Dangerous Dave in The Deserted Pirate’s Hideout!

Platform: Apple II, DOS, ProDOS

Year: 1988

Once upon a time, back in 1988, I co-founded my second game company: Inside-Out Software in Londonderry, NH. I had just left Origin Systems to start up this new company and my first project was the Commodore 64 version of Might & Magic II by Jon Van Caneghem (New World Computing). While doing this port, I was still pursuing my freelance coding/writing hobby after work, which at that point was a series of articles for UpTime (an Apple II monthly disk magazine headed up by my friend Jay Wilbur). The final third installment of my GraBASIC series was my current project and for each installment I published one of the supporting utilities for the language add-on and an example game that used GraBASIC. The game for this installment was Dangerous Dave.

I don’t remember where I got the idea for Dangerous Dave other than I was heavily influenced by the seminal Super Mario Bros. NES game, so that may be where it came from. The name was chosen randomly, but carefully so as to be alliterative in keeping with my eclectic naming convention! It took a month or so to create Dangerous Dave and then it was off to Jay for mastering. Jay and I had been friends for about 2 years by this time and I was busy supplying UpTime with a bunch of material — mostly all games.

Dangerous Dave

Platform: PC, DOS

Year: 1990

Time passes and I’m at Softdisk in 1990 and have my own game department, Gamer’s Edge.

We hired John Carmack to be my programming partner (we didn’t have Adrian in our group yet) and we needed to get two games onto the first Gamer’s Edge disk, which was a bi-monthly. Yes, we needed to generate a game every two months, but for the first disk we needed to put two games on it to entice people to subscribe. And we had only one month for this first disk due to scheduling screw ups!

So, I ported the Apple II version of Dangerous Dave to the PC for one of the debut disk’s games. The other game on the debut disk was John Carmack’s Catacomb, which he also ported over from his Apple II version (which was John’s first game he wrote at Softdisk). I never thought of doing a sequel to Dangerous Dave… to me it was basically a one-off game like just about all my previous ones. Little did I know…

Very little-known fact: the fire with the word “Dangerous Dave” in it that you see on the main screen of the PC version was totally lifted from Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny on the Apple II. Basically, I thought that fire animation was really cool so I just pressed reset during Ultima V’s main menu and rebooted to a clean disk and saved out the 2nd Apple II Hi-Res screen that had all the animations on it. Move it to the PC from the Apple II, touch it up a little and voila!

Dangerous Dave GS

Platform: Apple //gs, ProDOS

Year: 1990

The Dangerous Dave GS project was started by Tom Hall and it was basically going to be a port of my PC version of Dangerous Dave over to the Apple //gs. Tom actually got all the graphics over to the GS, but didn’t have the time to finish the project. I’m not sure if anything exists to this day, but it’s doubtful.

Dangerous Dave in “Copyright Infringement”

Platform: PC, DOS

Year: 1990

Late one night at Softdisk in September 1990, John Carmack was up working late on his new side-scrolling EGA engine and was close to figuring out the panning registers (thanks to Michael Abrash’s Power Graphics Programming book). I had gone home for the evening already, but Tom Hall was still working in the Apple II department. Tom came over to see what John was working on and when he saw that John finally had the smooth scrolling engine working, they were both really excited!

They wanted to do something to blow me away, so Tom looked over at the Nintendo that was running Super Mario Bros. 3 and said, “You know, we could make the first level of SMB3!” Carmack said, “Okay, let’s do it” and so they commenced to spend the next 6 hours or so banging out the graphics, game map and programming for a little demo Tom titled Dangerous Dave in “Copyright Infringement” (meaning that they ripped off SM3, so it was copyright infringement!) So Tom didn’t have to draw all the walking and jumping frames of a Mario character, he just took my Dangerous Dave graphics (from the PC EGA version) to speed along the process.

Tom and John finished up the demo at 5am and put it on a 3 1/4 floppy that they propped up on my keyboard that said “Run me” on it. When I rolled into the office the next day, I saw the disk and put it in the drive. Interestingly, the EXE file was named DAVE2.EXE (which would be the EXE name for Dave’s upcoming sequel!). I ran the file and started moving around. The second the entire EGA screen smoothly panned left was the second that my entire reality was shattered. I was completely and utterly blown away. My brain was ruined, wiped out.

I couldn’t work for the next 3 hours. It was just amazing. I knew the games available on the PC very well by this point (1990) and NO ONE had ever created a Mario-style smooth-scrolling game on the PC. This was the first one — right here in front of me. I was thunderstruck because I knew what we had. We had our ticket out.

By the time John and Tom came into work, some of the people at Softdisk had already seen the demo because I was showing it around to my friends there. Some of them were not terribly impressed, but it’s because they didn’t SEE what I saw — the future. When I got back into my office with John there, I was just gushing. Jay happened by and heard me telling John and Tom and Lane (Roathe) that this was it — this was our ticket outta here. Jay laughed and I said, “I’m serious.” Jay then closed the door and I went into more detail.

That was the beginning of id Software, right there that day, in that room, with John, Tom, Jay, Lane and myself talking about what was going to happen next. It was September 21, 1990 and our world was about to change. Many things happened shortly after that demo, but that has been covered extensively in the book Masters of Doom.

Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion

Platform: PC, DOS

Year: 1991

On February 1, 1991, id Software was officially, legally born. At the beginning, we were doing games for Softdisk since we kinda left them in a bad spot after leaving so soon after starting the Gamer’s Edge disk. To compensate for their loss, we continued to crank out the bi-monthly games and decided to do a sequel to Dangerous Davecalled Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion. This was the first game we wrote that had a shotgun in it!

This was a really fun game to make. John upgraded the Shadow Knights engine that he created while we were at Softdisk and added smoother character movement code. We gave Dave a shotgun (that auto-loads only when he’s standing still) and filled a huge mansion with tons of creatures — all trying to stop Dave on his quest to rescue his brother Delbert! Some might say this game helped spark the idea to do Redneck Rampage

Tom came up with a great game design that had some mini-innovations like closets that open with loot in them. Aiming in 8 directions was a nice upgrade and not having to deal with ammo was definitely a new twist. Grinding out 16 levels in 2 months was a herculean feat complete with all the art, animations, AI, and boss code. And on top of it all are plenty of secret areas.

We knocked this game out in a little under 2 months. There’s a ton of levels and monsters in it and it’s really great fun — it has my vote for the best Dave ever created. And it’s also the LAST Dangerous Dave that id Software or myself have created, in fact. If you’re curious, you should click on the link to Softdisk’s online store at the bottom of the page and download it (it’s only $10)…. it’s a real (shotgun) blast!

The game was so good that it’s been thoroughly dissected by a couple different coders and discussed in-depth. Here’s a link to the first one by a person who calls himself gawd at gawd’s museum of dissected games. You can find the DD2 link on the front page. Another great guy is Frenkel Smeijers and he’s gone deep into a lot of my games.  Check out his awesome site

Double Dangerous Dave

Platform: Apple II, ProDOS

Year: 1991

Just after creating Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, I created a special version of Dangerous Dave for Softdisk’s Apple II product — Double Dangerous Dave! The main difference between the original Apple II version and this one was the fact that it was in double-res (16-color mode) on the Apple II, which was a pretty difficult feat of programming back then, and it used the same levels as the PC version I did the year before. 

Also, it was the subject of a coding contest between Carmack and me; a contest that John won, of course. (The contest was to see who could code a game in the fastest time possible. John was working on a double-res version of Catacomb, I believe.) Softdisk decided to rename the game to just Dangerous Dave for some reason, even though the previous Apple II version had the same name.

Dangerous Dave Returns

Platform: Apple II, ProDOS

Year: 1992

In 1992, Softdisk decided to use my Double Dangerous Dave game, make new levels, then call it Dangerous Dave Returns and release it for the Apple II disk. The levels were done by Jay Jennings, an old-time Apple II programmer.

I emailed Jay and asked him if he would elaborate on the story of how this game came to be. I’m still waiting on the story so I can post it here. Maybe you can ask him as well – he has a website at JayJennings.com

Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue

Platform: PC, DOS

Year: 1993

After a year of fulfilling our end of the Gamer’s Edge agreement with Softdisk, we were finally off doing our own thing with no more ties to Softdisk. But Softdisk considered my Dangerous Dave character to be a valuable asset, so they had two more sequels made in the ensuing years (using the Keen Dreams engine, I believe): Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue and Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz!

In the credits list of Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue, Greg Malone was the designer and producer. That means the creator of the classic Apple II games Minit ManMoebius, and Windwalkerworked on a sequel to my games! Strange how the world works

Dave Goes Nutz!

Platform: PC, DOS

Year: 1993

In the credits list of Dave Goes Nutz!, Stephen Vekovius did all level design. Stephen is the son of the founder of Softdisk, Al Vekovius. Stephen is now a doctor of medicine. And Judy Mangham tested the game before mastering it. Judy is the ex-wife of Softdisk founder Jim Mangham. The project manager, Sean Golden, used to be the managing editor of Softdisk’s Macintosh monthly disk

Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz!

Platform: Apple II, ProDOS

Year: 1995

It seemed that after 1993, Dave was dead. But, no! In January 2011, I learned that he was resurrected in 1995 (on the Apple II no less) by Peter Rokitski for the Apple II version of Dave Goes Nutz. Peter used the Double Dangerous Dave engine and made new levels for it to fit the PC Dave Goes Nutz story. It seems fitting that Dave was born on the Apple II and ended on the Apple II almost a decade later.

Ten versions of Dangerous Dave….. wow. Brings a tear to my eye, thinkin’ about the little fella. Is this the end of the Dangerous Dave saga?

I think not! 

You can still purchase the last three Dangerous Dave games through Softdisk’s Online Store (click on Games) or get it at the Virtual Software Store, as well as some of the other games we did for Softdisk back in 1991. So, in summary, here are all the Dangerous Dave games created thus far:

  • Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate’s Hideout, 1988, Apple II, 6-color, UpTime
  • Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement, 1990, PC, EGA, non-published
  • Dangerous Dave, 1990, PC (CGA, EGA, VGA), Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave GS, 1990, Apple //gs, never completed
  • Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion, 1991, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Double Dangerous Dave, 1991, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave Returns, 1992, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave’s Risky Rescue, 1993, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Dave Goes Nutz!,1993, PC, EGA, Softdisk
  • Dangerous Dave Goes Nutz!,1995, Apple II, 16-color, Softdisk
I enjoy listening to the stories about the “old days” when you and the old id crew were making your way through the games and building all the pop culture that we have witnessed over the years. How much love you put into those releases and the effort you made to make them fun is impressive.

The side scrolling adventure games amuse many of the guys like us who came from that era. Back then we had the design and the vision that the fun would be paramount. Rare companies (and people) had that talent to translate those to the 3D era. I live in South America and when those releases reached us we were all very excited. I remember when the console games were very powerful compared to the PC. When that scenario started to change due to pioneers like you and id, we all had to celebrate. It was all true… the vision you had. Your ambitions to create the games that nobody dreamed at that time were possible. Time gave you the tools to forge the unbelievable.

I remember having a good time playing “Raptor: Call of the Shadows” and “Test Drive: The Duel”. Two great pieces of Software as well on the PC. But as we can see time passes and technology shows new ways of excitement. When 3D came to replace the scrolling Adventures (and Adventure games in general) stayed behind. I guess that we can always rekindle our memories. Keep playing those games and never let them die. Also take some time to listen to inside stories of how everything came to be through guys like you. And only wait to see what the future holds for us.
— Julio
I’ve always been a big fan of Doom and Quake. After researching Romero and the gang more, I discovered the Dangerous Dave series. My favorite one is Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion. The action is awesome and very challenging. The bodies stay on the floor and it’s got a shotgun! The zombie killing fun still holds up after all these years.
— Mercurius FM
Hi John. Growing up with a PC-XT in the late eighties, I’ve played pretty much all the DOS games there were. Dangerous Dave was without a doubt one of the best, especially when all you had was 640kb RAM and a 360 kb DSDD floppy drive! I played DDave regularly for months until every nook and cranny was known. I played it to set my own time records. I played it to find out bugs and freezes tongue. In hindsight, D Dave, along with perhaps Gunship (from Microprose), ROTT and Duke Nukem 3D were the most influential games I ever played. A very, very belated thank you! Sadly, today’s game programmers, I feel, simply do not value conserving system resources and most games published now are bloatware at best. It’s wonderful and humbling to realise how much enjoyment a game like DDave could bring for its time.
— Kumar
Hello John,
I want you to develop this game for Android phones and iPhone.
— Ajoy
Hey John Romero, I’d like to say that Dangerous Dave (the first one) was probably the first game I have ever played in my life. I remember playing it when I was like 4 or 5 years old. It is a game that even after beating up so many times, I still love and I still play . Thank you so much for creating it!!
— Victor
I’m from Algeria and I was addicted to playing this game when i was young, but i never beat it. I remember an old lady played it and won – she always laughed at me when i lost!

John, it’s an awesome game. What i need now is to download it :) :D
— Ucif
When I was about 5-6 years old I was put into a hospital where there was this DOS machine running several DOS games including Dave2 and Shadow Knights. (it might be first time I ever played a PC game) and, well, I was amazed and terrified of Dave2. The machine running Dave2 had a physical key lock probably so nurses could lock up the machine. We thought if you put a key into the PC, it will teleport you into a secret level :P
To this day I didn’t manage to beat Dave2 because I am still terrified from childhood and I always turn off the game after the first level. Definitely one of the best games and one of first games I ever played.
— Paul H.
Oh! I and my family played Dave a lot. My wife and my 3 kids and I were fan of this game. It was amazing. I am still surprise how a multilevel game is written in just 76 KB. I and my kid now 20 play it using dosbox.
We love the developer of this tiny wonder. And want to know how this could be developed so small...
— M Waqar Hasan Khan Khan

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