Ken Silverman interview (from 2001)

What is your favourite computer game of all time?

I don’t have a pre-fabricated answer to this because I don’t think about it much. There are so many ways to judge, and it’s hard to avoid bias towards the more recent games. Instead I will give you a few categories: 

Games that I currently play: Quake 3 Arena Test / Red Faction Multiplayer Test Most inspiring game engines: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Comanche Maximum Overkill Most profitable game that I had a part in developing: Duke Nukem 3D 

June 8, 2004. What’s so special about this date? 

On this date, the Sun, Venus, and Earth are collinear - sort of like an annular solar eclipse, but with Venus instead of the Moon. It’s called a “transit of Venus”. It is very rare - in fact the last one was in 1882.

I first noticed this when I was playing around with my Globe program (a solar system simulator available on my web site). Then for fun, I put this date into an internet search engine and was surprised to find many occurences about this event - and that it had a special name (transit). The date is special to me because it’s what convinced me that my globe program was calculating the planetary positions accurately.

Do you regret going to college instead of being able to divert more of your time to the games industry?

Sure, I miss having a team of talented people working with my stuff. After Duke was released, I was spending most of my energy on finishing other Build projects rather than working on a new engine. But at the same time, the company was looking for a new engine and I didn’t have one that was ready. So I thought it would be a good time to return to school while I was still young. 

What stands out in your mind as a key moment, or moments even, of your time spent developing Duke3D?

I enjoyed “testing” the network code with the Duke team. Of course it was most fun when the game wasn’t out of sync. I remember during development, there were a whole bunch of unbalanced and buggy weapons that made you have to think of a new strategy every time we played. One weapon that stands out was the heat-seeking RPG. It was funny how the rocket would just fly in circles around peoples’ heads and make these funny beeping sounds. It was way too powerful, and the bugs weren’t easy to fix, so it had to be removed.

It was also a lot of fun showing off my latest Build engine features to the team. I visited Texas 10 times, so this usually happened on the day I arrived. I remember the day when everyone was drooling when I showed them slopes for the first time - I think they were a little scared too, because it was hard to resist adding some time to development so they could fully exploit the feature. 

Are you disappointed that your voxel code wasn’t ready in time for Duke3D Atomic edition? 

Sure, it would have been a nice selling point. I think it was ready in time for the Atomic edition, but they had a deadline and didn’t want to risk spending the time on voxels when they had more important bugs to fix. I’m just glad they made it into Shadow Warrior and Blood.

If John Carmack called you up today, and offered you a job at id software, would you take it? 

I’m sure I would if the Id office was all of a sudden re-located to Rhode Island. I’d just feel too lonely living down there in Texas again.

Are you surprised by the way Duke3D took off, both commercially and with the community? 

Not really. We all knew it was going to be a good game at the time. 

Do you still keep in contact with any of the crew at 3DRealms? 

Sure, but not too often. I’ve been in contact with Todd Replogle fairly recently, and I shoot the breeze with Frank Maddin every once in a while. That’s about it.

Will we ever see a Ken’s Labyrinth 2? 

No. Ken’s Labyrinth was a flop. There’s no use in using that name again. Way back in 1992, my dad wanted me to stick my name in the title, so I did. Originally, I called it WalKen (sounds like walkin’), but then I realized some people have that as their last name. (Christopher Walken for example) So I decided to change the name to either Ken’s Labyrinth or Ken’s Maze. Ken’s Labyrinth sounded cooler. 

If it makes you happy, you can think of Ken-Build as Ken’s Labyrinth 2 because it has all my own artwork and sound. :) 

What are your plans for 2002?

I don’t know, but I hope to release something with my voxlap engine by then. 

Thanks for taking time for this interview Ken, happy Christmas! 

Sorry, I will not celebrating Chistmas this year. That’s because I’m jewish. ;)

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