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20 Years Of Evolution: Scott Miller And 3D Realms
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20 Years Of Evolution: Scott Miller And 3D Realms

August 21, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 9 of 10 Next

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.

The Future

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?

SM: Right.

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.

Article Start Previous Page 9 of 10 Next

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Maurício Gomes
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Really intersting this interview...

Too bad that the 3D hype never ceased :( I really enjoyed Commander Queen, Jazz Jackrabbit, Sonic, Prince of Persia, Mario, Raptor (this one made me develop tendinits when I was 10... I am 21 now and still doing therapy to fix it... But I don't regret, this game is totally awesome), Tyrian, and all sorts of those 2D games...

Josh Green
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I assume you mean "Commander Keen". ;)

Oliver Snyders
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Scott Miller's 'teachings' are woefully under-appreciated. Everybody interested in game design, game marketing, positioning, and other industry tricks, should check out his (kind of defunct) blog, Game Matters:

Hopefully he starts updating again soon.

Maurício Gomes
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Yeah... I am suffering from caffeine withdraw, not good to type today...

Alexander Bruce
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Again, as I said on the Tim Sweeny article, I appreciate Gamasutra posting this, because I think it's a very decent piece of history to learn from.

James Gonzalez
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Great post!

Scott Cameron
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@Oliver Snyders: I second that! I'll still wander over there from time to time with my fingers crossed hoping on a new post.

Scott Miller is actually a personal hero of mine... when I was quite young I used to love reading the readme.txt's bundled with Apogee games... reading that Kroz was made in Turbo Pascal made me spend all of my benjamins on a copy of TP3.0 and take up a programming night-class after school. It made me the man I am today!

Great article.


Jorge Garcia Celorio
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The Q&A related to the beginnings of ID, Epic and Apogee are really interesting. I'm amazed to how the book "Masters of Doom" captivated this game era as well.

In terms of game development, I wonder... how much did the Max Payne franchise suffered in order to make it "Hollywood-material". Perhaps some innovative game ideas were thrown off because of this approach.

By the way, Prey is a hidden jewel. It was my first HD experience (in the 360). The game combines really interesting fps mechanics that, if exploited, could make an outstanding FPS. I'd expected the interview to deepen in the Prey concept and its future.

Nonetheless, Excellent Article!!!

Bernie M
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Wow, great article! Brings back memories.