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First post, by MrFlibble

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As I'm getting more and more interested in game-making tools and games created with them, I decided to investigate the German 2.5D first-person engine that was variously known as ACK3D, CubicSpace, ACKNEX and finally 3D GameStudio. I'm primarily interested in games created with early versions of the tool which run under DOS.

It is my understanding that Conitec at some point released the DOS version of the toolkit as a free download, but I cannot find any official source where it says that - the newest free legacy versions they offer now are 6 and 7. I am aware of the actual download link which was mentioned here but do not know where at their site they offer this version. UPD: A link is shown here, this looks like the official wiki.

Those interested in DOS game demos likely know the 1995 demo of SKAPHANDER (e.g. acknex.zip), which was the first commercial title to be created with the ACKNEX engine, and later used as a showcase of the construction kit's capabilities which could be downloaded from the official site. But there are more games and demos beside this, some not readily available as of today.

I found some early ACK3D open source stuff here:
http://ftp.lanet.lv/ftp/mirror/x2ftp/msdos/programming/ack/

This includes the above mentioned SKAPHANDER demo plus a short demonstration game called Station Escape (not to be confused with Space Station Escape made with a different construction kit, Pie in the Sky's 3D Game Creation Studio).

A Wayback Machine snapshot of Conitec website from Dec 1998 suggests there were several official demo scenarios that could be used as a base for custom games:

[…]
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  • Mystic Office demo (3.0 MB)
  • Action game demo (2.4 MB)
  • Role Playing Game demo (3.6 MB, WDL source included)
  • Adventure demo (6.4 MB, WDL source included)

No files have been preserved, but the action game demo is a later demo of SKAPHANDER which I found at a different website in repacked form. The role-playing game demo, adeptus.zip, appears to have been updated and used under the same title as a demo game for later versions of 3DGS. Its sources are included with the free download of ACKNEX 3.

The same page lists the following projects:

* = Appearance (project & site) P = published D = Demo available […]
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* = Appearance (project & site) P = published D = Demo available

Unfortunately most of the links are either dead ends or the downloads were not preserved by the Wayback Machine. Pax Westphalica was a free educational game, the page is there but not the ZIP (called pax.zip).

Now onto the downloads that I have found so far:

  • later demo of SKAPHANDER from Feb 1997: skademo.zip (repacked)
  • engine demo from oP group: opdemo.zip (repacked)
  • sample game by oP group: opd3d.zip
  • interactive model of an exhibition hall: VRMesse
  • Tyrannizer demo: tyran.zip (found on a Secret Service Polish magazine CD)
  • The Varginha Incident demo: download

The oP group download page also has a link to a broken download called sudemo.zip, which from the description appears analogous to the Sutter VRMesse demo, but the world file is not the same. The sudemo.zip archive can be downloaded but it is broken and the world file is damaged.

oP group also worked on a game called Queste which did not have a downloadable demo. But some magazine coverdisks indexed by Hallfiry's catalogue show a demo similar to the opdemo.zip that I mentioned above in folders called QUESTE, but this is in all cases just a fantasy-looking 3D environment/dungeon you can walk around with no real gameplay.

Judging by the page of Virus Explosion (which is SKAPHANDER re-released under a different title) there was a demo too (vexdemo.zip) but the Wayback Machine has not preserved the file. The file size is a bit larger compared to the older SKAPHANDER demos but it is not clear what the actual differences are, if any.

The project referred to as MASSACRE at the ACKNEX site ended up as a free game called World of Kandoria. The author's website it still around but heavily truncated; yet the original zip is still downloadable from http://www firoball de/ download/kandoria.zip (I think the author does not appreciate hotlinking).

Additionally, a demo of Lords of Lightning was found by Hallfiry on a GameStar CD from his collection, however it is not publicly available at the moment. UPD: the files can be apparently grabbed here.

The Taco Bell promotional game Tasty Temple Challenge is available from sources like archive.org. No idea if it was originally sold or downloadable though. Released in 2000, it's still for DOS.

Another source of information comes from a forum discussion. One user posted a list of their ACKNEX archives:

! skademo.zip ! isgame -- Shooter.zip ! ackman_d -- Acknex3 Handbuch.zip ! Verfl. u. Verurt. zum Leben Run.bat ! The World of Ka […]
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! skademo.zip
! isgame -- Shooter.zip
! ackman_d -- Acknex3 Handbuch.zip
! Verfl. u. Verurt. zum Leben Run.bat
! The World of Kandoria -- von firoball.de.URL
! vgtinfd -- Die Infoseite zu den Zeiten von A3.htm
! adeptus--GameStudio-Demo -- gut gemachtes Adventure.zip
! kugel -- ein recht cooles Logik-Game! -- unsicher ob 3DGS-Spiel.zip
! vrmesse--VR-Acknex-Demo Messe-Rundgang Essen (sehr gro�, aber leer).zip
! mdldemo--Polygon-Actor-Demo -- der Ritter, der durch den Dungeon l�uft.zip
! office--GameStudio-Demo-Mystic-Office -- pr�sentiert die beste A3-Grafik!.zip
! opd3--oPgroup-Demo -- gleiche engine wie skademo, statt Waffen B�lle werfen.zip
[krieg ich net zum laufen] [A3] Floriansdorf-Spiel -- von Big Byte Software(A3).zip
!! ll--3DGS-Spiel--TheLordOfLightning -- von Dingens (Speerzone sein n�chstes Proj).zip
[Vollversion auschecken] bruder--iguwnext-GameStudio-SpielDemo -- hab irgendwo Full.EXE
!! The-Varginha-Incident--demo -- relativ gut gemachter Shooter, startet auf Milit�rbasis, oder so.zip
! Street Life 3D Demo 1.0 -- kommerz. Mafia-Spiel -- Fehlerbehebung; vor wwrun.exe Aufruf muss der Pfad stehen!.zip
! Hades2 Demo -- das mit abstand commerziellste und professionellste A3 Spiel (Shooter) -- macht sogar etwas Spa�.exe
! Verfl. u. Verurt. zum Leben -- nur wg. C. Summer (CWR Spiele) behalten -- viel M�he; aber bl�der Untergrund mit Zombies.zip
! The World of Kandoria -- von firoball.de -- kanns zwar starten (mit -dos.exe), aber das Schwert verwenden; wei� ich nicht wie!.zip
[] nfreeze -- sieht nach dem Game aus, dass mir Papa als GS3d-Pr�s. vorgestellt hat -- schlecht und buggy, da es immer abs�tzt (WinXP).zip

It appears that Der Name des Bruders was a freeware game (it says so in the readme) as it was intended to raise awareness of and combat racism, so the download should be legit.

UPD: A few more useful links:
http://www.easyhosting.com:80/viper/acknex.htm
http://www.northlink.com/~hike1/gamestu.htm

UPD2: Working pages of Lord of Lightning, but sadly no downloads:

UPD3: The Mr. Pibb advergame also runs on the ACKNEX engine and is avaliable from the site of Brand Games, the same company that made Tasty Temple Challenge: pibbgame.exe

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Reply 1 of 3, by MrFlibble

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MrFlibble wrote on 2021-04-28, 12:18:

No files have been preserved, but the action game demo is a later demo of SKAPHANDER which I found at a different website in repacked form. The role-playing game demo, adeptus.zip, appears to have been updated and used under the same title as a demo game for later versions of 3DGS. Its sources are included with the free download of ACKNEX 3.

I checked the free releases of A3 and it appears that I was wrong: they only include the SKAPHANDER demo and what looks like the the VRMesse demo with sources, not the Adeptus game. I was only able to run the SKAPHANDER demo with the supplied programme though.

Out of the files preserved via the Wayback Machine at various Conitec addresses I was able to find what appears to be the second revision of Adeptus for A4: adeptus.zip. It contains no binary so I guess it needs the A4 suite to run. It does not work with the A3 DOS WRUN.EXE. There's also a version with installer: adeptus.exe. I have not tried it yet, it seems to have a Win16 installer embedded in Win32 one or something. Unversal Extractor failed to extract the files.

UPD: I was able to install this version using winevdm. It runs in Win8.1 rather fine, there's software mode and two versions of D3D. I think there's a certain charm about the visuals, and I guess back in 2000 this looked even better (pictured is "Good D3D" but software mode isn't much different):
Hg9eJte.png
More screenshots here:
https://imgur.com/a/8JbQGTM

I wonder how much the DOS version differed from this one.

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Reply 2 of 3, by MrFlibble

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MrFlibble wrote on 2021-04-30, 20:31:

I wonder how much the DOS version differed from this one.

I found a screenshot of the original DOS Adeptus in the hundredth issue of the Acknex Users' Magazine:
http://www.coniserver.net/coni_users/web_user … 3d2_4_4_2_2.htm

aum100_a3_adeptus.jpg
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The game was obviously remade from the ground up in the A4 version.

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Reply 3 of 3, by MrFlibble

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Browsing newer snapshots of Conitec's site reveals more games based on non-DOS versions of 3D GameStudio:
http://www.conitec.net/a4links.htm

Also found several more links:

a. Viper Byte, the developers of Tyrannizer, had a newer website here, and later released a game called Winthorp's Mansion based on a Windows version of ACKNEX. It looks like they reworked Tyrannizer into that later game. Their company information page also mentions that they are the team behind Escape POW, a Pie in the Sky 3DGCS game (as Sassy Software).

b. Lutz Hüls' page has two projects: Banana Kong and Dead Man's Island. Both were contest entries for the ACKNEX User Magazine. Downloads are not preserved, but the latter project was mentioned in the forum discussion that I found earlier (as isgame.zip)

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