Home > 3D graphics, Computer history > Is it worth disputing the title of “first 3D game on a PC” to John Carmack?

Is it worth disputing the title of “first 3D game on a PC” to John Carmack?

Recently, someone posted a comment on “The Dawn of 3D Games” which I suppose disputed the vaguely stated claim that I wrote the first 3D game for a PC. So I felt like I had to reply and give my point of view on exactly why me, myself and I alone consider that Alpha Waves was a small milestone in the history of 3D gaming.

In reality, there is in my opinion not a single “first 3D game on a PC”, but for a given definition of what a 3D game is, you have a first one that matched these criteria. And for a set of criteria that seems to be relatively reasonable to me (like: it has to be a game, it has to run on some kind of PC or microcomputer, it has to be true 6-axis 3D on a reasonable portion of the screen, and you need some kind of immersion and interaction with a large number of objects), Alpha Waves may very well be the very first. Change a tiny bit in the definition, and some other game gets the crown. So let’s put it that way: Alpha Waves was innovative, and that’s my personal favorite for the title, for obvious reasons.

All that doesn’t matter much, except that in my attempt at documenting this bit of useless ancient geek history, I visited the id Software web site, and I was surprised to see that there’s still the following on their web site:

The first 3D PC game ever! Hovertank 3D debuted the amazing technology that was used to usher in the First Person Shooter genre with Wonfenstein 3D.

Is this a boiled frog approach to marketing? Just by leaving patently wrong stuff on the web site long enough, folks will stop noticing and end up thinking it’s true?

Come on, John! I hesitate writing that about Alpha Waves, when it predated Hovertank by a good year and had a significantly better 3D rendering (if only because it had three axis of rotation). And Alpha Waves is by no mean alone, there are easily half a dozen games predating Hovertank and offering better 3D. You are a celebrity in the world of video games. With all the credit that is due, why do you need to keep this little lie on your web site?

Why does it matter? Precisely because you are a celebrity, so everything you say has a huge impact, including minute details of wording in a long-forgotten corner of an old web site you probably don’t even remember existed. Nonetheless, just fix it. Simply write something like “The first id game ever.” That would do just fine. And that claim is a significant milestone in its own right. Probably a bigger one than “first 3D game on the PC”, as far as the gaming industry is concerned…

And if you feel concerned about your personal place in history, I’m sure Armadillo Aerospace will take care of that.

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  1. starwindz
    February 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm | #1

    I am a 42 years old-amateur programmer and recently studying SDL and OpenGL for making some 3D-game for my personal hobby. Regarding the great game, Alpha-Waves, I had played Alpha-Waves 23 years ago and I have thought the programmer is a true genius and and great computer game artist!

    Today I have found the Alpha-Waves sourceforge site by chance and downloaded the source code written for X11.(I do not know X11 programming.) I would like to study and understand the source code for making SDL-OpenGL remake version of Alpha-Waves as a freeware and non-commercial version. For this I think that your permission is needed. If yes, I think that some more information, data and your advices as are needed for this. Could you please help me?

    • February 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm | #2

      Hi, You are obviously free to start with the open-source program. The original source code with French comments is here: http://cc3d.free.fr/cube.s. The complete source code with support files and stuff is here: http://cc3d.free.fr/Alpha-Waves.zip. Unfortunately, a lot of it is designed to run in GFA Basic, which makes it a bit hard to use today.

      As for having time to answer questions, I will do that on this forum if / when I have time. But please understand that I also have http://www.taodyne.com to take care of, and that makes me a bit too busy for my taste. So my apologies in advance if I take my time ;-)

  2. starwindz
    February 9, 2013 at 1:45 am | #3

    Thank you very much for your reply. Yes, I will start with open-source program based on the sourceforge code. Regarding the original GFA Basic and assembly code, it looks hard to use directly for this project. but I will check it out. Thank you for providing me the original source code of this legendary computer game masterpiece, Alpha-Waves.

    Regarding the sourceforge code, I have some questions. I need your help. :)
    1. About the source codes(X11 version) in the sourceforge, any kind of additional data files are required to run properly on X11?
    2. Despite of my little knowledge about X11, I am trying to compile the sourceforge code under Cygwin environment. But many error messages were displayed when ‘make’ command entered(http://www.mediafire.com/view/?nut1uq1t63v7qip). How can I compile the X11 code propery? (Before ‘make’ command entered, I have changed the file name of ‘Makefile.config.linux’ to ‘Makefile.config’)
    3. X11 version of Alpha-Waves were fully converted from the original version?

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