On July 1, 1991, a small Garland, Texas-based publisher, Apogee Software, released a new video game staring a brawny, and hilariously bawdy, character that would become a legendary success among gamers. The release of Duke Nukem was a resounding success selling over 600,000 units, followed by Duke Nukem II in December 1993, surpassing the original Duke with over 900,000 units sold. As promised, Apogee, delivered the third installment of the series in mid-1996. Duke Nukem 3D raised the bar in technology, sophistication, complexity, and innovation for the new first-person-shooter genre, all with a sense of humor never before seen in the genre. Duke Nukem 3D went on to outsell both previous games with a total of 3.4 million units sold, making Duke one the most successful franchises in gaming history.
Continuing with the tradition of industry firsts, Apogee designed Duke Nukem 3D using many innovations not seen in previous games. “Duke 3D” had slopes, jumping and crouching, swimming above and under water, scalability of object size, one-liner observations and comments from the main character, more realistic areas and interactivity, an improved interface, translucency, and a palette system that could give certain parts of the game different colors than the norm. Duke Nukem 3D was the first shooter that came bundled with a map editor that allowed users to express their own creativity and share their maps on the Internet. Apogee also gave users the ability to tweak numerous game settings with a unique scripting language allowing customized game play, a feature widely exploited by gamers.
Other major firsts of Apogee Software that are now industry standards include:
- Mouse Look – Rise of the Triad
- Game Demos – Apogee released the first game as shareware to entice people to buy the full version of the game. This model was so successful, that it was adopted by the rest of the industry and was dubbed as the “Apogee Model”
- Concept of Saved Games – One life versus multiple lives and continue Volunteered Game Rating – Long before the ESRB, Apogee self rated Rise of the Triad Parental Controls – Due to the level of violence in Rise of the Triad, Apogee allowed parents to control what their children played from “Mild” to “Wild” Digital Distribution – Shareware Model Distribution via BBS’s (The Apogee Model)
- Episodic Gaming – All of Apogee’s first games were released as episodes via the Apogee Model
- Published first smooth scrolling arcade game on the PC – Commander Keen
1997 brought Duke Nukem 3D to both the Mac and the Nintendo 64 and introduced a new Duke Nukem adventure Total Meltdown to the Sony Playstation followed by Duke Nukem: Time to Kill on the PSX in 1998. Duke continued his winning ways in the original game Zero Hour for the Nintendo 64 in 1999 to a highly receptive audience followed by Duke Nukem 3D on the Gameboy Color. The turn of the century and Y2K didn’t stop Duke from kicking alien ass in Land of the Babes, interestingly this game was originally called Planet of the Babes, but due to concerns regarding potential legal issues with the upcoming 2001 movie remake of Planet of the Apes the name was changed. In 2002, Duke returned to his roots by on the PC in the side scrolling 3D adventure Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project.
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