Hail To The Guv’nor: Pitchford On Duke

Travelling games-Ronin Will Porter (who you may remember from his tribute to the recently-murdered PC Zone) has achieved what RPS could not: he has played Duke Nukem Forever. We would have done so too, if only we were any good at reading emails. SIGH. While he was at it, he also talked to newly-minted duke of Duke Randy Pitchford. Here’s what the Gearbox headbloke had to say about 3D Realms, urinals, Star Wars, whether the long, strange Duke story will ever be properly documented, and how to localise DNF into the Queen’s bally English, what?

Porter: Okay, it’s weird for me being here and playing Duke Nukem Forever. It’s almost like what my career has been building up to…

Pitchford: Me too right! I’m in the middle of it, and I can’t believe it. Every day I’m like: ‘Wow. This is totally happening’. I’m just honoured and privileged that I’m able to do something, and that I’m sitting in the seat I’m sitting in. I think all the guys working on it feel the same way. It’s astonishing.

Porter: Is it strange for 3D Realms people, like Scott Miller and George Broussard, to effectively have their baby growing up in someone else’s house?

Pitchford: I can’t imagine what it feels like for them. I remember when we signed the deal that Gearbox and 3D Realms signed together; the transfer of the ownership of the brand and the game. We did it in a simple ceremony at Gearbox. Scott and George came up, and we had all the contracts laid out, and it turned out that a lot of people from Gearbox just wanted to be there. They just wanted to be in the room when it happened. We didn’t really have anything planned, just to sign the contracts, and Scott said ‘You know what, I want to say a few words’.

It was really heart-warming. It reminded me of two things. Firstly how much care he has for his brand, but also how much trust he has in me and our team. Then George said something too. It was really cool man! George and I play poker every week, he’s a dear friend of mine, and I can’t imagine what it must be like for him. I want Duke to be triumphant, as much for all of us as for him. I wouldn’t have my career if it wasn’t for those guys taking a chance on me when I was an amateur. They brought me out to Texas and gave me a gig; they let me work on Duke Nukem 3D back then, and be a part of it.”

Porter: The way you tell the story actually gets pretty emotional. It’s

like the scene at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. With everyone rushing in at the last moment to tell Duke they love him and save the day.

Pitchford: It is! It’s also like the end of Star Wars. George and Allen [Blum, original Duke creator]: they’re like Luke Skywalker. They’re in the X-Wing in the trench, and Biggs has been blown up and Wedge has had his engine hit. R2D2 is on fire! The targeting computer is off! There’s no plan, they’re doing the best they can – flying by the seat of their pants and Darth Vader’s got them in their sights while the Death Star is preparing to blow up all hope for humanity. Darth even pulls the trigger, then at that moment out of the glare of the sun comes Han Solo. “You’re all clear kid! Let’s blow this thing and go home!”. We’re having that moment right now. This sort of thing doesn’t happen in the games industry. It’s freaky to be right in the middle of it.

Porter: What I love about it, is that there’s all this involved and complex story of its development, and the high emotion around it. Then the game appears and it’s all about naked women, throwing poo around and pissing in urinals.

Pitchford: I know! It’s such a ridiculous character! Here’s a thing though: everything happens in this world because of people. Duke is something that’s gone on for so long that even though it’s something where the subject is an absurd and ridiculous (if awesome) hero, the game has a real human story beneath it. This is all very real for all of us. I think that’s become part of the story.

Porter: When you took the game on-board, how much work was there for you to do? How many gaps were there to fill?

Pitchford: It’s hard to be precise on that, as games are so complex. If I were to explain it though, you’d take away a couple of things. The position of this game and what happens in Duke’s story – all of it, from the design to the art direction and the gameplay – that’s all 3D Realms’ vision. That’s what the team wanted to make, and that’s what they were making. But also, in order to realise that vision on different platforms and as a shipped product with single-player and multiplayer, there’s a huge amount of effort that’s gone in to support that vision. The vision itself, the game, is 3D Realms’ game.

Porter: Y’know, you could almost – and I think that someone probably should – write a book or make a film about this game’s development.

Pitchford: There have been enquiries about both books and documentaries. I think that’s cool, I think the story should be told, but I don’t want to get too distracted. I’m responsible for this, so to whatever extent I can I want to make sure that all of the focus is on making sure that this works out. Then maybe we can take a breath and start thinking about documentaries and whatever. Maybe though, if someone has the right pitch, and they can be non-invasive and come in and report some of the process and understand it, then… maybe.

Porter: He’s been gone for so long, so why do you think there’s so much love being shown for Duke?

Pitchford: I don’t know. He’s so one dimensional, but there’s something about him! What do you think it is?

Porter: Well, I guess he was the start of a lot of people’s relationships with gaming and shooters. On top of that its development is almost folklore now…

Pitchford: It’s definitely become folklore. To speak to that, last year I was in London with Steve [Gibson, Gearbox marketing supremo and ex-top dog at Shack News]. We went to play poker at the Empire casino. We were sitting round the table and one guy asked us all what we did for a living. Now I don’t usually like to get into that, so I said “Oh, I make software. Boring stuff”.

Then Steve says “We make video-games!” and everyone on the table perked up and the guy asks “Oh really? What?”. Steve goes: “He worked on Duke Nukem!”. And the guy just freaks out. He stands up, leans over the table and says “I’ve got to shake your hand! Those were the first tits I ever saw!”

Porter: The original Duke Nukem introduced so many ideas; the tripwires, the pipebombs, the mirrors, the cameras, the Holoduke – that Halo: Reach has only just now adopted. Can Duke Nukem Forever still innovate like that?

Pitchford: This is a new game. There’s so much that’s been done in this industry, but there are some new gems in here. It also, though, can’t succeed if it doesn’t pay homage and fan service to our memory of the past. It has to do both successfully. And I think it does – when I played it, it did. It has to be a new game, but it can’t forget where it came from and all of our memories. You’ll discover how it makes that balance.

Porter: I take it that John St John is still the voice of Duke?

Pitchford: Yeah, John adds so much personality and character. I’ve worked with John a lot over the years, he’s a very dynamic voice actor. A lot of people don’t know this, but in Gearbox’s first game – Half-Life: Opposing Force – John St John did the voice of all of the soldiers. That includes the Drill Sergeant, who was this R. Lee Emery ‘What is your major malfunction?’ character. He did it perfectly. He’s an amazing voice talent.

A few months ago I got to go into the booth with him again, and directed him again. I’ve directed him a lot over the years, but this time I directed him as Duke for the first time in over twelve years. I was there with our audio director Mark Petty, we got the pleasantries out of the way – and we got started. John belts out some line in the voice of Duke, and Mark and I just look at each other. We’re like: “We’re making a Duke Nukem game! It’s back!”

We’re going to localise the game into different territories and different languages, and I want to see if John St John can do an English accent. I think it would be funny to localise it in British English. “Hail to the guv’nor baby!”


  1. Rich says:

    “I want to see if John St John can do an English accent. I think it would be funny to localise it in British English.”
    Oh God no! Yanks can’t do British accents.

    • Quasar says:

      English Duke: link to youtube.com

      I mean, come on. That’d just be perfect.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Well, Hugh Laurie can do a perfect American accent (television show House, in case you might not know who I’m talking about). Don’t see why it couldn’t be the reverse.

    • Lukasz says:


    • ScubaMonster says:

      Clarification, I’m not speaking of Hugh Laurie when I say reverse, he’s obviously British. Just speaking of an American actor in general. I’m sure there’s someone who could pull it off well.

    • qrter says:

      Really? I always thought Laurie’s accent was kind of wobbly.

    • Brumisator says:

      Hugh Laurie can do an okay yank accent, I guess some yanks can pass off as brits. If anyone can do it, a voice-actor can.

      I’d definitely play it in English English, and I don’t even have any ancestry from anywhere in the anglo-saxon world.

    • Rich says:

      British actors are typically better at American accents as we’re exposed to US TV and movies all the time. You wouldn’t guess the actors who play Sookie and Bill in True Blood are British. On the other hand, only someone who watches lots of PBS and online episodes of Black Adder is likely to get that much exposure to the British accent.

    • Rich says:

      By ‘English English’ I’m guessing you mean posh, which represents a tiny fraction of the population.

    • Huggster says:

      Okay, how about Jimmy McNulty in the Wire, Baltimore accent the whole way through until he pretends to be British in the brothel?
      Funniest thing ever!
      (Yes he is a brit)

    • Antsy says:

      British English invariably ends up being Posh or Cock-Van-Dykeny

    • sebmojo says:

      Anna Paquin (Sookie in True Blood) is a Kiwi, not a Brit.

      Gwyneth Paltrow does a great British accent.

      I think it’s a knack.

    • Rich says:

      Ah, Canadian born Kiwi at that. Sounds very close to British when she’s talking normally. Also, the guy who plays Bill definitely British.

    • pipman3000 says:

      uhh does the geico gecko count?

    • Oak says:

      Hugh Laurie’s accent is wobbly, but still oddly good. That is, it’s convincing (and misled many new fans who weren’t aware of him before House) yet regionless, totally unplaceable. As though he’s from the US but the only people he’d heard speak growing up were diction coaches.

    • Rich says:

      I was in a museum in Columbus where the guy dressed as one of the Titanic’s navigation officers was like that, but putting on a British accent. It never actually broke, but to an actual Brit it’s very suspicious and a little disturbing.

    • TeeJay says:

      Jonny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie can all do good British accents, can’t they?

  2. Quasar says:

    Oh, and a quick note, for those that don’t know yet: Anyone who bought Borderlands on Steam before the 12th (GOTY or otherwise) has early access to the DNF demo.

    Click ‘CD Key’ on the Borderlands Steam page to find your access key, then input it here: link to dukenukem.com

  3. viper34j says:

    Shake it, baby!

  4. Urael says:

    Pitchford on Duke. What, as in Girl on Girl? Eww.

    And does anyone in England even say “guv’nor” anymore?

    Not sure I want anyone trying to add extra dimensions to the Duke-ster. If he’s not wise-cracking, shooting pigs in the nadgers and paying women to jiggle their giggly bits then I’m not sure that’s really Duke. He speaks to the cro-magnon in all of us males.

    • qrter says:

      Just about every game produced today “speaks to the cro-magnon in all of us males”.

    • Huggster says:

      At least Duke is more about the girls and less about the killing.

    • bildo says:

      lol duke has always been about the killing. did you forget the line, “im going to rip your head off and shit down your neck?”

  5. ETPC says:

    as fun as interviews like these are, I could have gone for something about the pc version.

  6. Navagon says:

    The name is Nukem. Duke Nukem.

    Yeah, I can see it now. :D

    • Rich says:

      You mean
      The namesh Nookum. Jook Nookum.
      Lishenshe to kick ash and shoo bubblegum.

    • Navagon says:

      I was only s’pposed to blow the bloody arms off.

    • Brumisator says:

      Rich, why did that sound like Sean Connery’s scottish in my head?

    • Jez says:

      I’ll have a shaushage shandwich with shaush.

  7. Bursar says:

    Post by Will Porter talking about the escapades of Will Porter in the third person. I highly approve of this sort of behaviour.

    I now propose Will be known as the ‘Self Styled’ Games Ronin, and that all RPS contributors talk about themselves in the third person.

  8. Demon Beaver says:

    He’s says very very nice things about 3DRealms… I’m kinda split, especially about George Broussard, he was supposed to make a bloody game, and just didn’t. But this is a very friendly and optimistic interview, and I enjoyed it…

  9. Fuan says:

    My endearing memory of Broussard was playing with him in my Everquest guild in late ’99/early ’00. His in game name: haknukem. Then in 2002 thinking “So EQ was why DNF still hasn’t been released!”

  10. Fuan says:

    Endearing? Enduring? Maybe the typo was intentional.

  11. Jimbo says:

    It’s Jon St. John.

  12. Theblazeuk says:

    Randy Pitchfork is Han Solo?

    Only one response makes me concerned about the “real human story” but I think I’m interpreting him right and he doesn’t really mean the game’s narrative will be paying attention to such complex matters.

  13. Frank says:

    “Queen’s bally English, *wot*,” rather. You sure bollocksed that up right good. (obv, I’m an American)

  14. mbp says:

    This is a joke right? I mean it can’t really be true. It’s like that time someone announced they had found the lost city of Atlantis.

    Cool: the captcha is 7uke

  15. bill says:

    Why do interviews never ask the questions that you want them to ask. Eg:
    Do you worry that carrying only 2 weapons will reduce the experimentation and OTT factor?
    Do you worry that Duke is rather out of date these days?

    PS/ Anyone using Flattr yet? Any comments? Remember hearing about it years ago and thinking it was a good idea… wonder if it’ll take off.

  16. bill says:

    The thing I don’t get is why BRITS can’t do British Accents on american TV. It’s hardly surprising that most americans think we speak like pre/post Eliza Dolittle when all the british actors on US shows do just that.

    I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen famous domestic actors appear in guest-roles on US shows, and then all start speaking in this strange “enhanced” version of their voice. Anyone who ever appeared on Friends. Lots of people on CSI and even back to NYPD Blue. Sigh.

    PS/ I also remember an episode of some crappy 80s US drama where they went to London – but it was plainly all filmed in Australia, with them all speaking in strong australian accents. Half the cast of Neighbours and Home & Away turned up!

    • Muzman says:

      My guess is that they’re directed so, to meet the impression of what Brits sound like. Think of what Craig Ferguson did for years on the Drew Carey Show. That was for comedy purposes admitedly, but I think that sort of over the top has become normal.

      Australian’s have it worse. The accent is almost impossible to immitate yet so so many people try, badly. Even Aus types working in the states curl their accents toward the the American to make it more paletable (although some of them are just adapting to the environment. I think Nicole Kidman has to actually practice to keep ner native accent, from the sounds of it).
      Lost, for instance, had an Australia apparently inhabited by New Zealand Americans.

      Lucky for us we’re fairly insignificant.

  17. Baboonanza says:

    It’s got to be pretty ambarassing for the ex-3D Realms management. They took what, 15+ years without ever releasing it and the Gearbox gets it out the door in a year and half.

    Those guys should never manage anything gain, they are terrible at their jobs.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Do you really think they would have released it that fast, without the previous work?

  18. Mort says:

    “I want Duke to be triumphant”

    With 2 weapon slot limits, no moddability and cheesy marketing tactics in terms of “early access”.

    Welcome to the moneygrubber’s dumb-me-down world of Gibson-your-uncle-has-to-be-able-to-remember-the-keys fail, aka as “triumphant”.

    Liars, thieves and traitors.

  19. mahatma coat says:

    I hate to be the well-worn voice of internet forum cynicism here, but does anyone else think this will be a hugely anti-climactic case of all show – no go? If Pitchford doesn’t understand what made the original such a classic, how can he be expected to make a sequel thats even in the same league?