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The Renovation (1994)


The Adventure Begins.

The Renovation is a collection of my first 60 Wolfenstein levels, assembled into the traditional 6-episode format of 10 levels each. Dating back to 1994, it’s a classic Wolf add-on featuring only new levels, and requiring the full registered version of Wolfenstein to play.

A rudimentary story was developed alongside — for example, episode two sees you fighting Dr. Schabbs’ mutant army in settings such as a mutation hospital, while episode five takes you to an insane asylum where the last vestiges of Schabbs’ maniacal undead have broken loose and are wreaking havoc.

While certainly not groundbreaking, this collection was one of the more “true to the original” add-ons among the first generation. It does, however, suffer from a number of aesthetic failings that I would never repeat today. There are some gems here, and there are also some stinkers. But it’s old-school Wolf fun at some of its former-day best.

Perhaps more than anything else, The Renovation now serves as a window through time, back to the early days of Wolfenstein map-making, when designers were still learning the ropes and emulating id’s design aesthetic. While practically an embarrassment today, I offer these levels as a look back at where it all began.

The Making Of…

Back in 1993, when I was first exposed to Wolfenstein, I was pulled deep into the gameworld that id Software created. The atmosphere, the suspense, the action, the secrets, everything came together perfectly to create the kind of incredible gaming experience that each of us, if we’re lucky, gets to be a part of only once in a long while. Nearly from the start, I wished for a way to create my own dungeons, prisons and secret strongholds — and that wish came true in January of 1994, when I discovered SODedit. I was fourteen years old at the time.

Back then, CompuServe — my ISP — did not allow Mapedit on its forums because that tool was capable of editing the shareware version of Wolfenstein. Then SODedit came along, an editor designed to work only with the commercial-release Spear of Destiny, Wolfenstein’s sequel, and CompuServe accepted it. Excitedly, I set to work. I started like any other Wolfenstein designer probably started back in the nineties: Creating “test” levels, trying out everything, recreating parts of the original game that were especially memorable. Huge treasure rooms; gigantic halls filled with Nazis of every shape and size; secret doors concealing everything from keys to chainguns to the elevator itself. I was like a kid in a candy store.

It was during those initial efforts that The Renovation was born. When Mapedit was adjusted to only edit the registered version of Wolfenstein 3-D, I seized upon it and converted my level set to work with Wolf3D instead. By this time I had created a significant number of levels, and began to shoot for the magic 60 — a total replacement of all levels in the game.

I don’t remember exactly when, but I was eventually contacted by Carlton Griffin, who had a proposition. He was putting together a collection of all the user-created Wolfenstein maps he could find (with the original authors’ approval, of course), packing them into one humongous add-on, and calling it Wolfmaster. Even better, he was in talks with Apogee Software to sell Wolfmaster to them as an upgrade pack that they could then offer to gamers. I got involved with the project, and when all was said and done, my first 60-level level set was included with Wolfmaster as Game C. The Renovation had hit the big time.

Apogee later went on to offer Wolfmaster as part of their Wolfenstein Super Upgrades disk in 1995.

Untold Secrets.

  • As the deadline for Wolfmaster’s release neared, I found myself cobbling together the last few levels I needed in a panic. So pressed for time was I, that I included the very first level I’d ever made — a dud of a map that was essentially a series of treasure rooms, pushwalls and non-sequiturs. You can see it on episode six, floor five.
  • At one point, I was told by Carlton that if I managed to submit 120 levels, my project would be listed as “Game A” — first, in other words — because it would have the most levels in the package. Blinded by the prospect of fame and fortune, I attempted to reach that goal, but fell significantly short and submitted only my original 60. Some of the extra levels I had created eventually found their way into my next project, Conflict in the Fatherland.