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Home » » Abuse, released in 1996, and runs on DOS and Linux operating systems.

Abuse, released in 1996, and runs on DOS and Linux operating systems.

Abuse is a run and gun computer game developed by Crack dot Com, and published by Origin Systems/Electronic Arts. It was released in 1996, and runs on DOS and Linux operating systems.

An improved port of the game was released for Mac OS by
Bungie Studios and for the Acorn Archimedes by R-Comp Interactive. The game has been in the public domain since the late 1990s.


There is no precise roadmap yet. See the development page for information about development and the timeline to see what’s going on right now.

My current plans are:

  • get network play to work again
  • merge back the CTF code that was developed for Abuse Win32
  • merge back the Mac Abuse high-resolution screens
  • allow easier edition of graphic files
  • merge abuse-lib, abuse-frabs and abuse-data into one big dataset
  • create free (as in speech) sound effects (my previous attempts at getting Bobby Prince to put them in the public domain didn’t get far)

I have no plans for 3D effects, a new game engine or complete rewrites. That would be an entirely separate project and I know I don’t have enough energy to lead such a project. But if you do, let me know, I’m willing to help.


The protagonist of the game, Nick Vrenna, has been unjustly incarcerated in a prison where the staff are performing unethical medical experiments upon the inmates. A prison riot occurs and an experiment goes horribly wrong. The people inside the prison - except for Nick, who seems to be immune - get infected with a substance called Abuse that transforms them into monsters. Nick takes a laser gun and goes on to single-handedly destroy all mutants, stop the substance from spreading further, and escape from the prison complex


Abuse resembles a side-scrolling platform game. The game is marked for its unusual control scheme: The keyboard is used to move Nick, while the mouse is used for aiming the weapons. The basic gameplay consists of fighting various enemies (mostly the various forms of mutants, who prefer to attack in huge swarms) and solving some simple puzzles, most involving switches.

Networked play, through IPX/SPX, is also supported. The game originally had support for TCP/IP play, but this was not present in the retail version.


Abuse was well received by the game press, who hailed the game as "the Doomid Software contributors like Dave D. Taylor and Robert Prince. of platform games", the comparison being particularly easy due to the involvement of

The game was not particularly popular in the world-wide market, but nevertheless, it remains a cult classic. It has, among other things, achieved a Top Dog position in Home of the Underdogs. After Crack dot Com's demise, sequel ideas were exchanged on abuse2.com (primarily set up by Crack dot Com to spread Golgotha source code), but work on an official sequel was minimal, most of it being conceptual. The team for the sequel consisted of very few of the original Abuse developers and members of the abuse2.com community.

Image:Abuse Coverart.png
Developer(s) Crack dot Com
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts, Red Hat, Bungie
Version 1.0.1
Platform(s) PC (DOS, Linux), Mac, Acorn Archimedes, Amiga
Release date(s) 1996
Genre(s) Run and gun
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: T (Teen)
ELSPA: 11+
Media CD-ROM
System requirements DOS version: 486DX 50 MHz (66 MHz recommended for network play), VESA graphics card, SoundBlaster compatible sound card, 8MB RAM, 13MB hard drive space, MS-DOS 5.0 or later (Windows 95 for IPX network support)
Input methods Keyboard and Mouse

[Main Menu]

Main Menu



[Ingame - Teleport]

Ingame - Teleport








Game engine, modifications and editing

Abuse took an unusual (at the time) approach to making modifications ("mods"). The game includes a level editor, which is fully usable from the game itself. The editor, once enabled with command-line parameter, can be toggled with Tab key, and the game can be fully edited while testing the level - for example, the states of various triggers can be surveyed in real-time. The game came with a complete guide to the level editor.

More advanced editing is also possible. Using a separate program called Satan Paint, new graphics can be created and added to the game. (Currently, Satan Paint is not very well supported, so separate conversion to the *.spe format may be required.)

The game logic was programmed in a variant of Lisp. This allows for complex modifications - one of the relatively simple examples was a Breakout clone, which, however, no longer functions on the retail version. The Lisp interface was undocumented, and with Abuse's own Lisp code as the only reference, there were relatively few modifications that used Lisp code.

Active zone

To help the efficiency of Abuse's engine, the code would only allow objects within a certain radius of the game window to be active during play; of course, it had to be much greater than the in-game resolution of 320 x 240. This meant that free-roaming enemies and always-on mechanical devices out of the range cannot attack the player, nor will projectiles fired from weapons that supposedly have an "infinite range" continue their journey far off the screen.

An interesting effect of this active zone was that high-resolution level editing (using "-size" along with the "-edit" command modifier in the Abuse game shortcut) would extend the range greatly, causing problems when testing levels which specifically depended upon a normal active zone radius.

Distribution methods and later developments

The game was originally released as shareware. The free release was done based on incomplete game and final version was published through major software publishing house and distributed through ordinary retail channels.

The shareware versions were released for MS-DOS and Linux. Abuse was distributed with many GNU/Linux distributions at the time. Regrettably, the Lisp API in shareware releases (1.x) was not compatible with the final retail version (2.0), making modifications incompatible. The retail version was only available for MS-DOS (though the source code for 2.0 can be built to produce a Linux binary).

Abuse was also ported to Mac OS by Oliver Yu of Crack dot Com and published by Bungie Studios. The port was unusual in that it was largely reworked for Mac. Graphics were partially redone to work better in the 640x480 resolution. (The PC version runs in 320x200 VGA resolution, and can be made to run in higher resolutions, though the graphics will not be scaled.)

Approximately two years after the release of the game, Crack dot Com decided to release the game source code, as well as the shareware release game data (excluding the sound effects), to public domain.[1] There has been little development based on this source release, though it did allow up-to-date GNU/Linux builds and making the game work over TCP/IP. An SDL port of the game is now available, allowing the game to run in Microsoft Windows and also in X11 systems in displays with more than 256 colors. The Mac version has been updated to run on OS X.


Abuse had a very different storyline coming out of production. The update for it replaced the original introduction with the current "Nick Vrenna" storyline. The original involved an invasion by an alien species. The player was an unnamed man, sent into their 'hive' to covertly destroy the aliens by shutting down the cooling system. This story was alluded to in a hidden section towards the end of level 14, where a large area, full of maroon tiles, can be found.

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