It all started late in 1993, several months after Apogee and Id Software released Wolfenstein 3D to the world. Id's 3D engine was groundbreaking, and showed the gaming world that fast real-time 3D games were possible.
Ken Silverman was one of the lone coders inspired by Id's game, and at 17 years of age he set about to creative similar technology, and in 1992 he released a game called Ken's Labyrinth. It was less a game, and more of a demo, showing that it wasn't just the geniuses at Id who could pull off fast 3D gaming technology.
Ken contacted us and we discussed working on a project together. I mentioned that I could put together a team to use his engine. But a few months went on and Ken then presented us with a demo of his Build engine, which was would be similar to the engine he knew that Id was creating for their coming game, Doom. He didn't really have a name for the engine, but his execution file was called, build.exe. And somehow this stuck as the name for his engine.
So, in August 1993 we had an employment agreement with Ken, and an exclusive license to use his Build engine on numerous projects.
John Carmack was interviewed and asked back in the 90's, who he thought were the best 3D coders other than himself. He said, "If I had to pick who I think is just the most talented, it would probably be Ken Silverman, the guy that did the Build engine. He does engines and tools. He writes all the code for everything, and he's just extremely talented."
3D Realms knew we had an amazing partnership with Ken, and we did all we could to maximize the use of the Build engine, creating Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior internally, co-funding and co-designing Blood, and licensing the engine to several other studios to make games. I think some 8-10 Build engine games came out all told.
The Build engine was truly the pinnacle of the 2.5D game engine period, which was kicked off with Id's Doom engine. Build went well beyond the features of Doom, with sloping features, partial looking up & down, rooms above rooms, and several other innovations.
Now, 20+ years later, we're super excited to be go back to our roots and use this incredible landmark of engine technology again. The Build engine, while not the most graphically gorgeous, is fast and allows for a gameplay style that hardly seen this century, with gun-blazing gameplay in wide-open multi-path levels that seem to go on forever. On today's tech, we can push the Build engine in ways that just weren't doable in the 90's, and so we're finding refreshing ways that this engine actually outperforms some modern engines, and bring back a style a gameplay that many gamers have long missed.
What's old becomes new again, and the early success of Ion Maiden seems to show we struck the right chord. It's like the 90's are back!