Scott Miller is the CEO of game development studio 3DRealms. GameProducer.net interviewed him about game production and their upcoming game Prey. Prey has a serious dark story based on authentic Cherokee mythology. The PC and Xbox 360 demo are coming on June 22nd.
GameProducer.net: Before going to any other questions, tell us little bit about yourself. How did you get into games industry?
Scott Miller: While living in Australia, began writing computer games in 1975 on a Wang 2000 and have since written over 100 games, large and small, up until 1990, with over 20 commercially released on disk magazines such as I.B.Magazette and Softdisk (Big Blue Disk). During the mid-80’s I wrote professionally for several national gaming magazines, including COMPUTE!, as well as writing a weekly syndicated column for four years for The Dallas Morning News (titled “Video Vision” the first two years, then renamed “Computer Fun” for another two years). In the early 80’s also co-authored (with George Broussard) a book on beating arcade games.
In 1990 I quit my day job to focus on Apogee full-time. (Apogee had been a part-time business since late 1987.) Immediately recruited several key developers to join me as shareware game developers, including id Software (before they were id) and Todd Replogle (author of the first three Duke Nukem games). Also at this time turned Apogee into a partnership by teaming up with long-time friend and game maker, George Broussard.
For further information, see: my bio
GameProducer.net: You are the CEO of 3D Realms. What kind of job is that, and what’s your role in game development?
Scott Miller: It’s the best job you can imagine! All play all day! Okay, seriously… I generally handle all contact with our partners, including publishers, handling agreements, etc. I also handle a great deal of the marketing for our products, such as helping design retail boxes and advertisements. And, the best part of my work involves the creation of games, starting with story concepts, through design hooks, to final polishing.
GameProducer.net: As a CEO, your role is different from a game producer. Can you describe us a typical work day for you?
Scott Miller: I really don’t know what a game producer does. This is one of those terms we borrowed from Hollywood, yet a game producer doesn’t do what a movie producer does. It’s a term that has different meanings at different publishers, and even within development studios. So, I rarely use it myself, as its meaning is too blurry to have any real value.
GameProducer.net: It says on your website that Prey is developed by Humanhead and produced by 3DRealms, what exactly that means? What 3D Realms is doing Prey in production?
Scott Miller: Well, in this case we stay true to the Hollywood meaning of the word Producer. This means that we provide funding, and we oversee the project, and put together the right team to create the project (i.e. a developer and a publisher).
GameProducer.net: In one of the game journal entries you mention that SpiritWalking is one of the key features of the game, what kind of feature is that?
Scott Miller: Spirit walking is a gameplay feature rooted to true Native American methology, where a shaman of sufficient power can astral project himself beyond his physical self. This feature is one of the reason we selected a Cherokee protagonist, as the rich mythology of Cherokee culture lends itself to many such inherently credible gameplay hooks.
GameProducer.net: Prey production started at late 2001. When did 3D Realms started to work with Humanhead?
Scott Miller: Actually, Prey originally started within 3D Realms’ studio back in 1997, under the direction of Tom Hall, who soon left to help form Ion Storm, and then we brought in Paul Schuytema to replace him. We ceased worked on the project in 1999. We gave new life to the game in 2001 after buying back the publishing rights to Prey from Infogrames, and that’s when we decided to work with Human Head to bring the project to completion.
GameProducer.net: Prey is done for both Xbox and PC, using enhanced Doom 3 engine. What kind of impact this multi-platform development has had in production?
Scott Miller: Very little. The game was developed on the PC, and then easily translated to the Xbox 360. Venom studio is handling the translation with a great deal of skill, and in fact they’ve given the game a whole new super slick interface on the Xbox.
GameProducer.net: 3DRealms got praise from Remedy when they were doing their first cinematic action title Max Payne. Remedy said that it has been great to work with a publisher that gave no or little pressure about the deadlines. I heard the famous slogan “When it’s done” first time said by Remedy & 3D Realms. How do you approach this attitude nowadays? Do you have no deadlines at all? What it really means to you to publish a game “when it’s done”?
Scott Miller: Well, we have a simply philosophy that if you’re going to make a game, do it right. Another words, the game comes first. Most publishers do not see the value of this philosophy, and therefore the majority of their games are not hits. Also, since we retain ownership of our game brands, it is in our best interest to insure that our games are big hits, because not only do we like those fat royalty checks, we also like to see the valuation of our brands exceed 10’s of millions of dollars. In 2002 we (us and Remedy) sold the Max Payne brand for nearly $50 million, and that was after earning some $25 million in royalties. So, was it worth the 4.5 years to make Max Payne right?
GameProducer.net: One of the key factors of 3D Realms game production is independency. Can you tell us what independent game development means for a company like 3D Realms?
Scott Miller: I sort of answered this in the previous question. By being independent, we can make sure our games are done right, and that rewards us far more completely than a dozen half-way done right games. Also, by being independent, we can chose projects to pursue that have the correct story, character and gameplay hooks to insure their success. This is as important as anything to us, because without getting this part right, even superb execution and endless financing cannot bring success.
GameProducer.net: What do you think about indie (one or few person independent game companies) game development and production?
Scott Miller: This is exactly how my company got started, with me working along long nights in the 80’s, toiling in Turbo Pascal on an IBM PC with no hard drive. So, I always root for the small companies and independents. The trick is that they need to focus on smaller games, of course. The mobile market seems like a great market for indies, too.
GameProducer.net: Have you played indie games, and if so – do you have any favourites?
Scott Miller: I really haven’t played many at all. I spend most of my game time playing games that generally compete within my market.
GameProducer.net: You have written and spoken about the importance of intellectual properties (IPs). Can you tell us the 3 most important reasons why IPs are so important?
 If you own your own IP, you benefit from the growth in value from the IP.
 This in turns gives you clout in starting new projects.
 And sets you free from becoming a slave to publishers.
GameProducer.net: Many people and parents out there want people to get a good job from some big trusted corporation… and leave playing games for the young kids. Have you ever considered getting a so-called ‘real’ job?
Scott Miller: Heh heh! I used to have a so-called real job, which I quit in 1990 to pursue Apogee full-time. But until I quit, I always had real day jobs, then worked 8 hours more at home making games and finding ways to sell them online. It took me five years of endless long nights before I had finally gotten to the point were I could quit and devote all my time to Apogee — a very scary decision at that time. But, I’m a risk-taker at heart, and I never want to live a life where I look back and think, “If only I’d tried…”
GameProducer.net: In the end, I would like to ask for some hints and tips. Can you give your TOP 5 tips that you think every game developer or game producer should know?
- Read: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, and think about these concepts apply to game concepts and design. This is the best tip I can give anyone.
- Most games are released too soon, before they are truly polished to perfection. This kills sales.
- Never become married to your ideas. Kill your ego and be willing to accept good ideas from any person or source. Always let the best idea win.
GameProducer.net: Big thanks to you Scott and 3D Realms for the interview. It’s great to to see busy professionals to answer questions from us indies. Good luck with the future projects.