Wolf17 - DOS modding without editing the source code.

Written by Profile picture for user Zombie Zombie. Published Saturday, August 7, 2021 - 13:58

How do you allow a person to modify normally hardcoded features without having to edit the source code itself?

DieHard Wolfers member by the name of Dugtrio17 attempted to answer this all the way back in 2005 with a project called Wolf17.

Using a special editor, Wolf17 gave designers access to several variables within the game:

  • Weapon frames, and the amount of damage each weapon does.
  • Maximum health and ammo and how much ammo the player starts with.
  • Most aspects of enemies (health, damage, speed, kill score, etc)

When options were edited using the program, a GAME.WL6 file was created with the new or changed information. A special variation of the Wolf3D.exe was included, which was specially designed to read this new file and react to it's changes.
Should the new file not exist yet, the Wolf17.exe (as it is named in the project) will just play Wolfenstein 3D or the mod project at default settings.

The editable features are fairly simple in the grand scheme of Wolf3D modding nowadays, but many mods are made that only need these entry-level changes.

Initial plans for the project were for it to be open source, with modification and hex editing being actively encouraged. There were also plans to eventually expand the list of editable features, but unfortunately as Dugtrio17’s goals with the project took him in other directions, Wolf17 unfortunately got sidelined and shelved.

Shortly after this project, the Wolf4GW and Wolf4SDL ports of the Wolf3D engine were released. With their advancements, a lot of modders switched over, sadly leaving a lot of ideas on DOS behind. However, the philosophies of the project still hold up today, as seen in things like ECWolf and MacenWolf that incorporate a level of scripting over the game, without the need to further edit the source code.

Thanks to the archiving efforts of people like Nexion, Wolf17's source code still exists, and if you fancy a project, you could try porting Wolf17 to Wolf4SDL, or try adding more features to it!

Wolf17 is still available for download, requiring the base game files to run. So you could even make your own Wolf17 mod, if you're looking for something niche.