3D Realms: Beyond Shareware
Did 3D Realms start as a legal subsidiary of Apogee, or was it just a brand name?
SM: It started in 1994. I had just got done reading a book called Positioning. It's all about marketing stuff. It clicked that 3D was the future of gaming -- that's where it was all going, into 3D. And Apogee was already pigeonholed as sort of an arcade game company. So I decided that we needed a new brand, a new label that was better positioned for the future.
I came up with probably a hundred different names, and 3D Realms was picked in large part because it was one of a few names -- if not the only name -- I listed that was available as a domain name and also as an 800-number. That was important back in those days because we still did a ton of business through people phoning us directly. So having that "1-800-3DREALMS" number was really important to us.
How did the company structure between Apogee and 3D Realms work?
SM: Well, legally, we're still called Apogee Software. 3D Realms is a "DBA" which means "doing business as." It's a legal alias for the company.
Is it still that way now?
SM: Yes. For the most part, we call ourselves 3D Realms.
Were you planning Duke Nukem 3D when you were thinking about the 3D Realms name?
SM: Yeah, Duke Nukem 3D had already been started in '94. So yeah, we had every intention of releasing that game, plus we had several other 3D games under development at the same time.
We had Shadow Warrior, we had a game called Ruins, and we also had a game called Blood. We had four of these 3D games in development. We sold the rights to Ruins to the developer who was doing that, and it was eventually was released as a game called PowerSlave.
All of these were Build engine games, right?
SM: Yep. In total there were about 11 or 12 Build engine games released. And we sold Blood's rights to Monolith and they released it.
The Build Engine editor
Blood is one of my favorites, actually. I interviewed Nick Newhard a couple years ago. He was the lead programmer on Blood.
SM: Yeah, I remember him well.
He said that Blood started as an Apogee project -- and that was something I didn't know at the time. Why did you sell it to them?
SM: Well, trying to fund all of these games became a very expensive proposition. Another game that we initially started was a game called Descent. That was another 3D Realms project, and we funded that for about a year.
But we got to the point where funding all these was becoming so expensive. For instance, the Descent team -- that studio was called Parallax Software at the time -- I think we were sending them $18,000 a month and they needed to get up to $30,000 a month. Other teams also needed to grow at the time. So we looked at our project slate and said, "You know, we can't support all these projects. We need to basically sell off some of these." And so we ended up just keeping Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. We kept Shadow Warrior mainly because it was a fairly inexpensive project. But the others were getting very expensive and we had to sell the rights off.
I've read that 3D Realms is closing. Is that true?
SM: No, 3D Realms is not closing. The internal development is no longer a part of this business, though.
It seems like the whole blog world exploded talking about Duke Nukem Forever stopping production.
SM: There's a lawsuit around this, so I really can't get into any details on that.
I'm just worried about the future of 3D Realms.
SM: Our future is fine. We have, I think at last count, 11 or 12 projects in the works. One of them is coming out next week. Another one is coming out in about six weeks. Both of those are on the iPhone. We have some major games in production still. So we're fine. That's not an issue at all.
So did you just lay off the development staff for Duke Nukem Forever? Is that what happened?
So you're still there, and you're still technically Apogee under the hood.
SM: There's actually another company now going by the name of Apogee. About a year ago, we licensed the Apogee name to some other business people -- one of them had actually worked here several years before. They're reviving the Apogee label, the Apogee name, and they're doing a Duke Nukem Trilogy of games on the DS and PSP. They're also going to reboot the Rise of the Triad franchise, plus they have some other original titles that they're going to be doing.