March 13, 2006

The Apogee Legacy #10 - Allen Blum

Today our "Apogee Legacy" Interview series continues into its tenth edition, this time with long time Apogee staffer, Allen Blum.

Allen has had his hands in a ton of titles of ours, and goes all the way back to some of the earliest works of our company. He's been involved as a developer on all the Duke Nukem games released by Apogee/3D Realms (Duke Nukem I, Duke Nukem II, Duke Nukem 3D, & Duke Nukem Forever) directly. He's also been involved in many others such as Shadow Warrior, Dark Ages, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, as well as the aforementioned Duke games. He was however, the lead designer for our 1993 title, Major Stryker. Stryker was an (EGA) scroller game in the vein of our other such titles like Stargunner & Raptor.

Allen's also one of our internal beta test team, so even if's not listed above, he's played through it a lot and had input into the titles (some titles under this category are both Max Payne games as well as the forthcoming Prey). Allen (and his hats) have been a major part of our company history, and it's a pretty safe statement to say we wouldn't be where we are without him.

The Apogee Legacy
Past Pioneers of the Shareware Revolution
Issue #10 - Allen H. Blum III
Allen with Randy Pitchford, Doug Wood, & Dirk Jones.

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

In 1990 my High School friend Todd Replogle was working on some games for Apogee such as Caves of Thor and Monuments of Mars. At the time I was into the graphic abilitys of the Amiga and was working on a Super Mario Brothers 3 clone for fun.

Todd started working on Dark Ages and needed a level editor so we used my Mario clone editor on the Amiga. I ended up doing art and level design on the Amiga while the game only ran on the PC. After that we did Duke Nukem 1 the same way with most content made on the Amiga and the game running on a PC. It was pretty nice being able to see most of a level and all the textures for the game on one high-res screen on the Amiga while the PC was only able to do 320x200 EGA. With the success of Duke Nukem 1, Todd moved to Texas to work closer to Apogee on Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure while I continued school at the Univisity of California at Santa Cruz. I little while later while I was out visiting Todd and checking out Apogee, I was working on a top down shooter for fun called Dr. Protons Revenge. Apogee happened to see it and asked me to make it into a complete game which was released as Major Stryker in 1993. After that I moved out to Dallas and did Duke Nukem 2, Duke Nukem 3d and currently working on Duke Nukem Forever.

Allen holding his gift from the gift exchange at the 2005 3D Realms company Christmas Party.

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

Back in 1992 the "Shareware model" seemed like a great way for me to make my own game. It was easy enough to just release it on bulliten boards for people to play and if they liked it they could buy it.

I'm glad to see that a simular thing is part of the Xbox360 with the Live Marketplace. They just need to get rid of the "old tech" games like joust and have more games like Wik or Geometry Wars.

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

Other than bulletin boards and flyers sent out to thousands of people, I would have really liked a Superbowl commercial. :)

4) Do you think your game was made better or worse by working with Apogee?

No response to question.

Allen averting his eyes to the light at his desk at 3DR - May 2005

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?

This didn't really apply to Major Stryker.

5a) And if applicable, have you benefited from retaining ownership of your own IP?

Not really, as I never did anything with the Major Stryker franchise. Can it be a franchise with just one title in the line?

5b) Do you think there'll ever be a sequel to your game(s)?

Duke Nukem Forever is getting closer to being done day by day.

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

It's all a blur, man!

Allen at the 2001 company Halloween Party

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)?

I have no idea! Money? It's all about the bling-bling now, isn't it? You want to have the largest piece of the pie, I'd suppose, and that's diluted this way.

8) What the biggest difference in the industry nowadays versus when you worked with Apogee?

Back when I started you could really make a game from home. Major Stryker only had 3 people working on it, Bobby Prince in Florida doing music, Gary Sirois in the north east doing art, and me in California. We never worked in the same room and actually never even saw each other. We only worked over the phone. I'm sure you could probably do the same thing much easier and faster with todays tech and such for small games. But for anything else like DNF you need a big bunker filled with people. At least now I get some excecise running around to the other side of the building to the coders area.

9) What have you been doing since your time with Apogee?

Since? I'm still here!

Just WHAT is Allen doing with this Lara Croft statue at E3 2000?

10) If you're no longer making games, have you thought about returning to this industry? If not, why not?

I'm still here! Are you trying to get rid of me or something?

11) Looking back, are there any missed opportunities that you wish you'd have jumped on?

OK, why do all these questions make it seem like I'm some old fogey who has retired in a corner and drools on themselves? I'm still here!

12) Other than your game(s), what's your favorite game released or produced by Apogee (or 3D Realms)?

There's other games besides the ones I worked on?

12a) And what's your favorite 2-4 games released by anyone else?

Seeing that I live in an FPS working on DNF and play most all FPS games, I would say almost any racing game would be my favorite, just becuase it is completly different from an FPS. And I like to drive fast without worrying about wraping my car around a telephone pole. Current top of the list would be Trackmania, Burnout or Flatout.

13) Is there anything else you'd like to add about your time here or to fans of your title(s)?

....need more stripper research.

Screenshots from Major Stryker

Thanks to Allen for sending in his answers, and being a good sport about so many goofy pictures of him being taken over the years. While Major Stryker was discontinued some years ago, here's a few links about some of the other games Allen has worked on over the years you might find interesting:

Make sure and tune in again next Monday morning, when we bring you the next in our Legacy Interview series.

Posted by Joe Siegler on March 13, 2006 at 4:09 PM | Permalink | Discuss this story on our forums
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