It hasn't exactly been "business as usual" for Interceptor lately. First the Rise of the Triad necromancer stealthily didn't quite reveal a new Duke Nukem game, and then Gearbox *did* entirely sue them for it. But while the Borderlands creator is flinging around 87 bazillion pieces of supposed evidence to the contrary, Interceptor believes it's in the clear - especially in light of the fact that it now owns original Duke Nukem creator 3D Realms. What does all of this madness mean for Interceptor's future, though? Is owning 3D Realms even a good thing these days, what with the stinking stain of Duke Nukem Forever still fresh on its name? And what happens to series like Shadow Warrior, which have been lent out (to great results) to other developers?
Also, Blood. Will there be Blood? Can there be Blood? All that and more below from CEO Frederik Schreiber and new 3DR head Mike Nielsen below.
RPS: What does purchasing 3D Realms even get you in this day and age? Which games, which properties? Why go through with this?
Nielsen: What we’ve said to other people as well is that we’re not disclosing that just yet. But obviously the brand itself is one of the things we associate quite a lot of value with. The 3D Realms name is still legendary in our hobby. They’ve had some rough years, but we still think this brand is valuable to us. Obviously we’ll be getting some IP as well. As you maybe know, several have been sold and sub-licensed and stuff like that.
We’re in the middle of planning our strategy for the next five years on where we want to see 3D Realms. That’s why we’re not just yet publishing what sort of titles you can expect from us and what we’re working on. All I can say is, we’re working on a combination of the back catalog, where it’s possible to work with it, and a strong focus on new IP as well. We don’t just want to bring back old titles. We want to do a combination.
RPS: Do you really think that people still like or trust the 3D Realms name, especially in light of all the Duke Nukem Forever stuff? All the crazy ups and downs over the years?
Nielsen: I generally do feel that. Most people do see a lot of value in the 3D Realms name. At least for me, not only do I see this as a business opportunity, it’s also a dream of mine come true. I grew up with these games. My past 11 years, I’ve been working on building a big online retailer here in northern Europe, in Scandinavia. That’s always been strongly focused around games. To me, 3D Realms, obviously they never delivered the last game as they should have, but they’re still some of the founding fathers of the modern computer game industry as we see it. For us, they gained a lot of respect from us. I don’t know how you feel about that, Frederik, but I’m pretty sure we’re on the same page.
Schreiber: I completely agree. The legacy status that 3D Realms has can’t be destroyed by one game that they were unable to finish. What we’re looking at is the value of the company from the birth of the company in the late ‘80s to the closure of the company some years ago. They created a lot of brands, a lot of franchises and IP and technology. They basically co-created the first-person shooter industry, which is the highest-grossing game genre today. It probably wouldn’t exist the way it does today without 3D Realms.
RPS: How long have you been working to get the 3D Realms name?
Nielsen: This was a quick decision. The opportunity presented itself and… We’ve been working with Scott for a while now, with the unannounced project that has leaked a little bit in the media, from Interceptor. It’s been a really interesting time working with Scott. He’s had a lot of valuable input. He has a good eye for game design. We take all the ideas we can and modify them in the way that we want to see it. So we’ve been working with him for a long time. When the opportunity presented itself, we said, let’s iron this out and get a deal going. Just keep it simple, not let it drag on and on for months. So I can say it’s been fairly quick. I can’t say how long we’ve been in discussions with them.
RPS: Scott’s still working with you, but what about George Broussard?
Nielsen: George is still formally under contract to 3D Realms. He’s still connected, I would say. But he hasn’t been involved with the current project, at least. He’s still connected. We’ll use his input in any way that we can going forward.
RPS: I know there’s been a bit of minor confusion in the wake of the purchase, because there’s actually another Apogee. People had thought that you had purchased that one. It’s interesting, because that’s the one that has the full rights to Rise of the Triad, right?
Nielsen: Yes, you’re completely right. There has been a lot of confusion. To clear that up, we have not purchased Apogee Software LLC. The confusion arises because 3D Realms, the legal entity of 3D Realms, is actually still called Apogee Software Limited. That’s the confusion. We should have made it a little clearer in our statement that went out to the Danish media and then spread from there. We clarified it quite a lot in our international statement that went out this morning, or at least we tried to.
Just to make it clear, we have not purchased Apogee Software LLC, who own the rights to Rise of the Triad. We work with them through Interceptor, obviously, but we haven’t purchased their shares or assets or anything like that. They’re completely out of this. I think they appreciate being left out of it.
RPS: Are you interested in purchasing Apogee The Second as well? I mean, they do have full rights to the only game you've ever successfully released.
Nielsen: No, not at all. As I see it, we’re still going through all the license agreements that exist. They have the rights. They own Rise of the Triad, along with the Apogee Software name. That remains with them. They’re friends of ours, basically, so there’s nothing… We have no intention of changing any sort of arrangement. I don’t think that’s even possible for us to do.
RPS: How much did you buy 3D Realms for?
Nielsen: We can’t disclose that. Any terms, including the price and other terms, are confidential as always. For the interest of all parties involved, we’re keeping that confidential still.
RPS: What does this mean for things like Flying Wild Hog and Shadow Warrior? Are you still going to be lending out licenses like that, now that they’re presumably under your umbrella?
Nielsen: That will still be the case. I think Shadow Warrior is in a good place right now with the people working on that. We’re not changing any existing agreements at all. As I say, it’s impossible. Those decisions were made at that time under those circumstances. It doesn’t make sense for us to focus on that. We’re going to focus on the rights that we have in place, which we’re clearing up now. We’re focusing on our strategy for the next five years, hopefully to bring 3D Realms back as a household name, to bring it back to its legendary status if we can.
RPS: With those properties, is your plan to license more of them out to other developers, or are you going to keep them going primarily within Interceptor?
Nielsen: We can’t say that yet. We’re doing that case by case. I’m an investor in both of those companies, so I see a lot of potential in exchange and working between these two companies. Obviously Interceptor has very high integrity when it comes to delivering games. I think they have a good heart. That’s something I personally like.
But we’re doing it case by case. Interceptor is not, as I see it, a mobile studio. If any mobile games were to be made - iOS, Android - we would consider… That would probably not be Interceptor, I think, as it stands right now.
Schreiber: I think the idea is that Interceptor will be the core developer behind the bigger titles, and of course quite in the tradition of 3D Realms, we would love in the future to find new talent and new studios that are growing and helping them by bringing them under our wing, under the 3D Realms label.
RPS: You keep saying that Interceptor’s next game is technically unannounced despite the fact that a promo campaign for fans has already unveiled what it is. It's Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction. This is known.
Nielsen: Yeah, but so far we have not officially confirmed anything. Due to the lawsuit regarding these fan findings, you could say, we’ve held off announcing anything further. We just want to make sure where our legal standing is in all of this. We’ve acted in good faith. We still maintain that. We’re working to resolve this as best we can.
Schreiber: We wouldn’t have entered this development if we weren’t sure, 100 percent that we were doing what we were allowed to.
RPS: The line “in good faith” has come up a couple of times. What do you mean by that?
Nielsen: "In good faith” just means that we felt that we had done all the necessary work to verify that the licenses were secure and valid. We still believe that we acted in good faith. Nothing has changed based on that. But we have to be realistic that we’re facing a lawsuit. That’s the point we’re at now, and unfortunately we’re extremely limited in how we can comment on it. All we can say, as we’ve said many times, and you picked up on it, that we acted in good faith. We’ll let our defense speak for itself. We’re still hoping that we can solve this peacefully, as we’ve also mentioned.
Schreiber: That’s always been our goal. Unfortunately [Gearbox] doesn't agree on all of those goals.
RPS: Does your purchase of 3D Realms change anything about that situation?
Nielsen: The purchase… Factoring in the lawsuit didn’t change or sway us from thinking that this was a good business decision, to acquire 3D Realms and try to relaunch it, in a sense, as a publishing brand. That’s what we’re working on right now. The lawsuit is just part of doing business, I think. You can get sued for a lot of things. We’ll take it as it comes. As I said, we’re not too worried about the lawsuit. We wouldn’t have bought 3D Realms otherwise.
RPS: Does 3D Realms, within it, have any residual rights to that game? Rights that you've now presumably acquired?
Nielsen: You can deduce what you want from our remarks about good faith. Our good faith investigation and good faith belief is that they had those residual rights.
Schreiber: We would never enter agreements like these if we hadn’t done the necessary research, the legal research, beforehand. That would simply be too risky for a small company like Interceptor.
Nielsen: Basically, what we’re saying… Again, we’ve already said a lot about the lawsuit right now, and that’s not what we should be doing. There is obviously the element in what you’re saying. That’s what we believed, and what 3D Realms believed, until recently anyway.
RPS: Moving beyond that, you mentioned that you’re focusing on a five-year plan. What’s your hope for Interceptor and 3D Realms at the end of that? Do you want to grow it into a really large company? Do you want to have a smaller company with various branches?
Nielsen: Again, we can’t lift too much of the curtain on that yet. But one thing that’s really important in the way we build this company is that we want to stay true to who we are and what we believe. I don’t know if that necessarily conflicts with becoming a big company. It might. I think in that respect, we would prefer to stay smaller. But obviously we’re ambitious. We want to get a lot of good games out there, high quality games. As Scott mentioned in the press release, we want to remember where we came from, if we ever do become a really big company, and always try and help our co-developers out there.
That’s a part of the five-year plan that I can lift the curtain on. We will start actively looking for partners. We’re interested in investments and publishing deals under the 3D Realms brand. We’ll be targeting the 3D Realms brand at specific types of games. It will be along the lines of what defined 3D Realms in the part. Basically badass games. I think we can agree on that. That’s going to be the red line in 3D Realms.
RPS: A lot of 3D Realms is legacy - nothing particularly concrete anymore. So you've got a name, maybe a couple properties, and fan expectation, essentially.
Nielsen: That’s true. We have to be careful when we navigate these old games. They have a lot of fans, including Mike and I. We’re extremely big fans of the work that Scott and George and the team has done in the past. Because we’re such big fans, I hope that we’re able to navigate this successfully, and not be, as you said, bound by it, but instead use it to make us into an even stronger company.
RPS: On top of the rights that you picked up by doing this, do you plan to pursue any other classic Apogee/3D Realms properties?
Nielsen: So far, we can’t say, but we’re considering all our options. That’s all I can say. We’re looking into all the possibilities. Today has been pretty hectic already. We’ll see what comes out of this. We’re not in a position to reveal anything about what to expect from us, other than this unannounced Interceptor/3D Realms title that’s in the works right now.
That’s the only thing we have, and hopefully we’ll be making an official announcement on that within a month at least. We should be able to make an announcement.
RPS: So things with Gearbox are going pretty well, then? You think you'll still get to make the game at the end of all this?
Nielsen: I can’t comment on that. Sorry. The nature of the lawsuit makes it difficult to say all the things we would like to say, but hopefully, the truth will come out.
RPS: One last thing. Blood is in kind of a weird spot rights-wise, but are you pursuing it? Is it anywhere on your list?
Schreiber: We would love to do a Blood remake. If you can buy us the license, we’re willing to chew through it [laughs]. Unfortunately, Blood has nothing to do with 3D Realms or Gearbox or Interceptor. That is in the land with Jace Hall and Warner Bros and a lot of other people. That’s pretty publicly known.
But yeah, Blood is one of our most beloved franchises ever. If we were to get the chance to do a remake, we would grab that chance immediately. We would drop everything else and do a Blood game if we got the chance to.
RPS: I’ll start working on using my no money to buy Blood, and then…
Nielsen: We’ll do what we can as well. It’s a really cool franchise. But as he said, that’s not part of the rights we have at all. But we like it. If the opportunity presented itself, we would be very interested.
RPS: The other one I was wondering about, I’m not clear on whether you guys, or someone else, has the rights to Commander Keen.
Schreiber: Commander Keen is owned by id Software. Or Bethesda, as it’s called now.
Nielsen: I love those old titles. But even through 3D Realms was heavily involved in it, a lot of it remained with the original creators. That’s part of the cleaning process that we’re undertaking now, finding all these things out. But Keen is pretty solid. That’s Bethesda right now. We also love Keen. We can’t hide that.
RPS: Thank you for your time.