Today I don’t wanna talk about a game, an anniversary or a person, but I would like to share some infos about one of the pioneers among the software companies, Apogee.
Apart from the revival of the Apogee name, made by 3D Realms in 2008 when they re-created Apogee LLC. to re-distribute the old titels and develop a new one, the original company will turn 30 this year.
Apogee Software was founded in Garland, TX in 1987 when Scott Miller created Kingdom of Kroz, a rude maze game with an extended-ASCII based graphics. Along with the game, Apogee made popular the peculiar distribution method based on different chapters: usually a game was released shareware so the first part was free, while the other parts were purchaseable from the company. This model, known Apogee Model was so popular that a lot of companies (even very popular such as id Software) between 90s and 90s adopted it to distribute their games.
Kingdom of Kroz was written in TurboPascal 3.0 (yes, that thing that sometimes was used in school to develop easy math-based programs) and was inspired by the dungeon crawling game Rogue released in early 80s. The decent success convinced Miller to keep developing games.
Actually Miller wrote some other games in 1986-1987 that can be considered as early Apogee titles: we have Beyond the Titanic, Block Five, Diamond Digger (a.k.a. Raiders of the Forbidden Mine or Gold Mine), Maze Machine and Maze Runner (a.k.a. Rogue Runner) in 1986 and Supernova in 1987.
The Apogee style was (and still is) very recognizable: all of their 2D platform with action elements shared the same graphic engine, colorful sets and the structure of the levels. The first of these games was 1991 Arctic Adventure in which can be felt some echoes of Miner 2049er; graphically was still an EGA game but the seed of the future Apogee games can be clearly seen. A step further was Crystal Caves, with improved visuals, released on October 23rd, 1991.
But 1991 for Apogee was the annus mirabilis in which Duke Nukem was released (July 1st), designed by Miller and by another key person of the company, George Broussard. While at first nobody could ever imagine that the muscles protagonist of the story would become an icon in the pantheon of the shooting games, Duke Nukem had a 2D sequel two years later, in 1993, before Apogee decided to undertake the challenge of the 3D.
Before that day other titles and other success for the company, with the release of the odd Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure and Secret Agent (both in 1992) and Bio Menace (1993). Apart from being a producer, Apogee starts also to publish non homemade games; particulary profitable was the collaboration with the “rival” id Software that thanks to Apogge, distributed Commander Keen (1990) and most important Wolfenstein 3D (1992) the 3D shooting defining game that served to Apogee as an ispiration to develop and release Rise of the Triad (1994) that shared the same graphic engine of its famous predecessor, even if heavy modified. Among the titles they published we remember Alien Carnage and Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold in 1993, Hocus Pocus, Mystic Towers and Raptor: Call of the Shadows in 1994 and Death Rally in 1996.
By the way the pinnacle in Apogee history was the creation of its 3D developing department, 3D Realms that created one of the most influential FPS of all time, Duke Nuem 3D, released on January 29th, 1996. Duke was a tremendous success, sold 3.5 millions of copied, was ported almost on every system, inspired dozens of shooting games, had an uncountable number of expansions, mods and add-ons and its fame, or better the fame of its irriverent protagnoist overwhelmed the controversies about its violence and the deviant behaviors shown in the game. The anti-hero Duke smokes, swears, pisses against walls, is an habituee of strip clubs, pays hookers, get steroids and kicks alien bastards asses without any respect.
If you’ ve never played it go to confess yourself and get a copy of it right now.
Duke Nukem 3D was such a storm in Apogee life that the company, while legally was still apogee Software, changed its name to 3D Realms and continued to develop and overall publish games (BIG games such as Max Payne and Prey). Hopwever in 2008, riding the wave of the old games revival, 3D Realms restored the Apogee brand that re-published the old Apogee titles but readapted to the moders systems.
After a long period of turmoils at the beginning of the millennium, 3D realms was bought in 2014 ans slightly after announced a new game, Bombshell that was released in 2016.
…but for me Apogee will always be synonym of Duke…