Scott Miller

CEO, Apogee Software (aka 3D Realms)

Scott Miller is a long-time game producer and entrepreneur whose many credits include Duke Nukem (1991), Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Raptor (1994), Shadow Warrior (1997), Max Payne (2001), Max Payne 2 (2003), and Prey (2006).

On getting into the game industry: I began first as a journalist in 1982, then in 1987 I started my own company, Apogee Software. Apogee is known as the pioneer of shareware gaming—we invented the method of releasing one episode as shareware and selling additional episodes of the game directly ourselves. This allowed us to self-publish our first 20 games without the need of a retail publisher or outside funding. We made millions using this method before finally signing with traditional publishers in the mid-1990s. Id Software and Epic Games mimicked our shareware method and also rose to great success. It’s no coincidence that all three companies are among the strongest, most successful, entirely independent development studios in North America.

On self-publishing: By first self-publishing our games we were able to build strong financial independence. This method allowed all three companies to make original intellectual property (IP) without the publisher getting long-term ownership and control of these IP. In fact, a developer’s only chance of long-term success is to create and own an original IP. Without doing this, a studio is constantly under the thumb of finicky and often untrustworthy publishers. An IP gives a studio the clout needed to get the best publishing deals. Plus, as 3D Realms and Remedy have shown with the sale of the Max Payne IP for over $45 million, an IP is where the real value of a studio resides. Additionally, 3D Realms has been offered $80 million for our Duke Nukem IP by a major publisher. Never doubt that making original IP that your studio owns is the best path to long-term success.

On favorite games: As a long time gamer, my list includes some classic oldies.

  • M.U.L.E.: A breakthrough, addictive multiplayer game that is begging for a modern remake.
  • Diablo: The core gameplay is a model of simplicity, the execution borders on perfection, and the game continuously rewards the player through a brilliant system of ever-improving gear.
  • Tetris: Perhaps the most perfect computer game ever. Simple to learn, near impossible to master, and equally appealing to either gender.
  • DOOM: A technical tour de force and the first game to truly frighten players.
  • Space Invaders: The game that officially kicked off the arcade’s golden years. The most adrenaline squirting game I’ve ever played.
  • Super Mario Bros.: I can’t leave this game off my list because it was the first game that introduced the idea of a world for the player to explore, an idea that still continues to be seen in many modern games, including the GTA series.

Advice to designers: Learn from other games and designers, but do not copy them. You absolutely must invent something unique and compelling (one without the other is not enough) to be a success. For example, at the time we were working on the concept for Max Payne, Tomb Raider was just out and a huge hit. We could have easily fallen into the trap of making a male version of Lara Croft, but that would have been recreating another Indiana Jones. So, instead, we looked at what Tomb Raider did well, and purposely picked other things for Max Payne to do well. It was critical for Max to be seen as a unique character, not a copycat. If you follow in other people’s footsteps, you’ll never be a leader.