Monday, March 30, 2009

Espresso, home

Further to my comment in the previous post about playing Wolfenstein on my iPhone, I'm currently reading the article by id Software's John Carmac on how the iPhone port came into being. It's a good read, and reminded me of a few features that have been introduced in the new version:
  • doors open automatically when you walk up to them
  • when you get shot at, there are visual cues so you know which direction to look
  • no lives: you just respawn at the start of a level
  • automap, to save you from hours of walking around trying to figure out which door you haven't opened yet
  • end-of-level stats to make you wonder where the other three secret doors are...
These are all great additions which make the game more playable, without losing that classic FPS mow-down-some-Nazis feel of the original. Yes it's on an iPhone, but it still feels old-school. It plays great, too. Really smooth. The controls take a while to get used to, but they are definitely usable. If you're going to play it, consider adjusting the control sensitivity. When you start getting shot at, it's frustrating when you can't turn around fast enough: one opportunity is all an SS needs to pop you.
Also, kudos for making the remember-where-I'm-up-to-when-I-go-back-to-the-home-menu feature actually work. This makes Wolfenstein a game that can be played sporadically. Got 30 seconds to wait for the train? Get in there and find the gold key.
I'm impressed with how classic the sound still is too: the sound effects ("mein leiben!") are still just as shitty and 8-bit as the original. I'm glad they didn't try to clean them up. And it's all in mono! How many other new releases can say that? Other than Guitar Hero III on Wii of course, but Activision seemed apologetic about that when they mailed out replacement discs to any customers who called them about it.
The score sounds great too, with that SoundBlaster FM sheen that, for me, just screams "PC games in the 90s". Anyone who still gets the music from SkyRoads stuck in their head knows what I'm talking about. Composer Bobby Prince kind of gets painted as the bad guy in the article because he never got back to Carmac on finding earlier MIDI versions of the tracks, but there is plenty of helpful info on his computer-game-score-composition-centric blog. His website is helpful too, but I must warn you: it's a bit heavy on the Comic Sans.
The coolest thing about Wolfenstein on iPhone is that "id Classic" logo in the main menu. This paves the way for other classic id Software titles to get released, and John Carmac sounds optimistic about this too. Commander Keen, anyone?


  1. holy crap Commander Keen. I'm sure I still have the orgininal discs somewhere- if you want a copy. Still playable on PC. Not sure about Mac though?

  2. Woah! That made the music from Skyroads come instantly into my head, but then it gradually morphed into the start of 'All Alone'...

  3. Oh yeah! You can listen to them online now too. I think this is the one that sounds like All Alone.
    And Commander Keen: you should be able to run that with DOSbox.

  4. oooh so actually all alone doesnt have an 8-bit feel to it JUST cuz its cool .... or they sound alike by pure coincidence? XD ... i sorta thought the first 5 seconds reminded me of all alone right away but if noone mentionned it maybe not .... O_O;;;

    commander keen ... bwahaha .. (actually there prolly were a shitload of better pc games in those years eheh)