My Story of 3D Realms / Apogee Part VI
This is Part 6 of 8 of my History of 3D Realms / Apogee series. When originally published, it was a single post, but over time WordPress ended up not liking a post that was 33,000 words long. This segment covers 2006-2010, and the downfall of “my” version of the company.
2006 – Once again, a year with just a single game release, but this one was huge.
Release Date: 11 Jul 2006
Prey is a game with a tortured history. It originally started development back in late 1995 by the original Rise of the Triad team. That team broke up in the creation of both Ion Storm & Ritual. We shelved it, and started a second time later with a micro team (basically one person) working on tech only, and eventually that was abandoned, too. After a time, we went to work with Human Head Studios on what ended up being released – the 2006 version of Prey.
A lot of what was in the original was still here – but not all of it. We made the character Native American, which was a pretty unheard of thing at the time. We tried to change the concept of what it means to die in a game to debatable levels of success. Basically, you couldn’t die, you’d recharge when you would normally “die”. But in the end, it was a fun game, I loved the final product. It definitely broke some boundaries in terms of what was done with 3D action games at the time. Having said that, I wish we had kept some of the earliest stuff, as we were doing things Portal did years before Portal even existed. Oh well. We did also license a lot of legit music for this game, Heart’s Barracuda was one, and Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper was another. Also had Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” in there. Loved that angle of it – by far our largest budget for music ever. One thing about the music was that it wasn’t “turn-off-able”, so when we were playtesting e1m1, we’d hear that Judas Priest song A LOT. I got really tired of it for awhile there, took me a long time before I could listen to it again without going “Arrrgh!”
The game had some cool voice talent. Michael Greyeyes played Tommy, the title character. We had actress Crystal Lightning as the primary female lead Jen. But the most intersting character from a 3D Realms standpoint was “Grandfather”. That was John William Galt, who is more known to 3D Realms fans as Lo Wang from the original “Shadow Warrior”. The two primaries were both played by Native American voice actors, which we felt was an important thing to do.
Prey was released on multiple platforms in retail (starting) in 2006. It was initially released on PC & Xbox 360 on the same day (11 Jul 2006). It was later released on Mac OS X on 15 Jan 2007 (with a demo on 12 Jan), and also on Linux (although not by us) on 7 Dec 2008 (with a demo on 23 Oct). The PC & Xbox versions had demos released before the full game as well, those dates were 22 Jun 2006 & 30 Jun 2006, respectively. Finally, there was an iOS port of Prey (by MachineWorks Northwest) called “Prey Invasion” released on 11 Jun 2009. It was later discontinued.
A personal note. From the original team in 1995, I was really close with William Scarboro. He eventually left 3D Realms, and died at age 31 of an asthma attack in 2002. When we released Prey, I sought out his mother, and gave her a copy of the game in her son’s name. I wrote in detail about that meeting elsewhere on my blog.
Human Head was at one point working on a Prey II, but it never got released, as the rights to the game were by then owned by Bethesda. Bethesda also worked on their own version of Prey II, but even THAT was abandoned. Shame, as it had some interesting concepts, too. In 2017, there was a game released from Bethesda by Arkane Studios called Prey, but that had NOTHING to do with our original. It was Prey in name only. There was a pretty cool comprehensive story published by Games Radar in 2017 about the complete history of Prey. Check that out, too. Worth your time. Finally, there’s an interview I did with Paul Schuytema – Prey’s producer back in the earlier days. Check that out, too.
When I wrote this game section originally, I had a different line for who currently owned the rights. That’s because after I started writing this article, it was announced on 21 Sep 2020 that Microsoft was buying Bethesda, and prior to that, Bethesda had Prey rights, but now they’re with Microsoft. Or will be when the deal is closed.
Current Status: Not available, rights held by Microsoft.
UPDATES (PC): 1.1 – 14 Aug 2006, 1.2 – 10 Oct 2006, 1.3 – 14 Feb 2007, 1.4, 10 Jan 2008
UPDATES (Xbox): 1.1 – 14 Aug 2006, 1.2 – 10 Oct 2006
Links: [ 3DR Prey Page | Legacy 3DR Prey Page ]
2007 was the first “nothing” year – meaning we released nothing new. Oh, there were a few things released (some patches and freeware), but was the first time we had absolutely nothing new released since the company was founded 20 years prior.
2008 included a single release by 3D Realms, and was also the final game Apogee/3D Realms title released before I lost my gig in the following year.
Duke Nukem 3D XBLA
Release Date: 24 Sep 2008
Duke Nukem 3D Xbox LIVE Arcade was one of the most fun times I had at the company. Before I get into it, I wanted to mention that this is a port of the Atomic Edition of Duke Nukem 3D for the Xbox 360 console. Normally I haven’t been giving ports their own entries here, but given this one’s status, I wanted to give this port its own entry on my page here. Now that this intro is out of the way…
It was decided that we were going to start porting our games to consoles, and first up was of course Duke Nukem 3D. We put together a small team internal to 3D Realms, and did 100% of the work ourselves. Myself and Bryan Turner handled the majority of the game testing. We had two programmers, and someone to handle the handful of new art the game had, and George handled the production side. It was fun, as I had an Xbox 360 devkit console on my desk (there is a picture of that here), and played Duke Nukem 3D all day long for several months. It was a great time. By the time the game was released, I was able to run through all four episodes in full in roughly half an hour. This edition introduced the ability to replay from anywhere. It effectively negates the built in save/load system – so you can more easily get past problem areas. Always loved that system, was done by John Pollard at 3D Realms.
During development, I learned a bunch about dealing with Microsoft on Xbox games. For example, they once failed one of our submissions, not because of a bug or a problem, but because we spelled “Xbox LIVE” incorrectly. The wrong part was the fact we spelled “Xbox Live” with the world LIVE not in all capital letters. Another one was one of their rules that stated that you have to be able to start your game with every known type of game controller. You didn’t have to be able to play it that way, but you had to start the game. So it had us bringing in Guitar Hero guitars and steering wheels to test Duke3D with. I did once try to play Duke3D with a Guitar Hero guitar, and it didn’t go well. :)
Another thing we had to do was re-examine all the levels in the game to make sure they still worked. Not like the old game was broken, but we introduced the concept of co-op play to the game, and we needed to make sure people wouldn’t be trapped. There were two levels we found where the normal level progression broke the game. In both instances, things happened in the levels that blocked off your ability to go through the whole level. So we had to put in shortcuts in those levels so you could still get back and forth. One of them we put a teleporter to get to the end of the level from the start, but only in co-op, and only once you get past a point in the map where a building collapses and blocks your path through the level.
When I had the test bed console in my office, I noticed that you can use another computer to take screenshots from the Xbox, so during Duke XBLA development, I decided to make a walkthrough that was something 3D Realms never did themselves. There were Duke3D strategy guides for regular, Atomic, and even the Plutonium PAK editons, but those were by others. I thought it would be a good idea to finally make a walkthrough from 3D Realms directly. This walkthrough is still online to this day, and something I had a LOT of fun with, as it was 100% done by myself. Not only does it show you how to complete the game, it shows you how to find all the secrets in each episode. A funny story about the secrets. In the Episode IV level “Area 51”, one of the secrets listed in the official guide did not result in being awarded one of the listed secrets. I was confused by that, because every guide (both physical and online) said that was a secret. So I had Allen Blum look into the original data files (which were STILL on his computer), and that area was not defined as a secret. In the end I found out that the strategy guide was WRONG, and the secret was elsewhere in the level. I detailed both the correct and incorrect secret in the Area 51 page of my walkthrough.
The game was withdrawn from distribution when Gearbox gained the rights to the franchise, and was later supplanted by their 20th Anniversary World Tour edition. The aforementioned replay system was kept for the World Tour edition, however.
After I published this article, I found out from someone on Twitter that the 2008 Xbox LIVE Arcade version is still available for sale. Here’s a link. Had to adjust my article due to that. :)
Current Status: Still available on Xbox LIVE, but rights held by Gearbox.
Links: [ Xbox Store Link | 3D Realms Walkthrough Page ]
2009 is a difficult year for me. That was the year that 3D Realms laid off their development studio (including myself). We were notified of this on 8 May 2009 in an all company meeting in the lobby. My last day of work was 23 May 2009. In last couple of days, I was tasked with making the entire product line work in Windows (so they could still be sold without shipping any product), so my final project was a mass day of creating install programs, working with the DOSBox guys on settings and repackaging. Those builds are no longer used, but it was a fun couple of days, despite being sad as hell for me personally.
The company itself continued to exist, and does to this day. It was widely reported that 3D Realms ceased to exist at this time, but that was wrong. All that happened is the development studio was let go. The company continued to exist. In fact, there were two things released in 2009, but they were both iPhone ports (Prey & Duke3D), but they were covered elsewhere in this document.
2010 was the first year that existed without any of my involvement since 1991. There were a couple of ports released this year, all of which were covered elsewhere in this document. They were Rise of the Triad iOS, Duke3D iPad, & Duke Manhattan Project (Xbox).