Like Bogus Software before, Duff Software was a handle used by Microsoft programmers for inofficial, usually recreational software. The name first turns up in June 1990. In the help files for Kolumz and YATC, the label is explained as follows:
DUFF software is another group of weird programmers just having fun.
It is not associated in any way with Bogus software.
The name was reportedly chosen to honor a famous brand of beer, but there are rumors it also stands for Developers United to Fight Fish.
The head of the group was obviously Robert Donner (RobD), who is typically credited as “The Guy who did all the work.” While the Bogus Software programmers sometimes went anonymously, Duff Software programs tend to have detailed credits, the handles in the about screen, the full names, with some funny quote, in the help file.
Duff Software represented a new generation of Windows software. It was strictly Windows 3. It used lots of bitmaps, instead of the scalable graphics typical for older Windows software and instead of standard fonts for status displays, usually mimicking an LED array.
While the surviving Bogus Software programs are mature and fully functional, Duff Software programs were obviously handed around for feedback far earlier in the development process, and some never got past the concept stage. Below you’ll find screenshots of those that I have found so far. I’m omitting the abovementioned Kolumz and YATC. Both are finished products, complete with help file. The screenshots were under Windows 3.0, installed on DOSBox, and edited for correct palette.
The most famous game associated with Duff Software is what would later be known as Minesweeper. It was originally written by Curt Johnson (CurtJ) for OS/2’s Presentation Manager as PMMine and still bore a Bogus Software copyright notice. Robert Donner ported it to, or rewrote it for (“Hey, Rob, why isn’t any of MY code in here any more?” is Curt Johnson’s quote in the credits) Windows as WinMine or Win Mine. A WinMine help file with time stamp 1990-06-06 is the oldest document I’ve found so far that contains the string “Duff Software.” Above are screenshots of the two oldest versions of WinMine that I have found, differing only in the size of the foot cursor, numbered 2.6.
Another Duff Software game that became part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows, was, under the name of TicTactics, a combination of three Tic Tac Toe variants by Robert Donner and Curt Johnson. TicTactics could be played 3×3, 3×3×3, or 4×4×4. Originally these were three separate executables. You see the 3×3×3 above, it was called 3-D TicTacToe. The 3×3 and 4×4×4 were both simply called TicTacToe. The 4×4×4 gave TicTactics its graphics (you can see it in the 3D Tic-Tac-Toe post), the 3×3 looked completely different, but it had a Bogus Software copyright notice and is not relevant here.
Escape is good old Robots, but with a new feature: the computers are unmovable obstacles that, too, crash the Daleks. Escape, credited to Robert Donner alone, is absolutely playable, though it has no system of levels (you can just replay it over and over again), no help file, and no icon of its own (it uses the same as WinMine). The movements of the smiley avatar and the Daleks are in smooth animation, the screenshot shows such a moment.
Snake, too, is credited to Robert Donner alone. It seems fairly finished, it has a system of levels, but I could not find a help file.
Pipe Dream does have a help file, but I’m not sure if it reflects the actual stage of development the game reached or documents some features that were never implemented. It feels rather incomplete, it does not even show a name in the title bar.
Sissors, Paper, Stone (in the title bar) or Sizzors, Paper, Stone (in the about screen) is credited to Larry Houch (LarryH) and Robert Donner. This version 0.2 seems to be just a concept, an interface, it does not actually do anything.