Sopwith (video game)

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Developer(s) BMB Compuscience
Publisher(s) BMB Compuscience
Designer(s) David L. Clark
Platform(s) IBM PC, Atari 520ST
Release date(s) 1984
Screenshot from Sopwith 2 at the start of a single-player game

Sopwith is a side scrolling shoot 'em up created by David L. Clark of BMB Compuscience in 1984. It was originally written to run on the IBM PC under DOS but there was also a port made near the time of its creation for the Atari 520ST. More recent versions have been ported to even more systems. The game involves piloting a Sopwith biplane, attempting to bomb enemy buildings while avoiding fire from enemy planes and various other obstacles.

Sopwith was created to demonstrate the "Imaginet" proprietary networking system developed by BMB Compuscience.[1] David L. Clark, employed as a programmer at BMB, developed Sopwith as a multiplayer game. The multiplayer function will not operate without the Imaginet hardware and drivers. However, single player functionality was also included, with the player flying alone or against computer-controlled planes. Because of this, the game was widely distributed, even though the Imaginet system itself was not hugely successful. Sopwith 2 added the ability to play multiplayer over an async serial interface, but a BMB dictionary driver (NAMEDEV.SYS) and a BMB serial communications driver (SERIAL.SYS or SERWORK.SYS) is then needed.

All versions of Sopwith feature four-color CGA graphics. Sound is provided by the PC speaker in the form of music and sound effects.

The C and x86 assembly source code to Sopwith was released in 2000,[2] at first under a non-commercial use license, but later under the GNU GPL at the request of fans.[3]


The player begins at their base (typically a hangar and a runway). From here, they must launch their plane and attack targets. This stage can be a hindrance to inexperienced players, as sufficient speed is needed to get the plane into the air. Insufficient speed will cause the plane to stall and crash.

The plane is equipped with a machine gun and a supply of bombs. This weaponry can be used to destroy enemy buildings and shoot down enemy planes. Gauges in the status bar at the bottom of the screen show the remaining lives, fuel, bombs and bullets, respectively.

In Sopwith 2, obstacles exist in the form of Oxen and birds. The oxen simply stand on the ground; if the player crashes into one, or shoots one, they lose 200 points and their plane crashes. The birds provide a more challenging obstacle. Flocks of birds move along the top of the screen. If shot at or flown into, the flock will disperse into individual birds. Flying into a bird causes the plane to crash.

If the player manages to destroy all enemy buildings, the plane turns and flies into the sunset. In Sopwith 1, the game ends. In later versions, the game advances to the next level. Successive levels increase in speed; also, in the second level upwards, buildings shoot back at the player's plane.

The Ox was included as an in-joke and refers to an employee at BMB named "Ox" (aka David Growden).[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sopwith FAQ". Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  2. ^ Clark, Dave (2000-10-29). "Sopwith Code Support". Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  3. ^ Clark, Dave. "Sopwith – Source Code". Dave Clark's Home Page. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  4. ^ MacLean, Andrew (1993-10-14). "Sopwith Documentatio(6/6)". Usenet: Retrieved 2006-12-01. 

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