I ran across an article on Gamasutra a few months ago, and I’ve had it in my list of things to write about since then. I decided to finally get to writing about it today.
Scott Miller is the founder of Apogee Software. Apogee, and it’s sister-company, 3D Realms, are makers of some of the greatest games I’ve played. I grew up with these guys!
If we travel back a few years, back to the BBS days, there was a rather well-known BBS called Software Creations. I fondly remember dialing in weekly to check on the latest Apogee releases. Of course, I also remember, less fondly, getting in a helluva lot of trouble for running up the phone bill too. But, in the end, I think it was worth it. Apogee made some of the best games of that time and being the first on the virtual block with their latest creation was stuff of legend.
But Apogee was more than just a game company. They helped spawn a PC gaming revolution. Before Apogee, game makers either sold their games commercially, or released them as shareware, hoping users who downloaded their games would send them a few bucks. Commercial games relied solely on marketing and flashy ads while shareware authors relied solely on faith.
Apogee can be credited with bringing shareware to the masses and kickstarting the PC gaming revolution. They broke their games into multiple parts and released the first part for free, radically changing the well-established shareware model. This served as a fully-functional demo, enough to get you hooked, and then sold the rest of the game as a commercial product. And so the episodic model was born. They were also responsible for helping kickstart one of the most well-known game development companies, id Software.
Apogee started in 1986 with ASCII-based games such as Beyond the Titanic and the Kroz series. From there they moved into 2D CGA/EGA games such as Crystal Caves, Bio Menace, and, Duke Nukem, which would go on to become one of their most popular properties. Shortly after Apogee started doing business as 3D Realms in 1996, they released Duke Nukem 3D, arguably their greatest hit.
In the 20+ year history of Apogee and 3D Realms, they have released in excess of 70+ games. Unfortunately, most of these releases were from before Apogee entered the 3D age and formed 3D Realms, but then, most publishers have slowed output considerably since then due to the big budget games they create. More recently, 3D Realms has been working with external development teams.
3D Realm announced in May that it will be closing its doors, though they have since made announcements regarding an overhaul of their online store, as well as the release of a Prey-based iPhone game. Both of these announcements came roughly 1 month after the announcement of their imminent closing. According to Scott Miller, however, only the internal development team was released and 3D Realms will continue to do business. Miller claims there are still several titles in development by external teams.
Even today, Apogee continues to move in new directions. Scott Miller helped form a new game company, the Radar Group, which aims to take new ideas and form them into marketable properties for games, television, and movies. The Radar Group aims to take gaming into a whole new direction.
The Apogee name has been licensed to a new group of developers who aim to revive the label. According to Scott Miller, the new Apogee group is working on a Duke Nukem Trilogy and an up-to-date version of Rise of the Triad. RotT was originally intended as a Wolfenstein 3D sequel until ID Software pulled the plug.
While most of the gaming world has moved on to bigger titles, and while Apogee’s role seems to have diminished somewhat, it’s good to remember where it all started. Apogee helped make PC gaming what it is today. And who knows, perhaps they have something else up their sleeve.