My Interview W/ Ken Silverman, Creator of the Build Engine


Ken silverman (whose site is at, has created many pieces of software elementary in games like Duke Nukem 3d. Here is the full interview:

> 1. You have such a variety of software under your wing, from game engines 
> to png compressors. What can we expect in the future?

I have a few old demos that I have yet to release. I may put those on my 
website someday. I think the days of working on a new 3D engine for several 
years, finding out that my work is obsolete and useless, and then releasing 
it on my website for free (out of disgust) are over.

> 2. Where do you think voxels will be in the future of gaming?

I like to think of voxel engines in 2 categories.

There are the games which use large voxels, such as Minecraft. With large 
voxels, you can do a lot of effects per voxel and run it on any platform, 
such as standard OpenGL. These games are popular already and they will be 
around for a long time.

I've always been more interested in small voxels. The idea is that the 
voxels are so small that you don't notice that the world is made up of 
cubes. In this model, you don't need fancy effects, but it is impractical to 
implement it in standard OpenGL. Will this technology ever result in a 
popular new game genre? I couldn't tell you.

> 3. How do you feel about the shareware model?

I'm hardly an expert in this stuff, however most modern software is marketed 
on this idea anyway - of giving away a part for free for the purposes of 
evaluation. Before shareware existed, you had to walk around a store and buy 
a box based either on magazine reviews, word of mouth, or box art.

> 4. The Build Engine evolved so much over the years. Do you think it will 
> evolve further?

A few years ago, I worked on a sequel to the Build Engine but I never 
released it. I ran into a few problems with it and I don't plan to work on 
another Build style engine anytime soon.

> 5. What do you think is the best thing someone has done with your game 
> engines?

Well, Duke 3D was really popular. Shadow Warrior and Blood took full 
advantage of the classic Build Engine. Some of the 3rd party maps to Duke 3D 
were well beyond what 3D Realms could do. It was neat to see a few games 
made from Voxlap, such as Voxelstein 3D and Ace of Spades. I don't really 
have much more to say about it.

> 6. How much input did you have in the nontechnical parts of the Build 
> Engine games?

First, see this link:

I visited 4 Build teams during my time at Apogee/3D Realms. I spent the most 
of my time with the Duke 3D team, a lot with Shadow Warrior and Blood, and I 
visited the Lobotomy team just once. When I worked with the other 
programmers, I mostly helped them to debug their code and implement their 
feature and bug requests. I did not end up doing any artwork, audio, or 
story design if that's what you mean.

> 7. Do you think you'll ever do anything with VR?

Sure. For the last 2 years, I've been working with a small company called 
Voxon. We are building a volumetric display. You can check out videos on 
Facebook. Before Voxon, I played a lot with stereo vision and various 3D 
input devices.

> 8. Although the Quake engine had 3d models and the Build Engine had mostly 
> sprites (and of course voxels), it seems games made with your engine used 
> more creativity. What do you attribute this to?

I would have to say that's because of the Build editor. Its biggest feature 
was the ability to flip into 3D mode and do a lot of the editing there. The 
Build engine also allowed walls to move easily on the x-y plane due to not 
using a precalculated BSP tree like in Doom. This allowed the use of 
swinging doors and subways, for example.

> 9. You have made many utilities for others to create games and software. 
> Do you think you would ever make your own game?

I still make simple games in Evaldraw. As for a full featured 3D game, I 
simply don't have the resources to create all that on my own. Modern games 
have advanced way past my abilities, and starting my own company is simply 
way too risky.

> 10. Is there anything else people should know?

It's time to chew ass and kick bubble gum and my foot is now stuck. ;-P

-Ken S.