My Story of 3D Realms / Apogee Part VIII
This is Part 8 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 from 2015 until the article was originally published in late 2020.
2015 also had no new game, but on 15 May a new variant of the old legacy compilation “The Duke Kill-A-Ton Collection” was re-released. It is no longer available, along with the majority of the old legacy Duke Nukem titles.
One other thing I thought I should mention. On 7 Jul 2015, the 3D Realms Website turned 20 years old. I first put it online on 7 Jul 1995, and it’s still going. As I write this text in 2020, it turned 25 this past summer, too. Holy crap is that a long time.
This year saw the old girl move back into action, as there were two totally new games released in 2016. Something that hasn’t been done in quite some time.
Release Date: 29 Jan 2016
Bombshell is a game character that has a stupid long history with the company. Bombshell started life before we released Duke Nukem 3D, when we had a team working on a game called “Bitch”, and while that never went anywhere, the character survived. For awhile in the 90’s, during development of Duke Nukem Forever, we had Bombshell in that game. You could see this version of Bombshell in the 1998 E3 Duke Nukem Forever trailer. There were parts of it where you would play either as Duke or as Bombshell – she more or less was just a female Duke Nukem. However, years later, when Gearbox got involved with DNF, we extricated the character of Bombshell from the game, and removed her from the Duke Nukem IP, so we retained rights to the Bombshell character.
As mentioned earlier, 3D Realms itself was bought by Interceptor, and their first new project of the “new” era of 3D Realms was Bombshell. Definitely not just “female Duke Nukem” anymore, this game struck out to have a strong, kick ass character, that just happened to be female. It wasn’t a standard 3D shooter, it was somewhat isometric, which confused a lot of players, but if you could wrap your head around the controls, it was a fun ass game. If you never tried it, you should check it out.
The game was released on 29 Jan 2016, exactly 20 years from the release of Duke Nukem 3D – this was an intentional choice of date. When it was getting close to release in 2015, the decision was made to release it on the exact same day that we released Duke Nukem 3D originally. I always got a kick out of that symmetry.
I didn’t have a ton to do with this game, but one fun thing I do recall was the day I recorded voices for the game. I’ve been getting Dopefish as a cameo character in many video games over the years, and that’s something that has been picked up by others. Of course, the guys put a Dopefish in this game too. The Dopefish was worshipped by this “Cult of Dopefish”, and they asked me to be one of the voices for the Dopefish cult. So I went over to Andrew Hulshult’s apartment one evening (selfie from then), and we recorded me saying a bunch of silly things like “Worship Him” and “All Hail the Dopefish’ – stuff like that. There was an amusing video by Twitch streamer blurryphoenix where he discovered the Cult of Dopefish. Check it out. :)
There were plans to release Bombshell on game consoles, but this has not happened. It’s unclear at this point whether that’s actually happening or not, but it doesn’t look like it. It is still available on Steam, however.
Release Date: 1 Dec 2016
The voice of Dusty the computer was done by Jon St. John (Duke Nukem), so that was a cool throwback. It kind of reminded me of what the original Duke Nukem game would have been like with current tech and made now. It’s not Duke Nukem, of course, but some of the game play had a similar feel.
It was a first for an Apogee/3DR game, as it was on Kickstarter originally, a plan that I actually backed, despite helping out and I’d get the game for free anyway. The game funded on Kickstarter on 6 Oct 2016. A beta version of the game was made available on 18 Oct 2016. It was also made available in “early access” on 11 Nov 2016.
The first formal, public version was released on 1 Dec 2016, and was “Rad Rodgers: World One”. It also was the first of the 3D Realms game to use our new “Big Box” concept, a throwback to the 90’s of large retail boxes. That version was also available on Steam. Shortly after this, the game was released on 21 Feb 2018 on both the Xbox One & Playstation 4 platforms, a first for 3D Realms on those platforms, too.
However, that wasn’t the end of it. About a year later (on 26 Feb 2019), a new version was released, this one was called “Rad Rodgers: The Radical Edition”. This was the first appearance of any 3D Realms release on the Nintendo Switch. The Radical edition was made available as a free patch to all previous owners (PS4/XBone/Steam).
But the coolest thing about the Radical Edition is that we put in several 3D Realms characters from our past games in this update – Lo Wang, Duke Nukem, Cosmo, & Bombshell. The update also introduced two player co-op, so it was way more than just a simple level pack and re-release. The picture to the right shows the excalibat, which was a weapon imported from Rise of the Triad. :)
3D Realms also produced a very entertaining video about the history of side scrolling gamers in the run up to the release of this game. It continued some industry big names such as Tom Hall, John Romero, Scott Miller, Cliff Blezinski, Dave Taylor, and many more. If you never saw it, you should spend the time. It’s here.
One note, 3D Realms has nothing to do with Rad Rodgers anymore, the game is controlled fully by THQ/Nordic now. Any future re-releases, patches, or sequels would come from them.
Current Status: Still available digitally in Radical edition.
UPDATES: 1.1 – 13 Dec 2016, 1.2 – 21 Feb 2018 (Radical)
Purchase Links: [ Steam | Xbox One | PS4 | Switch ] Links: [ 3DR Rad Rodgers Page | Official Rad Rodgers Site ]
2017 was a complete “nothing” year. No new games, no patches, no updates, nothing.
2018 is a year that we released two more new/unique games, so that’s a positive step forward. One thing though – both the games were a throwback to the earliest Apogee days when we had smaller, more “experimental” games if you like. There is nothing bad with any of them, but they’re not going to get the attention that say a Duke Nukem 3D would. I like that attitude. There was one point in our history where we targeted more, smaller games vs one or two big time games. I miss that feel a bit. Both the games this year fit that for me.
Release Date: 31 Jul 2018
Graveball is a digital only game that is kind of hard to describe. I’ll go with the official description here. “Graveball is a multiplayer game where teams of goblins play a game of graveyard rugby while smashing each other with clubs. Death is not the end! Respawn as a ghost to move swiftly into position and summon a new goblin from the earth!” There’s a lot more about Graveball in this post over on Reddit, which appears to be from one of the people who made the game.
This is a game I didn’t have much to do with, I wasn’t working with 3D Realms at the time this one was released, so I admit to not having much to say here.
Oddly enough it appears the people who made the game have disappeared, as their twitter account and the game’s website have disappeared off the web. The game itself is still available for sale through Steam, however.
Current Status: Still available digitally
UPDATES: 1.02 – 1 Aug, 1.03 – 3 Aug, 1.04 – 4 Aug, 1.1 – 6 Aug, 1.11 – 10 Aug, 1.12 – 13 Aug, 1.13 – 15 Aug, 1.14 – 21 Aug
Links: [ Graveball on Steam | Archive of Graveball Website ]
Release Date: 1 Aug 2018
ZiQ is the other game we released in 2018 that made me feel like the early days. There isn’t much else in the overall product line line ZiQ, and it tends to lean smaller like the earliest games we ever released back in the late 80’s.
Now, I know this doesn’t completely fit, but when I played this, I had flashbacks to our own Paganitzu & Boppin games. Those are puzzle games, and while this isn’t a true puzzle game, it’s all I could think of. It might be more accurate to call this an “endless runner game”. The game has an intersting sense of humor, you’re always being insulted for things you do, so it tries to throw you off the game doing that. Nice touch.
Here’s the official description of the game: “Run, dodge, jump, pull pickups, switch polarity and die constantly! You get to do all this while being heckled for your constant mistakes! “ZIQ” is an arcade runner that features polarity-switching gameplay. Switch ZIQ’s polarity to make it safely past obstacles or in some cases destroy them.”
2019 sees the release of two more new games, including one that uses a character that is connected with 3D Realms going all the way back to our days BEFORE Duke Nukem 3D came out.
Release Date: 15 Aug 2019
The game has an interesting path to release. It was originally announced life as “Ion Maiden”, which at the time I thought would be a legal problem. Turns out it was, as Iron Maiden sent a cease and desist to 3D Realms in May 2019, and the game’s name eventually had to be changed. The game was initially released as a public preview (beta?) on 28 Feb 2018, and then on 11 Jul 2019 the game’s name was changed to Ion Fury, and finally released publicly on 15 Aug 2019 on Steam. It was later released on consoles (XBone, PS4, Switch) on 14 May 2020 (digitally) and 26 Jun 2020 (physical).
No matter what platform you choose to play, this is one you need to play if you play anything from the “New era of 3D Realms” (that’s my term). Ion Maid.. er Ion Fury is a the old 90’s 3D Realms feel brought to current to perfection. First off, it uses the old Build engine, which was our staple code in the 90’s. The game play is really similar to our classics like Duke Nukem 3D & Shadow Warrior from back around then. Of course, it’s not just the same Build engine, it’s been enhanced with newer tech, but at its core, it’s still a Build game. Can’t tell you how many times I played Ion Fury, and I flashed back to all my old testing from Duke Nukem 3D back in the day. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this game.
One thing that I find personally amusing about this game is the guy who led this team is Richard Gobeille. Richard used to hang out on the 3D Realms forums back in the day under the name of TerminX. Not there’s anything funny about Rich or the game, it’s really cool to me that he lead a team to put out a damn good 3D Realms game – probably elevates him to #1 3D Realms fan? :)
Ion Fury just feels right. I know I already said that, but it was such an important point, it was worth making twice.
Current Status: Still available digitally (PC/consoles), physical less available.
UPDATES: 1.01 – ?? (retail boxes had 1.01), 1.02 – 18 Sep 2019
Links: [ Official Ion Fury Site | Official 3DR Page | Ion Fury on Steam | Ion Fury Soundtrack ]
Wrath: Aeon of Ruin
Release Date: 22 Nov 2019 (Early Access)
Wrath is an interesting game. It’s officially “not released”. The game was put out in something that 3D Realms now makes good use of, the “early access” (aka beta) concept. It was released on 22 Nov 2019 in that format. The final public version of the game is not projected to be released until 25 Feb 2021. So it’s a long public beta.
However, it seems to build in the momentum that Ion Fury did, by using the old Quake engine, which looks better than I ever remembered the Quake engine looking like in the old days.
I’m not going to say a bunch about this because it’s not technically finished yet. I have played a bit, and it does seem fun like Ion Fury did, but I’ve never been big about writing about games that aren’t formally released yet. It’s a feeling I’ve had going all the way back to 1993. Having said that, I can’t wait for the final, though, as it looks like I’ll enjoy much in the same way that I enjoyed Ion Fury.
The game will also have a “big box” like the last few 3D Realms games have – you can see that in the trailer below. The original Wrath reveal trailer is also available here.
2020 has just a single release, but 3D Realms also had a huge event in September, called “Realms Deep” – which is basically a Comic Con just for 3D Realms stuff. It was badass, and was actually the inspiration for the article you are reading right now.
Release Date: 27 Oct 2020
This game was released as I was finishing this article in the end of October, so I’m not going to write much. Honestly, the day I was wrapping all this up, the game was released. :) I’ll edit this section after the game is released once I get to dig in with this one a bit more.
The game was available briefly earlier in the year from May 6 through May 13 on Steam, but is not currently available anymore.
The future is looking strong. In the last few years, 3D Realms has released a total of seven new games, all new IPs, and the future is bringing much more of that – plus a few looks back at some other titles you might remember.
New titles are Graven & Core Decay, both of which were announced at the recent Realms Deep event, and are coming out in 2021. Both have trailers and can be wish listed on Steam as well, so make sure to check that all out.
That’s not everything on the books, either. We’re also taking a look back at some games in the past. There’s also Sin: Reloaded (the Ritual classic), as well as Kingpin: Reloaded (the Interplay classic). Both titles are getting visual upgrades, and are not just a straight re-release. Check out the trailers for each, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
- Sin: Reloaded Trailer
- Sin: Reloaded Steam Wishlist
- Kingpin: Reloaded Trailer
- Kingpin: Reloaded Steam Wishlist
- Kingpin: Reloaded 3D Realms Webpage
However, that’s not everything. There’s one that I saved for last. That’s because it’s my favorite game – Rise of the Triad. It’s “Rise of the Triad Remastered” which was also announced at Realms Deep 2020. We’re taking the original game, and well, remastering it. This isn’t like the 2013 reboot, this is the original ROTT being brought back to life. The one I worked on. There’s not a lot out there on this, but there is a small announcement reveal video available. You can see it here..
It was announced on 21 Apr 2021 that “Apogee Software” was reborn. Despite the last classic era game being released in 1996 under that name, Apogee as a name was revived some time ago and has been around in some capacity (most recently prior to this being behind the Crystal Caves HD release), but in Apr 2021 it was brought back in a more in your face fashion. The new Apogee (named Apogee Entertainment) has the original company founder Scott Miller behind it.
I am not personally involved with this incarnation of Apogee, but I’m very curious to see what they come up with given my long history with the name Apogee. The trailer gives some of that away, so be sure and watch that – much goodness in there.. As someone who was there since the days of Wolfenstein 3D, I’m very curious to see what is done moving forward. They actually have announced one new title already – it’s called “Residual”, and there is an announcement trailer for that as well. Scott Miller gave an interview to GamesIndustry.biz about the relaunch, you should check that out.
Plus of course, there’s still 3D Realms out there – so lots to come from any angle here.
Well, we’ve reached the end of my article. If you’re still here after having read through the entire thing, I applaud you. When I started this, I figured I’d write a bit, but I didn’t think I’d write 33,214 words (that’s what WordPress tells me I’ve written). I worked (directly) for Apogee/3DR from 14 Nov 1992 through May 23, 2009. I then worked for Gearbox for a year from Aug 2010 through Aug 2011. I’ve worked on and off with the new 3D Realms since 2014, so I’ve spent a lot of time around “Apogee” and “3D Realms” and its characters and games. The name means a lot to me. I have every right not to be happy about all this, given how poorly it all ended for me personally in 2009. But I still feel an attraction to the name and the legacy all these years later (almost 30 years since I started working at Apogee).
I’ve told some of these stories before, a lot I haven’t. But what I’ve written above is how I remember things to be. Some games I didn’t know as much about, but I wanted to list everything here.
When I was working on this, I had a couple of friends ask me why I didn’t seek out a publisher and write an actual book. I didn’t want to do that, because the moment I do that, it becomes an obligation and therefore is work. When I do it in blog format, I can totally dictate what is done. I have no publisher, no editor, and no hassle. If I wrote a book, I wouldn’t want an editor tell me what I can’t put in there. Also I’m old school web. I’m from a time where everything was free on the web, no firewalls, no ads. So that’s what I’ve done here. It’s all out there, with no ads and no paywall.
However, I’m not ignorant of the effort I put into this. Took some time to get all this together. If you enjoyed the article, please consider sending me a few bucks via PayPal. You can do so here. I considered signing up for Venmo so I could take donations that way, but then I realized Venmo is owned by PayPal, so why bother? So if you could see clear to donating something for the effort I put into all this, that’d be cool. If not, I understand that too – far more than you realize. But I can’t lie, it would be nice if you did. You can also scan the QR code to be taken to a PayPal donation page.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for playing the games. I can be reached on Twitter here if you’d like to follow up or discuss anything. Tkx.
While I wrote the overwhelming majority of this article myself, I did have some help from a few people. A handful of things I wanted to confirm my memory on, and I asked a few friends for background info. Specifically, Scott Miller, George Broussard, John Romero, Tom Hall, Keith Schuler, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. Putting this article together has been a flood of information, and it’s a blur in places already. :)
I also had help from my friend Dustun Carlsen (the same who sent me that screenshot back on the day Duke Nukem Forever was released), and Alex Danino from 3D Realms who was quite helpful in proofreading. Alex will have read this more than anyone else except me, I imagine. :)
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