopular. :)

Share this post


Link to post
40oz said:

At the time, wolf3d was competing with other first person games like myst which was stagnant and boring.


Calling Myst a "first person game" and a direct competition to Wolf3D is a bit of a stretch. It belonged to a totally different genre (point + click adventure game), and relied on a totally different style of graphics and gameplay (photorealistic pre-rendered images and animations, with limited degrees of freedom).

There was no way anyone would mistake it for a "3D game" in the same sense that a flight simulation or even Wolf3D was. A somewhat more refined implementation of an adventure game with good graphics AND a full 3D engine would be Under A Killing Moon.

If I recall correctly it was also exclusively playable on CD-ROM, which in 1993 was still a novel technology for most people, and thus much less accessible than a game like Wolf3D or even Doom, later on.

Share this post


Link to post
Maes said:

Calling Myst a "first person game" and a direct competition to Wolf3D is a bit of a stretch. It belonged to a totally different genre (point + click adventure game), and relied on a totally different style of graphics and gameplay (photorealistic pre-rendered images and animations, with limited degrees of freedom).

There was no way anyone would mistake it for a "3D game" in the same sense that a flight simulation or even Wolf3D was. A somewhat more refined implementation of an adventure game with good graphics AND a full 3D engine would be Under A Killing Moon.

If I recall correctly it was also exclusively playable on CD-ROM, which in 1993 was still a novel technology for most people, and thus much less accessible than a game like Wolf3D or even Doom, later on.

Indeed, I remember Myst being advertised/reviewed in an old copy of CVG as a point and click mystery game, seen through the eyes of the pratagonist. In no way shape or form was it a FPS, as it didn't even have weapons in it for Christ's sake!

Share this post


Link to post
Maes said:

Close, but no cigar: this falls squarely into the "vehicle simulator" case I mentioned before (you're supposed to be aboard some steampunk-esque vehicle, the Eidolon, after all).

You're focusing on an unimportant detail that supports your theory. The game has plenty of features which clearly make it an FPS:

-multiple types of enemies with varying strength and abilities,
-multiple projectile weapons with varying effects,
-8x8 grid maps each ending with a progressively more difficult boss monster,
-clear rules: grab ammo, kill monsters, get keys, open door, defeat the boss, next level, all done in first person perspective.

There are also minor things in its general design that are similar to Wolf3D/Doom:

-enemies are fully animated sprites with movement and pain frames,
-the final map ditches regular gameplay and houses only the final boss,
-non-linear maps with environmental hazards,
-color coded keys/doors,
-you can skip large parts of a map and go straight for the exit if you have the right resources.

Basically, 8-bit proto-Wolfenstein.

Share this post


Link to post
Belial said:

Basically, 8-bit proto-Wolfenstein.


Well....you sure have some sound arguments there. Perhaps its sort of an in-between situation between a "real" FPS games and simulators.

What doesn't class it as an FPS in my book is that the gameplay is way more slow paced than a "true" FPS (and closer to that of a -sigh- simulator), and that you're pretty much explicitly controlling a vehicle with stiff controls. Than again, Doomguy has a stiffness/limited degree of freedom that's vehicle-like.

I don't know, it takes a certain special je ne sais quoi to make me say "Yes, THIS game is a FPS" rather than "No, this is just a somewhat arcadey vehicle sim". Then again....Carmageddon/Kart Mania anyone? *grin*

Share this post


Link to post

Because it is best known example of old fps games today. It might be that there is other impressive fps game that was made before wolfenstein 3d by some basement dweller who died because of sudden heart attack and not his mummified hands are clenching only copy of this forgotten game.

Share this post


Link to post

Wolf3D counts because it's the first FPS anyone who wasn't already a hardcore PC geek remembers. It was easy to figure out, ran ludicrously fast, had a theme that resonated with most, and was easy to spread via sneakernet.

It's like how a lot of people consider the Apple II to be the first real personal computer. It wasn't the first on a desk, it wasn't the first sold in 1977 that was easy to set up, it wasn't the cheapest, but it sucked less and became so popular it stuck around in many schools for 20 years.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×