The sad story of Duke Nukem Forever. 14 years of agony

The ministry of the muses, as you know, does not tolerate fuss. It takes time to create a good video game. But the games are not Scotch whiskey, and 14 years of aging in their case is by no means a reason for pride. This is usually a death sentence. Most projects for such a long time simply die quietly (maybe it's for the best). Others go through several incarnations, change engines, publishers, and developers, agonizing for so long that they become jokes from legends. Duke Nukem Forever, sadly, fell into the second category. What led to this? There are many reasons, but, in short, then ... everything was too good.

Dizzy with success

The flat platformers Duke Nukem, which came out in 1991 and 1993, were good games, but nothing more. But the three-dimensional shooter Duke Nukem 3D became a real hit. While players were counting polygons in Quake monster models and admiring the seamless storytelling in Half-Life3D Realmsoffered us sprite aliens and a classic structure with levels and episodes. But how did she do it! Inventive, funny, and at the same time realistic scenery like cinemas and strip clubs. Sign in Born to be Wild karaoke, use the restroom (and even flush after yourself!) Or play billiards in between shootouts. Pigs in police uniform as enemies. Charismatic protagonist, filled to capacity with catchphrases and quotes from action movies. An original weapon like a freezer or shrinker. Dozens of Easter eggs. Who cares about flat sprite monsters, low-resolution images, or "fake" 3D?

Such a thing could not fail to receive a continuation. Duke Nukem Forever was announced in April 1997, just a year after the full version of Duke Nukem 3D was released. The developers did not have an exact date, but the release was promised before Christmas 1998. Ah, come out of the game then - what a gorgeous gift we would receive! Yes, she would have to compete with giants like Half-Life, Quake 2, and Unreal... Yes, even the modified version of the Build engine is hopelessly behind the times. But were the first Quake and its id Tech engine simple contenders? And did Duke Nukem 3D complex because of its looks or outdated game design? Nothing of the kind! And now 3D Realms was supported by a whole army of fans, and not only morally, but also financially. It is not surprising that the developers were full of optimism about the future of Duke Nukem, seeing in him at least a new Mario.
But they did not take into account one important point. The Mario series has always been in keeping with the spirit of the times. Moreover, she did not hesitate to define it herself. And time in the late nineties flew faster than ever. Technologies emerged, developed, and became obsolete at a breakneck pace. id Software managed to announce Quake 2 Engine (aka id Tech 2). But Build lost even to the original Quake engine! And here George Broussard and Scott Miller, Duke's fathers, made their first mistake. Perhaps the most important in the history of 3D Realms. They decided to change their own Duke Nukem Forever engine to the Quake 2 engine. This stone kicked off the avalanche that buried another dream game.
Although at that time, in principle, nothing terrible happened. The finished engine, even if it was bought for some fabulous money, seriously accelerated the business. In fact, the developers had only to create content - levels, models, weapons - to glue it together with some kind of plot, spice it up with John St. John's husky baritone and vulgar jokes, and the fourth game about Duke Nukem would go to the shelves, at the latest, by November - December 1998. The authors worked with enthusiasm, shared screenshots with the public, and even showed a gorgeous trailer at E3 in May. Airplanes were falling, trucks were rushing around, everything around was burning and exploding to a gorgeous soundtrack. It looked brilliant, and the fans were almost shaking with impatience.
George Broussard wanted to turn the game into a feast of cutting-edge technology. At the same time, attention was paid to every detail, right down to the realism of the smoke coming from the fires. Sounds great, of course ... until you start thinking: how important is this aspect for a game that is not a firefighter simulator? It was this striving for perfection that played a cruel joke with the developers. After all, it is better to release an average game on time than to endlessly chase an unattainable ideal.
Work on Quake 2 Engine was going well, but then Unreal Engine came out - and Duke Nukem Forever moved to a new motor. The decision, of course, was difficult. Still, for the second time in a year to change the engine and actually start all the work from scratch! But, with licensing costs in the region of half a million bucks, Unreal Engine had its advantages as well. In particular, he worked better with open spaces than id Tech 2. And he was also great for animating dancing strippers using motion capture, creating snow levels, scenes on the engine in the spirit of the same Half-Life, and generally implementing any new idea of ​​Broussard. And he gave out ideas at the speed of a machine gun - and each one certainly had to be implemented in the game. Not surprisingly, with this approach, it did not come out either in November, or in December 1998, or in January 1999. It was not shown at E3 1999 - and it was a real wake-up call. But that was not the worst thing.

Duke Nukem Taking Forever

The trouble was, 3D Realms could afford it all. Duke Nukem 3D has become a truly successful game. And she herself, and additions to it, and even her engine, the very outdated Build on all fronts, sold well. Money flowed like a river, so Miller and his associates did not look into the mouth of the rich publisher. They planned to publish a potential hit on their own - and it was only supposed to come out when Broussard thought it was ready. From GT Interactive (and later from its successor Take-Two Interactive) they didn’t need financial help or a cannonball, but only marketing support and CD printing. However, this did not prevent 3D Realms from receiving an advance payment of $ 400,000 for Duke Nukem Forever. There was even more money - and the release automatically moved even further.
Of course, this annoyed everyone. The raging publisher, whom George Broussard did not hesitate to openly insultThe employees of 3D Realms were nervous, who wanted to finally finish this project and proceed to the next: the studio paid poorly, with an eye on record premiums after the release. In addition, few people wanted to have in their portfolio, albeit legendary, but only one game in many years. Finally, the fans were angry, who was already impatient to get a full fourth installment of their favorite series.
To calm down at least the latter a little, the game was nevertheless decided to be brought to E3 2001. The trailer was, without exaggeration, great. Duke drove a bike, fired from a golden pistol, and, of course, saved chicks from nasty aliens. If the game came out around this time and in the form that was demonstrated at the exhibition, Broussard would be forgiven for everything. However, at the end of the video, instead of the normal release date, the treacherous "When it's done" still surfaced. Well, instead of at least some kind of game, we got silence for several years.
3D Realms executives saw no opportunity to finish development in 2001 or 2006. People were leaving the studio - and it wasn't even about money or an empty portfolio. Designers and programmers simply burned out from this Sisyphean labor. Moreover, by the middle of the 2000s, the game was almost ready and, according to those rare lucky ones who managed to touch the working build, it felt just fine. She was beautiful, technological, driving, diverse, funny. An exemplary game about Duke Nukem. She lacked only one thing - normal management. The person who would bang his fist on the table and tell the developers: "You have six months and not a minute more!" Neither Miller nor Broussard was such people. They tried to expand the team so that newcomers would speed up development and at least keep their perfectionism in check. But there was little point in it.
In 2009, the studio still had to bow to the publisher. But it was not possible to reach an agreement with Take-Two. On May 6, 3D Realms announced the closure. The ensuing lawsuit finally destroyed the studio and seemed to put an end to Duke Nukem Forever.

Manufacturing Hellraiser

But it wasn’t there. Of course, no one was going to finally kill Duke. Tens of millions of dollars had already been spent on the development of the game, but the game itself promised much greater profits. So in 2010, Take-Two officially announced: Duke Nukem Forever is still alive and in good hands. The development was handed over to Gearbox Software, the authors of Brothers in ArmsBorderlands, and Aliens: Colonial MarinesAccording to Randy Pitchford, head of Gearbox, the game was almost complete. The release was planned for next year - and, unfortunately, it did take place.
The main unfinished construction in the history of the gaming industry has finally come out. 14 years of waiting are over. During this time, dozens of game series of the AAA level were born and died, three console generations changed and eight other games about Duke Nukem were released - this is not counting countless mods, add-ons, and conversions of Duke Nukem 3D!
But what the developers of Duke Nukem Forever itself were doing all these years was completely unclear. The game looked very old and very tired. The wretched plastic models of the enemies glittered as if rubbed with Vaseline. The ubiquitous "soap" almost physically stung the eyes. The physics was pathetic, the textures were blurry, and the claustrophobic levels were gray and boring. In total, all this was drawn to a maximum of 2007, or even 2005. The developers have clearly lost the race for technical excellence. Well, it wasn't graphics that made Duke Nukem 3D a cool game, right?
Only here there was a bobble. Call it whatever you want: charisma, atmosphere, soul. But something elusive Duke Nukem Forever was clearly missing. The developers seemed to be trying to recreate Duke Nukem 3D, to reproduce the sensations from it, but could not grasp its essence. Was there interactivity last time? Let's add everything that comes to mind, from a pinball to a drawing board (sometimes, by the way, very interesting things ). Easter eggs? Here are three hundred references to everything from World of Warcraft to The Monty Python Show. "Adult" humor? Oh yes, let's wake up puberty teenagers in ourselves, add obscenity, sexism, and vulgarity!
As a result, we got a game that didn't know what it wanted. Indistinct flirting with tactics. Empty episodes with transport. For nothing, unnecessary puzzles, and other elements of the quest. There is almost no normal shooter about Duke Nyukem - dynamic, funny, and boorish - in all this jumble. The most offensive thing was that they were waiting for the game! Almost with ticks, they pulled out grains of information from the developers. They looked for video clips and at least some screenshots. Wooled on foreign forums. Almost a decade and a half. As it turned out - completely in vain.
After all, the time has hit Duke Nukem Forever the hardest. As rightly noted in our review, “if DNF had come out at least last year, everything would have been all right - then the players were already overworked with shooters about special forces and bad Russians, but Bulletstorm still seemed like a strange and incomprehensible contraption, from which it is not known what would come of it. A year ago, we would have forgiven Duke even hopeless technical backwardness - perhaps the most noticeable drawback. " But in 2011, it was too late to forgive this. Spoon road for dinner.
The combination of huge money, fantastic self-confidence, and morbid perfectionism turned Duke Nukem Forever into what it became - a Frankenstein monster, somehow stitched from separate pieces, with no memory of kinship. What could have become everything has become nothing. If you want "the same Duke" - it's better to play Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton EditionOr Duke Nukem's Bulletstorm TourThere is much more real Duke Nukem there than Duke Nukem Forever has accumulated in 14 years. Still, sometimes it's late - worse than never.

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