Back in the day, at the very beginning of the new millennium, Croteam was a bunch of young 20-something guys who all shared the same dream – to develop most intense, hectic and fun shooter ever. Nowadays most of us are in our late thirties or early forties, have families, and admittedly, don’t play games as much as we’d want to. But one thing we still share – our desire and passion for making best and most fun games ever. And of course, that same dream is still here, as vivid and real as it gets.
But how did it begin?
Our first game was released on Commodore Amiga in 1994. Only two years later, and we could see the age of Amiga was over, and it’s time to move one cause the new king came to town – Windows PC. So we decided to switch to PC gaming. The game we all loved and adored at the time was DOOM. We wanted to make something even crazier, but a bit light-hearted. But 3D engines at the time were so expensive, that a group of students couldn’t afford one. So we came up with the plan to create our own 3D engine, which would power our own game and which we could license to other developers as well.
Fast-forward several years of hard work, and in summer of early 2000 we finally burned alpha copies of TFE on CD’s and mailed them (yes, mailed by POST, not emailed) with an extensive game design document, printed in full color on deluxe paper, towards addresses of 30 biggest publishers worldwide. We thought the game was great, we loved it, we were so confident it’s gonna be a huge hit, so all that was left was to wait for a reply from those guys, and then pick the best proposal.
Out of 30 submissions, two letters returned. One said “No, thank you”, the other “Thank you, but no”. So, with no certain future and weakened morale, we decided we’ll go our separate ways, but before we split, we agreed to put a demo on the internet, to showcase our engine and what we’ve worked so hard on for the past few years.
In May 2000, public test 1 was released. And it blew up the internet (sorry Kim, we were first). It quickly became the most downloaded demo of that summer and landed us the contract with Gathering of Developers, a Texas-based company led by Mike Wilson and Harry Miller, among others.
After receiving hundreds of emails per week from gamers all over the world who loved the demo, with our batteries fully replenished and secured funding from GoD, we went on to finish our first Serious Sam game. To be honest, The First Encounter was (and still is) one of our dearest games, in which we poured our hearts, soul, sweat, and tears. It took us years to develop it, but on 21st of March 2001, the wait was finally over, our baby was released in stores worldwide. It had a great reception, everyone loved the crazy over-the-top gameplay combined with beautiful visual and audio presentation, and we were really relieved once first (positive) comments started pouring in. And best of all, it won Gamespot’s prestigious Game of the Year award, as well as numerous other awards and praises from the gaming press and community.
15 years later, it’s great to see our first baby still has a very strong following, mostly thanks to 2009 Steam HD reissue, published by Mike and Harry again, this time at the helm of Devolver Digital, probably the best publisher in the world.
In light of this anniversary, we asked our veterans to say a word or two:
“When I joined Croteam, the name Serious Sam was already there. And when I first heard it, I thought – God, we need to change it ASAP! I mean, who would buy game with such a name?! They convinced me to give it a rest for few months, and it eventually sunk in. Later, I was told that once our CEO Roman came up with that name, nobody liked it at first or believed in it. But Roman was so confident that in the end we all accepted it. Thanks God!”
Damjan Mravunac, Music composer/SFX designer/lead beta-tester for SS:TFE
“Late in Serious Sam development, while we were rushing to meet self-imposed deadlines, I was banned from testing the game (actually from reporting bugs) as I found “to many critical bugs” for programmers to fix. There are 2 funny moments I remember:
Me: Hm, you can kill Ugh-Zan with a single bullet from colt if you shoot him RIGHT after he appears!
Guys: grhmspp…. told you not to test the game!!
Me: guys! shouldn’t Bomberman explode when I kill him?
Guys: !@#$#%^%^%^%^@#!!@ you are banned from testing the game!”
Admir Elezovic, 3D/2D artist, beta-tester for SS:TFE
“I joined Croteam after they made game Football Glory and started working on 3D engine wanting to make Doom-alike first person shooter, then working title “In The Flesh”. They needed someone to make levels in their newly created Serious Editor. Having made some simple games on ZX Spectrum and having an interest in making them I was more than willing to fill that role. I experimented with different environments and made more than 60 levels of various themes and sizes (well, I had enough time, guys were working on the engine for about 5 years).
I remember one of those levels in, particular, It was called Karnak. It was too big for capabilities of computers in those times, we couldn’t fix performance on it so we cut two-fifths out of it and they become two of the biggest levels of the Serious Sam: First Encounter, Karnak and Luxor. Imagine how that original Karnak level was big in size! We always dreamed big and I think we still do. Some of those dreams coming true you will be able to see in Serious Sam 4!”
Davor Tomicic, Level/Gameplay designer for SS:TFE
And for all of you Serious Sam fans and aficionados that have been here with us from the start, here is a little thank you in a form of artwork (some previously unreleased) that we managed to dig out of our archives.