Id & Apogee's First Shareware Hit - 8 Years Ago!
It was eight years ago (on Dec. 14, 1990) that Apogee released id Software's Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons into the shareware jet stream, putting two game companies on the map with a quake still heard today.
The story of id started several months earlier when Scott Miller, Apogee's founder, contacted John Romero who worked at Softdisk, Inc. (a company that developed a monthly disk magazine with articles, small utilities and applications, and small games) about the possibility of creating a shareware game that Apogee would release.
As luck would have it, John Carmack, also at Softdisk, had just written an EGA smooth scrolling engine capable of doing Nintendo style platform games like Mario Bros. Romero sent Miller a demo of this technology, and very quickly a deal was struck to develop an original game, Commander Keen.
Tom Hall, also at Softdisk, wrote a brief story about the game, which Miller approved. Part of the approval was id's request for a $3000 advance, which at the time was quite a risk for Miller. In hindsight, of course, it was one of the deals of the century, as id and Apogee also had a publishing relationship for id's next Commander Keen series, as well as Wolfenstein 3-D. The Apogee-id relationship or the early 90's enabled both companies to quickly rise to fame, and earn enough money to avoid signing bad publishing deals with more mainstream publishers.
Click here to see the original proposal from id Software (then known as IFD -- Ideas From the Deep) sent to Apogee for Commander Keen. The four signatures are John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall and Lane Roathe. If you'd like to download the shareware episode of the original Commander Keen, you can do so by clicking on the big slug.