As has been documented elsewhere on this blog, I worked for Apogee/3D Realms for almost 17 years in the 90’s and 2000’s. I did several things there, but one of the things I did in my earliest days was handle phone support. Back then (which was late 1992/early 1993) we would FREQUENTLY get people who would call up and say “AARDWOLF!” AARDWOLF!” Over the years I’ve told the story several times of what the Aardwolf thing was with Apogee, but I don’t think I ever put it down in blog form before, so here goes….
May 5, 1992. That was a legendary date in videogaming history. The shareware version of Wolfenstein 3D was released. It changed everything, even moreso than Doom did about 18 months after that. Nothing was like Wolfenstein 3D before this. Changed my life – I ended up working for Apogee because of this game, but again, that’s not what this blog entry is about.
It was decided during the development of the game that they would give away a prize that would be well hidden inside the registered version of the game. To that, they hid the sign that said “Call Apogee and Say Aardwolf” inside a stupidly complicated maze in Episode 2 Level 8 of the full version of the game. The idea was that the first person to actually make it through there would see the sign, call us and say “Aardwolf” would win. The prize was going to be a registered version of every Apogee game “for life”.
Then shortly after the shareware game came out, the rise of the game editor happened. Back then in 1992, we didn’t have all the tools we have had for the last 20 years or so which let you break down a game into it’s component parts. It was during this time that we realized that having a contest to find a well hidden graphic was pointless when the ability to break down a game’s files and see all the images was possible. There was no point. So the game was released, but the contest was (internally) canceled. Given the contest was never publicly announced, there was no cancellation announcement – just an internal “Well, we’re not doing that now” type thing.
The Aardwolf sign remained in the game’s data files, however. Which caused us in tech support much consternation, because people would constantly call up and ask us that. Even towards the end of my time there in 2009, we’d get the odd call when someone would say “Aardwolf”. Never understood that logic. Like after 17 years they’d be the first person to find that. :)
The maze that was constructed was a bloody nightmare. Tom Hall was the one that put it together, and it’s a giant maze that takes up almost 50% of the entire map grid, and it all looked the same once you got inside it. All the rooms looked identical, and a path to get through it to find the Aardwolf sign was a bloody pain in the backside to follow, even if you had a map of it. Many moons ago, I took a copy of the strategy guide, and hand drew a map to the Aardwolf sign. I used to fax it out (yeah, we did tech support via fax), and mail it to people who would ask or inquire about it. Here’s a scan of that original work I did back in the early 90’s. Click on it for a giant version of the pic.
One other thing that we had to field a lot of complaints about was the fact that the Aardwolf maze meant that you could not get the 100% secrets bonus in the game there. It was truly impossible to push all the walls in there – I tried once. Some of them would push in front of other walls, which then meant you couldn’t then get all of them. We had a couple of shall we say “overly anal” people who were pissed off and wanted their money back because they couldn’t get 100% secrets in that level.
I always wished the Aardwolf sign was taken out of the game, as those of us in tech back then (myself, Steve Quarrella, Lee Jackson, & Kevin Green – Later Bryan Turner too) would field the brunt of that stuff. It actually was taken out of later versions of the game. I know it wasn’t in the Super Nintendo version. Later on when it was published in retail by Activision (Apogee was (and remains to this day under 3D Realms name) the publisher of that game in shareware), it was taken out. While I’ve never looked, I would have to imagine the Xbox LIVE version of the game had the image taken out.
In the earliest versions of the Wolfenstein betas, the sign used to say something different. It used to say “Call Apogee & Say Snappity”. The reason for snappity was.. Well, it’s silly. I’ll let Tom Hall elaborate..
“Might have been a reference to testing and killing enemies? Either SNAP SNAP SNAPPITY like BRAP BRAPP BRAPPPP! of the Chain Gun. Or “SNAPPITY goes the spine” when the guard flies in the air or something. I thiiiink. Orrrr it was just semi-rhyming: CALL APOGEE! SAY SNAPPITY!”
But as we know, it didn’t end up that way. Before being released, the graphic was changed from Snappity to Aardwolf.
Why Aardwolf? According to Tom Hall, “it started with me finding interesting things in the NeXT dictionary.” Back then the id guys were doing their heavy lifting on the NeXT computer, the company that Steve Jobs founded after being fired from Apple (that was eventually bought by Apple, bringing Jobs back). John Romero sent me a picture of the original aardwolf from the NeXT dictionary. The one that started this all off.
Finally, there was this guy, which is a scan of a picture we had hanging in Tech Support for a number of years. Was on Steve Quarrella’s desk for awhile as I recall. It was in my photo archives as “aardwolf.jpg”. Why we had it originally? Lost to time. :)
Please don’t call us about Aardwolf anymore. The contest was closed before starting, and there’s no prize to get. Even if the contest hadn’t been canceled, I THINK someone would have called in by now in the 24 years since the game came out.
Also, in a somewhat related issue, letters were shown after the highest score in the score table in some revisions of the game. These letters were to be part of another contest that got scrapped before it got started, where we were going to have people call in with their scores and tell us the code; we’d then be able to verify their score. However, with the cheat programs out there, this got scrapped too.
Finally, I found this on Youtube. It’s a video showing someone going through the maze and finding the sign. The real fun in the video starts at 4:39. The earlier part of the video shows him finishing the main part of the level. The guy playing here finds the sign at 9:21 – so that’s almost 5 solid minutes of pushing pushwalls (and that is with him obviously knowing where he’s going). Check it out:
I re-read this article in early March 2020, and something occurred to me after watching bits of the Youtube video above. Did Tom Hall actually finish the map he created? So I asked him on Twitter. Here is the (short) conversation.
Yes, multiple times. Eventually yeah I had the muscle memory to do it. That quickly went away afterward though! (And it was in the flood of tons of levels we did in a short time.)— • 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚘𝚖 𝚑𝚊𝚕𝚕 • ✪ (@ThatTomHall) March 7, 2020