|3D Realms (1996–present)|
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Headquarters||Garland, Texas, U.S.|
|Parent||SDN Invest (2014–present)|
Apogee Software, Ltd., since 1996 doing business as 3D Realms, is an American video game developer and publisher based in Garland, Texas. The company is best known for popularizing the shareware distribution model for video games in the 1980s and 90s, as well as for creating game franchises, such as Duke Nukem. 3D Realms was founded by Scott Miller in 1987 as Apogee Software Productions, in preparation for the release of Kingdom of Kroz. Apogee Software adopted the trading name 3D Realms in 1996, and the rights to the former name and logo were eventually sold to Terry Nagy in 2008, using which he established Apogee Software, LLC.
Following two extensively delayed games, 3D Realms laid off significant portions of their staff and underwent a corporate restructure. From that point on, they would only participate in smaller projects, acting as the producing and publishing entity. In March 2014, the company was acquired by SDN Invest, a Danish holding company and part-owner of Interceptor Entertainment, a Danish development studio and partner of 3D Realms.
In the early 1980s, Scott Miller often spent time in the computer lab of the high school he was attending, programming text adventures on the facility's Apple II and getting to know fellow student George Broussard. Following graduation, both of them took jobs at local amusement arcade The Twilight Zone, allowing Miller to attend college and increase his interest in video games at the same time. Following his sophomore year, Miller dropped out of the University of Dallas to focus entirely on video games, including participating in tournaments as well as programming his own games. At that time, he found a special interest in the Turbo Pascal programming language and its easy integration on IBM Personal Computers. Miller subsequently figured that his knowledge on video games should earn him more money than he made at The Twilight Zone, wherefore he, with assistance by Broussard, wrote a manual-style book on "how to beat video games". The book fell into obscurity due to an oversaturated market but landed Miller a job as a video game critic for the Dallas Morning News and minor game-centric papers. After four years of writing for the newspaper, he decided that he was capable of creating games that were better than those that he had to review and quit his job. Miller acquired a 16.5k modem, which he installed in his parent's house in Garland, Texas and started operating as a full-time independent game developer with.
The Apogee Model (1987–1996)
Most games developed by Miller at the time used extended ASCII characters as graphics. The format appeared popular to him but ultimately proved unsuccessful when pitching them to publishers, adding to him not having a college degree or any professional experience in game development. As such, he considered self-printing copies of his games, or distributing them freely through bulletin board systems (BBS), where the boards' users make voluntary donations, a model known as shareware distribution. As the prior option seemed too expensive to Miller, he had to choose the latter, despite being urged not to by friends and colleagues. Miller released Beyond the Titanic and Supernova as shareware games in 1986 and 1987, respectively, but income as low at roughly US$10,000 donated in a year for both games combined. Miller's next game, Kingdom of Kroz, was developed to include 60 levels, more than what he wanted to release to the public for no cost. As such, the he developed a new distribution model, dubbed the "Apogee model", in which only a fraction of the game would be made available to play for free on BBS, which, upon completion, would display Miller's mailing address to the player and asking them to contact him to buy the rest of the game. He applied this model to Kingdom of Kroz by breaking it up into three parts, named episodes, and sharing the first one over BBS while retaining the other two for sale. Released on November 26, 1987, Kingdom of Kroz was the first game to bear the name of Miller's one-man company, Apogee Software Productions. The game proved successful, with checks sent to Miller amounting to roughly US$80,000–US$100,000 and him receiving between US$100 and US$500 every single day.
3D Realms (1996–2009)
With the original intent to create a division for every genre of game Apogee produced, the two brand names 3D Realms (formed in July 1994) and the now disused Pinball Wizards were created. Instead of publishing every game under Apogee as it had been in the past, the goal of this strategy was to create a different brand for each type of game genre, making each new game identifiable based on which brand it belonged to. This enabled Apogee to target different markets.
However, many of those varied genres such as platform or scrolling shooter (that were much of Apogee's early releases) were slowly dying out in the late 1990s, which made this strategy unnecessary. In addition, due to the increasingly lengthy development time in producing a game title, video game publishers were no longer releasing titles at the rapid rate at which they once were.
3D Realms was created in 1994 for the 3D game Terminal Velocity and was responsible for the latest installments of the successful Duke Nukem games and for producing the Max Payne series (earlier 3D games like Rise of the Triad were released under the Apogee name). The Pinball Wizards name was created for the 1997 pinball title Balls of Steel, but has not been used since.
The last game to be published under the Apogee name was Stargunner in 1996. Since 1998, all the company's games have been using a 3D engine (even if the gameplay is 2D, like in Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project). As a result, 3D Realms has replaced Apogee as the brand name to publish games under. Also, by the end of the 1990s, Apogee felt their brand name was more associated with old, outdated games and adopted the 3D Realms brand for all future releases. When the 3D Realms name was first conceived, the official motto was Reality is our Game. This motto is no longer used.
The Apogee name was spun off as Apogee Software LLC in 2008, a separate company that would handle distribution, remakes, and other developments related to older Apogee games.
Corporate restructuring (2009–2013)
The latest game released by 3D Realms was Prey, on July 11, 2006 after being in development for eleven years. Prey was originally developed internally by 3D Realms, but after several years of delays, the company outsourced the development to Human Head Studios.
The other major project that 3D Realms was working on was Duke Nukem Forever, the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. It was announced in 1997, and on May 6, 2009, its development was halted due to the development team being let go. The official release date of the game was "when it's done." During the years of the development of the game, some outside developers have developed and published Duke Nukem spin-offs.
On May 6, 2009, due to lack of funding, major staff cuts were initiated with the entire development team being laid off and other employees being given notice of their employment with the company being terminated. The official company website briefly went offline on that day, but went back up soon afterwards. While there was no official statement at that moment on the closure, apart from messages on the 3D Realms forum, a final message appeared in the front page of the site, showing a group photo of the 3D Realms team, with the caption "Goodbye. Thanks for being fans and for all your support."
It was reported on May 14, 2009 that Take-Two, holders of the publishing rights of Duke Nukem Forever, filed a breach of contract suit against Apogee Software Ltd (3D Realms) over failing to deliver the aforementioned title. Take-Two Interactive asked for a restraining order and a preliminary injunction, to make 3D Realms keep the Duke Nukem Forever assets intact during proceedings.
On May 18, 2009 3D Realms key executives released the first full official "press release" with their side of the developments. "... 3D Realms (3DR) has not closed and is not closing. ... Due to lack of funding, however, we are saddened to confirm that we let the Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) development team go on May 6,... While 3DR is a much smaller studio now, we will continue to operate as a company and continue to licence and co-create games based upon the Duke Nukem franchise. ... Take-Two’s proposal was unacceptable to 3DR for many reasons, including no upfront money, no guarantee minimum payment, and no guarantee to complete the DNF game. ...we viewed Take-Two as trying to acquire the Duke Nukem franchise in a “fire sale.” ...we believe Take-Two’s lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic to obtain ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise. We will vigorously defend ourselves against this publisher."
On September 3, 2010, Take-Two Interactive announced that development of Duke Nukem Forever had been shifted over to Gearbox Software, effectively ending 3D Realms' association with the game after 12 years of stunted development. 3D Realms remained a co-developer on Duke Nukem Forever, due to their involvement in developing most of the game. However, the rights and intellectual property were sold to Gearbox, who are now the owners of the Duke Nukem franchise. 3D Realms retained certain rights to the Duke Nukem back catalogue, but finally transferred all rights to Gearbox Software in 2015.
An external developer, Interceptor Entertainment, started work on a fan-project remake of Duke Nukem 3D in 2010. They received a limited authorization from Gearbox to proceed with the game, which was named Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded. However, after Duke Nukem Forever's release and negative reception in 2011, Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was put on hold indefinitely.
In an interview conducted with Scott Miller in April 2011, Miller specified that 3D Realms was involved with several projects citing, "Yes, we have several projects underway, all fairly small—not any big console games. Once DNF comes out we'll be definitely looking to invest into other projects, and maybe other up-n-coming teams who are blazing new trails on smaller platforms, like smart phones and XBLA. We have a long history of investing in young, unproven teams, going way back to Id Software, and including other notables like Parallax Software (we were the first studio to invest in Descent), and Remedy Entertainment (Death Rally and Max Payne). So, we like that model and will keep doing it in the future. We seem to have a good eye for unproven talent waiting for some experienced guidance and hard-to-find funding".
Legal disputes (2013–present)
In June 2013, 3D Realms sued Gearbox for unpaid royalties as well as unpaid money for selling the Duke Nukem IP. The lawsuit was dropped in September 2013 with 3D Realms apologizing with an announcement that they had resolved any differences they had with Gearbox.
3D Realms has since sold the rights of some of its older titles, leading to several remakes. One of them, Rise of the Triad, was developed by Interceptor Entertainment and published in 2013 by Apogee Software, LLC. Another remake, Shadow Warrior, was developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital in 2013.
In February 2014, Gearbox sued 3D Realms, Interceptor Entertainment and Apogee Software for developing a new game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction. Gearbox stated that it was still the rights holder of the Duke Nukem franchise, and permission had not been granted by them to develop the game. 3D Realms soon after released a statement admitting its wrongdoing. The lawsuit was settled in August 2015, with Gearbox stressing that it was still the lawful owner of the Duke Nukem IP.
On March 3, 2014, it was announced that Danish investor Mike Nielsen's company SDN Invest (he is also behind Interceptor Entertainment) bought 3D Realms and Nielsen was appointed as new CEO of the company.
In 2017, 3D Realms announced a return to development with a ZOOM Platform partnership for Shadow Stalkers, expected in 2018 for PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. Bernie Stolar and Jordan Freeman of ZOOM Platform, Scott Miller of 3D Realms, and actor Pierce Brosnan have been linked to the project.
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- "Former SEGA CEO Bernie Stolar teams up with 3D Realms on new project".