3D Realms is a video game developer and publisher based in Garland, Texas, formally known as Apogee Software Ltd. They have been responsible for a number of very successful game series, most notably the Duke Nukem and Max Payne franchises.
As well as developing and publishing their own games, 3D Realms also published games for other companies including Activision and id Software amongst others.
Time as Apogee Software
Apogee Software was founded by Scott Miller in 1987 with the release of Kingdom of Kroz. During the next couple of years they released about ten games, none which were as successful as Kingdom of Kroz. In 1991 George Broussard stepped in as co-owner of the company, and he brought with him some of his previously developed games, such as Pharaoh's Tomb. But none of his previous games can compare to the game that made this man known, Duke Nukem.
Apogee didn't only develop games, they also published them. While publishing their own games they also had deals with other studios, most notably id Software. Although Apogee published several classic games for id Software, Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D, the developers severed their ties with Apogee for their 1993 release, Doom.
Apogee's marketing model was different from the major developers, they relied heavily on the shareware method. Their first games were completely free, asking the customer to pay if he/she enjoyed the game. This proved to be less profitable than they had planed so they developed their own version of the shareware method, by dividing their games into episodes they would release the first one for free, and the customer would order the next ones via mail-order. This marketing model was so successful that it was adopted by other major companies, such as Activision and Epic Games.
As the years went by, Apogee saw that 3D games began catching on and they saw this as an opportunity to create a second developer, 3D Realms. The purpose behind this decision was to let 3D Realms develop 3D games, while Apogee remained a 2D developer. 3D Realms released their first game, the highly successful Duke Nukem 3D in 1996. That same year marked the death of the Apogee name, by the late 90's 2D games was considered old fashion and outdated, and the Apogee name was associated with these kind of games, so they decided to drop the Apogee name and only use 3D Realms. The last game released under the Apogee name is Stargunner in 1996.
Role as a Publisher and the Legend of Duke Nukem Forever
After 1998 3D Realms became more of a publisher than a games developer, many unfinished games were outsourced or sold to other studios, including Descent: Freespace and Prey. Prey was originally developed by 3D Realms, but several years of delay led to the game being outsourced to Interplay who released the game in 2006, after being in development for 11 years. 3D Realms also struck a deal with Remedy, to co-produce their new 3rd person-shooter, Max Payne and its sequel Max Payne 2. But despite the fact that several of these games were critically acclaimed and sold well, there is one game that overshadows them all.
Duke Nukem Forever was first publicly announced in April 1997 with a release date set during the summer of 1998, fans of the Duke Nukem series were ecstatic. It was supposed to be based on the Quake II engine but soon after Epic Games released their Unreal engine and the team decided to make the switch, because the Unreal engine was better at rendering the vast open spaces needed for some of the levels. In mid June 1998 developer George Broussard announced that the game would be severely delayed because of the engine switch, but this was only the first of many delays.
By 2003 the game had retreated to the shadows, only surfacing now and then to release a new screenshot or a teaser trailer, but no news on development progress or release date were announced. It became known that only 18 people were currently working on the game, one former employee stated that the game was far from finished and would definitely not be released any time soon.
In 2007 a new trailer emerged, the first one in six years, when asked when the game would be released Broussard replied, "When it's done."
By 2008 the game were nearing completion but a lack of funding held it back. Having spent more than $20 million of their own money Broussard and Miller went to the publisher, Take-Two asking for more, while Take-Two initially agreed to invest $6 million they later lowered the amount to $2.5 million. Broussard refused this offer, and on May 6, 2009 he suspended all development on the project. The final nail in the coffin came only two days later, when the team working on the game were laid off. Development of Duke Nukem Forever was subsequently handed to Gearbox Software, known for Borderlands among other titles, and released in June 2011 to mostly tepid reviews.
In September 2012, 3D Realms announced they were utilizing crowd sourcing to fund a new game tentatively titled No More Earth.
On March 3rd 2014, Danish investment firm SDN Invest, the part-owner of Interceptor Entertainment, announced their acquisition of 3D Realms. The new studio, now in Denmark, is working on new games, preserving development materials from old games, and investing in other indie developers.