June 12, 2006

The Apogee Legacy #22 - The Levelord

As we wind down the Apogee Legacy series (click here for schedule), we will be bringing you some slightly different choices to wrap up the series. Today we are bringing you a mini interview with none othre than the Levelord himself, Richard Gray! The reason why we're calling it a mini interview will be self evident shortly.

Richard worked here back in the Duke Nukem 3D days, and left with some others who were working here at the time to found what would be come Ritual. Rich has remained friendly over the years with us, and we get together from time to time and chew over the old days, talk about what's going on with our companies now, etc, etc, etc.

As Rich was an important part of one of our most important projects (Duke Nukem 3D), we wanted to get his input in this series. However, Rich being Rich, he didn't answer all the questions. So we'll bring you an abbreviated interview with him. He answers some of the questions, but definitely not all. We'll flesh this one out with some pictures from the archives of him. :)

So here goes:

The Apogee Legacy
Past Pioneers of the Shareware Revolution
Issue #22 - Richard Grey

1) How did you first come in contact with Apogee?

I had made some levels for DOOM back in 1994 and uploaded them to CompuServe. They were good enough to catch the eye of Nick Newhard, then with Q Studios. He contracted me to do levels for Blood. Both my DOOM levels and Blood caught the attention of George Broussard. He soon asked me to come to Garland, Texas to work fulltime on Duke Nukem 3D.

Levelord at our 1995 Halloween Party

2) Was there a reason you decided to work with Apogee, say versus going on your own or working with another company?

I would have worked at ANY game company, and would have cleaned the bathroom floors with a toothpick, for free, just to get into the industry ;) I was also being offered a job at Q Studios, but I chose Apogee because it was so close to id Software. Just seemed important at the time. This was late 1994 and there were only a few game companies making FPSs.

3) Looking back, was there anything Apogee could have done better, regarding the marketing and distribution of your game?

Better, because the Duke Nukem 3D Team was a great one! I also give credit to the technology of the times. Today, I spend more than half my time wrestling with technology. Everything has gotten so complicated and complex. Back then, a decade ago, everything was so much easier to deal with and I spent much more time on the Fun Factor and polish.

5) Apogee had a policy of letting the designer or studio retain full intellectual property rights to their game. Nowadays, it's rare to find a publisher who allows this, especially if the publisher is providing the funding. Do you believe that it's best for the creator to retain IP rights? Why or why not?

Although I was an internal employee, I would say this holds true for my experience. I was allowed almost free reins on my levels. This gave me creative freedom, and this gave the entire team creative freedom. When asking about retaining IP rights, I must add consideration for ownership and future endeavors with a property. Retaining creative freedom, as related to an IP, is always good. Financial ownership is another thing.

Chowing down at the 3DR Offices

6) Is there any story/incident that stands out as interesting during your time associated with Apogee?

Yes, going to my very first E3 in 1996 with the Duke Team. It was the first E3, so that made it memorable. I had lived in Los Angeles from 1980-1990. I lived only a few blocks away from the Nakatomi building in the first Die Hard movie. I lived in the garage of my parents while going to UCLA. Late one night, at about 2am, they started filming much of the exterior helicopter stuff at the end of the movie. I thought it was a real event ;)

Anyhow, that AM/PM store is right there, where the cop bought the Twinkies for his pregnant wife. This store, being so close to home, was just a regular old store to buy smokes and gas. To most others, though, it was an icon. First thing we did at E3 was go to this store and buy Twinkies ;)

7) Apogee was an early pioneer in terms of teaming up with external designers and studios, and continues to do so even to this day (currently working with Human Head Studios on Prey). Why is it that so few other studios do this (mentor and fund outside projects with lesser known teams)?

Trust, and there always seems to be fingers on "the other side". Most external involvement entails external influence, creative influence. It is understandable, putting money into something, a lot of money, and wanting control and oversight. However, my experience is that if you sign-up to have a group of professionals perform a task, you should trust them to complete the task. I always use the metaphor of hiring a caterer and then insisting on being in the kitchen and deciding on my own list of spices and cooking times and such.

As you can see, Rich didn't answer most of the questions, he probably got distracted by a picture of boobs or something at the time. So, I'm going to plunder his website for a few funny stories, and go through our own archives for pictures of him.

At 3DR HQ watching a Duke3D demo the night before release.

L-R: George Broussard, Doug Wood, Joe Siegler, Allen Blum, Terry Nagy, Dirk Jones, Jim Dose (obscured), Chuck Jones, Levelord

April 24, 1998:

Rich talks about "The Levelord Drinking Game" Joe Siegler invented for our semi-regular trips to the Outback Steakhouse..

"The Levelord Drinking Game"? Okay, I'm in ;) I bet we could make a pretty penny with the travel version. Seriously, you're a funny man, Joe... ...that's why I keeel you laaaast!... ...just in case any are taking this seriously, Master Siegler and I meet at the Outback Steakhouse in Mesquite every few months. He goes for the Bloomin' Onions and I... ...well, let's just say I get very pedophilic with all the high school waitresses and their short, short little skirts showing just a hint of flowery panties underneath and their amply round melon-sized boobs bouncing up and... ...or dear, ...that's two drinks for me!

September 22, 1999:

Rich talks about the advances of gaming tech and Duke Nukem 3D:

I'm so tired of chasing technology! Cutting-edge and special effects have become horrible phrases for me. We spend so much time and effort "getting up" and not enough "going", and for an old fart like me, it just gets tiring.

Keep in mind that I've been in software since before there were floppies. Platter "hard" drives stored a whopping 128k and programming was down on card readers and hoppers. Anyone else remember their Hollerith code and EBCDIC? I remember being in the Navy, dabbling in FORTRAN, and seeing the DPs carefully walking down the halls holding 8" floppies, when they first came out, like some precious serving tray. They were afraid the bits would get jumbled if the floppies got jarred in any way.

I am so completely convinced that we could release Duke Nukem 3D right now and it would still sell as many copies and be as popular.

February 8, 1998:

Rich remembers (or tries to, it seems like a rambling piece) on Allen Blum, Megadeth, & Duke Nukem 3D:

...Well, it's early Sunday morning, got the stereo blasting away, freshing toasted (toast is so much more crisp when your lungs aren't coated with tobacco smoke;), and cranking on some levels in our new office space. This is way cool, apart from the new space being "new", we were crammed like Bismarck Herrings in the old office. I even have enough room to crack my 16-foot bullwhip! ...hey, man, ...it's Texas, ...live it, ...love it!

Speaking of stereos blasting, I've got MegaDeath's latest blaring (ya, ya, it's a 97 release, but remember how old and slow I am!) and just noticed the title of the 7th track... ...Sin! Yes boys, play it loud please! MegaDeath will ALWAYS remind me of 18-hour stretches of Duke leveling and Allen The Third Blum playing "Youthanasia" thirteen times in a row... ...bless his demented little heart. Dave Mustaine... ...hmmmm, you don't supposed, do you, that Tom has an alter profession like that sCary Spice bitch (how ya doin' BTW, Steve)?

March 10, 1995:

Rich recalls his 10 year anniversary of coming to work for 3D Realms:

Holy sheep shit! (picture is at 3D Realms in March of 1995)

It was ten years ago today when I first rolled into Garland, Texas to start working on Duke Nukem at 3D Realms!

It has definitely been a decade that seems to have gone by quickly (probably due to the time warped perspective of growing older), but it also seems like a LOOOOONG time when I try to remember all the things that have happened in ten years.

The question for me? Would I do it again if I knew back then what I know now? It is a question for me, ...even with all the ultracool things I have gained and enjoyed on the ride, ...it was a truly rough road to travel!

April 20, 2000:

And finally, this one where his Loness writes this about Duke Nukem and 3D Realms:

...and finally, I am really starting to regret leaving Garland. I played pool with George the Broussard last night and Duke sounds fricken incredible! It all brought back alot of fond memories. That sure was a fun game to make and Mr. Nukem has a long way to go before he gets too old. I don't know how they're doing it all without me, but I wish I was still there ;)

Several pictures of The Levelord from E3 2001:

Going after something he likes!

Working the grill at the God lot. This food was free if you got in the lot, BTW.

With Scott Miller & George Broussard

The Levelord getting happy with a friend. :)

The Levelord's traditional camera greeting

Getting a bit gay with Joe Siegler.

There's a few more pictures of Levelord in Issue 20 of this series, too.

As was said above, Rich was involved with just one title with us, Duke Nukem 3D, but it was an important one. Here's a few Levelord related links for you to peruse.

Make sure and tune in again next Monday morning, when we bring you the next in our Legacy Interview series, as we wind it down. After this one, there's only two issues left.

Posted by Joe Siegler on June 12, 2006 at 3:00 PM | Permalink | Discuss this story on our forums
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