Ken Silverman

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  • Tijn

    If we’re going to talk about Duke Nukem 3D, we have to talk about Ken Silverman.

    Ken Silverman is the author of the Build engine, which powers Duke Nukem 3D (and also Blood, Shadow Warrior & Redneck Rampage to name a few). Over on his website, he lists the history of the Build engine in a bunch of bullet points.

    He started work on the Build engine in 1993, when he was only 18 years old. He got in touch with Scott Miller of Apogee (later renamed to 3D Realms) and released his first game, Ken’s Labyrinth, with them. At the time, Apogee was interested in a modern first person shooter engine, because Id Software didn’t want to license the Doom engine to them. Ken signs a deal with Apogee to license the Build engine to them. Between 1993 and 1996 he works on the engine, adding all sorts of features not present in Doom (such as sloped floors and looking up/down).

    There’s an excerpt of an interview from 1997 with John Carmack on his site:

    John Carmack here says that he considers Ken Silverman the most talented coder around when it comes to 3D games.

    That’s quite something, coming from him! 😀

    Ken was later involved with Blood and Shadow Warrior, both were released in 1997 using the Build engine. I don’t think he’s worked much in games after that. I’m not completely sure what he does now, but there’s some info on his website, so maybe check that out if you’re interested.

    In 2000 Ken released the full source code to the Build engine on his website. I guess this was the first time anyone saw the code, because he only provided compiled binaries + header files to Apogee/3D Realms.

    If you’re interested in a code review with many examples of how the Build engine works, Fabien Sanglard has an excellent write up on his website:


    The Build engine is great. I just love how it looks and feels and the games are still perfectly playable. I’m keeping an eye on “Ion Maiden”.

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