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Remembering Apogee & 3D Realms
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by Rob Williams on May 11, 2009 in Gaming, Staff Editorials

The news of 3D Realms demise hit the Internet like a ton of bricks last week, and to say it’s disappointing would be a major understatement. As a developer that’s been around for over 20 years, they have a lot to boast about today. Read on as we take a stroll down memory lane, and see just what it was that made Apogee so innovative and unique.

Duke Nukem Forever, Final Alien Bastard

When DNF was first announced in 1997, I have a good feeling that no one at 3DR knew how things would play out with its development cycle. After all, this was to be a follow-up to Duke Nukem 3D, a game that enjoyed incredible success. How exactly do you follow something like that up? Well, you take more than ten years to develop, of course. Yes, the game has had an incredible development cycle, and it’s been the butt of many jokes, but I’m confident we haven’t seen the last of it now that 3D Realms has ceased.

The history behind this one title is almost as interesting as the company’s history. When announced in ’97, the game was set to use the then-robust Quake II game engine. Shortly after, however, the switch to the engine behind megahit Unreal was chosen (the engine goes by the same name).

Since then, the game has had multiple engine changes, but as it stands today, it’s still based on a recent version of the Unreal Engine, but heavily-modified. It’s believed that the engine is so heavily-modified, that it could almost be considered unique.

The game was originally set to launch in 1998, and that missed date was soon to become the first of many. The rest is pretty-much history. Since the year 2000, the game has continued to be pushed back multiple times, and until recently, the game really was beginning to look like vaporware. In late 2007, the 3D Realms team released a fresh teaser, and it really instilled confidence that the development was going well. This hope was furthered when two unlockable pieces of art in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Duke Nukem 3D proved to be teaser shots for the title.


Click here for the second NSFW shot.

With 3D Realms’ closing, the future of the game is up in the air, but as mentioned, there’s little doubt that it will get released at some point in the future, by someone. If 3D Realms fails to resurface in the future, there’s no possible way that the larger game developers out there today won’t see the potential in revenue for this title. Everybody and their mom wants this game, and the passion to get our hands on it is only intensified thanks to the unbelievably long wait.

Currently, Take-Two retains full publishing rights to the title, but they haven’t and won’t offer financial support to further the production. Although there’s no sign of a publisher jumping at the chance, it wouldn’t surprise me much if 2K Games picked up on the title. They have experience with other 3D shooter titles, and their parent company is the one with the publishing rights. This is only personal speculation, and as long as it’s picked up by someone, there will be little room for complaint.

The Final Alien Bastard Has Fallen

I wholeheartedly believe that many old-school and new-school PC gamers will agree that with 3D Realms’ closing, a truly legendary asset to the gaming world has been lost. Throughout their multiple labels, Apogee has released numerous titles that many of us hold close to our hearts. Apogee kept private for a reason… they wanted no outside influence to corrupt their games, which so often happens with larger developers. To remain independent meant that they could do what they wanted to the game, and as an added perk, they had absolutely no release schedule to stress over.

That’s how the slogan, “…when it’s done.” came to be. This team, Scott and George especially, would never release a game that they didn’t fully believe was a masterpiece, one that fans would gobble up and enjoy for years. Sadly, this intense desire to release a perfect game helped lead to the company’s fate, and it’s really too bad to see things go down as they have.

There’s little doubt that George and his team pursued every angle to keep the company alive, but when most of the revenue was being pumped in through the sale of classic titles, and no new publishing rights were at hand, the ability to keep alive must’ve been excruciatingly difficult the past year.

I’d like to give a huge personal thanks to Apogee for all the memories, and their unique and keen desire to release only the best games. If more game developers shared their kind of mindset, there’d be a far less 5/10 games on the market. I’m confident of that.

So what’s left? To further help with funding last year, Apogee sold off the rights to the company’s name and franchises to a company that became Apogee Software LLC (as opposed to the original Apogee Software Ltd.). The new company became the owner of many previous games, and also retains the right to publish future ones. One such title is Duke Nukem Trilogy, a game unrelated to the previous titles, which will be released on both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

What’s left for George, Scott, Joe and the rest of the team is up in the air. We wish each member of the team our best in landing into new positions, and look forward to seeing what their experience brings to the table for future titles from other developers.

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1. Introduction, Apogee’s History
2. Duke Nukem Forever, Final Alien Bastard