Standard Galactic Alphabet
here, this is an alphabet that was created for the Keen games.
As you play through the games, you'll see messages written all over the
walls in this language. This translation you see here appears in
two levels in the series. This particular image is from the
secret level in Episode 6, and there is another translation in the
secret level in Episode 3. Actually, Tom Hall used to have a
piece of paper hanging on his wall with the SGA on it - if you want
to, you can see a scan of that paper here!
Tom's picture actually has a character that doesn't appear in either
of the in game translations. One other thing about the SGA that
Tom Hall recounted for this article...
"Big secret: now it can be revealed! There is actually a filthy word
somewhere in Keen 1-3, spelled in the Standard Galactic Alphabet, made of
yellow platforms inside a field of red platforms. I won't say where, but
the dedicated can find it... :) Hee!"
Also, there's much larger uses of SGA,
too. At the end of Keen 5, Billy Blaze runs into a message
left on the desk of McMire, and it was up to you to translate it to
find out what happens next in the storyline! Check
it out. Also, you can download a
Windows TTF font of the Standard Galactic Alphabet. We're not
sure who originally made it, but it's pretty cool! :)
The Fight For Justice
in 1990, when Keen 3 was put out, it contained the genesis of an idea
that would manifest itself many years later, and that was Quake.
In the previews area in Keen 3 is the text below, which describes what
the original game concept for Quake was. The game changed,
obviously, but the idea had been planted long ago. Check it out!
COMING SOON FROM ID
As our follow-up to the
Commander Keen trilogy, id Software is working on 'The Fight for
Justice', a completely new approach to fantasy gaming. You start not
as a weakling with no food--you start as Quake, the strongest, most
dangerous person on the continent. You start off with a Hammer of
Thunderbolts, a Ring of Regeneration, and a trans-dimensional
artifact. Here the fun begins. You fight for Justice, a secret
organization devoted to vanquishing evil from the land! This is
And you don't chunk around
the screen. 'The Fight for Justice' contains fully animated
scrolling backgrounds. All the people you meet have their own lives,
personalities, and objectives. A 256-color VGA version will be
available (smooth scrolling 256-color screens --fancy that)!
And the depth of play will be
intense. No more "whack whack here's some gold." There
will be interesting puzzles and decisions won't be
"yes/no" but complex correlations of people and events.
'The Fight for Justice' will be the finest PC game yet.
of the more amusing cute things in the game comes in the Keen 4 level
"Pyramid of the Moons". Normally, when you do nothing
in the game, Keen will stand there, look at you, shrug his shoulders,
and then sit down and read a book (as is seen here). However, in
the Pyramid of the Moons level, if you stand on any of the crescent
moons that are on the floor, and do nothing - you get something a
little different the first time Keen gets bored with you. You
can check out this moon view to your right by hovering your mouse over
the picture. :)
4-6 also had a built in game - you could play Pong in the game
menus. The storyline said something about Keen being bored
during spaceflight and creating Paddle War for him to play. It's
a pretty interesting add-on, even if the AI for the machine is pretty
easy to fool. :)
id did Keen Dreams for Softdisk, they had musician Bobby Prince create
some music for it. He created a tune called "Eat your
Vegetables" - it fit in with the food related theme of Keen
Dreams. However, Softdisk didn't want to use it, as it would
have made the game not fit on a 360k disk (huge stuff in those
days). Anyway, the lyrics to "Eat Your Veggies" appear
over on the Dopefish Home Page. If you check out the
lyrics page, you can read the lyrics, as well as download a Real
Video file of Bobby Prince singing the lyrics!
some lyrics have turned up for the theme song for Keen 6, "Aliens
Ate My Babysitter". Check 'em out:
Aliens ate my babysitter
Ate her right down to her toes
Worse, they still look hungry
And are trying now to bite off my nose.
My babysitter might have deserved it
Of that, a Judge I'll not be
But I am a different story
The Universe dies without me!"
During the break part of the song, Keen does some rap:
My name is Keen
A fighting machine
Helmet on head (except when in bed)
A pogo for height
A ray gun for might
The Bacon 'n Bean's my flying machine
I never fear whenever I'm near some critter from space
Who's not in his place I'll leave them to feed on whatever they need
I'll fill them with lead after they're fed
My Mom and my Dad don't know I'm this BAD
But when my story's told
All kids will be bold.
to Bobby Prince for these things)
More Cool Stuff
section will be updated from time to time to add more cool things in
the Keen games. Got an idea for something cool from the Keen
us an email.
The popularity of Keen has shown up in
other games, too. Keen has been referenced and appears as a
cameo in a few games, some from Apogee, some from others.
In Paganitzu, Keen's helmet makes an appearance in a hidden area.
in Paganitzu, a Yorp appears in an Episode 2 level.
the "Trash Dump" level of Bio Menace Episode 2, Keen
appears as one of the hostages you need to rescue. Check out this
picture of it.
in Bio Menace, there is a secret room called "The Apogee
Room" where artifacts from a few of our games are in.
There's various objects from Keen in here, such as Yorps, Boobus
Bombs, along with other items from Duke Nukem & Bio Menace.
Commander Keen's helmet made an apperance in a level of Crystal Caves.
Dr. Proton mentions Commander Keen in the first episode of Duke Nukem.
Check it out.
kids game Pickle Wars has several references to Commander Keen in
Apogee game Secret Agent refers to Commander Keen's Teddy
out this picture of it.
old Epic Games "Jill of the Jungle" game has a 'swipe'
at Commander Keen in it. Probably the least cool of the
Keen makes numerous appearances in the default high score tables
in several Apogee games.
four Keens made an appearance in a secret level of id's Doom II.
You can kill the Keens - in fact, you have to in order to get out of
the level. Some have said this was id's final statement on Keen
- that they never intend on doing anything with it ever again.
you have screen captures of the ones above that don't have a picture? If so,
let us know - we'll be
updating this section with screen captures as we get them.
The Commander Keen universe came from the
mind of Tom Hall. People wonder what Tom Hall goes through to
come up with all this goofball stuff that has appeared in the Keen
games. Well, Tom had a lot to say about the creation of
Keen. Check it out:
think the things that influenced me were numerous. There was Chuck
Jones' "Duck Dodgers in the 24-1/2 Century". And a short
story called something like "A Study of the Worp
Reaction", in which an autistic kid goes out to the junkyard
behind his parent's house, and keeps bringing back pieces of stuff,
each seemingly perfectly fitting with each other. One day he gets up
on top of the pile of garbage, gets inside it. It rises off the
ground, with a glow underneath, then settles to the ground. Then he
slowly takes it apart day-by-day. That was cool. The
"Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket" comes from a George Carlin
routine about instead of deodorant, people could put bay leaves
under each arm-doesn't stop the sweating, but you smell like soup.
Someone smells a soup smell, and the other person goes, "No,
I'm 'Bean-with-Bacon'." Obscure reference, to be sure.
The style of the paragraph was based on the 30s and 40s serial
shorts, like Buck Rogers. Keen grew more and more a combination of
my childhood, and Chuck Jones' amazing visual style.
Keen was basically me as a kid.
Not that I had an IQ of 314, but I was sorta one of the smart 'n'
geeky kids, and kinda ostracized because of that. So I drew a lot,
wrote stories and stuff, and sort of escaped into science fiction,
into my own little worlds. Keen is sort of who I wanted to be as a
kid: brave, not scared. Confident, not awkward. And he wears what I
wore and had as a kid: red Converse hi-tops, jeans, Packers
helmet...except his shirt was purple, 'cause that was the color left
over in EGA. The Packers helmet was a Christmas present from my
folks. In Keen, it was his brother's Christmas helmet, 'cause my
older brother was much older (11 years), so I looked up to him, emulated
him. Of course, now grown up, I realize what a goon he was...
(Kidding, Bob! No, I'm not. Yes, I am. Not.)
Keen also came out of my childhood
entertainment--the series was totally inspired by Warner Bros.
cartoons, but most specifically those directed by Chuck Jones. The
takes with the eyes, the look of the characters, the bold color
choices and crazy devices...all of that was in great service to the
Some more random thoughts of
Tom's about Keen...
I remember Carmack making the Yorps hop...giving them that little extra
I remember Adrian doing the enemies for Keen 3...and suddenly seeing what
actual ART in a game looked like.
I remember Romero and I making sixteen Keen 2/3 maps in like 2
Carmack too remembers some of the wackiness that went on behind the
scenes during Keen's development, as well as some of his early days
Carmack asked me at Softdisk one day if I wanted to draw a few
illustrations for a side project he was working on. He gave me his
address, phone number, and directions. I'll never forget him saying
"It's the house with the big satellite dish in the front
yard." Every other house had a satellite dish in front. The
address he gave me didn't exist and neither did the phone number!
Ooooooooooo!!! I was steamin'!!!!!! I thought they were tricking me
or something. Nope. He's just a genius who can't remember his phone
number and address! I think he added his phone number and address
together, took the square root dived by Pi, then Deltafraced the
whole thing. That's where the confusion came in. He forgot to give
me the formula. Anyway that's where the feud began!!!!
We haven't said a word to each
other since. We just give the "Nod of Knowing" as we pass
through the halls of id.
I remember Mitsy the cat and her
shit-box (may her soul rest in peace), the great flood, unusual
videos, the beer fridge, ripathons, the lake, "the random
stylings of John Romero".....oh yes!!...THE INCREDIBLE HOT SEX
PIZZA ORGIES!!!!! hmm. That might have been "Keen Dreams".
Romero clues us in to some of his thoughts about the early days of
"I remember quite well the
days of Keen development... ah, the memories of our brand-new
company coming together and creating some of the most fun games
we've ever played. Even today, the Keen series is still a challenge
to play through, even if you have decades of game-playing
experience, the seven sacred Keen games still stand the test of
had pretty humble beginnings... we started developing Keen out of a
lakehouse in Shreveport, Louisiana in our after-work hours using
computers from work (oops!) It was a blast. We were working as fast
as we could and it was mainly myself, John Carmack and Tom Hall who
created the first trilogy of Keen, but it was Tom Hall's entire
concept. Adrian Carmack came in during the last two weeks to help us
with the more intricate art that was a little beyond Tom's art
abilities (he created the VortiNinja for Keen3 and the pictures of
the cities for Keen2, among a few other tidbits.)
Things I remember during Keen
Vorticons development from ten years ago...
* Lugging all the computer systems
(3 of them, 386-33mhz, 32mb RAM, VGA!) up to the lakehouse on the
weekends and bringing them all back early Monday morning before work
* Working late into the night at
Softdisk because after 5pm, we stopped working on work stuff and did
Keen stuff... during Keen development we were working on Slordax and
Shadow Knights for Softdisk
* When I was trying to fit all the
data for Keen2 and Keen3 on a 360K floppy and all the files wouldn't
fit, I had to convert a bunch of files to .OBJ files (using a
utility I developed), change the code to forgo the loading process
for those files, then I had to link them into the KEEN EXE file,
then finally I had to LZEXE the EXE file so it was much smaller --
that was the only way that Keen2 and 3 would fit on a 360K floppy.
* How fun it was to get Messie,
the mysterious Vorticon sea monster, to pick up Keen and transport
him around the world map
* Figuring out the Impossible Pogo
Jump trick that was a byproduct of the way Carmack codes, which
makes for some awesome easter eggs and secrets in all of id's games
* Trying to get a little
networking system going with Carmack using a parallel printer cable,
but it turned out to be slower than copying the files to floppy disk
* Drawing neat little pictures on
each of the team's COPY disks which were the disks that we would
pass around with our latest stuff on them so we could all have a
final build on our systems.... we called it SneakerNet
* John C.'s cat, Mitsy (R.I.P.),
who used to lay on top of John's VGA monitor until it overheated and
the screen started changing colors! Scat, Mitsy!
* Adrian hating to work down near
Mitsy's catbox, so he quickly moved up into the area next to Tom --
then Tom would always move the table around with his knees. Adrian
was in constant turmoil!
* Scott Miller sending us weekly
Pizza Money checks of about $100 (lots of pizza!) throughout the
development of the trilogy
* John C. having some trouble
getting the little Scrub in Keen2 to carry the player on its back
and, as always, The Carmack figures the shit out and gets it done
* John's cool Adaptive Tile
Refresh trick that made the scrolling even faster than redrawing the
entire screen (this is not the Virtual Screen Tile Refresh trick he
created for Keen4-6)
* Jay Wilbur being addicted to
Wing Commander and playing it on a nightly basis for months on end,
yanking his suctioned-down joystick around until it almost tipped
his huge computer desk over on him
* Jay Wilbur bringing in some
hardcore hermaphrodite pr0n and putting it on while we were
developing, just to see if we could get John C. to actually
interrupt his coding to look at the source of all the noise
* Working on the final maps in
Keen3 with Tom, just trying to finish the whole game before
Christmas and finally reaching our goal with a total of 3 month's
development time for the trilogy of games
Those were some great times...
nothing can come close to my memories of our little tight-knit team
working furiously with a single goal in sight and having plenty of
talent to achieve that goal in record time. It was the beginning of
a new age, for us... and the entire industry."
And finally, John Carmack recalls
Keen, the game that really got him rolling in the industry (well, at
least in the big time. :)
We didn't know it at the time, but
Id Software was effectively founded the night that Tom and I stayed
overnight at the Softdisk offices to work on a demo of the new
smooth scrolling technology I had just gotten working. The response
that we got from John Romero and Jay Wilbur the next day set the
stage for where things were going.
That demo made its way to Scott
Miller at Apogee, and he moved fast to get us working on a stand
alone project. Three months later, Commander Keen had its shareware
It is almost unbelievable how much
things have changed since then. Games schedule slip many times the
entire development of Keen, and the entire data set for Keen would
fit in the space of a single modern texture.
I'm wouldn't trade my ghz cpus and
64mb graphics cards for the Good Old Days, but they were still a lot
-- John Carmack
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