A) BCW is a computer game, originally written in 1985 by Silas Warner and released by Muse software. click here for more information from mobygames.
BCW is the follow-on to the game Castle Wolfenstein, released a year earlier. These 2 games directly influenced the authors of
Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM (among others), who fathered an entire genre of 1st person shooter games.
BCW is also historically significant as it is one of the first games to feature digitized sound samples played through the PC speaker. (years before soundcards existed)
Q) OK, so BCW is a cool old game, what's with the project?
A) As originally released, the game was distributed on 5.25" floppy disks only. At the time, the IBM PC's and XT's that it was marketed for
all had 5.25" drives and ran at 4.77MHz. Nowadays, the 5.25" drive is all but extinct and modern computers run so fast that this game is
completely unplayable. The BCW project was started to move the game off diskette, speed adjust the game for use on any computer, and release it into the public domain.
The only way to make the required changes to the original game is to obtain the source code, modify it, and re-compile it.
The only way to get the source code is to reverse engineer the compiled executable off the floppy diskette.
This is *not* a remake of the game; it's the original source code, with a few minor tweaks to help it run properly on modern PCs.
Q) Why not just emulate it?
A) While the future place for these floppy based games is certainly based in an emulation-preservation nature, restoring the source code allows for modifications to the game itself which would be impossible under emulation.
Now that the source code is available, the game can also be retro-fitted to work on platforms that can't run emulators, such as 80386s for example.
Releasing the source code also allows for an additional level of historical preservation, plus it allows tinkerers and the curious a peek inside a very popular game.
Q) Do you have the rights to distribute this game?
A) Hopefully! Silas Warner's wife has granted permission to release the source code and game executables as a small memorial of his work.
id Software owns the name "Wolfenstein", but not this particular piece of work. id's legal department has been notified of this project, and so far, have not
stepped in to shut it down. Sometimes it's easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.
Hopefully anyone who sees the effort involved in returning this piece of software to the modern world will see that it was done as a labor of love, not as a way to line pocketbooks.
In October of 2003, congress passed 4 clauses to the DMCA which allow for reverse engineering software.
Specifically "3. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access.
...The register has concluded that to the extent that libraries and archives wish to make preservation copies of published software and videogames that were distributed in formats that are (either because the physical medium on which they were distributed is no longer in use or because the use of an obsolete operating system is required), such activity is a noninfringing use covered by section 108(c) of the Copyright Act."
While not specifically stated in the clause that reverse engineering an entire program is acceptable, I (in my opinion) feel that in this situation (the entire game is unplayable on modern hardware) that it could easily be extended.
I do not have the research abilities to find a ruling that will confirm or deny my belief. I'll will gladly revise this section if I am proven otherwise.
For more information on the DMCA clauses, see this pdf file.
Q) What is the source code like?
A) The source code is in 8086 Assembly. Since the game was released on multiple platforms, the source could very well be a conversion from a different platform.
At best, the code is a nightmare to negotiate, and I can only hope it was a product of cross assembler or some kind of conversion, rather than being coded intentionally in the mannor that it is.
The downloadable source from this website is only fractionally commented and there are large sections of myterious code. Luckily not all of the code has to be understood to reproduce the original game!
Q) How long has it taken to convert the bootable disk back to source code?
A) I started this project in the summer of 2003, worked on it on and off, then got busy with other things.
After hearing about Silas Warner's untimely death, I had renewed interest in finishing it. Overall, it probably took close to 6 months of spare time to get to a releasable stage, probably about 150 hours total.
Q) Would you work on game XYZ for me?
A) Maybe. I am looking for other projects to work on. Contact me.