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Ken Silverman's long-lost BUILD2 engine released

If he BUILDs it, we will come

A tempting morsel for the techies, creators and archivists among us before RPS news signs off for the weekend. Apogee/3D Realms' BUILD engine has seen a bit of press in recent weeks, thanks to the early access launch of Ion Maiden, a Duke Nukem 3D successor built using the famed DOS-era codebase, albeit running through a modern source-port.

After abandoning a first attempt at a successor engine way back in the day due to difficulties in creating a first-person editing interface, original engine developer Ken Silverman returned to the fray in 2006. Work continued on BUILD2 until 2011 before he lost interest. Now, he's released the final work-in-progress version to the public, and it's impressive enough that I find myself wondering what the retro FPS scene would look like today if this came out 7 years ago.

Cover image for YouTube video

The BUILD2 engine is an impressive piece of work, and seemed (at least at one point) largely backwards-compatible with Duke 3D and Shadow Warrior's maps and entities. Sadly, it falls short on a few notable features such as transparency rendering and animated textures. On the other hand, BUILD2 goes far beyond the original in a variety of ways, including a much more advanced lighting engine, voxel rendering for entities and true room-over-room 3D spaces.

Given the explosion of Doom-based modding and engine work that's happened over the past few years, plus the resurgence of the Duke 3D scene resulting in a whole new, well-received throwback shooter, I can only begin to imagine what the current landscape would look like if Silverman had spent just a little longer working on BUILD2, at least long enough to bring it up to par and ideally backwards-compatible with BUILD1's best games.

You can pick up the BUILD2 engine, editor, sample scripts and all here. Kudos to YouTube channel CuteFloor for the excellent video explaining the trials and tribulations the engine went through to get to this point.

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Dominic Tarason