Frequently Asked Questions about Sopwith

By Josh Horowitz (

Sources: Byte Magazine - July 1986 Issue, Digital Antic - Volume 5, No. 2, June 1986, Page 90,
BMB Compuscience listing on Moby Games, Legal brief from Strategis of Canada

Andrew Jenner, Andrew Durdin, David L. Clark

Version History:
8-15-00 - First version
8-24-00 - Second version
8-27-00 - Third version
9-2-00 - Fourth Version
10-3-00 - Fifth Version
12-5-00 - Sixth Version
1-22-01 - Seventh Version

11-30-01 - Eighth Version
4-25-05 - Ninth Version

1. General Questions

1.1 - What is Sopwith?
1.2 - Who created Sopwith?
1.3 - Does Sopwith support multiplayer mode?
1.4 - How many levels does the game go on for?

1.5 - What are the hidden features in Sopwith?
1.6 - Where can I download Sopwith?

1.7 - Why do I get an "Invalid Win32 Application" error when trying to play Sopwith2?

1.8 - How many versions of Sopwith exist?

1.9 - Is there a level designer for Sopwith?

1.10 - How do I play Sopwith 1 on my Pentium VII 4,322mhz computer?

1.11 - Do you have the source code to Sopwith?

1.12 - Is there a Tee Shirt available for Sopwith?

1.13 - What is "Sopwith - The Author's Edition?"

1.14 - What is "Sopwith ME?" - NEW!

2. Sopwith 3

2.1 - What is Sopwith 95/NT/3?
2.2 - What features will the new Sopwith game have?

2.3 - Can I help design/code/program Sopwith 3?

2.4 - Can I beta test Sopwith 3?

1. General Questions

1.1 - What is Sopwith?

Sopwith and its much-improved successor, Sopwith 2, is a CGA game designed for both single player play, and also equipped to handle up to 8 players in multiplayer mode (4 human, 4 computer). It is a side-scrolling biplane action game involving two sides - cyan and magenta. The object of the game in single-player is to destroy all of the enemy buildings and vehicles, either by shooting, bombing, or colliding with them. To stop you, the enemy has deployed planes to shoot you down and buildings that shoot anti-aircraft fire at you. Each level ends when all the enemy buildings and vehicles are destroyed, and is followed by a faster and more difficult level with the same map.

1.2 - Who created Sopwith?

Sopwith 1 and 2 was created between 1984-86 by David L. Clark, programmer for a Canadian software company called BMB Compuscience. Apparently, the company was noted for creating accounting software, as well as database, networking, and geographical information software following Sopwith.

In 1986 BMB created a relational database system for the Atari ST called The Manager described by its creators as a "paperless office" which offered mainframe capability with virtually unlimited storage.

In that same year, BMB Compuscience announced a network called Imaginet that connected IBM PCs with Atari 520STs. At the time, the network cost $900 for the first IBM PC, which functioned as the file server, $800 for each additional PC, and $500 for each ST. Transmission rate were 2 megabits per second.

It is this Imaginet service that Sopwith's multiplayer feature was supposed to work on. It leads one to wonder if Sopwith was ever released on the Atari 520ST?

According to David Clark, BMB Compuscience no longer exists. From documents lingering on the Internet, it would seem that BMB was involved in some sort of infringement litigation in 1989 that may have shut the company down.

Here is an interesting reference to the company in a copyright legal brief:

"Use" in an Internet Context

As with corporate names, the mere use of a domain name does not result in "use" for purposes of trade-mark entitlement. Proof of use on the Internet with respect to products, as contrasted with services, raises technical difficulties in creating a trade-mark. The difficulties are not as great for digital products as they are with hard goods.

For example, in Internet based transactions, it is not hard to imagine title to products passing at the time of the transaction. This is consistent with the instantaneous payment possible in such a transaction. Additionally, it is conceivable that possession might also pass in the case of digital products. The trade-mark must be in "use" at this point to qualify for registration, or to constitute an act of infringement. In either of these circumstances, it is possible to imbed the trademark in the electronic goods to constitute marking and use for purposes of the act.

See BMB Compuscience Canada Ltd. v. Bramalea Ltd.(1989) 22 C.P.R. (3d) 561 (F.C.T.D.)

1.3 - Does Sopwith support multiplayer mode?

Sopwith 1 originally supported basic multiplayer, and Sopwith 2 was originally designed to work with 2 players through an "asynchronous line" or via a "Network." Later documents indicate that Sopwith 1 and 2 were designed for play over BMB's network service called "Imaginet," which connected IBM PCs with Atari 520STs. According to the instruction manual for Sopwith 2:

For multiple player use, the following files must be available at the root directory of an IMAGINET disk common to all players:

semaphor - IMAGINET semaphor file
sopwith?.dta - SOPWITH communications files where the symbol ? corresponds to any valid game number between 0-7 inclusive.
Sopwith?.dta files may be created by copying existing SOPWITH dta files, or by using any other output method to allocate one disk sector under the root directory. In all cases, newly created SOPWITH dta files should be initialized by using the 'sopwith -r [-d?]' command line described above under RECOVERY.

David Clark confirms that Sopwith was originally designed "Strictly as a multi-user demo of BMB's Imaginet network."

In case you're wondering, Sopwith 1 and 2 do not have working network code. We are hoping that the upcoming Sopwith 3 will be able to support this feature once again.

Update: Now you can play Sopwith in multiplayer mode over TCP/IP!  Read section 1.14 for more details.

1.4 - How many levels does the game go on for?

Sopwith 1 has only one level which, when completed, unceremoniously returns you to the DOS prompt.

For Sopwith 2, however, it seems the game will go on forever, with up to 255 level speeds before returning to the slow speed it began with. Most of the later levels in Sopwith have been noted as completely unplayable, though I have heard stories of people successfully playing for hours and hours. If you've beaten level 255 successfully, please email with your story!

Sopwith enthusiast Andrew Durdin notes: "Sopwith II will not ordinarily go past level 6: It will just continue with level 6 indefinitely. You can play higher levels with the -g command line option, though"

1.5 - What are the hidden features in Sopwith?

There are several configurable options in Sopwith 1 and 2 that are accessed via the DOS command line.

Sopwith 1:

-h: Play in High resolution (640x200x2) mode - cyan and magenta are dithered. Unfortunately you can't tell them apart.
-p: Position indicator
-k: Control latency
-s: Sound on by default

Sopwith 2:

-w: high resolution
-y: control latency
-q: Sound off by default
-e: Print end of game statistics
-g: Start on a particular level
-s -c -m -a: Start in a particular mode instead of prompting
-j -k: Use Joystick/Keyboard
-i: Use IBM keyboard
-h: Record history (ie: Sopwith2 -h test or Sopwith2 -htest)
-v: Playback history (ie: Sopwith2 -v test or Sopwith2 -vtest)

You can also freeze the game's action by hitting control-numlock and quit the game by hitting control-break. It has been noted, however, that Ctrl+Numlock is the XT keyboard equivalent of the Pause key - it is not Sopwith-specific, and does not work with all AT machines.

1.6 - Where can I download Sopwith?

Why, here of course!

Click here to Download Sopwith (requires the slowdown utility "Moslo" to work on today's computers)

Click here to Download Sopwith 2 (much better, will work on practically every IBM computer known to man)

1.7 - Why do I get an "Invalid Win32 Application" error when trying to play Sopwith2?

This seems to happen on most Windows 95 and 98 machines when trying to run Sopwith from within Windows.

Running it from DOS is another matter. Try the following steps to play Sopwith in DOS:

1) Click the Start Button
2) Go to Programs
3) Go to Command Prompt (DOS)
4) You're now in a DOS window. Use the CD\ commands to go into the folder where you saved sopwith.exe (ie: cd \sopwith)
5) Once you're in the Sopwith folder (c:\sopwith) type SOPWITH
6) Enjoy!

Andrew Durdin offers the following explanation for the Invalid Win32 Application error:

The real reason is that sopwith2.exe is actually NOT formally an 'EXE' file, it is a 'COM' file. While the DOS command interpreter would run either, whether it was given the correct extension or not (it would just check the start of the file to find out which type the file really was), the windows application executor will *not* run a COM file with a '.exe' extension. The best solution to this, is to either give the files the correct extension according to the file type (view the file: if it starts with "MZ" or "ZM", it should be '.exe', otherwise it should be '.com'), or to convert the '.com' file to '.exe' form (one utility that can do this is UNP, the program unpacker that can be found on various shareware distribution sites)

1.8 - How many versions of Sopwith exist?

To my knowledge, there are at least eight different versions of Sopwith. If you discover more, please contact me and I'll add it to the site.:

Version Name Description
"Sopwith" The original Sopwith, created by Dave Clark of BMB Compuscience, Canada. (Requires the slowdown utility "Moslo" to work on today's computers)
"Sopwith2" An update of the original Sopwith, created by Dave Clark of BMB Compuscience, Canada
"The Red Baron" Essentially a modified version of Sopwith 1 with identical gameplay. Only the title screen, with the multiplayer feature option, has been altered. The question of who altered it and why is a mystery. Requires Moslo to play.
"Top Gun" A clone of Sopwith2 with altered text by "Frank and Jeff" with comments about "Barry."


A modified version of Sopwith2 by "" that has a changed map, music, and text. It is very difficult to beat a level in Sokwith due to object placement. There is a hidden easter-egg in Sokwith where the outline of the map looks like a... well... you'll have to find out for yourself!
"Blokwit" A modified version of Sopwith2 by "Samor" that replaces the landscape with rectangular shapes, and alters the music and text.
"Sopwith - the Author's Edition" A heavily modified version of Sopwith2 by the original programmer, Dave Clark. Click here to read more about it:
"Aereo" An Italian clone of Sopwith2 with altered text ("Aereo" means "Airplane") and no visual multiplayer options. Thanks to Marco for the find!
"Sopwith ME" - NEW! Jornand de Buisonjé's new Sopwith version, with Internet Multiplayer capabilities! (Requires Winsock Extensions (sockvxd.exe) to play multiplayer)

1.9 - Is there a level designer for Sopwith?

Andrew Durdin wrote a very simple one in Qbasic. You can download it here and you can read the instructions to run it here.

Matt Zebrowski (aka Magitek Chocobo) wrote a much more advanced level designer in 1997 in Visual Basic that could import any Sopwith EXE file, make changes using a pen-tool, and export a recompiled Sopwith game with the new map. You can download it here as well (1.5 megs).

1.10 - How do I play Sopwith 1 on my Pentium VII, 10.3 ghz computer?

You need to run a slowdown utility like the shareware program MOSLO. Information about Moslo can be found here:

1.11 - Do you have the source code to Sopwith?

Yes, Dave Clark was kind enough to release the C source code to Sopwith, but there is a license agreement you have to read first before you download it.

Click here to go to the download page.

I also have the ASM file thanks to the efforts of Sopwith enthusiasts around the world. Please contact me if you would like a copy of the ASM code.

1.12 - Is there a Tee Shirt available for Sopwith?

Back in March 2000, I sold 10 tee shirts made with the Sopwith logo and screen on it. Each shirt was $15 and shipped to the
US and Canada.

I have gotten several requests for new shirts recently and am considering printing more. Visit this link for more info.

1.13 - What is "Sopwith - The Author's Edition?"

"Sopwith - The Author's Edition" was recently discovered along with Sopwith's programmer, David Clark.

From David Clark's webpage:

"In the spring of 1984, I joined BMB Compuscience in Milton, Ontario as an R&D programmer. My first task was to development a piece of software to demonstrate the use of BMB's new PC network product, soon to be named Imaginet. What better crowd catcher at the trade shows than a multi-user arcade game being played over the network. Hence, Sopwith was born. Since then, Sopwith has gained a small following on the Net.

If you choose to download Sopwith, please don't be too critical. Keep in mind the what PC's were like in the early '80s: 640K was a dream, megahertz weren't invented yet, 2400 baud modems were the rage if you could find something to connect to, and you had 9 megabytes of hard drive to play with. Sopwith, all 43K of it, hasn't changed much from those heady days. Please note that the multi-user functionality has been removed since it was based on BMB's proprietary Imaginet network. Some day, I will get to work on writing a simple enhancement to communicate over today's network protocols."

This is a greatly modified version of the original Sopwith with the following features:

- Faster framerate
- Novice (with unlimited ammo / no stalls) and Expert mode for Single Player
- I
ncludes new sprites (bullet holes and dead birds)
- Allows your plane to be damaged and still be flyable
- Missiles and Flares(!)
- Enemy planes drop bombs and fire missiles
- Altered status bar
- A few new surprises (try colliding with the oxen!)

Command line options are:

-n Novice single player Only one of -n, -s, -c or -a may be specified
-s Single player
-c Single player against computer
-a 2 players over asynchronous communications line
-k keyboard only Only one of -k or -j may be specified
-j keyboard and joystick
-q begin game with sound off  
-p# overrides communication port COM1 to another port COM#
-x Activate missiles & flares in game

In-game controls are:

, (comma) Elevator up
. (period) Flip over
/ (slash) Elevator down
Z Throttle down
X Throttle up
H Take 'er home
Space Bar Gun
B Bomb
C Flare (in -x mode)
V Missile (in -x mode)
S Sound on/off
Ctrl-Break End game


You can learn more about "Sopwith - The Author's Edition" on this page.

Click here to Download Sopwith - The Author's Edition

1.14 - What is "Sopwith ME?"

Sopwith ME was created by Jornand de Buisonjé based on Sopwith2 by David L. Clark and the source code that had been reverse engineered by Andrew Jenner.

It's still the original CGA Sopwith2, but with TCP/IP multiplayer capabilities over the Internet! Multiplayer requires the installation of dynamic Windows Socket Extensions.

Multiplayer Sopwith ME works in Windows 95, 98, and ME. Hopefully it can be made to work for Windows NT/2000/XP in the future.

According to the READ.ME

Usage: swme [options]

The options are (with SOPWITH ME specific options in CAPITAL LETTERS):

-s : Single player -c : Single player against computer
-T : 2 players via TCP/IP (Only one of -s, -c, -T may be specified)
-k : Keyboard only -j : Joystick and keyboard
(Only one of -k and -j may be specified)  
-i : IBM PC Keyboard -q : Begin game with sound off
-y#: Set latency at # (default:1) -g#: Start on level # (default:0)
-h*: Record game on file * -v*: Play back file *
-S : Play as server -C : Play as client
(Only one of -S and -C may be specified)  
-A*: Connect to host * (client only) -P#: Connect to or listen at port #
-I : Infinite lives -D : Ignore score when deciding winner
-E#: Set amount of computer planes per side at # (from 0 (default) to 3)  
-F#: If # is 0, 1 or 2 respectively, plane is random (default), cyan or magenta  
-G : Disable personnel attack penalty -H : Show help
-h and -v are single player only, -I, -D, -E, -F and -G are multiplayer only  
-y, -g and the multiplayer only options can only be set by the server  

You can download Sopwith ME and the Winsock Extensions from this site. - NEW!
Jornand de Buisonjé's new Sopwith version, with Internet Multiplayer capabilities!
sockvxd.exe - NEW!
Winsock extensions needed to play multiplayer Sopwith ME. Install with dynamic option.

2. Sopwith 3

2.1 - What is Sopwith 95/NT/3?

Back in 1995, I began to work in a joint collaboration with my UCLA roommate on a new and improved version of the classic game "Sopwith."

Sopwith NT (The proposed title) was planned to run in Windows 95 with the networkable option never available in the old Sopwith. We wanted to include: 256 Color VGA color support, network support for up to 4 players, new maps and theaters of conflict (WWI, WWII, Korea, Etc), as well as better music and sound effects taking advantage of today's sound cards.

My roommate began working on the project, and even had a flying plane after about a week. I designed the sprite data using a shareware program called VSP Maker.

Then... his hard drive crashed and he didn't have backups of his work. When I pestered him to start the project over again, he didn't want to spend the time and effort, and had other projects.

Thus I created the Sopwith website on Geocities to try to drum up support for other programmers out there to renew the cause. I received many contacts over the years, but nobody ever came up with a solid project plan or results.

Then a classic game enthusiast and programmer named Andrew Jenner contacted me about his remake of the old PC game "Digger" and suggested that the same could be done to resurrect Sopwith. After decompiling the ASM code into C, Andrew began work on the newest version of Sopwith, Sopwith 3.

2.2 - What features will the new Sopwith game have?

Sopwith 3 will have VGA and CGA support, as well as the multiplayer option everyone's longed for since 1984. I will help design the graphics, sound, and music, while Andrew does the coding. Andrew Durdin, designer of the Sopwith Map Editor, will be designing graphics for the project as well.

2.3 - Can I help design/code/program Sopwith 3?

Sure! Contact

2.4 - Can I beta test Sopwith 3?

We will announce when Sopwith 3 is ready for testing.