My Story of 3D Realms / Apogee
Those who know me (and have read my blog over the years) know that I spent quite some time working for Scott Miller & George Broussard of Apogee Software (later 3D Realms). Was probably the single most fun job I’ve ever had in my life, and to this day, I still wish the old team was together. I’m not getting into the why of that, just pointing out what happened in the past. I worked there from Dec of 1992 through May of 2009. I’ve talked about that part of my life in more detail elsewhere on this blog. That’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing about the history of the company.
Apogee was founded back in 1987, and still exists today, although the path to get from then till now has a lot of twisty, confusing bits. I always meant to lay this out, but the current incarnation of the company did a really cool “Realms Deep” thing last month, so I thought I’d get around to doing this historical piece. Back in the day I was the company archivist, and moreso than anyone else there I seemed to care more about the legacy and history of the company. So that’s what I’ m doing today. Diving into the history of the company that I was a customer for, worked at for almost 17 years, and still maintain a relationship with today.
One final comment before I get into it. This is my personal thoughts and observations. This isn’t meant to be an official document for Apogee Software Ltd / 3D Realms. This is me looking back on everything. With that out of the way….
(The spinning logos are leftover images from our 1990’s website designs. Also, all the contents of this page are © 2020 Joe Siegler except for game screenshots and trailers.)
Some Personal Stuff
I originally started work for Apogee on 14 Dec 1992. I’ve told this story elsewhere before, but my first association with Apogee was as a BBS operator back in Philadelphia. I used to have a BBS named “The Arsenal of Freedom” (first on Apple //, then on PC). The PC version would distribute Apogee shareware, as it was very popular at the time. I was a customer, and bought many Apogee games from this era myself (Secret Agent, Commander Keen, the original Duke Nukem, etc…) Once Wolfenstein 3D came out (which I also bought), there was a version that came out that claimed to be a “new porn update for Wolf3D”. I alerted Scott Miller to that, and it was removed, and not long after that, Scott asked me if I wanted to be a beta tester for Apogee. I of course immediately said yes. During this time, the first ever employee hired by Apogee (other than Scott’s family) decided to leave Apogee. This was Shawn Green, who left Apogee to go to id Software. Scott asked in the beta group if anyone wanted to come work for Apogee, and I jumped on it. After a few chats, I decided to move from Philadelphia to Dallas to work for Apogee. I was working for AT&T at the time, so jumping halfway across the country to work for a company with about 20 employees from a place with about 70,000 was a major culture shock. After a time, I realized I was there to replace “Employee 1”, so I go WAY back. In those earliest days, I did phone support, which could be a challenge at times (RIP Debbie Flowers). I was on phones to have me learn the products, and then I moved into online support.
Something interesting, in looking for a document for another part of this article, I happened upon the original message that Scott Miller posted in the Apogee beta group asking if anyone wanted to come down to Garland and work for Apogee. I kept it, although it’s not in the greatest shape almost 30 years later. The message wasn’t dated, but it would have been early fall, as I was formally hired in October, had another trip to Texas in November, and moved permanently in early December. If you want to see the letter that got me to move 1,400 miles away to work for Apogee, I’ve taken a pic of it. You can click it for a larger version, which is easier to read.
Anyway, once I got there, I noticed a few of the things in place then were in a disorganized state. That’s not to say the company was a mess, but certain areas that I had direct responsibility over were. I was always one for organization and record keeping – even back then. One of the first things I did was organize the online distribution files. I don’t know how many of you reading this were around back then, but in early 1993, the distribution method for video game shareware (something pioneered by Scott Miller) was a bit of an odd distribution. There were many hub BBS’s around – the home one for Apogee was then Software Creations. They weren’t the only ones by far (others like Exec-PC come to mind), but all the shareware from before my time there from Apogee was a hodgepodge of various compression formats (both arj, pkzip, and arc), versions, and the like. I organized all of it, collected the entire distribution line, repackaged them into a uniform format, and made sure things were kept up to date with the latest compressions to make the files as small as possible. Having the official product line all line up and look the same in terms of compression, naming, and whatnot was something I thought it should be. Thought it looked better that way.
Back in those days, I did something which is commonplace now, but in 1993, it was unheard of. Scott & George decided they wanted someone to be what is now known as a “Community Manager”, but back then nobody did this. They pioneered online support, too. The person doing that online support was me. Things were different then, because there was no social media. We had things like CompuServe, GENie, Prodigy, Delphi, etc… If you were super techy (like John Carmack), you had .plan files – the precursor to twitter, in some ways. But it was my job to “be Apogee” online. It was a dream job.
I also introduced the old concept of “file_id.diz” to the Apogee distribution files. I didn’t create the format, but I did introduce it to our company in a unified format. We did have it in one or two games before I started, but it wasn’t consistent. The version I introduced had a similar format across all our games. It was also my idea to use file_id.diz as an early form of DRM on our registered games (to the consternation of some). My idea was this – if we had problems with people uploading the full/commercial versions of our games to BBS’s, I thought we could stick a file_id.diz in the full game directory, so if someone zipped it up and uploaded it, the BBS would then added the description that it was an illegal upload, and presumably be seen and removed. You couldn’t remove the file_id.diz file from commercial games, because the game would no longer run without that. Don’t know how many of you remember this about the Apogee games from back then, but this was totally my idea.
One of my other ideas then was to index the company’s output. Now back in 1993, we didn’t have a website yet (that started in the summer of 1995). However, everything that the company released from the moment I started working there I kept track of (with one or two exceptions that slipped through the cracks). Major releases, point releases, all updates, freeware, etc… I maintained that file until the day 3DR and I separated in 2009. I also kept track of it PAST my end of employment, and continued to updated it. It’s still maintained to this day (by me). That’s something I’m quite proud of. It has turned into a true historical document that I’ve been told people have used when researching our game history. The original is still available online, but what I’m doing with this blog post is expanding on the original basic list of games and dates. There will be additional info, like personal remembrances, screenshots, current availability, etc….
I was also the guy who uploaded all new shareware releases and patches. As is well known, our distribution network was housed at Software Creations, the major BBS run out of Massachusetts. However, they weren’t the only place. When we released something, I would spend a lot of time uploading our files to various major BBS’s around the country, so the packaging and distribution of our shareware was a big thing to me. FTP was also a thing around then, so I handled that too. I was the person who mastered floppy discs (and later CD’s) for mass duplication. Most of our CD’s had a /goodies directory on them – the majority of the time, I would gather random things and just throw them on the CD to have some other fun stuff to discover. That was all me. There’s a pic to the right of me holding the Fedex box in my office with the gold master CD for Shadow Warrior in 1997. There was a very famous picture of George Broussard in my office pointing at my computer on the first actual upload of Duke Nukem 3D to Software Creations on 29 Jan 1996. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I took that picture, too. ;)
Two other fun things I did with the 3D Realms site back in the day which were mostly unheard of at the time were the Virtual Tour, and the webcam. While the virtual tour is available on old copies of the 3D Realms website at archive.org, it doesn’t include the pictures, so it’s not something that’s worth seeking out. It’s not like a Virtual Reality tour in 2020. This was just a bunch of still pictures that you went to the next one by clicking something and it would load another page. Primitive tech by today’s standards, but nobody else was doing this in 1998 on the web. I had a fun easter egg in the tour, too. If you remember the old Infocom game “Zork”, there was a phase “It is dark, you are likely to be eaten by a grue”. Well, if you went into that area in the game, you were stuck in a maze. In my virtual tour, I mapped out that grue maze and replicated it. If you went down the wrong side of the offices, you’d get stuck in my grue maze in the tour. Always got a laugh out of that. Somewhere I have the actual hand drawn map I used to lay it out, but I couldn’t find it in prep for this article.
The webcam was a live camera – again not like 2020 standards, but it did have regularly updated photos. What I did was take a 1990’s era camcorder, and set up software on a specific machine which would take a still shot from the webcam once every 30 seconds. It would then FTP the image to our web server, overriding the existing photo, so the website would see the new one instead of the old one. Again, old tech, but nobody was really doing that in 1996. That camera got moved around a bunch, and we put it where things were going on. It lived in the lunch room for awhile, in tech support, in some of the developer’s offices, and we would sometimes use it to send messages to developers we were hiring (go look at the webcam, Martin!) – haha. However, the one most people remember was we put it in the room we shipped Duke Nukem 3D orders out of, so people could watch us packing orders. Sometimes it would crash too, and you’d end up with weirdness. I’ve included a couple of examples from both the tour and the cam in the gallery below.
One last one was something I did on the 3DR website for over a decade. That’s the “Camera Captioning Contest”. I’d post random goofy pictures taken around the offices, have people send in their ideas for a caption, and the winner would get a free game sent to them. Was a lot of fun – all the old entries and winners are still online, too. The contest ran from Dec 20, 1996 through Jan 12, 2006. It was revived for a time on social media with the new 3D Realms, but it didn’t last terribly long. Fun memory from the past, too.
I’ve written about my time at Apogee many times on this blog, and there’s some good stories to read if you want a deeper dive. Some of them are game specific, and I’ll link to them in the relevant game sections below. Some of the less game specific ones here are..
- Pearle Scarboro – My meeting with the mother of the late 3DR programmer William Scarboro.
- Happy Trails Duke Nukem – This was something I wrote on the last day that 3D Realms had the rights to Duke Nukem on 31 Dec 2015, it was about Duke Nukem in general.
- Duke Nukem Swag – A detail of all the various bits of Duke Nukem swag I had collected over the years. It’s not about any one game, so I’m listing it here. I also threw in my much smaller collection of Shadow Warrior stuff too.
- Nuking a Lobby Floor – A story about the creation and later destruction of the really badass looking lobby floor we had in the NW Highway 3D Realms Offices.
- Goodbye Duke Nukem – This is a very personal journey that I wrote on the last day I was working for Gearbox. At the time I thought it was the end of my connection to Apogee, 3D Realms, & Duke Nukem.
Before I get to the timeline of releases, I wanted to speak for a minute about the names “Apogee Software” & 3D Realms. There’s been a bunch of confusion over that over the years. I’ve explained it from time to time, but never put it down in blog form, so here goes.
Back in 1987, Scott Miller founded Apogee Software. Kroz is generally regarded as the first “Apogee” game, and it was released in November 1987. There were a few rogue games that Scott used the name Apogee before then, but 1987 is more or less when the “company” was founded, because that was the first game that used “The Apogee Model”. Those earlier games (which I’ll detail below) were released differently. Anyway, back in those days, things were small. It was just Scott and his family in his parents’ house in Garland. A couple of years ago I wrote a story about that original location for the 3D Realms site. You can read it here.
A couple of years after that, George Broussard was brought on, things expanded, the company got larger, and while it was still before my time there, they created “Apogee Software Ltd.” That was (and still is to this day) the legal name of the company I worked for for almost seventeen years in the 90’s and 2000’s. “Apogee Software Ltd” was what was on my paychecks.
Some time after that, they also created another company called “Action Entertainment Inc”. Action Entertainment legally owned Apogee Software Ltd. The idea being if someone sued the company, they’d be suing AEI, and not Apogee (and therefore its employees) directly.
In 1994-ish, Scott Miller had the idea that we needed branded names. His stated idea at the time was that with the name “Apogee” had become diluted, and you didn’t know what type of game you would get when you got an Apogee game. I personally thought it was fine the way it was, but we ended up creating the 3D Realms name here out of this. Officially, 3D Realms is a “dba” name (doing business as), but after the release of Terminal Velocity, and then Duke Nukem 3D, the 3D Realms name took a front seat.
In 1996, we released the final game under the Apogee name – Stargunner. We used the 3D Realms name exclusively after that to identify ourselves, but legally we were still “Apogee Software, Ltd” (a name that still exists in 2020). We also had a second dba name around this time, that being “Pinball Wizards”, but only one game (Balls of Steel) was ever released using this name.
As was written about elsewhere, in 2009, the original Apogee (dba 3D Realms) ceased to exist as development studio, and laid off all their staff (including me). However, despite popular belief, Apogee/3D Realms never ceased to exist – ever. They remained in their offices through the beginning of 2011, then had offices in the Gearbox Software building in Plano TX for a time. Apogee/3D Realms continued to exist to maintain various intellectual properties they owned, but no active development was going on during this time.
Fast forward to 2014, when the original Apogee was sold to Interceptor Entertainment (now known as Slipgate) and moved the headquarters from Texas to Denmark. That is how it was presented to the public, but legally, “Apogee Software Ltd (dba 3D Realms)” was sold to “SDN Invest ApS” – a holding company that itself was owned by another holding company (MDN Holding ApS) who also owns Interceptor/Slipgate. The holding company is owned by the same people that run both 3D Realms and Slipgate, so this is similar to what Scott & George did years ago with “Action Entertainment Inc” (which is still legally in play, btw). Somewhere between the original purchase and now, The “SDN Invest ApS” holding company was shifted to a newer holding company, named “3D Realms Entertainment ApS” – who is also owned by “MDN Holding ApS”.
I realize all the holding company stuff is confusing, so…. the bottom line is as of 2020, the original Apogee Software still technically exists. Here goes…
The “name summary”…
Apogee Software Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Action Entertainment Inc. Apogee Software Ltd has two dba’s – “3D Realms” & “Pinball Wizards”. Action Entertainment Inc, and all its assets are owned and controlled by “3D Realms Entertainment ApS”. 3D Realms Entertainment ApS is owned partly by MDN Holding ApS and partly by Slipgate Holding ApS.
To simplify that even further….. “The guys that own Slipgate/Interceptor also own 3D Realms”. That’s the bottom line. ;)
I miss the days back when I started working at Apogee when it was just “Apogee Software” and nothing else. It was less confusing for sure. :)
Also… There was in Apr 2021 a “New Apogee” that I don’t have anything to do with launch. I have a short section about them further down towards the end of this article.
The Game History
Now I get to the history of the individual games. As I posted above, there is a straight linear list of the release history for Apogee/3D Realms on the Legacy 3D Realms site. I always wanted to expand on that and make it a bit more intersting than a straight list. That’s what I’m doing here. This will have some screenshots, links, info to current stuff and remakes (when relevant), and my own memories of that title (assuming I have some). The original list had them in chronological order, and for the most part that will happen here, but the initial release and all the point releases will be mentioned in the same place there vs a straight list in the original. I was around for the majority of this stuff personally, and for the stuff I wasn’t, I know just about everyone involved. So here goes…
While the generally established history has the first proper Apogee game in the fall of 1987, there was some activity before then. A handful of titles were released earlier, not using the same “Apogee model” that the company became known for. The true release dates of these 1986 releases is lost to time. Unfortunately, none of us really remember what the proper dates are now. If for some reason you happen to have verifiable info proving the date of any of them, please let me know.
The Puzzle Fun Pack
This was a “pack” of four small puzzle games all written by Scott Miller. The individual titles were Asteroid Rescue, Block, Five, Maze Machine & Phrase Master. Was discontinued ages ago, but is available as freeware from our FTP site.
By the time I found out this existed, I was already working for Apogee, and computers were already too fast for this game. A lot of these early games didn’t adapt themselves to faster computers than they were designed on, and as such are instantly unplayable. The same goes for the next entry on the list here.
The Adventure Fun Pack
Another “pack” of four small games all written by Scott Miller. The individual titles were Night Bomber, Raiders of the Forbidden Mine, Rogue Runner, and The Thing. The one I have a screen shot from here is “Raiders of the Forbidden Mine”. It really reminds me of Dig Dug. Other than researching for this article, I’ve never played any of these games, although I was aware of their existence.
This has the same speed problem with modern computers that the entry before this does. Was discontinued ages ago, but is available as freeware from our FTP site.
Beyond the Titanic
Release Date: Unknown 1986
Beyond the Titanic was a text adventure game in the vein of the original Zork games written by Scott Miller. If you liked the old Infocom games, you probably would like this. It still holds up in 2020, as it’s a text adventure game, so there’s no speed problems or graphics issues with modern computers.
Here’s the actual text for Beyond the Titanic from one of our super ancient catalog files we would distribute with games.. “It’s a text adventure game that mixes elements of science fiction, action, fantasy and rollicking adventure. The story begins with you standing aboard the Titanic just seconds before the ship sinks! In this story of riveting survival you’ll discover a long forgotten undersea mystery, travel to the Earth’s future, fly a shuttle to a floating city and be chased by a slobbering, three-armed creature–and that’s just the believable part!”
Was discontinued a long time ago. Re-released as freeware on 10 Mar 1998. Re-released a second time as freeware, only with the source code on 20 Mar 2009. Still available on the 3D Realms FTP site.
We released another text adventure game similar to the prior year’s Beyond the Titanic. this one was called “Supernova”. Supernova was written by Scott and his friend Terry Nagy. Between Supernova & BTT, Scott learned that releasing the entire game in shareware was not the way to go, and a new concept was needed, and what the company became known for (“The Apogee Model”) was born with the next release. However, like Beyond the Titanic before it, Supernova will appeal to fans of the old Infocom text adventure games.
Here’s the actual text for Supernova from one of our super ancient catalog files we would distribute with games.. “Our best adventure game requires an entire 360K disk! Has as many features as even the best commercial adventure games, and then some. Like a 16-color screen, ASCII graphics (that even work on nongraphic systems), 1000+ word dictionary, over 160 game locations, scores of sound effects, a “hint” command, and more.”
The game was discontinued ages ago. Was released as freeware on 26 Mar 1998. Later re-released again as freeware with source code on 20 Mar 2009. It is still available on the 3D Realms FTP site.
Release Date: 26 Nov 1987
This is where Apogee starts formally. That’s because it was the first game to use “The Apogee model” where the first episode was given away for free, and the rest had to be paid for – aka “shareware”. Scott did a a total of 7 Kroz episodes, and this is the bulk of the early product for Apogee from this point for the next year or so. Here’s some detail on the 7 episodes:
- Kingdom of Kroz (1987)
- Caverns of Kroz (1988)
- Dungeons of Kroz (1989)
- Return to Kroz (1990)
- Temple of Kroz (1990)
- Final Crusade of Kroz (1990)
- The Lost Adventures of Kroz (1990)
The first three were packaged as “The Kroz Trilogy”, and the second three as the “Super Kroz Trilogy”. There was to be 8th episode of Kroz released in 1991 (The Underground Empire of Kroz), but it was never released. I asked Scott in the creation of this article how much he’d actually done towards the 8th Kroz, and he said “I think I did a few little things but no actual levels.” So there’s no lost game waiting to be found.
There’s some additional detail on the Kroz games over here on Wikipedia. Some of the Kroz games had alternate names, too (such as Dungeons of Kroz being called “Kroz II”) – all of that is on the Wikipedia page. In researching this article I found something we used to distribute, a document called “Kroz: The Entire Domain”, detailing the episodes, their original prices, and some other info. It is shown below.
At the time it was new, the source code was available for an additional purchase. All of the various Kroz games were discontinued ages ago, but were re-released as freeware (with source code) on 20 Mar, 2009.
Current Status: Freeware w/Source Code
Kroz Links: [ Freeware – 3DR FTP ]
The true release dates of these 1988 releases is lost to time. None of us really remember what the proper dates are at this point. If for some reason you happen to have verifiable info proving the date of any of them, please let me know. If this year had a theme, it was “The Trivia Year”.
Release Date: Unknown 1988
It was discontinued ages ago. Was released as freeware on 23 Dec 2005, and then re-released again with source code on 20 Mar 2009. It is still available on the 3D Realms FTP site. It is also available to play online over at The Internet Archive.
A similar game to Word Whiz, only this time by George Broussard. This was originally released by George’s own company, “Micro/FX”, and later re-released by Apogee. It’s pretty much the same thing as Trivia Whiz. I even remember one of them referring to this as the “Trivia game engine” – hahaha. Anyway, it was discontinued ages ago, and released as freeware on 23 Dec 2005. You can download the freeware from our FTP site. It is also available to play online over at The Internet Archive.
Release Date: Unknown 1988
Similar to the other two Whiz games, except this one was all about Star Trek, and written by Scott Miller. Used the same game engine, too. After it was released, Apogee was threatened legally by Paramount over this title due to not having a license for Star Trek. Rather than fight the suit, Apogee withdrew distribution to the title, and relinquished all legal claim to the game. Due to that legal issue, I will not be linking to the game, nor providing a screenshot.
Current Status: Abandoned
Star Trek: TNG Trivia
Release Date: Unknown 1988
Similar to Scott’s Trek Trivia, this was about Star Trek: The Next Generation. This one was by George Broussard through his own Micro/FX company. It too had the same legal threat and was withdrawn as a result. I will not link to this game nor provide a screenshot for the same reason as the last entry.
Current Status: Abandoned
A note about Trivia Whiz & Star Trek: TNG trivia. Our notes say they were released in 1988, yet the games themselves say 1990 on them. Either way, the date is lost to time, but I wanted to present that as a footnote for completeness’ sake.
There wasn’t a lot of new releases in 1989, as this was when the followups to Kroz were released – or produced. Additionally, while our notes say that Adventure Fun Pack was released in 1986, there’s some websites that list it as 1989. Given we do not have proper release date info for most of the 80’s releases, I cannot refute it, but I wanted to mention this just the same. Also, this is the last year when we don’t know the true release dates for any of the titles.
Caves of Thor
Release Date: Unknown 1989
Also known as “The Thor Trilogy”, this is a series similar to Kroz, in that it’s an ASCII adventure game. Oddly enough, despite the series having the name “The Thor Trilogy”, it was mostly known as the episode name of the first game, “Caves of Thor”. Other games didn’t do that, not quite sure why that happened here. The three episodes that comprised the full game were titled “Caves of Thor”, “Realm of Thor”, and “Thor’s Revenge”.
From a gameplay standpoint, you can see games from this era progressing on from Kroz, but the ASCII beginnings of the company are still here in force. This was done by Todd Replogle, later known for Duke Nukem.
This was officially by Todd’s “Scenerio Software” label – it was his first game for Apogee. The game was later released as freeware on 23 Dec 2005. You can still download the freeware from our FTP site, and the game is playable online over at The Internet Archive.
Super Game Pack
Release Date: Unknown 1989
This was a compilation of several of the earlier titles from the catalog (despite the company only existing for a couple of years at this point). There were no new titles here, this was just a “Greatest Hits” of sort. The titles included here were “Asteroid Rescue”, “Block Five”, “Raiders of the Lost Mine”, “Rogue Runner”, Trek Trivia (Episode 1), & Word Whiz (Episode 1). Due to the inclusion of Trek Trivia, this product was withdrawn when Trek Trivia itself was withdrawn.
Current Status: Withdrawn, unavailable
1990 was another big year for Kroz, as most of the sequels for Kroz were released this year. However, we expanded into other titles and developers here a bit more (with one huge one). This is the year we say goodbye to the “no release date” (mostly). Things will start having some proper dates to them from here.
Monuments of Mars
The second game by Todd Replogle through his Scenerio Software company. This is a platform game similar to what Apogee is most known for (Keen, Duke), but not quite there yet – but you can definitely see where the company was going here conceptually. This was the first such game like this in the company history. Prior to this everything was a text game (Trivia titles), or an ASCII title (Kroz, etc).
Mars was discontinued ages ago, and was re-released as freeware on 20 Mar 2009.
This is a CGA platformer written by George Broussard and put out through his own Micro/FX company. It was later to become a purely Apogee game. It is similar to Monuments of Mars in feel, but was developed separately and technically different engines. George himself said this on Twitter.
This is the game that George famously spelled his name wrong in his own game – including the two point releases (there was a 2.0 & 3.0 version too!). It was discontinued ages ago, and was released as freeware on 20 Mar 2009.
Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons
Release Date: 14 Dec 1990
This is where things started getting huge. It was the original trilogy of Commander Keen games by id Software titled “Invasion of the Vorticons”. The three individual episodes were titled “Marooned on Mars”, “The Earth Explodes”, & “Keen Must Die!”.
So much goodness started here. I don’t even know where to begin with Keen. It’s a legendary platformer, and launched the careers of many folks (at least independently anyway).
The game had a manually created alphabet that Tom Hall used to create signs and, if you could decipher it, clues. You can see this alphabet in the screenshot shown here – it’s a small yellow sign with red lettering. The alphabet key was never released by Tom, id, or Apogee. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that. I went over to id Software a bunch in the early days to shoot pool and whatnot. I spotted the sign in Tom’s office, made a copy, and we used it to send to customers who requested a translation key. Later on I put it online, and this alphabet key has appeared many places from that original copy I made of Tom’s sign. The image is shown below.
There’s some cool Keen fan art on an anniversary story for Commander Keen on the 3D Realms site here. Also, in 2006 I did an interview with Tom Hall as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Apogee/3D Realms sold Keen Vorticons in shareware from 14 Dec 1990 until 9 Jul 2020, when the original shareware deal between Apogee & id Software from many a moon ago was finally brought to a close.
1991 marks the first big year into new games, and new IPs. Apogee/3DR’s most legendary character (Duke Nukem) started this year, and we had a couple of sequels this year, too.
Release Date: Feb 1991
Dark Ages was the first game that Apogee released that truly matched the format of what we became known for – the 90’s side scrolling platformer. This was written by Todd Replogle and Scenario Software. Also on this were Allen Blum & Keith Schuler.
It also had an industry first; Dark Ages was the first ever shareware game to have Adlib music in the game – and not just PC Speaker “music”. I contacted Keith Schuler, who did the music for Dark Ages, and asked him if he had any memories of doing it. This is what he had to say. He speaks about a few of his earlier games in this story, too.
If memory serves, the Adlib card was released right around the time Chagunitzu was released, so I had some extra money on hand. I bought a decent new computer (a 386 with EGA), and later, an Adlib card. The PC gaming scene was growing a lot during this time, but audio was still really terrible. My hope was that an Adlib card would be a step towards PC games sounding as good as the NES games of the time. By now, I was working on Paganitzu, and aspired to add Adlib music to my new game. This wasn’t going to happen, unfortunately.
Chagunitzu had been written in Microsoft QuickBASIC. I had started learning and working in C, but I didn’t want to entirely rebuild Paganitzu from scratch in a new language. The deciding factor was the graphic library that came with Borland C, which had very few parallels to what came with QuickBASIC. Near the end of the project, I learned how to link Microsoft C modules into QuickBASIC (that’s how Paganitzu’s input routines were built), but very little of Paganitzu was written in C.
My Adlib card came with programming documentation and some bundled software: a utility called “Composer” for making music, and “Jukebox”, which came with a variety of professionally made songs to show off what the Adlib could do. They even had a version of Living Colour’s Cult of Personality in there. Jukebox and Composer used the same file format for songs, so you could load up the professionally made songs in Composer, or the play the songs you made in Jukebox. The programmer’s guide was incomprehensible to me: I had no education in audio theory, and I didn’t have an SDK (in C or BASIC) to talk to the sound card, so I would’ve had to write my own from scratch. It’s possible I could’ve done it in C, maybe, but Paganitzu was in BASIC. I was still in high school, mostly self-taught, and very isolated from users groups or the sorts of people I could work with to develop this stuff. The Internet and helpful sites like Stack Overflow were years away. My dad had brilliant programmer coworkers, and they supported me by giving me things like their old copies of Microsoft compilers after they upgraded, but these were professionals with day jobs and no real interest in video games. So, I was mostly figuring out how everything worked on my own. Ultimately, I decided that I wasn’t capable of building an Adlib SDK for Paganitzu.
Along with having no training in the science of sound, I also had no training in music. But, I was trying to make an entire video game alone in my bedroom. All programming, art, design, and sound had to come from me. So, during the time between when I got my Adlib card, and when I decided that programming an Adlib SDK was out of scope, I was playing around in Composer and Jukebox, trying to learn how to make music and create a few pieces that could be used in Paganitzu. Composer was a lot like a MIDI sequencer, which meant I had a visual way to edit music. I would load one of the Jukebox songs, see how they did it, then try to replicate that in my own songs, using mouse and a computer keyboard instead of a MIDI keyboard. I didn’t know what a chord was, or what half of the Adlib’s instruments were supposed to sound like. I “brute force” composed music by putting some notes together, seeing what it sounded like, and rearranging everything until I had something that sounded like music. Fortunately, music is quite repetitive. Once you had a “riff” that sounded good, you could just copy-paste that until it was the length of a song.
At some point, George or Scott provided me with an early look at Dark Ages. Todd was smarter than me and had figured out how to program the Adlib card, (and whatever he did was probably in C and therefore would’ve been difficult to integrate into Paganitzu.) The version of Dark Ages I saw was playing those songs that came with Jukebox. This meant that the music I had created in Composer was compatible, and since I wasn’t going to be able to use it, I offered it up to be used in Dark Ages.
Thanks a ton to Keith for allowing me to use the story in my blog here. The video shown below shows some of the music for the game if you’ve never heard it.
Unfortunately, Dark Ages had some tech issues as time went on, and was discontinued. Later released as freeware on 20 Mar 2009.
Jumpman Lives! was programmed by Dave Sharpless and his own “Shamusoft Designs” company. It was a clone of the game “Jumpman”. It didn’t last long, as Epyx, who owned Jumpman wasn’t thrilled, and due to that Apogee gave the rights to this game to Epyx. Epyx themselves eventually went bankrupt, and presumably the rights to Jumpman Lives! went to Bridgestone Media, who bought them in 1993. In 2020, not so sure who would technically own the Jumpman rights.
It is a throwback to some of the earlier Apple // game play style I remember from that era. Always enjoyed it, but you die a lot in this one – A LOT! :)
There is an interview I did with Dave Sharpless many a moon ago about Jumpman and himself on the old legacy 3D Realms site.
One thing I wanted to add here. We’ve gotten some notorious complaints about things over the years, but Jumpman probably achieved one of the most notable ones. We got this complaint in 1994 from a guy in Canada who was – shall we say – unhappy that we discontinued Jumpman Lives. He sent what can only be described as a manifesto of everything he thinks is wrong with society – something we helped contribute to by making a game he wanted unavailable. I’m going include a few small sections of the complaint here. A few of us tried to read it, but couldn’t make it through – it’s unreadable in its full form. The paper in 2020 is a bit faded. I’m surprised it’s actually readable at all given it’s been sitting in a filling cabinet since 1994. Still, here’s a few pics from it, and to the right is a photo taken during Rise of the Triad development when we stretched it out on the floor and tried to read it in tag-team “event”. :) I took the photo myself, and also in the shot are Jim Dose (standing), Joe Selinske (lying down), and Mark Dochtermann (in the distance). I still have the thing in 2020 as the following photo I took on 22 Oct 2020 shows. It’s not easy to hold something like that yourself and take the picture. ;)
Current Status: See above
Links: [ Internet Archive ]
This is it, the first Duke Nukem game, and one I was a customer for – I bought this back in the day before I started working for Apogee. It’s a legendary game.
While the version of the character we know from Duke Nukem 3D isn’t here yet, there are parts of it that are. The look is mostly the same – the hair – the shirt. There’s no sunglasses, but it’s unmistakably Duke. Even Doctor Proton originated here, a character that didn’t really have a huge impact after this until the second add on pack for Duke Nukem Forever.
If you bought the game from us at any time past the first year, the title screen is spelled ‘Duke Nukum” – vs the traditional Duke Nukem. I love the so called “experts” who try and tell me I’m wrong about the spelling. Yes, the game shows as Nukum – but the proper spelling is Nukem.
Here’s something I wrote AGES ago about the Nukem vs Nukum naming thing: There is frequently a great deal of confusion over the correct spelling of one of Apogee’s most prized characters, Duke Nukem. The original spelling for the name was “Duke Nukem”; however, during the code fix stage between v1.0 and v2.0 of the original game, Apogee found a character overseas named “Duke Nukem” that was thought to be copyrighted. So, for v2.0 of the original Duke game, the name was changed to “Duke Nukum.” Then, during the programming of the next Duke Nukem game (Duke Nukem II), it was discovered that the character they found overseas was not copyrighted after all — and so the original name was reinstated. “Duke Nukem” is also the spelling used in all successive games that featured the character. Unfortunately, there were no subsequent updates to the original Duke Nukem game, and therefore we did not correct the name back – it’s been sold as “Nukum” since Nov 1991.
The rights to all the Duke Nukem games are currently held by Gearbox in 2020, and as far as I know, this game is not legally available to purchase anywhere right now.
Little known fact: The original name of the game was “Heavy Metal”.
Paganitzu is a CGA puzzle game written by Keith Schuler at his “Trilobyte Software” company. Back in the day, I loved this game, it was a true puzzle adventure game. It also was technically a sequel to a game called Chagunitzu, that Apogee had nothing to do with. Paganitzu looked a lot like the earlier game. It’s not quite a level pack – it’s not THAT similar. But if you knew one of the two games, then you’ll find the other very familiar.
There was a strategy guide that we started work on way back in the day called “The Tourist’s Guide to Paganitzu”, but it was never completed and abandoned. What little work we did on it can be seen in this PDF available on the legacy 3D Realms site.
There was a game later on in our company history that started off life as a sequel to Paganitzu (Realms of Chaos), but when it was released, those connections were removed. More on that later.
Finally, I did an interview back in 2006 with Keith Schuler as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Release Date: 9 Oct 1991
Arctic Adventure is a CGA platformer, and a sequel to Pharaoh’s Tomb. It was written by George Broussard. The original version of the game (v1.0) was published through his own Micro/FX company, but the v2.0 update was published through Apogee directly.
This title introduced a world map to the mix, something new at the time, we hadn’t had that in any other game to this point. You can see the world map to the right.
It was later released as freeware on 20 Mar 2009. It is also playable online at the Internet Archive.
Release date: 23 Oct 1991
Crystal Caves is an EGA platformer written by Frank Maddin inspired by Miner 2049er. It’s puzzle based, as you had to find certain crystals to clear levels, and progress. The screenshot here is from the game’s “World map”, something first introduced in Arctic Adventure.
Crystal Caves holds what we believe to be a record, the longest amount of time between the original release of a game, and a patch. We updated the game in 2005, as Crystal Caves was not Y2K compliant. The problem there was that in 2005, if you played the game under certain conditions, your system clock would be set back 100 years. We tracked down Frank Maddin, who fortunately still had the game’s source code at this time. We found out that the portion of the code that was causing this was using a pre-compiled library, and we couldn’t fix it, because we didn’t have the source for that specific part. Our good old friend “hacking the EXE” came to the rescue, as we were able to hex edit the main EXE to remove references to that routine. That’s the version that we still sell to this day. :)
I did an interview back in 2006 with Frank Maddin as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
In September 2020 it was announced that an updated game called “Crystal Caves HD” was in production. There is a Youtube trailer for it. This game was published by Apogee Software LLC. This new version was released on 15 Oct 2020 – you can view the steam page for it here.
Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy!
Release Date: 15 Dec 1991
The sequel series to the prior year’s Commander Keen. This was originally created as a trilogy, but the then id Software CEO wanted to take the third episode (Aliens Ate My Babysitter) and make it a standalone retail game, so this series was just two episodes, and not three, which was a bummer, as the price wasn’t any lower (that I recall).
The shareware episode of this game was the first appearance of the famed Dopefish. Episode V had Robo Red, another Keen character I really liked.
This was also the first game from Apogee that had music by Bobby Prince. Oddly enough despite my own personal affinity for Dopefish (who comes from Episode IV), I prefer Episode 5 of the series of all the Keen episodes. Speaking of Dopefish, I have an entire website for Dopefish online, complete in its 90’s design aesthetic. You can see that at http://www.dopefish.com. Heck, I even have a Dopefish twitter account.
Speaking of Bobby Prince’s music, I want to tell a personal story about this game. Keen 4 was the game that made me get a sound card for the first time. Back when this game was new I worked at the computer repair department of Bell Atlantic. On the repair floor, guys would test sound stuff, and would use Apogee’s shareware games on the test computers because of the sound they made. I was over by one of the repair stations, and then had Keen IV on, and I watched for a minute, and fell in love with the music the game made. That day after work, I drove to some computer store (forget who now 30 yrs later), and bought my first Sound Blaster – just so I could hear the music from Keen IV. I already had the game, but no sound card, I was rockin’ PC Speaker only at that point.
So much of this game was enjoyable. So much so I’d love for it to come back on something like the Nintendo Switch without any kind of modifications, updates, or whatnot. I mean even just something as simple as “Keen dying” makes me laugh in 2020. So I’m ready for more Keen.
This turned out to be the last (proper) Keen game released. There was one in-between the prior series and this one called “Keen Dreams“, but Apogee had nothing to do with that. There were two other appearances of Commander Keen over the years. The second was in 2019, when Bethesda tried to relaunch Commander Keen. It was received EXTREMELY poorly (even by Dopefish!), and was apparently discontinued in Summer 2020 after not ever having been released. The first time, however, did produce a released game. It was called “Commander Keen“, and was released for the Gameboy Color handheld. Neither Apogee/3D Realms or Tom Hall had anything to do with this. It was written by David Palmer, and published by Activision. It was released on 30 May 2001. It was not well received either, and it showed that you can’t really do Keen properly without Tom Hall. There’s more to read about this game on Wikipedia.
Apogee/3D Realms sold Keen Galaxy in shareware from 15 Dec 1991 until 9 Jul 2020, when the original shareware deal between Apogee & id Software from many a moon ago was finally brought to a close.
Current Status: Still available, but not from 3D Realms
Updates: v1.4 (1 Feb 1992) – Updates between 1.0 and 1.4 are unknown.
Links: [ Steam Page – id Software | 3DR$ Keen Galaxy Page | Legacy 3DR Keen Galaxy Page ]
1992 is the year when Apogee exploded with the release of an industry changing game. It is also the year I started working for Apogee, and my life changed, too.
Release Date: 1 Feb 1992
Secret Agent is a game with a fairly similar play style to Crystal Caves. However, the plot is loosely based off of James Bond and Secret Agent type things. This extended to things in the game being parodies of James Bond names like “Dr. No Body” and you being agent “006 1/2”. The object is to destroy a satellite dish in each level so you can escape.
It was written by Peder Jungck – his only game for Apogee/3D Realms. It was one of the final games I bought before starting to work for Apogee later this year.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Peder Jungck as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Release Date: ?? Mar 1992
Word Rescue was the first of two games in Apogee’s “Edu-Tainment” line. This game was written by Karen Chun (nee Crowther) for her “Redwood Games” company. I liked this idea – while I recognize I wasn’t the target for the game, I thought it was a great idea for Apogee to expand into this kind of thing. Shame the idea didn’t last, only one other game was produced here.
The game was non violent, nobody got killed, and was designed to teach you words. One of my favorite stories about any game during my time at Apogee was Word Rescue. It was a complaint we got from a teacher who identified themselves as an “inner city teacher”. They complained that Word Rescue was inappropriate for children, and their reasoning was solely because the first word they saw in the game was “gun”.
There was a sequel later on called “Word Rescue Plus” (which was basically more levels – the gameplay is identical), but that was available only from Karen’s company directly, Apogee/3D Realms never sold Word Rescue Plus.
Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure
Release date: 18 Mar 1992
Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure is the next game from Todd Replogle and Allen Blum. This was such a fun game. I absolutely adored the attitude of this game. It was a sidescroller like many others we did, but the light, fun feel to it was great – kind of like Commander Keen in that regard. The game didn’t have speech, but Cosmo would have “talk bubbles” for things he’d say. I loved that attitude. Was very Road Runner.
Also a big deal here was Bobby Prince’s music. The theme song was well, “ZZ Top”, and the main Level 1 music was so bubbly it made you happy just to play the level(s) that it appeared in.
Of all the games we produced, this was one I always hoped a sequel would be made for. To date, it never has been. Although Cosmo (the character) was revived in 2019 for the “Radical Edition” of our Rad Rodgers game. Cosmo was playable there. So perhaps there’s hope? :)
Release Date: 5 May 1992
Wolfenstein 3D is a masterpiece of a game written by id Software. There’s not many people who know about classic games and don’t know about Wolfenstein 3D. This game changed my life for sure, its existence is part of the reason why I moved to Texas. This was the last game that id Software put out through Apogee software, their next game (Doom) they went to doing it on their own, although Doom did start life as an Apogee game. Anyway, I digress..
The reason there is no v1.3 is down to me – before I started working here, I contacted Scott Miller of Apogee about a “porn” version of Wolfenstein 3D – I contacted him, and they got it removed but it said it was a “v1.3” of the game (1.2 was current then). Anyway, when they came out with the next/final update, they skipped 1.3 and right to 1.4 to avoid confusion with the “porn” version.
Still a classic. Schustaffel!
Mimicking what id Software did with Keen Galaxy, they produced a special “episode” of Wolfenstein 3D specifically for retail – it was called ‘Spear of Destiny”. Apogee did technically sell Spear of Destiny (although not in the retail box), but that was due to a licensing deal, we didn’t produce that game.
Additional: I wrote a short piece about Wolfenstein 3D for it’s 25th anniversary in 2017. You can read that here. I also wrote a lengthy article in 2016 about the “Call Apogee and Say Aardwolf” secret message and contest. You can read that here. One thing I did for Wolfenstein 3D myself was figure out the bloody Aardwolf maze on a map, and created an image that we used to mail or fax to customers when they wanted a map. You can see the picture here, and read a lot more about it in the story I mentioned above. You can also read the 2006 interview with John Romero that I did for the Legacy 3D Realms site.
Apogee/3D Realms sold Wolfenstein 3D in shareware from 5 May 1992 until 9 Jul 2020, when the original shareware deal between Apogee & id Software from many a moon ago was finally brought to a close.
Current Status: Still available, but not from 3D Realms
Updates: v1.1 (25 Jun), 1.2 (29 Jun), 1.4 (1 Jan 1993) – there was no v1.3
Links: [ Steam Page – id Software | 3DR Wolfenstein 3D Page | Legacy 3DR Wolfenstein 3D Page ]
Release Date: 1 October 1992
While not a technical sequel to Word Rescue from earlier in the year, it is basically the same concept, except with math, and not spelling. The game play mechanism is exactly the same. Like Word, Math Rescue was written by Karen Chun (nee Crowther) and her “Redwood Games” company. It was the second and final educational game Apogee/3DR ever produced. Given they bookended Wolfenstein 3D, we know what got the most attention.
Like Word Rescue, it too had a “sequel” called Math Rescue Plus, which Apogee never sold. The “Plus” version was basically just more levels.
A personal note. After I was accepted as a beta tester to Apogee back in the Summer 92, this was the main game that was in testing at the time (along with Major Stryker), so I played it a LOT. The educational stuff wasn’t a personal attraction, but I was so jazzed to be a game company beta tester, that I didn’t care!
I did an interview back in 2006 with Karen as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
1993 was my first full year of working for Apogee. Starting at this point, I was there for everything released by the company. The first game of this year was the first new game released after I started.
Release Date: 15 Jan 1993
This is the first solo game by Allen Blum, who previously worked on several of Todd Replogle’s titles. It’s a vertical shooter – the first of three such games Apogee put out over a couple of years (despite none of them being related).
This was the other game that was in testing when I was just a beta tester, and not technically working for Apogee. I remember the first beta we ever got. It might have been the hardest thing I ever played. When you’re on a beta team, there’s always differences of opinions. Some like things, some hate things, most are in the middle. However, with this first beta of Major Stryker, the entire beta team was universal – they hated it. Not the game, but the difficulty level. Not a single person liked it, because it was too brutally hard. You started off the first level near blind. You had no vision cone or vision at all. If I remember right the idea was you had to buy an upgrade to be able to see, but we all complained and got it changed for beta 2.
This game also had one of the hardest cheat codes to activate of any of our games. Most were a command line parameter, or a strange sequence of keys to press. This game required you to press five different keys simultaneously to activate the cheat mode. The five letters were C,H,E,A,& T. :) If you want the full procedure, check out this old tech note from the Legacy 3DR site.
Personal Note: This was the first game Apogee released after I started working there, and I remember well the stress of unleashing it on the world. It was the first thing I did in my position as “Online Support Manager”.
Was discontinued some time ago, and released as freeware on 14 Mar 2006.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Allen as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Current Status: Freeware.
UPDATES: 1.4 – 20 Feb 1993. 1.1 & 1.2 are unknown, and there was no 1.3
Links: [ 3D Realms Freeware FTP | 3DR Major Stryker Page | Legacy 3DR Major Stryker Page | Internet Archive ]
Release Date: 9 Apr 1993
Monster Bash was a side scroller game written by Frank Maddin – was his next game for Apogee after Crystal Caves. This was a total Halloween theme, but unlike most Halloween games, it’s got a “cute” theme. The goal here is not zombies or something like that, it’s to free captured pets. You are a kid whose weapon is a slingshot. I always loved this game – in fact it’s my favorite side scroller that Apogee ever put out – even over the original Duke Nukem or Commander Keen – as much as I loved those.
Another complaint story. We got a complaint from someone saying the game was not appropriate for their kids due to a pair of “upside down feet” they saw in the game. Not anything violent or not. The complaint was the implication was that the dead character feet were having sex.
One other thing, there was a shareware version called “Monster Bash Lite”. That was released on 27 Jul 1993. The difference between that one and the standard shareware was that we felt the original was “too large”. The shareware version of Monster Bash was the first of our games to be larger than ONE Megabyte. At the time we felt it was a barrier to folks downloading the game, so a “Lite” version was produced with about one third of the levels and a smaller size. This concept was never repeated again, as we found that people downloaded the standard version of the game significantly more than the lite version.
Additional: A little over two years ago, I wrote an article about Monster Bash for it’s 25th anniversary. You can read that here. It contains more detail on the dead character feet thing mentioned above. :)
Current Status: Still available for sale from Apogee Software LLC.
Updates: 1.01 – 10 Apr, 1.02 – 12 Apr, 1.1 – 26 Apr, 2.0 – 11 May, 2.1 – 23 May
Links: [ Monster Bash Steam Page | 3DR Monster Bash Page | Legacy 3DR Monster Bash Page ]
Bio Menace was a side scroller put out during our prime side-scroller years. It was written by Jim Norwood, and was I believe the first licensed use of an id Software engine – the same one the Keen Dreams used (which was later expanded on for Keens 4-6). John Romero confirmed the tech licensing to me when I asked him during research for this article.
It did however have some odd tech problems where people had to edit their config.sys and autoexec.bat files to run the game. These tech problems eventually caused the game to be discontinued, because as computers progressed it became harder to run the game out of the box. Even the DOSBox guys had to put special programming in DOSBox to account for Bio Menace. Since the DOSBox guys put in code to help with that, it’s not a problem in 2020, as DOSBox is pretty much the only way people play these old games anymore”. :)
I always thought the character here was an “Angry Cosmo”. Jim Norwood said that was not the intent, but could see why I thought that. :)
There was also a fun hidden room in the registered version, “The Apogee Room”, which contained Bio Menace-ized versions of Scott, George, & Jim Norwood. Contained items from previous games to that point – Duke Nukem, Commander Keen, etc. Always loved that joke. I also was one of the names in the default high score table in the game, that was also amusing to me.
However, tech problems aside, it’s a fun game, check it out if you never did. We eventually released it as freeware on 23 Dec 2005.
Years ago I did an interview with Jim Norwood as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Release Date: 10 Oct 1993
It used mod music (as opposed to Sound Blaster, which was the thing at the time). It gave the music a different feel than what we had done before this (which was mostly Adlib / Sound Blaster music). The game play style is a somewhat of a cartoonish style – so much so that the final boss was a Zombie Elvis Presley who swung a microphone at you. I always loved that boss, was surprised a Zombie Elvis didn’t get more attention than it did.
It was a fun game much in the style of Commander Keen and the original Duke Nukem, just with more up to date tech. If you liked those games, you’ll probably really love Harry/Carnage.
As is well known, we changed name of the game to Alien Carnage a year later. I will get into that a little more in the section for Alien Carnage.
The Halloween Harry game that Apogee released was not the first game to bear that name. John Passfield, who was the lead designer on Halloween Harry also released a game on his own in 1985 called “Halloween Harry”. It came out for the Australian Microbee computer system, and was sold commercially. Here is a screen capture of that old version of Halloween Harry, which is now 35 years old. Apogee had nothing to do with that version.
Current Status: Withdrawn, replaced by Alien Carnage.
UPDATES: 1.2 – 7 Nov 1993 (There was no 1.0, so 1.1 was the first public release)
Links: [ See Alien Carnage section for links ]
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Release Date: 3 Dec 1993
People always wondered when we’d come out with another game like Wolfenstein 3D, and this was it. Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold was not a sequel to Wolf in any way, but used the same tech. It was created by Mike Maynard, Jim Row, & Jerry Jones, whose company was called “JAM Productions”.
It was far more colorful than Wolfenstein 3D ever was, and was a sci-fi themed game. We thought it was genuinely going to be massive, but one week later, the original Doom was released, and Blake was easily eclipsed. It’s not like Blake Stone did poorly, it had some innovations that were nowhere else. One of which was the concept of switches and locks opening doors didn’t have to be on the same level – some switches unlocked doors on different levels of the game. At the time, that was unheard of. It was also the first Wolfenstein engine game to have NPC’s.
There were several updates to the game during its life, and not simple ones, either. The concept of textures on the ceiling was not there in the earliest versions and added in later (for v3.0). The manual for the game came with a Blake Stone comic book, a first for us. You can see this manual and comic at this link from the Legacy 3DR Site.
One other thing – we released this and Duke Nukem II on the same day. When they were coming close to finishing, there was some discussion about which one to release first, and how much time to leave in-between releases. It was my idea to release them on the same day – something that I don’t believe had been done since. I always liked that they took that suggestion of mine. :)
Speaking of a personal connection to Blake Stone.. In the fall of 1993, after I had been with Apogee for less than a year, they decided to send me to Comdex on my own to show off Blake Stone on a show floor. That was really fun for “the new guy”. I can’t lie, it was fun. However, in the same room was Jay Wilbur of id Software who was showing off Doom at the same time. Blake got attention, but I could see even then that it would be overshadowed by Doom which was released 7 days after Blake Stone.
Additional: In 2013, I wrote an anniversary piece looking back on Blake Stone & Duke Nukem II. You can read that here. You can also read an interview I did with Mike Maynard as part of the Apogee Legacy Interview series.
Current Status: Still available for sale from Apogee Software LLC.
Updates: 2.0 – 11 Feb 1994, 2.1 – 15 Jul 1994, 3.0 – 2 Nov 1994
Links: [ Blake Stone Steam Page | 3DR Blake Stone Page | Legacy 3DR Blake Stone Page ]
Duke Nukem II
… and the sequel to the original Duke Nukem takes the stage. I was a customer of the original game, and when I got to Apogee roughly a year before this, I was overly excited to be able to work with Todd Replogle and the guys on the sequel, as I really liked the original Duke Nukem. That extended to one of my greatest moments at the company, I was invited to be the original voice of Duke Nukem. I said just two words (“I’m Back!”), but that’s part of my credits, and I’m happy about that. You can hear me say “I’m Back” in this video which has the opening titles to Duke II.
The game itself was similar to the original Duke Nukem, but was more advanced. Duke could look up and down, fly in ships, fly with a flamethrower, etc. It was in my opinion a perfect “two” game. What I mean is that it was clearly a sequel to the game that came before it, yet expanded the game play of the original in many different ways. It also had music by Bobby Prince, again sounding like some popular music that was known (Megadeth anyone?)
The game was released on iOS devices on 3 Apr 2013 by Interceptor, but that version (as well as the original game) became unavailable when the rights to the Duke franchise went to Gearbox. The iOS version also forced in sunglasses on Duke Nukem when he didn’t have them originally. I personally never cared for that modification, although I loved hearing my own voice come out of my iPad. :)
Additional: In 2013, I wrote an anniversary piece looking back on Blake Stone & Duke Nukem II. You can read that here.
1994 was one of my favorite years of working at Apogee/3DR. Two of my Top 5 games by the company were released here (Raptor, ROTT), and the first game ever with a Dopefish cameo was this year too. I was so into working on Rise of the Triad, I skipped going to a Pink Floyd concert to work on ROTT levels. I probably should have gone to see Pink Floyd, as it was their final tour. :)
It was also our most prolific year, as we released a total of 8 unique titles this year.
Raptor: Call of the Shadows
Release Date: 1 Apr 1994
Raptor is the second of the three (vertical) shooter games that Apogee released within a couple of years. Of the three, Raptor remains the most popular. There’s many people who still play the game today, and some (myself) that keep hoping for a true sequel. I’m still friends with the author, and I mention it to him from time to time. :)
Anyway, this was released on April 1 1994 (again my idea for a release date). Our marketing at the time played on the fact that we used a dinosaur word – “This ain’t no Dinosaur game”. In some ways Raptor reminded me of a much updated version of the old Atari 2600 game “River Raid“.
The game still holds up in 2020, it’s a fun game that looks good. Not every game from this era is still viewed as looking good. This one does. Raptor has been ported to a few platforms over the years – but none of these ports were by Apogee they were either done by or authorized by the original Raptor author Scott Host. I am mentioning them here for completeness’ sake.
Here’s the port details:
1999 – Windows (no longer available)
2010 – Windows (newer version, also no longer available)
2010 – iOS (no longer available)
2011 – macOS (available on Mac App Store)
2015 – Windows (still available on Steam)
As a reminder, Apogee/3D Realms has nothing to do with any of these ports, but we do still sell the original 1994 version, which has had a DOSBox shell added to it, so it does run in Windows.
One funny thing about Raptor. It was the first game we had where there was a trigger based on the computer’s date. If it was the birthday of some of the developers, the normal Apogee intro music would get replaced with what I called the “Drunk Raptor theme” (they weren’t really drunk). It was Scott Host and the Raptor team doing their own “interpretation” of the Apogee theme song. Scott also recently sent me a screenshot of the code from Raptor’s source that triggered all this – I posted it on Twitter.
Finally, you can read the interview I did with Scott Host back in 2006 as part of the Apogee Legacy Interview series.
Hocus Pocus was written by Mike Voss with his company “Moonlite Software”. It was the only game he ever did with us.
Hocus is an interesting entry in our archive of scroller games. This one has a magic theme, and for some reason I never understood, it never got the attention of the others. I always liked the game and wished it got more attention. You can rectify that, and check it out – as Apogee/3DR still sells it – see the Hocus page link below.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Mike Voss as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Release Date: 15 Jul 1994
Mystic Towers was written by Lindsay Whipp and his Animation/FX company. It is one of the most unique games in the company history due to its isometric game play. I remember fielding numerous complaints from customers due to the control scheme, since it used a slightly different keyboard layout. During testing, it took me some time to adjust to it.
It’s the only game I can think of where the lead character farted. That happened when you did nothing and the character just stood there – something that was in many of our games. The goal is to lead “Baron Baldric” through a bunch of towers and rid them of monsters.
This game is officially a sequel to an earlier title simply called “Baron Baldric” – the earlier game is not a game Apogee/3DR had anything to do with. Also, ages ago, I did an interview with Lindsay Whipp who did Mystic Towers. It is still online, you can read it here.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Lindsay Whipp as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Current Status: Still available for sale from 3D Realms.
Updates: None, but the first public release was 1.1 (there was no 1.0)
Links: [ Mystic Towers Steam Page | 3DR Mystic Towers Page | Legacy 3DR Mystic Towers Page ]
Wacky Wheels was a fun racing game written by Andy Edwardson & Shaun Gadalla of Beavis Soft Software. It was pretty heavily “inspired” by Mario Kart, and to this day remains a fun game. It has a sense of humor that not a lot of games do. I mean, for example, you throw hedgehogs at the other cars during a race.
It was also a historic first in Apogee/3D Realms games. It was the first game to have a Dopefish cameo. It’s definitely a game I would love to see ported to modern consoles, but no upgrades, reboots, or changes. Putting it on the Nintendo Switch “as is” would be badass.
Speaking of that, there was a sequel of sorts in 2015 called “Wacky Wheels HD“. It was basically the same game, except updated with better visuals. Apogee/3D Realms had nothing to do with that, and it was also later withdrawn and is no longer available.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Andy Edwardson as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Current Status: Still available for sale from 3D Realms.
Updates: None, but the first public release was 1.1 (there was no 1.0)
Links: [ Wacky Wheels Steam Page | 3DR Wacky Wheels Page | Legacy 3DR Wacky Wheels Page ]
Blake Stone: Planet Strike
Release Date: 28 Oct 1994
It was a similar style release like Spear of Destiny was to Wolfenstein 3D – meaning Planet Strike was the first ever Apogee game in a retail box. Some of the earlier games (chronologically) had retail boxes created later on, but Planet Strike was the first one to make an appearance on a shelf.
An interesting story about the box itself. Given this was our first retail box, we didn’t have a lot of clout in pushing for things. Two examples of this are the game logo itself, and the girl on the cover art (see photos below). Both of these things were items decided by the folks at Formgen (who did the heavy lifting of actually making the stuff). They wanted a girl on there, because they thought it would get people’s attention on the store shelves. Nevermind there was no girl in the game at all – but they felt it should be on the box. Additionally, the game’s logo is on the bottom of the box. At the time it was the custom to put the game logos near the top of the box art. Formgen’s thinking with this was that if they were on the bottom, it would make the game easier to see if retail stores stocked the game on the bottom shelf and you wouldn’t have to contort yourself to read the game’s title down there. We disagreed with both of those, but lost both battles.
I remember some talk around the time of a third Blake Stone game, but it never came to pass. An interesting story about the new characters… The designers were up against memory limits and there was no space available to add new sounds for most new characters. They got around it by taking the sounds for the old characters and play them backwards for a “new” sound. :)
If there ever is a third Blake Stone game, will the girl finally make an appearance?
Current Status: Still available for sale from Apogee Software LLC.
Updates: 1.01 – 28 Oct 1994 – the only “day one” patch in our history.
Links: [ Planet Strike Steam Page | 3DR Planet Strike Page | Legacy Planet Strike Page ]
Release Date: 2 Nov 1994
Alien Carnage is Halloween Harry. In the fall of 1994, we realized sales for Halloween Harry were not what we thought they should have been, so the decision was made to change the name to the rather generic sounding “Alien Carnage”. The logic behind this change was that we thought people were thinking the name Halloween Harry made it a Halloween themed game, which it wasn’t. The game itself is unchanged from its time as Halloween Harry, the only change is the title. In the end, we probably should have left it well alone, as it didn’t significantly impact sales.
One interesting quirk. The full game had a total of four episodes, and the shareware episode had two, so we gave away a full 50% of the game for free. However, when we changed the title from Halloween Harry to Alien Carnage, we re-ordered the four episodes, which meant that one of the two we gave away for free with the Alien Carnage shareware episode wasn’t the same that we gave away with the shareware version of Halloween Harry. So basically if you took the shareware versions of both titles and put ’em together, you had 75% of the full game for free. Another oddity in the product lineup.
I did an interview back in 2006 with John Passfield as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
Release Date: 15 Nov 1994
Boppin’ was a fun puzzle game released in the fall of 1994. It was written by Stephen Lepisto and Jennifer Reitz of Accursed Toys. It was sold in two versions, Basic Boppin’ & Super Boppin’. The main difference was number of levels in the game.
One of the things I liked most about Boppin was it’s wide variety of game play styles. Most puzzle games have a basic structure in the puzzles and the objects and characters, but Boppin’ rewrote that quite freely. The basic game character (you) remained the same, but some of the worlds were wildly different from each other. I felt it lent quite variety to it.
The name itself comes from something in game that was called “Bopping Blocks”, they were the active parts of the map you would use to solve the puzzles.
The authors of the game had a stabbed bleeding teddy bear as their logo, and the 1.1 patch of the game had these things removed by default, as Apogee didn’t agree with that in a puzzle game aimed at kids. They Boppin authors didn’t agree with our choice here, and that disagreement eventually led to them requesting that we stop selling the game. We granted the request, so the game was discontinued in the summer of 2001.
The original authors released the game themselves as freeware after updating it to work in Windows. That release is still available today here. Please be aware that Apogee/3D Realms has nothing to do with this version.
I managed to get a hold of one of the Boppin team in researching this piece. I inquired about any additional Boppin materials and they told me there was never another sequel, nor did they make any more levels themselves. That bums me out a bit, as I always hoped there would be more. The controversy aside, it was a fun puzzle game.
While the Boppin’ pages have not been on the 3D Realms website in almost 20 years, there is an old archived version from the year 2000 you can view at the Internet Archive.
Rise of the Triad
Release Date: 21 Dec 1994
This was the first ever game Apogee produced in house. Prior to this all the games were produced elsewhere, or if in Garland, at someone’s house. But this was the first ever “in house game”. So much fun.
Probably my single favorite game we ever released during my time at the company. For any number of reasons, but one of them was getting to work directly with one of my heroes, Tom Hall. There were plenty other reasons (the game was fun, was my first and only game where I was a direct developer), but I the primary reason was I REALLY enjoyed working with Tom.
The game had its shareware release right before Christmas in 1994, and the full version shipped in February of 1995. A couple of extras were released later on. We released the source code on 20 Dec 2002, and on 15 Feb 2005, we released “The ROTT Goodies Pack”, which was a collection of various extras for the game.
There was an iOS port of Rise of the Triad that came out on 6 Feb 2010, but was later discontinued (due to iOS advances).
This game came out in retail a few months after Blake Stone: Planet Strike did, and we had similar problems with the box art there. One was the same thing – if you look at the retail box image, the logo was on the bottom – something we still were not in a position to fight. However, on the print manual, we were able to put the logo where we wanted (on the top). If you bought the game back in the day, you got one of these manuals. Formgen let us do that because it wasn’t on the outside of the box.
The other issue with the ROTT packaging was about the art. In the final version everyone knows, Thi Barrett was on the cover, and her pants were ripped – and she showed a lot of cleavage. While cleavage is always nice to look at, it had no purpose here, as there was zero sex appeal in the game. The original version of this image we wanted had no cleavage and no ripped pants, but Formgen made us change the art – they thought it needed to be sexier. I have a picture somewhere of the original version of the art, but I couldn’t find it for this article. I did, however find the original art concept that was produced for the game that we rejected and replaced with the art you know – you can see this pre-release art concept here.
Additional: I’m not spending much time talking about the game here, as I’ve written about ROTT a lot elsewhere on this blog. In 2014, I wrote an extremely long piece looking back on Rise of the Triad for its 20th anniversary. You can read that here. I also had an additional smaller article the year before in 2013 about the “You Do Not Belong Here” sign/art in Rise of the Triad. You can read that one here.
UPDATE: After I wrote this section, it was announced during Realms Deep 2020 that Rise of the Triad will be re-released as a Remastered pack. No info on a date or other materials, but there was a quick reveal trailer by 3D Realms here.
Current Status: Still available for sale from Apogee Software LLC.
Updates: 1.1 – 8 Feb 1995, 1.2 – 17 Feb 1995, 1.2a – 25 Feb 1995, 1.3sw – 8 Aug 1995, 1.3reg – 18 Aug 1995.
Links: [ Source Code – 3DR FTP | 3DR Rise of the Triad Page | Legacy 3DR Rise of the Triad Page | ROTT Goodies Pack ]
1995 was a historic year, was the first game released under the 3D Realms branding, and also the only time we released a public beta of a game.
Release Date: 1 May 1995
This was the first ever game released under the 3D Realms branding, which at this time hadn’t yet taken over the identity of the company. It was written by the company Terminal Reality, who was founded by Mark Randel & Brett Combs. It can be described as a “Combat Flight Simulator”. That is an interesting term to me, as Mark Randel worked on several Flight Simulator games for Microsoft.
You flew a ship around a planet looking to destroy various targets and other planes. You could in theory fly around entire planets, but the actual intended game play area was only on parts of the planets. One level hid a secret message way far away from the action as an easter egg (was a picture of the TRI crew). Was a fun game that while popular, never became the mega hit we were expecting. That came with the next 3D Realms game.
Terminal Velocity was also the first game we released that had separate animations (cutscenes?) produced for a compact disc version of the game – also a first for us. These cinematics weren’t in the floppy disc version of the game. Additionally, the game used mod music, which we released separately after a time.
The game spawned two sequels, neither of which Apogee/3D Realms had anything to do with. The first was Fury3, which was basically Terminal Velocity in Windows with different levels. The second sequel was called Hellbender, which expanded on the game play and changed it up a bit. Hellbender had Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame in it as the ship’s computer. Additionally, Fury3 had its own add-on pack called “F!Zone”. There were all Windows games published through Microsoft – none of which are still available.
Finally, in 2015, original Terminal Velocity programmer Mark Randel released the game on both iOS and Android, along with a third for the Amazon Fire devices, too. The iOS version appears to be unavailable in 2020, although the other two still are. We still have an old 2006 interview with Mark Randel online at the Legacy 3D Realms site, too.
Current Status: Still available for sale from Apogee Software LLC.
Updates: 1.1 – 30 May 1995, 1.2 – 7 Jul 1995
Links: [ Terminal Velocity Steam Page | 3DR Terminal Velocity Page | Legacy 3DR TV Page | TV Mod Music – 3DR FTP ]
Realms of Chaos
Release Date: 11 Nov 1995
Realms of Chaos is a sidescroller game written by Keith Schuler. If you remember, Keith Schuler did the game Paganitzu with us a few years prior. In fact, Realms of Chaos started life as a sequel to Paganitzu, when it was titled “Alabama Smith & The Bloodfire Pendant”. That connection was dropped, although I can’t recall why now – and the game became its own standalone world.
It had a unique game play mechanism, in that you played as both a brother and sister, and the characters could be swapped out during game play at the player’s discretion – each one had different abilities, so it can definitely affect game play strategy.
I asked Keith Schuler why the connection to Paganitzu was dropped, and he responded with this..
I don’t have a good recollection of that, either. If I were to speculate, I’d say that around the time I was working on that, Apogee was shifting entirely away from puzzle games and focusing more on NES-style action games. Meanwhile, if “Alabama Smith” was a brand, then its brand was puzzle games. So, we might’ve decided we wanted to get free of Alabama Smith and create an entirely new brand for an action game.
Alabama Smith and the Bloodfire Pendant also started life as an EGA game, using an EGA scrolling engine. It was the same one that was used for Monster Madness. At some point, Apogee asked me switch to switch from the older EGA engine to a newer VGA scrolling engine they’d developed. This meant all the art in the game had to be redone. I think by then we’d already started shifting to a fantasy setting, but redoing all the art certainly cinched it.
It was one of the last platform games we released, as the winds were changing, and things were starting to dive into big 3D games at this point.
Extreme Rise of the Triad
Release Date: ?? Nov 1995
Extreme Rise of the Triad is a retail product – it is an expansion pack for Rise of the Triad, released a year prior, give or take. This is essentially a map pack that was created solely by Tom Hall and myself. Both of us found a bunch of strange tricks we could do with maps since the original game release, so we made a significantly harder map pack.
It got released in retail around Thanksgiving 1995. The release date is something that as I write this piece I’m still researching. I know that I mastered the CD on 1 Nov 1995, and the CD’s were printed on 6 Nov 1995, but the actual street date of the retail product is unknown at this time. I found a newspaper advert from Feb 1996 showing it for sale, so it was absolutely out by then, but no date info there. After chatting with Tom Hall, it was likely around Thanksgiving (ish) – as we would have wanted to get in on Christmas 1995 sales.
After a time, the EROTT retail pack was discontinued (Nov 1997), and was later released as freeware. A few years after that, we released the “ROTT Goodies Pack”. The Goodies pack was basically all the other content that was on the EROTT CD sides the actual EROTT levels themselves. The EROTT levels were released as freeware on 1 Sep 2000, and the Goodies pack was released as freeware on 15 Feb 2005.
At the time I made this, I had three ex girlfriends immortalized as levels here – their surnames were the names of levels, and one of them I eventually ended up marrying (and still am married to today). I enjoyed this project more than any other I ever worked on at the company, because it was just Tom Hall and myself on this one – nobody else (since it was just a level pack) – the rest of the team had moved on to other projects by now (mostly the original incarnation of Prey).
Extreme Rise of the Triad was the only game in the entire history of the company that I got a royalty check on. The majority of what I did in the game was background support and testing. However, for ROTT I was a game mapper. In the original game, I only did a handful, but in this one I did a lot more, so I got a royalty check. Which was really cool for the first few months after being released. Was cool getting a check like that. However, EROTT was never promoted too much by us, and it led to the royalty checks dropping off fairly quickly. After awhile, the last couple of checks were under $2. George came to me and asked if I’d accept a buyout of my EROTT deal, which I took. At the rate the checks were declining, I figured out that it would be about 2035 to recoup the amount of money I accepted in my buyout. :)
Much later on, I ran across a series of videos by Youtuber “Psychedelic Eyeball” where he went and reviewed every single level (and a few other things) for Rise of the Triad. I absolutely loved these videos, as it was direct feedback. There’s one in particular where he deals with the Warp Only levels in Rise of the Triad, and he goes into detail on my Vomitorium level. He even does one on the EROTT sequel level, “The Grand Vomitorium”. I loved this video A LOT, because he fully got and verbalized some of the things I was going for my (admittedly jerk) level design. I was being a major annoyance to the player, and he took me to task for it in the video. I LOVED IT! You can check this video out here.
Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport
Release Date: 29 Dec 1995
It was mostly known for calling characters “Meat” after they were defeated. Most of the characters were non human to try and differentiate it from other fighting games which were mostly people. I honestly don’t have a lot of memories of this game, because it came out during the leadup and reaction to the next game on this page.
It was the first and only game where we released a formal public beta (although we did use “Early Access” a bunch in the 2010s). Why we did this I can’t remember now almost 25 years later. The proper “1.0” version of the game was released on 26 Apr 1996, and there was a 1.1 update in July. Oddly enough, the shareware version of the July update didn’t come out till December, which likely hampered things not having a demo/shareware out there for so long.
I did an interview back in 2006 with Jason Blochowiak as part of the Apogee Legacy interview series. It is still online, you can read it here.
In the end, it didn’t sell very well, and when we moved headquarters in 2002, we dumped almost all our stock of Xenophage CD’s in the trash.
1996 was the year everything changed. We released the single most popular and best selling game in our history, and I got married at the end of the year. A whole lot of fun and changes this year for sure!
Duke Nukem 3D
Release Date: 29 Jan 1996
What more is there to say about this game? I’m not going to give you any huge special insights here. The most popular game Apogee/3D Realms ever released – by far. It’s still a big deal to this day, and very much still popular almost 25 years later.
I worked on this game, but primarily as a tester. My other connection to the game from a personal level is with the voice of Duke. For the bulk of the development of this game, Duke’s famous voice was not there. In the previous Duke game, I was the first/original voice of Duke, and when we decided to give this game a voice, there was some brief discussion of having me be the voice here too. However, it quickly became apparent that the demands for the voice would outstrip my skillset, so pro voice talent was needed. Enter Jon St. John – who is perfect for the role. One of the earliest builds had a final boss battle with Dr Proton on the top of a tower, a very thin tower, and that was your big battle. If you fell off the tower, you’d fall to your death, and since it was a very tall tower, we had this big scream that Duke let out. That was my only attempt at doing a voice for Duke Nukem 3D before we moved on to Jon St. John. I wish I still had build of that, as it was something I would replay a lot. Not just because my voice was there, but I thought it was funny having Duke flail down the side of the building. Made me laugh.
Much happened post release of this – we had an insane number of pre-orders, we had a live webcam set up in the room we would ship orders from, as it was the last release where we handled all the orders ourselves. It was available in retail stores, but this was pretty much the end of our focus as ourselves as the primary sales point. After this, we focused more on the retail market. Shipping all those orders internally was so much fun. We had lan parties (we even made an appearance as a company at one), so much fan artwork – it was the creative and sales high point of the company during my time there.
Updates: There were several updates to this game. The first couple were the usual maintenance updates. The initial shareware had some updates, and when we got to v1.3 of the game, I suggested calling it “v1.3d” to line up with the overall game’s name, and that was adopted. v1.3d was the first version where we shipped the full version. After that, we started working on an add on pack for the game. We’ve done that kind of thing before (Wolfenstein 3D & Spear of Destiny, Blake Stone & Planet Strike), so that concept is not new. What *WAS* new here is that the update was produced as a patch for the base game. Spear of Destiny and Planet Strike were standalone products that did not require the original. The 1.4 update for Duke3D that added a fourth episode DID require the original. We created a patch which was sold as a retail product – that patch was called “The Plutonium PAK’. After using that patch, your v1.3d registered game would be upgraded to 1.4, and the resultant game was now called “The Atomic Edition”. There’s been some confusion over the naming of these things over the years, but this was the deal – the patch that upgraded you to The Atomic Edition was called “The Plutonium PAK”. There was a later patch produced, a v1.5 update – but it didn’t add anything else, it was just bug fixes.
Other versions: The game was ported to a crap ton of various systems and consoles. Most of them will have their own entries on this page, but one I wanted to mention here was the Mac version, which was released on 25 May 1997. We had nothing to do with this port. Duke Nukem 3D was also packed in with some other games (like a Duke3D/Shadow Warrior bundle we had for awhile), there were many updates and addons produced for the retail market. We even had a retail shareware box, which was just Episode 1 in a box. There was a screensaver sold in retail, there were add-on packs (like Nuclear Winter) that weren’t actually from us. Duke was all over the place in 1996.
More recently: This game, along with the other Duke Nukem games became property of Gearbox Software in 2010, and as such, they control distribution at this point. The original is no longer available, however, they did produce a “Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour Edition” game. This took the existing 1.5 game, and produced a brand new fifth episode for the game. They brought back several of the original developers to do it – Allen Blum, Levelord, & Lee Jackson. It was quite fun, and really felt like we had produced it back in 1996. That version came out on Steam, Xbox One, PS4, & the Nintendo Switch. That is the only version of Duke Nukem 3D that is still available in 2020. The World Tour version was released originally on Steam/Xbox/PS4 on 11 Oct 2016. The Switch version was released on 23 Jun, 2020. If you’ve never checked it out, you should – it really captures the feel of the original game well, while adding something new to fans of the original.
One cute note – exactly one year to the day (29 Jan 1997), we released an early beta of Duke Nukem 3D under the title of “LameDuke”, as we thought fans would get a kick out of seeing how far the game had come for the final release.
There were a couple of iOS ports of the game made, too. The iPhone variant was released on 11 Aug 2009, and an iPad specific version was released on 1 Apr 2010. Both were discontinued a long time ago mostly due to their iOS versions being supplanted by newer versions, and the old builds no longer worked. There was an additional Android port of Duke Nukem 3D released on 1 Nov 2011.
To sum up, it was a hellaciously fun game to work on, release, and watch the reaction to. While Rise of the Triad might be my favorite overall game (as a game) we ever released, nothing was as big as Duke Nukem 3D, and nothing was as well remembered today.
Current Status: Unavailable in original form, rights owned by Gearbox. See above.
UPDATES: 1.1 – 20 Feb, 1.3d – 24 Apr, 1.4 – Nov 27, 1.5 – 12 Dec
Links: [ 3DR Duke Nukem 3D page | Legacy Duke Nukem 3D Page | Gearbox World Tour Page ]
Release Date: 6 Sep 1996
This was the first game we collaborated with Remedy games on. They’re more well known for larger story based games now, but their first was Death Rally. This was a fun top down car racing game. It was perhaps not what we were known for, but remains one of my personally well remembered titles. Probably because it was different. This was the first thing we released after Duke Nukem 3D, and we kind of needed a palate cleanser of sorts. Speaking of Duke Nukem, it was because of the popularity of Duke at this time that we decided to stick Duke Nukem in the game as a driver. He was hard to beat, too. :)
Had the traditional tropes of a racing game. Make money for winning the game, use money to upgrade car, more races, better drivers, etc… There’s not a ton of depth to that explanation, but that’s the core of the game, really.
The game was eventually made freeware by Remedy, and is available for download over on Steam. I’m not sure of the exact date of this, but it appears to have been done around 29 Jul 2015. The game was made available on Steam first on 5 May 2014, however.
There was a remake of the game in 2012 by Remedy as well (which we had nothing to do with). The remake is more or less the same game, but with wildly upgraded graphics. It’s still available today, and is really cheap. Check it out on the Steam store here. The remake was released on 3 Aug 2012.
A side note, the game had two names before we settled on Death Rally. The earlier names were “HiSpeed” and “Death Race”. When Remedy had their 20th anniversary as a company a few years back, I dug up all the old logos (both the game and the company) and sent them out on Twitter. Here’s the image I used showing all the old logos.
Finally, my interview with Petri Jarvilehto (then of Remedy) is still available on the 3D Realms Legacy site.
Release Date: 19 Nov 1996
This was the last game we released under the Apogee Software name, and the third in our (unrelated) shooter trilogy (not really). This one was written by a team in Australia, led by David Pevreal. David himself referred to the game thusly.. “Stargunner was an attempt to faithfully bring to life on the PC a style of game seen most commonly on the Commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga throughout the 80’s; the good old days.”
A cute little factoid, when you go into the shop in the game to upgrade your ship, you’ll hear a piece of music. In that music is a voice that talks. The voice that says “Spend MORE money!” in the ship accessories store is actually that of former President Bill Clinton, sped up so as to be unrecognizable.
I wrote about Stargunner a few years back on this blog, spending some time talking about the music for the game – including the original versions of the game where the developers sung – yes SUNG – a Stargunner theme tune. Please, check out that article, too. Finally, I had a credit for graphic design on this game in the manual – that was because I helped out a bit putting the manual together for this game. You can view the manual on the legacy 3D Realms site.
The game was released as freeware on 22 Jun 2005.
1997 was the year that things started slowing down. We didn’t have nearly as many new titles this year, and the Duke Nukem ports started showing up. It was also the first year of internal development of Duke Nukem Forever, and Prey development was ongoing. Those two games run through many years after this one. :)
Release Date: 13 May 1997
Shadow Warrior was our next internally developed game, this one led by Frank Maddin & Jim Norwood, both Apogee veterans in the past. People wondered what we’d do next after Duke Nukem 3D, and this was it. Shadow Warrior. My personal perception was that it was Duke Nukem with a very eastern stereotype.
About the only thing I didn’t really care for in Shadow Warrior was the fact that it had a nuclear weapon as a weapon. I mean I used it a lot when Deathmatching in the game, but it always felt like a weapon we should have had in Duke Nukem, and not Shadow Warrior.
This game had a lot of my friends work on it, too, so it holds a more personal feel than Duke Nukem did. I felt more invested in Shadow Warrior, and once it got out and was being attacked for racial stereotypes, I felt more defensive of the product.
It never did the business we had hoped it would, but I thought it expanded on the concepts laid out in Duke3D in game play, level design, puzzles, and the like. I always hoped we’d get a sequel to it, and that never happened. There were a couple of expansion packs, but that’s not the same as a proper sequel.
There was a Mac version of Shadow Warrior released, but we didn’t do that. It came out on 1 Oct 1997. There were also two 3DFX patches produced for the PC game. Those were released on 23 Nov 1997, and 27 Feb 1998. The latter being an updated version.
There was also an iOS version of Shadow Warrior produced (by “General Arcade”). It was released on 19 Dec 2012, and updated to v1.1 on 21 Jan 2013. It was later discontinued, and is no longer available. Apogee/3D Realms didn’t have anything to do with this version.
On 1 Apr 2005, 3D Realms released the source code for Shadow Warrior. It is still available on our FTP site.
Much later on, Devolver Digital licensed the rights to Shadow Warrior and Flying Wild Hog put out a remake/reboot of the game, titled simply “Shadow Warrior“. That was released on 26 Sep 2013. After that game came out, Devolver purchased the Shadow Warrior IP from 3D Realms on 10 Dec 2014, and produced another one, “Shadow Warrior 2“, which was released on 13 Oct 2016. Both were well received, and a third is under production now to be released in 2021 (Shadow Warrior 3). I’ve played the first two, and they’re darned good games, you should check ’em out.
Devolver still has the original Shadow Warrior available for free, but they also have an enhanced version with some additional features and extras also available. The latter is called “Shadow Warrior Classic Redux”. It has remastered visuals, a remixed main theme, it includes the two original expansion packs, and compatibility with modern gaming PCs. You can check out the Redux version here.
One fun little thing. Back in the 90’s Lee Jackson wrote a song called “Lo Wang’s Rap” in which he pieced together Lo Wang speak into a rap. It’s still darned funny now. We have an MP3 of it on the 3DR FTP site, it is available on Youtube. Finally, Lee earlier this year told a story of the song’s creation on his Facebook group. Check all this stuff out.
Additional: A little over three years ago, I wrote an article about Shadow Warrior for its then 20th anniversary. You can read that here.
Current Status: Still available for free, but not from 3D Realms
UPDATES: 1.1 – 26 May, 1.2 – 3 Sep
Links: [ 3DR FTP – Source Code | Shadow Warrior Steam Page | 3DR Shadow Warrior page | Legacy 3DR SW Page ]
Back Row (L-R): SW MAC Retail box Sealed, East vs West combo retail box, Standard SW Retail box.
Front Row (L-R): SW Strategy Guide, SW Shareware Retail box, European Shadow Warrior Retail box, the two SW novels, and the unreleased prototype box for the Wanton Destruction add-on pack.
Duke Nukem 64
Release Date: 16 Nov 1997
This was the first of the Duke Nukem 3D console ports. There was quite a few of them. 3D Realms didn’t do any of them directly, they were all licensed out to various console makers. In this instance, it was Eurocom who made this port for the Nintendo 64.
Given it was Nintendo at this time, a lot of things in the game were changed. First off, the music was gone because of memory restrictions. Many things from the source material were renamed or just removed due to drug and sex references. Jon St. John re-recorded some lines to remove profanity in DukeSpeak. Here’s some detail from our old page on this game:
- 32 graphically enhanced levels that maximize the advanced power of the Nintendo 64 system, each with a totally new layout and architecture never before seen in any other version.
- New, never before seen, bigger, meaner than ever, weapons, bad guys, and enemy bosses.
Full 3-D modeled characters for improved graphic realism.
- 2, 3, or 4-player multiplayer split-screen action featuring deathmatch, Co-op, team play, and all-new “meltdown” mode– a multiplayer death-race to the end of each level.
- Fully compatible with the new Nintendo Rumble Pak force feedback joystick.
Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown
Release Date: 8 Dec 1997
Duke Nukem Total Meltdown was a port of Duke Nukem 3D for the Playstation 1 console. It was written by Nick Pelling (aka Aardvark Software). It had the first three of the original Duke Nukem 3D episodes, plus an exclusive fourth episode called “Plug ‘n’ Pray”. The new episode had six levels and its own secret level.
There were also several new enemies, including three new types of Pig Cops, and a new final boss, the CyberKeef. This version also features remixed music, some rearranged from the PC version, and some original, in streaming XA-Audio made by Mark Knight. It includes support for analog pads and the PlayStation Link Cable.
I have a copy of this, but it’s just a CD, so there’s little to be gained by posting a picture. As with all the other Duke Nukem console games, it’s been out of print for a VERY long time now.
Balls of Steel
Release Date: 12 Dec 1997
Back on 4 Feb 1997, we announced a new “dba” name for the company, it was “Pinball Wizards”. This was the exact same concept we did two years prior with the “3D Realms” name. The only game we ever released under the Pinball Wizards name is this one, “Balls of Steel”. It was written by Wildfire Studios in Australia. This was the first proper Windows game we ever released – everything else was DOS up until this point.
The game as originally designed had five tables, but not the same five tables that were in the version we released. The five released tables were: Darkside, Barbarian, Firestorm, Mutation, & Duke Nukem. In the original design, Duke Nukem was not a table, the fifth was to be “Devil’s Island”. However, given this game was developed in the post Duke Nukem 3D mania, Wildfire and Apogee/3DR decided to make a Duke Nukem table. The Devil’s Island table was removed from the game for Duke. We released this much in the same way we did our shareware games from the past, the entire Darkside table was given away for free. The remaining four you got when you purchased the game.
The Duke table was quite fun, actually, as Duke characters would run out on the table, you’d hit them with pinballs, and they’d go “splat”. This stuff made us be the first pinball game with a violence rating (maybe still the only one?) In addition, Jon St. John recorded some new voice work for this table, including the amusingly funny “Now I DO have time to play with myself” (a reference back to Duke Nukem 3D). The Duke table wasn’t the only fun table, though. The others were all good too – each with a very unique theme. While it’s the same pinball engine, the various tables are all different, so you get a very different feel playing all of them. I always thought that was a great selling point.
Later on, Wildfire released the Devil’s Island table on their own. Apogee/3DR has nothing to do with the independent release of Devil’s Island.
As time went on the game developed some tech problems with more modern systems, and was eventually discontinued due to that. There was a user patch made available which solved some of the problems, but the “as sold” game had some issues, so it was withdrawn. In 2020, none of the tables are available anymore, nor have they been made available as freeware. Copyright is still retained on these titles.
I did an interview with Darren Baker of Wildfire as part of the 2006 interview series for the Legacy 3D Realms Site.
One fun thing – we had used the name “Balls of Steel” in a pinball machine way back in the original Hollywood Holocaust level of Duke Nukem 3D in Jan 1996. Here’s a picture.
Current Status: Withdrawn, but NOT freeware.
UPDATES: 1.1 – 10 Feb 1998, 1.2 – 14 Apr 1999, 1.3 – 9 Apr 2001
Links: [ Legacy 3D Realms Balls of Steel Page ]
1998 was the first of the really slow years. We had just a single release this year. Was the first year that Apogee/3D Realms didn’t release a “new” title in the history of the company. Was the first year we released anything as freeware, and the rest of the releases this year were patches of some sort.
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill
Release Date: 12 Oct 1998
Duke Nukem: Time To Kill is a console game for the Playstation 1. It is the first non port Duke game for consoles. It was written by the company n-Space, who had Dirk Jones on staff (formerly of 3D Realms). In something unique, the game had a Deathmatch option. The story was based around time travel, which allowed for different styles during the game play. At the time, the game took some grief about being too similar to the original Tomb Raider game.
I personally was never a fan of the PS1 games, but this was quite popular with Playstation owners. I should probably try and replay it sometime. It has been out of print for a really long time now, and it’s hard to come by a cheap copy now.
There’s more to read about this game on Wikipedia.
We had a really amusing promotional item for this game. It was a BBQ kit called “Duke Nukem: Time to Grill”. It was never for sale, and I only ever remember one copy, which I took some pictures of in my office at the time. Here’s some of those pictures.
1999 saw a few more Duke Nukem console games released, and a few more patches released for other games, too.
Duke Nukem: Zero Hour
This was another original Duke Nukem game produced for the Nintendo 64 – it was not a port of Duke Nukem 3D. It was done by Eurocom. As the Nintendo 64 was the only Nintendo console I never owned (ever), I don’t have a lot of memories of this title specifically.
What I remember most about this game was the really funny TV commercial made for the game’s release. It has been embedded below.
Duke Nukem: Gameboy Color
Release Date: 10 Sep 1999
Duke Nukem: Gameboy Color is a port, but not of Duke Nukem 3D; it’s a port of Duke Nukem II. It was written by Torus Games from Australia. I never played this one, and it was produced pretty much totally out of our offices, so I have zero memory of this title.
While it’s supposed to be a port of Duke Nukem II, it has a graphical feel more of the original Duke Nukem game. You can see some of this in a gameplay video on Youtube.
2000 was another year with no original 3D Realms games released, just one Duke console game.
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes
Release Date: 27 Sep 2000
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes is an original Duke Nukem game for the Playstation 1 console. The game was written by N-Space (again), and produced by 3D Realms. It is a direct sequel to n-Space’s other game, “Time to Kill”. In terms of game play it is slightly easier than Time to Kill, but graphically, it feels a lot like the prior game. It’s not the same game, mind you, but the graphical style is similar.
Before this game was released, we were calling it “Planet of the Babes”, but we received a notice from the movie producers of the 2001 Tim Burton movie “Planet of the Apes”, threatening legal action. In the end, we decided to change the game name to Land of the Babes. There was a TV commercial produced when it was still called Planet of the Babes, you can check that out below. There is also an archived print advertisement for the game shown below when it had the old name,.
There was also a strategy guide made for this game, and can still be found on Amazon.com.
2001 was a year we finally got back into new games released from 3D Realms that weren’t some sort of farmed out console title. We did release just a single game in 2001, but it was a huge one.
Release Date: 25 Jul 2001
Five years previous to this, Remedy Entertainment put out Death Rally, and folks wondered what would come next. While it took a little bit of time, Remedy and 3D Realms released Max Payne in the summer of 2001.
This was unlike anything we had ever released before and was a quantum leap forward in storytelling and action from anything we ever released in the company history. It was a third person shooter done in film noir style. The story was written by Sam Lake of Remedy, who was also the “face” of Max Payne.
There was a decent amount of time spent watching exposition via “comic” panels in-between game play areas. It sounds boring, but it is not, the story is written and weaved into the game play so well, you don’t care that parts of the game you’re basically reading a comic in the game. They called them “Graphic novels”, however. There’s a screenshot of one of them here.
The game’s combat was produced after the release of the original Matrix movie, and we were “inspired” by that mechanic and used it in the game. We even called it “Bullet Time” in the game where Max would contort like Neo would. One amusing story is that when we made Max Payne, we registered the term “Bullet Time”, because the Matrix movie people did not do that for a video game. So when the Matrix people got around to making a video game, they could not call their bullet time mechanic “Bullet Time”, because we had trademarked the name in the world of video games.
The game was enormously popular, and we were STILL shipping game boxes out of our HQ at this point, but I believe this was the last one, though. We were overwhelmed with orders, and we literally filled our offices (and the hallways) with shipping boxes waiting for the post office to come – it took a giant truck to get it all.
The game was later ported to other systems. It first came out on Playstation 2 on 11 Dec 2001, then on the original Xbox shortly after that on 17 Dec 2001 (Europe got Xbox on 10 Mar 2002). The following year the game was released on macOS on 16 Jul 2002. It was released on the Gameboy Color on 16 Dec 2003. The Gameboy Color version is a bit different due to the technical limitation of that platform. Later on it was released on mobile devices as “Max Payne Mobile” on iOS, Android, & Amazon Fire systems – on 6 Sep 2012. 3D Realms didn’t have anything to do with these ports, we just produced the original game.
Finally, in 17 Oct, 2008 a movie titled Max Payne was released with Mark Wahlberg in the title role of Max Payne, and Mila Kunis as Mona Sax. The movie also had Olga Kurylenko, whose next movie was the 007 film, “Quantum of Solace”. As a major James Bond fan, I liked having her in this movie. The movie wasn’t well received, but I thought it had several moments that worked well. It set up a sequel at the end, which is never happening. :(
Current Status: Still available, but not from 3D Realms (see Max Payne 2)
UPDATES: 1.01 – 27 Jul, 1.02 – 9 Oct, 1.05 – 21 Jan 2002 (1.03 & 1.04 not released)
Links: [ Steam Page | 3DR Max Payne Page | Legacy 3DR Max Payne Page ]
Just two games in 2002, but both of them were Duke Nukem related.
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
Release Date: 21 May 2002
In 2002, we finally get back to Duke Nukem. Ignoring console ports, it’s been six years since we released a new Duke Nukem game, and for this one we went back to the platform style of the first two Duke Nukem games in the early 90’s. It’s not quite as 2D as that, it’s got a 3D look to it, so while it’s a platform game, it’s not exactly like Duke Nukem I & II.
The game was done by a company named “Arush Entertainment” in Arizona. At the time we thought it was a great idea, a return to form for Duke Nukem’s roots while we worked on Duke Nukem Forever. I still think to this day it was a great game, but it didn’t get a ton of attention.
It had several easter eggs to earlier Duke games, and also expanded on things. Had the usual Duke tropes. Weapons, pig cops, babes to rescue. An interesting factoid – it was the final game released where Duke’s profanity was bleeped. After this game, all subsequent new releases didn’t have any bleeped profanities.
Later on, the game was put out on Xbox LIVE Arcade – on 23 Jun, 2010. While the original PC game is no longer available, it is still available for Xbox 360 (and it works on backwards compatibility on Xbox One, too). The Xbox LIVE version was the first thing 3D Realms put out after I lost my gig there in May of 2009. There was also a version released for macOS too that is still available, but may or may not run depending on what version of macOS you are using.
As I said earlier, I enjoyed this game personally. It was a fun game, and one I completed twice even after it was released publicly, despite finishing it several times during development. One interesting fact, the original first print of the retail box came with a Manhattan Project keychain. Not all versions had that; it was an incentive to buy early.
Current Status: Still available on Xbox and macOS, but not from 3D Realms. Not available on PC.
UPDATES: 1.01 – 17 Jun 2002, 1.01 Demo – 1 Jul 2002
Links: [ Xbox Manhattan Project Page | 3DR DNMP Page | Legacy 3DR DNMP Page ]
Duke Nukem Advance
We’re deep in the era of Duke Nukem ports, and with the Nintendo Gameboy Advance out, it was time to take Duke Nukem there, hence “Duke Nukem Advance”. This game was done by Torus Games in Australia.
Given the more advanced (at the time) capabilities of the Gameboy Advance, it more resembled Duke Nukem 3D than most of the handheld versions of this era. In 2020, it doesn’t hold up as well, but at the time, it was a great port.
2003 – Another single game year.
Max Payne II: The Fall of Max Payne
Release Date: 15 Oct 2003
After the very successful Max Payne from 2001, a sequel was all but assured. I can’t remember when work began on Max Payne II, but it couldn’t have been that much longer after the release of the original.
From a plot standpoint, Max Payne was restored as a cop per the events of the first game, and was with Mona on a mission (hence the box art). But in terms of gameplay, it was more of the same. That’s not to say it’s the same as the first, things were refined, and graphics upgraded (including Max himself, the face was different in the second game).
It didn’t do near the sales that the first game did, which always puzzled me, as I thought this was both “more of the same” and “better” than the first.
Like the first Max game, this one was also released on Playstation 2 and the original Xbox. The Xbox version was released on 26 Nov 2003, and the PS2 version was released on 3 Dec 2003. As far as I can tell, there was no Mac version of this title produced.
An interesting behind the scenes story. After the first Max Payne game, both Remedy and 3D Realms sold the franchise to Take 2. Almost immediately, they hired both 3D Realms & Remedy back to make Max Payne II. That’s what happened, but all Max Payne events after this had nothing to do with 3D Realms or Remedy. That includes the aforementioned Max Payne movie in 2008, the third game, “Max Payne 3” (2012), or anything in the future with Max Payne (even re-releases). Due to this franchise sale, we had to stop selling Max Payne 1, and we never sold Max Payne 2 directly, it was a retail only title.
2004 – The first of the two mobile phone only years. While 3D Realms produced these titles officially, we had little to do with the creation of them.
Duke Nukem Mobile
The first of the mobile Duke Nukem games released in 2004 & 2005. The game was done by a company in Canada called “Machineworks Northwest”. This was not a whole lot like Duke Nukem 3D in terms of feel. It feels more like Manhattan Project than Duke3D, or even the original two Duke games.
The game was available on certain Motorola, LGE, & Samsung phones. Keep in mind this is 2004, so the types of phones are nothing like the smart phones of 2020. There is list of what was available at the time on the Legacy Mobile game page, linked below.
Current Status: Not available, rights held by Gearbox.
Links: [ Legacy 3DR Mobile Game page ]
Duke Nukem Mobile (Tapwave)
Release Date: May 2004
The second of the mobile Duke Nukem games released in 2004. This game was also done by “Machineworks Northwest”. This is a different type of game than the entry right before this, despite it having the same name. this one uses art that looks more like Duke Nukem 3D (as you can see by the screenshot).
The game was available only on a device called “Zodiac Tapwave“. I never played this game myself, so I have zero experience with it.
It was later re-released in 2005 (unknown date) under the title “Duke Nukem Mobile 3D”.
Current Status: Not available, rights held by Gearbox.
Links: [ Legacy 3DR Mobile Game page ]
2005 – Just one unique title released. There was a second mobile game released, but it was just a rebranded game from 2004.
Duke Nukem Mobile II: Bikini Project
Of everything on this page, it is probably the one title I know the least about. I never saw the game with my own eyes, I certainly never played it, and I never saw a box for it, either.
This one is a complete unknown to me. If you’re reading this and you have a copy, please drop me a line, I have a few questions to ask.
Current Status: Not available, rights held by Gearbox.
Links: [ MachineWorks Northwest Site ]
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.
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).
Duke Nukem Critical Mass
Release Date: 8 Apr 2011
This is a game that I had nothing to do with. It was created by Frontline Studios. It came out for the Nintendo DS. There was a version that started development for the Playstation Portable, but it was never released. Likewise, this was planned to be the first game of a trilogy of Duke games for the DS, but Games 2 & 3 never got started. The other two were to be titled “Chain Reaction” and “Proving Grounds” respectively.
I didn’t play this, so I don’t have a lot of insight into it, but it feels like a game play merge between the styles of the original two Duke Nukem games as well as Manhattan Project to some extent. If you want to see what some of the game play is like, check out this video over on Youtube.
An amusing story is that the source code to the unreleased PSP version of this game has been preserved by the United States government, in the Moving Image section of the Library of Congress. That’s the part of the LOC that preserves video games. There’s an interesting story on the actual Library of Congress website about all this here. Well worth your time to read.
This game was published by Apogee Software, LLC.
Duke Nukem Forever
Release Date: 8 Apr 2011
I used to have this text on the old 3D Realms DNF page, for some reason it still amuses me… “Yes, we know the game has taken a long time. There’s no possible joke you could make about the game’s development time that we haven’t already heard. :)”
First off, let me lead with this. If you’re hoping to read my article looking for all the juicy bits, and find out “the real story” with this game, and get all “the dirt”… well, you’re not gonna get it. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m not going to write the book on DNF here, just a few stories of my own that are connected to the game.
I remember when we started development. It was in December 1996, very shortly after we released the v1.5 update for Duke Nukem 3D (the final one). Todd Replogle was farting around with some Quake tech and ideas in his office. It wasn’t super heavy duty development there, just Todd, as the ROTT and Duke teams were working on the original Prey, so it was small time stuff he was doing. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably well aware of the DNF timeline, so I won’t go into all that. But I bore witness to just about all of it. I still wish to this day we would have put it out ourselves, I might still have the job I had for all those years. Ah well, didn’t happen. Game caused the closure of the Garland 3DR studio in 2009, forcing me out of a job. I should hate the game. I don’t. Probably because I saw all the blood, sweat, and tears (and screaming) that went into the development. I saw a lot of people come and go in my 17 years at Apogee/3DR, but DNF was rough – a lot of people I know left during development, people I liked. Some I never heard from again.
So yeah, my perception of Duke Nukem Forever is slightly different than the general public’s is. In one of the talking head videos that Gearbox put out in 2011 for the release, I spoke a bunch, both about my voicing the character in Duke Nukem II, but about DNF too. At the end of the first video in that series, I said this.. “If you’re a Duke fan, you’re gonna have a blast with this, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.” I stand by that. Duke Nukem Forever is a fun game. Did it have problems? Yes. Should it have been released earlier? Oh hell, yes. Internally I always thought there was no way the game’s extremely long development would help it. It didn’t. People ragged on it for everything. Some of it was deserved. Most wasn’t. But I still think the game’s fun. Would have been far better received if it was released sooner than it was – but we’re almost 10 years past the release now. It is what it is. I just wish it had been better received.
So as I said above, I wanted to tell a few stories about my time with Duke Nukem Forever. The first one I’ve partially alluded to earlier. During development, I lost my job in May of 2009, and was unemployed full time for quite some time. However, during that time, Randy and Gearbox offered me a contract for a year’s worth of work – mostly for my knowledge of the past, my archive of photos, and general support for forum stuff, etc. I was quite grateful to Gearbox for that, because it helped pay the mortgage that year for sure. I wrote about that time elsewhere on my blog in a story called “Goodbye Duke Nukem“. But a lot of fun things happened in that year with Gearbox.
Outside of my online/community work – my main thing was playing the game. I played Duke Nukem Forever A LOT. I was always the kid who played things wrong to try and break them – a skill I found quite useful during my game career. One thing in particular with the Duke Nukem Forever game comes to mind. If you remember the level where Duke is shrunk, and you have to make your away around a kitchen in shrunken form, then that’s one I did a lot. In fact, several of the mappers got pissed at me routinely, as I’d play the level wrong (going backwards for instance), and I’d find things that would break the level, and let you get to the end quickly or something like that. Whenever I’d show up in the mappers area, they’d groan. :)
Anther story took place on 11 Jun 2011. Gearbox had a “Community Day” where the public came, got to hear about Duke Forever, had panels, – kind of a mini Comic-Con – just for Duke Forever (and other Gearbox stuff too). I loved basically walking around, talking to fans, seeing people all excited about Duke. One thing in particular sticks out – it was the first (and only) time I met Jon St. John in person. I got to talk to Jon a bit while he was waiting to go on to a panel, and I had someone take the picture you see here of Jon and myself. The two voices of Duke Nukem finally met! :) The most personal thing happened after one panel was finished. An impromptu panel was held by Jon talking about his work doing the voice of Duke. For some reason, Jon asked me to come up and sit on the panel. I was happy to tell my story, but I didn’t have a ton to tell. But the moment I treasured most from that was when someone asked Jon what his favorite line he recorded for Duke Nukem Forever was. Jon responded with a line we had already released, saying he didn’t want to spill the beans on new DukeSpeak. He then went on to add “I also don’t remember all the lines I recorded”. I interrupted Jon and said “What? You don’t remember all your dialogue? Why not? I can remember all of mine!”. That got a laugh, and a funny stare from Jon. Always hoped someone got video of that, but it never turned up.
Later that same day was the release party. It was called “Duke Nukem’s Happy Ending“, and was a fun evening. It was a series of concerts and events from Gearbox held at The Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, TX. The first band was one called “Say Hello to the Angels”, and they were followed by girls from Coyote Ugly, then a techno band called “The Crystal Method” (which I skipped completely), and finally, the headliner was “DJ Jazzy Jeff“. If you don’t know him, he’s the other half of actor Will Smith’s rap career (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince). I didn’t think it was gonna work, but it did.
There was also chats with the audience in-between the various bands. There was also an open bar, which was also quite nice. Hanging out with industry friends who were in town was fun, too (CliffyB and I had a nice chat). There were dancers in glass compartments in the middle of the show for atmosphere. Just being there for the “release” of Duke Nukem Forever was a fun as hell time. But I bring up the release party for one specific thing that happened during it.
As I mentioned before, the first band that played was named “Say Hello to the Angels”. The last song of their set was Grabbag, which is the theme song for Duke Nukem 3D. That was the only time I was aware that the song had been played in full live – by a rock band. It was badass to witness live. I was enjoying it so much that I neglected to record it, but fortunately one of my 3DR compatriots had their head on and recorded it. I’ve included the video here. If you play the video, when the band starts playing the song, the crowd is looked at briefly. At 0:39 in the video, you’ll see a guy in the crowd in a light blue shirt. That is Lee Jackson, the guy who wrote the Duke theme. At the end of the video, you’ll see Randy come out and start talking. He talks about the band, and then to the crowd. But my favorite moment was this (which isn’t in the video, sadly). Randy notices Lee Jackson in the crowd, and points out Lee to the crowd. He mentions from the stage that Lee was the one that wrote Grabbag. He went on a little more about Lee and Grabbag, and it ended up in a standing ovation from the entire venue for Lee – including the band that had just played the song! It was my single favorite moment of the night by far. It wasn’t exactly a state secret that Lee wrote the song, but it wasn’t exactly pushed that hard, either. For Lee to get that kind of public adoration was a great moment for me to witness. Thank you to Randy Pitchford for doing that.
UPDATE: Right as I was finishing this article, I found a video of Randy talking about Lee to the crowd – I had never seen that in the 9 years since the event – check out the video here.
Another fun event for me, which was basically the “end” of Duke Nukem Forever for me was the night it was released. That was the night of 13 Jun, 2011. Several old 3D Realms crew as well as some Gearbox crew went out to a Gamestop in Plano TX for a Midnight Release Party for Duke Nukem Forever. This was a moment I had thought about for the last 15 years. To see actual paying customers excited for Duke Nukem all together to pick up actual copies of the game. It was very surreal. We were there for a few hours, talking, watching them play the demo (which was out already), and just generally having fun. Once the moment came, we had all of us at a table autographing people’s copies of the games. Even me – somewhere out there is someone’s copy of Duke Nukem Forever with my autograph on it. The picture here is one I took from my spot in the autograph line.
The fun wasn’t all at Gearbox – I had tons of laughs in the 3D Realms era of the game. Far too many to write here, but a few things I remember well from the old days were the numerous Christmas parties at George’s house. Half the crew ended up staying at George’s cuz they couldn’t drive home. :) I missed those old parties, I even tried to put one together myself around Christmas 2010, but it wasn’t the same. We had a few group dinners at expensive steak places that we’d go to in limos. There was a bowling alley a block away from our offices, and several of us would walk over there and go bowling during the middle of the day. We would play indoor disc golf – we set up a golf target inside our offices. Many games of hackeysack in the front lobby around the Duke Nukem logo. We’d have “The 3D Realms Olympics” in the back yard. Watching movies in the lounge until all hours of the night, playing games on the giant theatre screen we had (which also was on for a week straight when 9/11 happened, too). Goofing around outside with motorcycles. Playing poker at George’s house. Hanging out with the Duke girls at E3 shows was also fun. ;) There’s just so many things to write about, I’m actually at a loss sitting here on what to write about. SO many memories.
But I couldn’t stop the stories without talking about one that I remember well to this day. This was back on 1 Apr 2003. That was the day we released the source code for Duke Nukem 3D, but I came up with the idea for a practical joke to go with that release. My thinking was people would go “haha” to the practical joke, and then when we followed it later in the day with a source code release, they wouldn’t believe it at first – despite the source code being totally real. Anyway, the practical joke was my putting together an Atari 2600 version of Duke Nukem Forever. It was of course an April Fool’s joke, but the cartridge itself was totally legitimate. It really did work – no lie. A friend of my brother’s had a rom burner, and he had the facility to make physical Atari cartridges, so what I did was use a program that will down convert any JPG to an Atari 2600 rom. Chose the “Drew Carey” Duke Nukem artwork (see image here), and made that an Atari rom. Said friend burnt the cartridge, printed a few labels, and bam – it’s born. There were six of them made total. Four of them were bogus (just labels on things like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong), but two really did work. I kept one, and gave the other to George Broussard. I then went and created a page with a story about this, pictures of the cartridge, and other jokes. That page is still online, actually. But part of the joke was short video I made where I plugged the cartridge into my Atari 2600, and turned it on.. That video is still online, too. I had lot of fun with that joke, and I enjoyed the fun messages we got back from people insulting us saying “Why are you wasting your time with that?” They totally missed it was April Fool’s Day. In 2017, I donated the working cartridge to the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, TX. It is displayed in their homebrew game section. This one was all mine – concept, execution, and deployment. :)
One other highlight was the 2001 E3 Duke Nukem Forever trailer. It is to me the high point of the entire development cycle. I have a voice in the trailer, I appear multiple times, all overlapping at 0:57 for about 3 seconds doing various EDF soldier voices. That trailer was so well constructed, so well put together, and so well received, it was amazingly good. I’ve embedded the trailer below. I remember when we finished it and declared it “done”, the trailer just sat running on the Mac (yeah, a Mac) it was put together on and just left running on an indefinite loop in the conference room. It was that glorious – and I don’t think anyone got tired of watching it. I know I didn’t – I watched it a few times during the writing of this section of the story, and it’s still damn awesome 19 years later. One last thing about the trailer – I’ll never forget Doug Myers from Gathering of Developers, who did the bulk of the work on that video, and then died shortly afterwards.
But that’s what Duke Nukem Forever means to me. The people that worked on it. Not the game itself or fans “reacting” to it. I saw a lot of people. Made a lot of friends. Lost several too. But in the end, that’s what I see DNF as. Something I had a lot of friends through. Not the reception it got (or didn’t) in the public. It’s probably why I still use the old promo phrase “Always Bet on Duke”. Duke still means something to me.
The game was finally released on 14 Jun 2011 on PC / Xbox 360 / PS3. A demo for the PC & Xbox 360 was released on 21 Jun 2011, and then on 29 Jun for PS3. On 15 Aug 2011, it was released for macOS. There were two DLC packs released, too. The first one was the “Hail to the Icons Parody Pack”, and was released on 11 Oct (on all platforms). The second one was called “The Doctor Who Cloned Me”, and was released (on all platforms) on 11 Dec 2011. While I wasn’t there for the releases of these add-on packs, I remember most of the content from the old 3D Realms days. There was stuff I don’t remember, so they were mix of existing content and new stuff. The game was made available for Xbox One via backwards compatibility on 4 Dec 2018, and is still available for digital purchase – see links below.
One last thing. 13 Dec, 2025 is significant date. Why? That’s the 1st date that DNF will have been out longer than it took to develop. Dev started 15 Dec, 1996 and ended on 14 Jun, 2011 – 5,294 days. 5,295 days from that is 13 Dec, 2025.
Current Status: Still available digitally from Gearbox
UPDATES: None, although there were two expansion packs.
DNF Order Links: [ PC/Mac Steam | Xbox Store | Playstation Store ] *
Links: [ Gearbox DNF Page | Official DNF Page | Legacy 2008 3DR DNF Page ]
The only thing 3D Realms released in 2012 was the iOS port of Shadow Warrior (on 19 Dec), but that was covered elsewhere.
2013 is a weird year. There were no “new” games released, but two of our earlier games were rebooted and released as total remakes.
Rise of the Triad (2013)
Release Date: 31 Jul 2013
In 2012, it was decided that my old “Rise of the Triad” game from 1994 would be remade. The group who was doing this was a comany in Denmark (then) called “Interceptor Entertainment”. At first I wasn’t sure what to think about it, because I felt a very strong connection to the original. I shouldn’t have worried. Fred and the guys at Interceptor produced a modern take on Rise of the Triad, that was respectful of the original yet doing something new with it.
What I loved most is some of the things we had in the original game were retained when they didn’t need to be. Specifically the gads (the silver discs). We had them in the original to overcome limits in the Wolfenstein 3D engine. The new version didn’t have those problems, but they kept them in there anyway. All the weapons were there, all the characters were there. Heck, they asked me for head photos of myself because my old character was in the new game too. So I was a character in the 1994 original and the 2013 remake. That was fun.
We also had a Dopefish in the game, and I recall a fun meeting on Skype at the time over what kind of things we thought a Dopefish would actually “do” in a game. That was darned bizarre. :)
One final note. When I did levels for the original Rise of the Triad, I had two really goofball levels, “The Vomitorium” and “The Grand Vomitorium” (which were brilliantly reviewed here on Youtube). Anyway, when the Interceptor group did the new game, they used my Vomitorium concept. They created “Escape From the Vomitorium”. It contained my original concept which was to make you sick, and really screw with the physics in the engine. But what I really appreciated was that they started this third Vomitorium level with the exact same room that my first two levels started with. As the designer of the original, that really made me feel cool. And on top of it, there was a major appearance of Dopefish in this level too. Check out this Youtube video of the ROTT 2013 Vomitorium level.
There used to be a website for the 2013 version of Rise of the Triad, but it’s not around anymore, nor does anyone seem to own the domain name, either. Nor does archive.org have a copy. :(
This game was created by Interceptor and published by Apogee Software LLC.
Current Status: Still available, but only digitally. Game never released in physical form.
UPDATES: UPDATES: 1.1 – 13 Sep 2013, 1.2 – 29 Oct 2013, 1.3 – 18 Dec 2013, 1.4 – 3 Apr 2014, 1.5 – 2 Oct 2014
Links: [ Rise of the Triad 2013 Steam ]
Shadow Warrior (2013)
Release Date: 31 Jul 2013
ROTT wasn’t the only game that was revived in 2013. Our 1997 game Shadow Warrior was brought back in a remake. This game IP was licensed from 3D Realms by Devolver Studios, and created by Flying Wild Hog Games.
They took a more radical reboot of this game than ROTT did. In this one they removed all the overtly Asian stereotypes from the character of Lo Wang, and made it something different. Initially I was against that idea, because I felt it was changing the character too much, too much, but I realized it worked well once I played it. It works for a different reason than Shadow Warrior 1997 did, but it was a good, fun action game. Had some of the feel of the original, yet made it absolutely something fresh and new.
They had some of the original art in the game as easter eggs too, which I got a big kick out of. You can see a screen capture of that below using some of the “Classic girls” art.
The game was also released on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 – those versions game out on 21 Oct 2013.
After the game was released, Devolver Digital outright purchased the IP for Shadow Warrior from 3D Realms (10 Dec 2014), and there was a “Shadow Warrior 2” was released on 13 Oct 2016. 3D Realms didn’t have anything to do with the second one, so I won’t give it its own entry in this article. There is a Shadow Warrior 3 under production too, it will be released in 2021.
2014 had no new game, but for the first time in the company history a compilation package was released.
3D Realms Anthology
Release Date: 23 Oct 2014
Back in the day when I was at the original Apogee/3DR, we’d get asked all the time about putting together a compilation of all our titles into one package. I always poo-pooed that because of the rights and $ involved. All of those games had their individual deals and authors, and putting together a compilation would never work (in my opinion) because each of them would want a cut, and you’d have to sell it for a hellaciously high price to make any kind of money, so it never happened.
Enter the “New” 3D Realms, and in 2014, they figured a way to get this done, and the “3D Realms Anthology” was born. This was a compilation of every game that Apogee/3DR still had rights to in 2014. The original list of games in the first version of the Anthology was thus:
- Alien Carnage
- Arctic Adventure
- Bio Menace
- Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
- Blake Stone: Planet Strike
- Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy
- Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons
- Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure
- Crystal Caves
- Death Rally
- Duke Nukem
- Duke Nukem II
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
- Hocus Pocus
- Major Stryker
- Math Rescue
- Monster Bash
- Monuments of Mars
- Mystic Towers
- Pharaoh’s Tomb
- Raptor: Call of the Shadows
- Realms of Chaos
- Rise of the Triad: Dark War
- Secret Agent
- Shadow Warrior
- Terminal Velocity
- Wacky Wheels
- Wolfenstein 3D
- Word Rescue
The Anthology itself was a Windows app. The individual games inside were still their original DOS selves. Each of them had a DOSBox shell, which is what the Anthology itself spawned. This original version of the anthology was a standalone system that was sold independently on the 3D Realms website.
After a time, it was decided to sell the game on Steam too. That posed some problems, as not all the games we had distribution rights to there. The Commander Keen & Wolfenstein games were already being sold on Steam by id Software themselves, so we had to remove them from the Anthology for Steam. We did, however, add in a couple of other games that were not in the standalone version to make up for it. For the Steam version of the Anthology, we removed Commander Keen: Vorticons/Galaxy as well as Wolfenstein 3D. We did add Balls of Steel, Dark Ages, & Xenophage to compensate, so the overall number of titles was the same. This new “Steam Edition” of the Anthology was released on 5 May, 2015.
2015 was also the year that Gearbox obtained the rights to the Duke Nukem franchise completely, and as such, we no longer had the rights to distribute Duke Nukem come 1 Jan 2016, so 31 Dec 2015 was the final day one could buy the 3D Realms Anthology, either the standalone or Steam version. They remain unavailable to this day.
However, on 7 Nov 2016, a third version of the Anthology was put out – this one with a slightly different title. It was “The 3D Realms Arcade Collection”. This third version had just 22 games vs the 32 the original two versions did. If you want to see the games in the Arcade version, you can check out the page for it on the 3D Realms website. This third version is also unavailable as well, having been discontinued on 15 Jun 2020.
A quick note – no matter what format you bought – the standalone original, the Steam variant, or the “Arcade Collection”, all of them were digital. Despite us mocking up boxes for them, we never released anything physically for this. Kind of wish we had. I do think however, that the idea of mocking up these concept boxes eventually lead to the new 3D Realms concept of “Big Box” for their physical releases.
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 33,078 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 Alexandra Danino from 3D Realms who was quite helpful in proofreading. She’ll have read this more than anyone else except me, I imagine. :)
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