June 26, 2006

The Apogee Legacy #24 - Final Edition

Today we're bringing you the final edition of the Apogee Legacy Interview Series. As this was put together by Joe Siegler, we'll let him talk about the conclusion to the series.

"It's a bit of a sad moment, as this series has been a lot of fun to put together. Apogee has a rich history, being involved in some capacity in over 70 titles in our 19 year history now. I've been here for a long time myself, having seen the majority of these games get released. When Scott Miller originally came up with this idea, I wasn't terribly sure how well it would work, because a lot of the people we spoke with for this series either haven't kept in touch, or we lost track of them, etc, etc, etc... But it worked out well. Managed to reconnect with some folks, including a couple we haven't spoken with as a company in over a decade.

Yes, this is the final edition. It is not the normal edition, as this one is a summary, and has some recollections by folks of the two people who have worked here who have since died; William Scarboro & Dennis Scarff. So let's get onto the final edition."

Of all the people who have worked here (and there's been a lot), we're fortunate that (to our knowledge anyway), they're all still alive. So far only two folks who have worked here have since died. We want to take this time in the final edition of the series to commemorate them.

The Apogee Legacy
Past Pioneers of the Shareware Revolution
Issue #24 - Dennis Scarff

Dennis ScarffFirst up is Dennis Scarff. Dennis is not a name known to most people, because he was not a developer. Dennis took care of some of the business side of things for a few years in the mid 90's. If you look in our older shareware from the late 80's and early 90's, you'll see a lot of them have a listing of foreign retailers, and things of that nature. It was quite hapzardly done (compared to today's standards), and after a time, it was decided we needed someone to coordinate all of that. So Dennis was hired. Dennis was in charge of handling all shareware requests, as well as keeping track of foreign retailers, making sure they paid the royalty money they owed our company, things of that nature. As was said before, he wasn't really known to the public, but he played an integral part of our business side of things at the time.

He was also a tech nerd, although from a previous generation. Dennis was huge into Ham radio, and had all kinds of ham equipment and books in his office. He kept talking about how we all should participate in that. He was also likely to be found in all the local Radio Shack stores looking for parts, and he frequented several of the mom & pop computer stores in the area.

One funny story about Dennis recalled by Joe Siegler..

"As was said, Dennis was always into gadgety type of things. One time when the Dallas Stars first located here from Minnesota, several of us attended a game, including Dennis. In between periods, the Stars would fly this radio control blimp around the arena, and Dennis claimed that it would be easy enough to scan for the frequency of the thing and take control of it himself. He never did that, but it would have been amusing to see him try. Outside of work, that's the kind of thing he was always known for. He always had some parts catalog around, some phone thing, was a great guy. I miss him.

Tom Hall also remembers Dennis.

"Dennis was like the kind ol' grandpa of the company. Always there with a smile, a nod, a reassuring presence. A good fella."

Scott Miller recalls the original hiring of Dennis, and the reason why we eventually parted company:

Scarff was hired from a shareware catalog, the biggest of its type, called Public Brand Software, which was a huge catalog in the early eighties. Scarff was a big Apogee fan, and at the time we need someone to deal with all of the shareware outlets that helped drive our business at the time. But as the 90's moved forward, shareware catalogs and BBSs were replaced in importance by the Internet and the web. So, around 1996 or so we released him.

As was said above, Dennis was not as well known to the public, but to those of us who worked here when he was at Apogee, his is a name that is remembered fondly. It was with great sadness that we found out later he had passed away (via email from his widow).

Here's a few pictures of Dennis around the office.

Dennis Hamming it up in the offices

Wtih Joe Siegler & Pat Miller in Summer 1996 filling Duke3D pre-orders

Dennis smiling

Chatting with Steve Blackburn at an Apogee company picnic

The Apogee Legacy
Past Pioneers of the Shareware Revolution
Issue #24 - William Scarboro

Second up is William Scarboro. William is far more known to the public than Dennis was, as William was one of the major folks on our Rise of the Triad project, as well as being the original lead programmer and engine designer on Prey. William died on Aug 9, 2002 of an asthma attack. It was quite sad actually, as we're told he died alone (likely in pain due to the way he died), and wasn't found for a few days after he had passed. But his life was one of fun and passion, and that's the way he's remembered. In fact, most people who knew him will remember him as this photo portrays him, as it pretty much summed him up..

Tom Hall (id, Ion Storm, Midway, etc) recalls Wiliam:

"William was a completely unique character. He was always good for a laugh. He'd describe an event in some crazy anime he'd seen, and then say, "Dude! That's ridiculous!" He'd have his little bag with his tuna/pasta/salsa/Omega 3 fatty acid bowls. He'd wear his odd American Male shirts on his muscle-bound frame, and talk about "chicks". He made the weapons in Rise of the Triad "insanely rockful". One day, he was so into typing code he didn't see the big turtle we set next to him for two minutes. So many little stories. He is missed."

When asked to elaborate on 'The turtle story', Tom replied with this..

Looking a bit sunburnt in a non standard white T-Shirt
"Heh, yeah, he was referring to a document or book two feet to his left. In between the two were two thick books stacked up. So he'd type, refer, type, refer.... Scott almost ran over a turtle, so he picked it up to get it out of the road and take it to water, but he thought he'd bring it in the office. We decided to surprise William with it, so we placed it on those stacked books. He kept turning to the reference, back to the computer, and so on for awhile. Obviously his brain registered "TURTLE!" and threw it out as bad information. Finally he turned and jumped back, his brain finally registering it as really there. :) "

Fellow Rise of the Triad programmer Mark Dochtermann (later Ritual, now EA) also recalls William:

"William Scarboro had uncanny way of boiling the world down into black and white. He either liked something or hated it, he desired it or pushed it away. His desire to classify his world into two absolute states made him a very passionate engineer. When he was into the work that he was doing, he was unstoppable."

Scott Miller (Apogee founder) also touches upon the original hiring of William, as well as his connection to Prey both old school and modern.

A rarity - William in a Tuxedo!
"William Scarboro was one of the first two or three actual developers (a coder) we hired in 1994 when we first shifted to internal development. Up until that time, we had solely worked with external teams, like Id Software and many others. He was hired to help develop an Id-approved sequel to Wolfenstein 3-D, which later became a non-Id game, Rise of the Triad. For the first year William worked here, he wore many shirts of many colors, but soon shifted to an all-black-shirt wardrobe. Made buying shirts easy, I suppose! But this became his signature look for all the remaining years I knew him.

William eventually became the lead coder on Prey, leading development of the Prey portal engine, and just as significantly, the Prey editor, called Preditor internally. At the time, this editor was a significant improvement over any previous 3D game editor we'd seen, and Remedy even used it as the template for their very similar Max Payne editor.

It's a shame that the original Prey project didn't reach escape velocity, and for many reasons it eventually ended. William moved on and away from the game industry, somewhat burnt out and looking for a more sane job. That was the last I saw of him, and two or so years later I heard he had tragically died due to an asthma attack.

William was also one of the industry's hardest, most dedicated workers, and we were proud to dedicate the new Prey to his memory."

Finally, Joe Siegler chimes in on William:

This is quite hard to write, as William was a good friend of mine, and it quite bothered me when I got an email from a (then) co-worker of his that he had died. While we were grateful for the update, we were not happy with the contents. As was said by the others here, William was quite the character. He could be completely into himself with his work, or be completely out there with his humour. One of the things that William an I shared was a case of the giggles. After we had been working together for awhile, there were certain catchphrases we were able to say to each other to set the other one off. One was "Uhhh.... 27?" which was a reference to a Beavis & Butthead episode where Butthead was trying to pass himself off as 27 years old. The other I can't recall right at the moment, but after those had been going on for awhile, it got so all we had to do was look at the other for more than a second or two, and we'd bust out laughing. That kind of friendship is hard to find. William & I attended a few concerts together. One was the tour that Van Halen did with Gary Cherone (which was better than it's reputation gave it), and the other was the tour that Motley Crue did John Corabi as vocalist. William was always on a quest to tour Europe where sex laws were not as uh, "strict" as they are in the US, not sure if he actually pulled that off or not. :)

Anyway, here's something I wrote about William back in January of 2006 when I was looking for pictures of other former developers at the start of this series. I found a picture of WIlliam I had forgotten about, and it inspired me to write this:

-- Start Story --

Every time I see a picture of him, I get sad. It's still depressing to find out the way he went. I also recently found out additional information about his passing. I had run across the original email I got from a (then) current co-worker of his informing me that he had died. I wrote back to him and asked what exactly William was doing when he died, as it occurred to me I didn't actually know that, all I knew was "not in the games industry". Here's what I was told..

Joe Siegler, William Scarboro, & Stephen Cole at E3 1998.

"RIA provides Income Tax solutions for Corporations, Accounting firms and CPAs. He was part of the Platform Technology Group. This group was responsible for core backend services for computing and printing tax returns. It involved a lot of hard core c++ skills. He was very integral to the group and will be sorely missed."

I also found out that the folks at RIA had gotten concerned when he hadn't shown up for work for a couple of days. Apparently his mother also was concerned as well, and she eventually went to his apartment, and it was his mother who found him dead - terribly sad info.

Anyway, I miss my old buddy, and I wanted to say finding some "new" pictures (or at least ones I forgot about) was a nice treat. Wish you were still around, pal.

-- End Story --

A nickname we had for William at the time was "Da Hur" (as in the whore). All this sounds odd, but if you knew William, it would make more sense. :) Miss ya buddy.

Here's a few pictures of William from around the office:

Checking out the ceiling at George Broussard's house during our 1997 Christmas party

Caught by the webcam while walking out of the Tech Support Dept.

William's taking home some dip from a party at Lee Jackson's house

Tossing a football around in the back yard at Lee Jackson's house

William with his girlfriend - unknown date.

Looking happy in his office - the way we remember him.

We're fortunate that with so many folks we've worked with over the years that so few of them have passed on. There's some that just seem to have up and disappeared off the face of the Earth. Take for example Todd Replogle. Todd is well known as the programmer behind the first three Duke Nukem games, as well as Cosmo, and some others from the ancient days of our company. The last anyone from here heard, Todd was living in the backwoods of the state of Oregon. We heard a rumour that he had turned his money into PVC Pipe and buried it in his back yard. Whether that's true or not, he hasn't been heard from in years, and no one from 3DR has any idea how to contact him. We tried, as we wanted him in this series, but he was unreachable.

We tried getting a hold of some other folks for this series but couldn't. Duke 3D Atomic Edition producer Greg Malone was last heard of being a teacher in Arizona. Bobby Prince did briefly reply when we initially sent out the queries back in December of 2005, but hasn't been heard from since. Some others just declined to participate.

Some of the folks we did get to participate were not easy to track down. Peder Jungck was someone we hadn't spoken to in almost a decade, and was found via Google. Mike Voss was tracked down via another game developer. Lindsay Whipp was difficult, had to go through Google, to find some dead ends, we finally got a hold of him via someone at Wildfire in Australia, who had his email. Jason Blochowiak was difficult, as we had to track him down via a few other former employees. Most of them had him working at Midway Chicago, but a phone call to their receptionist said he wasn't there, we lucked out that someone knew where he went. One of the more interesting ones was Dave Sharpless. Since Dave had a game that was put out over 15 years ago, none of us had much (if any) contact with him in the interim. He was eventually tracked down when Matt at the Jumpman Lounge was kind enough to put us in contact with Dave.

Additionally, we do get quite a few queries about Lee Jackson, so I thought I'd take a moment to answer folks who want to know what's going on. He's doing fine, and after he and 3DR parted company in 2002, he briefly applied at another game company, but decided for a complete change of direction with his life. He went to a Radio broadcaster's school, and now holds a job with a firm in Dallas that does the traffic reporting for several radio stations in the Dallas area, including the big news station KRLD. This company also does reports for Sirius Satellite Radio, so if you have them, and hear a familiar voice, it's Lee Jackson. It's still amusing to me personally to hear "This is Lee Jackson in the KRLD traffic command center" coming over my radio.

So it was fun tracking down all these guys and gals, and it was a blast putting all this together. It's sad that the series is now ending, as it's been a blast going down memory lane these last six months the series has ran.

If need be, we might have special editions of the series in the future, should we make contact with someone who would be a good addition, but this was the final scheduled edition of this series. Thanks for sharing the trip down memory lane with us! This series went on far longer than we thought, and thanks to all who participated, and thank YOU for reading it.

So this ends the series. It's been nice looking backwards at our company, but now it's time to go forwards. The Prey demo is out, the full version will be out soon, so there's great, cool new stuff for you to look forward to.

That's all, folks!

P.S A special prayer goes out to Dennis & William - sorry we couldn't ask you guys directly about this series, it would have been nice to still have y'all around and contribute.

Posted by Joe Siegler on June 26, 2006 at 1:18 PM | Permalink | Discuss this story on our forums
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