Duke Nukem Taking Forever: So What?

By Kieron Gillen on December 19th, 2007 at 12:54 pm.

Put up your dukes.
I’ve been a full-time games journalist for close to a decade now, and it amuses and surprises me every time I think that Duke Nukem Forever was already a delayed and mysterious thing when I joined this dark fraternity. We were making Duke Nukem Taking Forever jokes back in 1999, for Christ’s sake.

Of course, that’s one reason why I eye-roll a little at the general scorn that surrounds the game. I’m bored of Duke Nukem jokes as much as I’m bored of waiting for Duke Nukem. More so, in fact. 3DRealms are acting like creators in control of their own destiny, for better or for worse. We’re acting like…

Well, “Vapourware”. It’s a fascinating, vile phrase which stinks of misplaced entitlement.

The idea is that if a game isn’t being played by a specific gamer, it doesn’t exist. It’s the idea that it’s THEIR game. It’s not. It’s the creator’s game, and always is. A creator who pretends otherwise is just currying favour by flattering their fanbase, which is deceptive and ultimately harmful to their status as creators.

Looked at with detachment, what have 3D realms done? They’ve announced a game which they’ve proceeded to work on, at their own rate. What right have you to think anything of them? Over in films, when Kubrik disappeared for a decade at a time, it was considered an auteur pursuing his own visions. 3D realms have never done serious hype of Duke Nukem Forever. They haven’t done a preview for years – last major one I can recall was in PC Gamer circa the turn of the millennium. They haven’t released any shots. All they’ve done is done is not release a game.

So what?

They are very rich men working with a relatively small team with a large cash fund gained by smart deals (Tens of millions of dollars from the sale of the Max Payne IP alone). Be playful, sure. You have no right, in any seriousness, to judge them. It’s nothing to do with you.

Mock playfully, sure, but actual resentment is completely misplaced.

Obviously, there’s interesting questions to be asked about Duke Nukem. All manner of rumours have reached us over the years – and pretty much every year, someone from their publisher mentions they’re “sure” Duke Nukem Forever will be out this year. Why has it taken so long? Most credible story I heard was something told to another journalist – the delays were primarily a side effect of the somewhat over-rigorous design ethos. Rather than making the game, they concentrated on a single level at a time, getting it complete, before moving to the next. The problem being, when they’d done that one, looking back at the previous one – due to the increase in competence and vision and skills and whatever – it looks a bit duff. So it was scrapped, and restarted. And, clearly, this is a perpetual cycle of creation and trashing. If that rumour is true, it’s both obvious why it’s taken so long, and may be a good reason why it’ll never be done. If they have all the money in the world for their purposes, there’s no pressure to release with something they’re not satisfied with. The thing is, they’re never going to be satisfied. As any creative knows - I paraphrase – no work is ever completed – only abandoned.

Hopefully 3D realms can learn that lesson eventually, if only for the only people in this whole story who have any reason to feel aggrieved. That is, the people who’ve worked on the game and never had an audience beyond one Texas office for their work. The idea that you could spend several years working on something which is never released is the primary reason why I’ve never pursued any opportunity in game development. People have joined and left the team in its marathon, and those efforts are just wasted. But even them – well, they accepted the pay cheque. They knew the risks of work-for-hire development.

So, while Walker may not be, I’m interested in whatever they’re going to show – because after all the years, that they’re willing to show anything at all implies we may be reaching some kind of ending of this saga. And, at the least, I want to read the Gamasutra Postmortem.

Random, idle, final thought: This year’s best multiplayer game was vapourware for most of a decade.

Wouldn’t DNF being great just be the best Fuck You in gaming history?

__________________

« | »

, , .

46 Comments »

  1. Tim says:

    Agreed, I really want to see what they’ve put their love into. They deserve that, I utterly respect them for telling us all it’ll be done when it’s done. No matter what the game is like it’s a pretty great story.

    I’m sure people will say “this took how long and it’s just this?” screw those people! I’d love it if every game got the done when it’s done treatment. At least we’d know it resembles the vision of what they wanted to make.

    3DR you rock!

  2. Piratepete says:

    I’m old enough and wise enough to appraise it when I see it. Hype schmype i reckon.

    I will say though, do you really believe that they have been developing this all this time? Personally I find it difficult to think that.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    It’s a rich man’s toy. If you had all the time and money to fiddle with a small team, would you? I think you would.

    I picture 3D Realms as your uncle with the enormous train set in their basement.

    KG

  4. rocketeer says:

    Why the scorn for DNF and not for TF2 (even if TF2 was included in several vapourware lists)?. Well, probably because of two things:

    1) The Valve shut up and completed the game, while GB constantly said every year “this is the one!”, constantly disappointing the waiting fans. Not me, I never thought Duke was that special and stopped believing GB around ’99, I think.

    2) Even though they haven’t released the game, GB was so full of himself as to give lessons to other developers and review their games, saying things like “Elite Force is too short”. You know what?. In half the time that DNF has been in development, there were 2 Elite Force games released, plus an expansion. Also, if you had been working in the fucking game, instead of playing, perhaps DNF would be out by now!. Valve?. They shut up and kept working.

    So, TF2 took ten years, but they kept refining the gameplay, and that’s why it’s such a great game. DNF?. I don’t know the reason of the delays, but the constant engine changes suggest that they were so delayed that the graphics were subpar and they had to revamp the game again and again. 10 years is not a level design problem.

    Even if DNF is out in 2008 and the best game ever, GB will still be laughing matter to me.

  5. rocketeer says:

    And me, I don’t even know how to write in English correctly, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m not working on 3DR or DNF wouldn’t be out until 2030.

    Which is probably the correct release date.

  6. I_still_love_Okami says:

    Money and game developers.. It never really works out. Either they don’t have enough, which will result in rushed out products and underpaid, unmotivated employees (story of my life..) or they have too much and don’t feel any pressure to get anything done.

    I think I’d still prefer the second option. Hey, 3d realms, you hiring?

  7. AbyssUK says:

    They had to wait so long for some decent movies to rip off, simple really.

  8. Ben says:

    Mock playfully?

  9. Ben says:

    Oh, right, mock them playfully, not mock-playfully.

  10. Piratepete says:

    “It’s a rich man’s toy. If you had all the time and money to fiddle with a small team, would you? I think you would.”

    fnarr fnarr. You know me so well. I like nothing more than fiddling with a small team

    Anyways they should go and buy Harleys like most rich guys with too much time on their hands.

  11. Max says:

    I don’t care how long it takes, it’s the quality of the finished product that matters.

  12. Nuyan says:

    If it ever comes out, I hope it’ll be:

    a) A very good standard shooter with a lot of humor, not taking itself too seriously, but making fun of things that are going on and perhaps even making fun of other games. The original is awful cliche one-liner spwer, full of silly sexual stuff. Better make it even more over the top and add some “good” humour.

    b) A standard shooter with our hero being even more cliche than the one in Gears of War, but then with a game that is so hilariously bad it’ll be a blast playing it.

  13. MonkeyBizniss says:

    So many other companies have done far more in far less time. 3D Realms deserves the crap they get for propagating or allowing the rumors of a release happening every single year for the past 10 years.

    over-rigorous design ethos, A hundred billion dollar slush fund, whatever. Sounds like they haven’t learned how to embrace constraints, a key to any successful endeavor, software or otherwise.

    While I would love to one day see character like DN, brought back to the consistently plain FPS genre, there are way too many great FPS games out there these days to worry about 3d realms carefully rehashing their magnum opus for the thousandth time.

  14. roryok says:

    @rocketeer

    Valve shut up and completed the game, while GB constantly said every year “this is the one!”, constantly disappointing the waiting fans.

    Actually, that’s not true. they only said that for the first 3 or 4 years, then they stopped saying it and coined the immortal phrase “when its done”. They’ve flat out refused to speculate since on dates, not even allowing forum posters to talk about it.

    Even though they haven’t released the game, GB was so full of himself as to give lessons to other developers and review their games, saying things like “Elite Force is too short”. …Valve?. They shut up and kept working.

    Fair enough, GB has a big mouth sometimes, but he’s entitled to an opinion. I’m sure if we hung around the valve forums as much as we hung around the 3dr forums, we’d have heard Gabe Newell or Doug Lombardi give out about a game here or there.

    So, TF2 took ten years, but they kept refining the gameplay, and that’s why it’s such a great game. DNF?. I don’t know the reason of the delays, but the constant engine changes suggest that they were so delayed that the graphics were subpar and they had to revamp the game again and again. 10 years is not a level design problem.

    Uhm… ok. I’m SURE you’ve heard about the TF2 engine change right? It used to look like the original counterstrike! You think that didn’t take any of the 10 years they spent on it? Sure, 3DR have gone through 2 engine changes, but they haven’t switched since circa 2002. I don’t know what they spent the last 10+ years doing, but since half the team have nothing to do with engine coding, I’m sure they spent some of that time on level design!

  15. Nallen says:

    The games company that cried wolf.

    You’re not seeing a wave of misplaced entitlement or anything of the sort from me.

    I’d place my feelings on the announcement somewhere slightly on the bemused side of total apathy. Remove the word ‘taking’ from your title and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    You see when the makers of Deux Ex 3 release a teaser you get the sense that in 2009 they may well release a game, and they aren’t just attention whoring.

    I don’t think the release of a screenshot and a teaser for DNF makes anyone think anything but ‘yeah, whatever’.

  16. Optimaximal says:

    They had to wait so long for some decent movies to rip off, simple really.

    If that’s the case, then they’ll be waiting at least one more year. I can’t think of any blockbuster in the last few years that wasn’t total tripe.

  17. False Prophet says:

    Does anyone still care about this? The misogynistic, jarhead that is the Duke just isn’t amusing, anymore. Scratch that, it’s not even interesting. Unless they’re putting something into it as innovative as Portal (or any of the other ‘new’ game features that have come out in the decade-plus since its original announcement), please feel free to count me amongst the Whatever Crowd.
    This nonsense is much more useful as a punchline.

  18. Nallen says:

    Uhm… ok. I’m SURE you’ve heard about the TF2 engine change right? It used to look like the original counterstrike! You think that didn’t take any of the 10 years they spent on it? Sure, 3DR have gone through 2 engine changes, but they haven’t switched since circa 2002. I don’t know what they spent the last 10+ years doing, but since half the team have nothing to do with engine coding, I’m sure they spent some of that time on level design!

    Are you on crack? you think they’re going to release a game on a 6+ year old engine? of course they’ve switched since then.

  19. Lucky says:

    Personally, I’m more amused by the fact that whenever DNF is mentioned somewhere, everybody immediately point out that it’s been in the making for ages, like it was some kind of big relevation.

    And False Prophet, I do. I’ve always believed that DNF will someday see the light of day. Furthermore, even if it’s just a rehash of DN3D, I think it would still be helluva more original than 99% of current FPS-market.

  20. Spenceroo says:

    That Kubrick comparison only works if he would have been forced to reshoot his whole movie on a new camera system every three to five years because people were using a completly new kind of projectors and were already used to the high quality standart these were offering.

    Level design this or that. The most time consuming aspect of game design nowadays is the graphics. I can only start to image the grind the poor schmucks in their art department are going through for a couple of years now.

    RE: progress on art direction
    the new engine arrived yesterday please see that you quadruple the polygon output, include dynamic lighting, AA , adjust the textures accordingly and include a so called “physics engine”. And plz hurry! I mean come on guys, we are almost done with all the other stuff.

    yours sincerely,
    the rest of the team

  21. Feet says:

    One things for sure, it needs to be /epic/ if it’s going to come close to meeting the understandable expectations that a 10-years-in-dev game will build.

  22. Phil says:

    @Spenceroo – I think Kubrick DID actually reshoot huge chucks of his movies when new camera systems became available, particularly in the Shining and Barry Lydon.

    Also, to reverse the comparsion, Eyes Wide Shut was vapourware for years and year, pity that in turned out to be utter shite.

  23. AbyssUK says:

    What it doesn’t need is a bloody Fileplanet only multiplayer beta or anything stupid… please let us have a 1 episode free for all shareware version!! yay!

  24. roryok says:

    Are you on crack? you think they’re going to release a game on a 6+ year old engine? of course they’ve switched since then.

    I just checked my facts, it was actually 2001. They branched off from the Unreal Engine 2.0 and rewrote almost everything in the years since. But they haven’t switched to a different engine.

    But I suppose, you could also say that TF2 is still using the same engine as halflife.

    Ok I’m on crack.

  25. Steve says:

    I think the point being missed here is that this article addresses a very small proportion of the gaming community. I make and know people who make jokes about DNF plenty, without any real scorn.

    The reason most people make jokes about the progress of DNF is pretty simple: it’s funny. Adding the “Forever” suffix was either a stroke of genius or amazing bad luck, but regardless of the thought behind the title, it’s amusing. The other reason is exactly what you said, the fact that DNF may never be released. If Broussard one day stood up and said “that’s it, DNF has been written off completely, we’ll not continue the Duke Nukem series”, after a few months people would just stop talking about it. It’s the endless promise of the game that causes the endless jokes.

    Surely though, this article must be aimed more at the various gaming websites and magazines than individual gamers, since it’s those same sites and mags that award DNF “vapourware” status and constantly remind people that it’s been in the making for ten years every time a screenshot is released.

    I dunno, I just feel your articles are getting more vitriolic and, meaning this as objectively as the word can be used (not much) arrogant, recently. Essentially, I’m not sure this article really highlights the important difference between people who joke about DNF and those who actively insult the team working on it.

  26. Bob Arctor says:

    Except TF2 uses modified Sources rather than modified HL1 (which was old Quake tech although not sure anyone worked out whether QI or II was used).

  27. Spenceroo says:

    @Phil
    He shot Lyndon with a Mitchell BNC and a custom Zeiss lense in order to be able to film the candlelight scenes with natural light afaik. And once it was available and he was satisfied with the quality he staid with it. And the Mittchell was more or less a relique from the past during that time.

    No idea though with what equipment he filmed The Shining.

    All I was trying to say was that technological progress is probably a much bigger factor in the case of games than in movies.

  28. Ging says:

    Bob: Source is at it’s heart, HL1 with physics and an updated renderer. It still has code from HL1 throughout it’s code base.

    I was a tad concerned that George was asking for weapon ideas from the community not too long ago – you’d have thought that after this long, they’d at least have that part of the design locked down!

  29. Nick says:

    Considering Duke 3D was bloody great fun, I can only hope it will at the very least live up to that. That and it gets released, as I want to play it.. we don’t have big brainless action heroes in the cinema anymore and I miss that 90′s charm.

  30. Wrestlevania says:

    Don’t you think that screenshot just screams Gay Exchange though?

  31. Nick says:

    I dunno, most gay people I know look like everyone else. Maybe because they are.

  32. Monkfish says:

    I must say that remain fascinated by Duke Nukem Forever.

    Looking at this game from an experimental aspect, I’d love to see what the product of 10 years worth of refinement does to a game. I’m totally intrigued to see how the evolution of games over the years has affected its development. Will we be able to spot the influence of past games, and therefore tell, roughly, when a particular level may have first been conceived? It’ll be like the gaming equivalent to geology.

    Experimental aspects aside, Duke Nukem Forever really is a labour of love. For the developers, that has to be the most painful process – continually rejecting concepts, levels and entire chapters even. It’s abundantly clear that the game is not the cynical attempt to milk wads of cash from a well known franchise it so easily could have been. Surely, that’s something precious to all of us as gamers – a developers vision realised without compromise (well, maybe a little).

    Nope, I could never feel apathy for this game.

  33. Gabriel says:

    I, personally, can’t wait for DNF (if it ever drops). No, I’m not looking at it with a critical eye of “hrmph, 10 years in development this had better be one ridiculously tweaked and refined game.”
    No, it’s DUKE NUKEM FOREVER. My expectations are zero, but I’ll buy it because I think it’s a hilarious joke that’s been going on for..well..quite some time. It’s a lesson in not taking life too seriously. Here’s to hoping DNF gets released one day, and is the highest selling game of all time, haha. Besides, if you buy the game and laugh your way through it, doesn’t that make it worth it? Remember, comedy is a genre.

  34. roryok says:

    i just hope it doesn’t need the same specs crysis does…

  35. Leeks! says:

    My, what a confrontational tone, Mr. Gillen.

    …I’m sorry?

  36. Garth says:

    While I agree slightly that people go a little overboard, it’s tough to blame them. It’s not like anyone is foaming-at-the-mouth banzai charging 3D Realms reps screaming for blood. They’re making fun of a game called Duke Nukem Forever for taking forever to create.

    It might be Daikatana, it might by Team Fortress 2. I think it’ll be like Prey.

    In the end, you can’t tell people what/when/how they can say something. They are as entitled to their criticisms as 3D Realms are to their time.

  37. K4el says:

    Stinks of misplaced entitlement? It’s not about feeling entitled it about being sick of them hyping up something as if it were close to release then repeating the process 4 years later.

    Shit or get off the pot.

  38. Jeremy says:

    “One things for sure, it needs to be /epic/ if it’s going to come close to meeting the understandable expectations that a 10-years-in-dev game will build.”

    No such thing. It’ll be the same as a game that’s been one or two years in development. After one or two years you’re not improving the quality, you’re just highlighting problems in your ability to manage game development.

    In any case, I never really got what was so exciting about Duke Nukem in the first place.

  39. Peewee says:

    “Shit or get off the pot.”

    You’re comparing DNF to a bathroom experience?

  40. Leeks! says:

    I promise I’m not spamming. I just thought of this while I was driving:

    At the risk of stirring up the whole ‘videogames as artistic expression’ thing, I will say that I don’t think a development team taking ten years to make a game is the same as one of Kubrick’s hiatuses. While I do think that interaction opens up worlds of expression potentially, right now videogames are still primarily a fiscal product over and above an artistic one. I think a more accurate comparison would be Gillette taking ten years to release their new line of razors, when all their competitors have been steadily releasing newer, better razors, forever with more and more blades.

  41. NegativeZero says:

    I think this whole thing is a lesson about self-fulfilling prophecies. I mean seriously, a game with an acronym that more commonly means ‘Did Not Finish’?

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare this to TF2 either. Team Fortress was an exemplary multiplayer game to begin with, wheras Duke Nukem 3D was a pretty run-of-the-mill shooter with a lot of character.

  42. malkav11 says:

    I don’t think movies or other media are really accurate comparisons. You can afford to take many years – the technology changes, but it’s not happening as fast as it is in videogames right now. And it hasn’t been a major issue for the audience (except in SFX-driven movies, the sort that are least likely to be delayed in endless artistic revisions) for ages now. Release a high profile game today with technology from five years ago, and you will be mercilessly lambasted from all corners of both press and individual gamers. Which means that a project that takes longer than a few years will waste tons of time revamping the technological underpinnings. Development *this* protracted….heh.

  43. Sum0 says:

    I was listening to a podcast lately where one of the hosts wondered what great movies could have been produced, if only directors had infinite finances and resources at their command.

    Then he realised that we already know what would happen. The Star Wars prequel trilogy.

    3D Realms have limitless funding and (so far) an entire decade of work on DNF. They are complacent and overly-confident in their product being an automatic classic. It just seems to me that if you want to make something that’s actually good, you have to restrain yourself. This decade of work doesn’t mean DNF is being polished to a fine finish, it’s just sprawled out of control.

  44. nstpadoscgj says:

    bBtUB3 ivxuhwbbkmhl, [url=http://kqezmccenjdt.com/]kqezmccenjdt[/url], [link=http://ileirqqlmind.com/]ileirqqlmind[/link], http://sqdquunvfjbk.com/

  45. jtsfds47 says:

    mammamia; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; online allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol buy; allopurinol; online allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; online allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol online; uk buy allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol buy; allopurinol generic; allopurinol buy; cheap allopurinol online; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol online order; allopurinol; order allopurinol online; allopurinol canada; generic allopurinol; allopurinol; buy allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol online order; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol online; allopurinol; purchase generic allopurinol online; allopurinol; purchase allopurinol; allopurinol order online; allopurinol generic; order cheap allopurinol online; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol usa; buy allopurinol online; buy allopurinol canada; order allopurinol usa; purchase allopurinol online; allopurinol; buy generic allopurinol; allopurinol online purchase; allopurinol online; buy allopurinol online; buy allopurinol; allopurinol; allopurinol; order cheap allopurinol;