The legend of Duke Nukem Forever is well documented. The rise and fall of 3D Realms, the nine-man team of Triptych, the development rescue from Gearbox, the babes, the drugs and yadda yadda. It was to go down in history as Possibly the Greatest Game Never Made, but that would have been too easy for the guys who spent over a decade trying to realise Duke’s most ambitious adventure yet.
Now that the game is practically finished, the world is blinking with sheer disbelief. How? How can this be happening? Well, none are more surprised than the Gearbox studio itself - many employees of which have had a hand in Duke Nukem 3D
themselves. It’s like a big development gangbang - and Duke wouldn’t have it any other way.
I spoke to Gearbox’s Vice President of Marketing, Steve Gibson, to talk more about the game and the future of the franchise now that Forever
is on the home stretch. Read on to find out why now is the perfect time to release the game, the fears that it would become Snakes on a Plane and why Gearbox is the development equivalent of Han Solo.
SPOnG: So, Duke Nukem Forever - it’s finally coming out then.
Yes, that is the rumour going around town (smiles).
SPOnG: That must be such an incredible feeling for you guys to be able to get this out the door.
It is surreal. There are so many guys involved in this who have so many different connections to it. I’ve known George (Broussard, one of the creators of Duke Nukem
at 3D Realms) personally for about ten years as well. He’s played Borderlands
at my desk. There’s all kinds of connections and weird stories that have to do with this, and to see it all come full circle like this - it’s not something you expect to be doing in your life.
SPOnG: Randy (Pitchford, Gearbox CEO) has already mentioned the history of Gearbox coming to own the IP and how the Triptych developers got involved. In what state did you guys pick up the code?
It was in reasonably good shape. There wasn’t any multiplayer at all, and it wasn’t on any console platforms. The core of the game, it’s intent and design were all there though. The amount of work that was needed on our side was quite… well, it took a year and 70 guys to get it to where it is, so I guess you can take that for what you will.
Most games - at least for Gearbox - take something like two to maybe four years max with teams of that size. If you can imagine it took a team of that size a year to get where we are… that’s a good indication of the amount of work we’ve put into this.
SPOnG: Over the last decade or so, 3D Realms kept updating the engine because it felt it was getting outdated. When you guys picked up the project did you have to do anything like that?
We didn’t replace any core technology, no. Actually after they’d switched engines a few times, they finally got to the point where they created their own technology. The rendering stuff, that’s their technology. The animation system, that’s their technology. A lot of stuff they built up that way, and they could evolve it instead of asking for a new technology drop.
So they solved that - at least after muddling around with Quake
and stuff like that. They never used the Doom 3
engine though. I think that was a rumour for a while but that was just people talking shenanigans.
SPOnG: And being as excited as you guys are over this release, obviously you wanted to give Triptych Games as much freedom as they wanted. Did you have any input in the game’s development at all?
Sure, we suggested some stuff, but it really only happened once the game was already quite polished. We’re not putting new stuff into the game. We are completing it. We’re just saying ‘Hey, we think Duke’s arm should look this way, we think he should a different gun shells.’
We’re talking tweaks and stuff, not to replace the ideas that they had. Although as Randy has said, we are contributing new lines to the dialogue and things like that, that’s the fun stuff. The core design, that’s their bag. We want the game to be the one these guys originally imagined.
SPOnG: Duke Nukem 3D pushed the first person genre forward in many ways. With the advances of technology in the last 12 years, how would you say that Duke Nukem Forever pushes the genre forward today?
Well, it’s funny you use the word ‘technology,’ because if you also remember around that time, Quake
came out. Quake
was technologically superior in just about every way to Duke Nukem 3D.
What separated Duke Nukem
wasn’t dynamic lighting or true 3D or anything like that - it was character, personality and interactivity. Mostly character though.
And what’s funny is that sort of thing became popular for a while in the industry, but for some reason the industry as a whole - the way we see it - has become a bit more homogenised lately. To us, this is the perfect time to release Duke Nukem Forever
because if you look at what the leading games are - Gears of War
, Call of Duty
- they’re just… I dunno… shades of brown, I guess you could say.
They just don’t have that overt, crazy character in them. So we feel like the character is missing from our industry. Imagine you’re going to the store and you can only buy three games, but there’s four that you want. We think that if you like Call of Duty
and Duke Nukem
, one of those other three games - that are more similar to each other - are probably going to get knocked out. If a gamer wants diversity in his gameplay, Duke’s gonna be a part of that choice. So we think it’s a perfect time for Duke.