By insanejedi 8 Comments
Duke Nukem: Forever is a game. It was in development since since 1997. That was almost 15 years ago. It's out today. It's not very good... That is all...
*sighs* Where do I start? Well if your just joining me, this is the final in my series of features talking about games that have been in development for almost a decade. And what the hype was like, what the expectations were, and why the hell we even cared in the first place.
So Duke Nukem: Forever was announced in 1997, and with that and Prey showing up at E3 in 97 and 98 probably made 3dRelms look really impressive. Hot coming off the success of Duke Nukem: 3D which pioneered as well as some other games like Dark Forces, mechanics like the ability to look up and down, crouch, and jump. But what Duke Nukem: 3D brought to the table on it's own was some crazy inventive weapons like the 3 barreled ripper machine gun, and a very satisfying pipe bomb, but also different ways of exploring the environment with either a Jet Pack or Scuba Gear. But what stood out was that Duke Nukem was basically the Dead Space of it's time. Not revolutionary, but just iterative and a very solid game built on the foundations of Doom. Games didn't look this polished or detailed, where anything you touched was basically interactive in some way shape or form. There were more frames of animations to the characters and enemies, for Duke Nukem: 3D it was really a case of "Bigger, better, and more badass". Which was great! And the prospect of Duke Nukem being transferred over to a polygonal environment was exciting. So come 1998 3DRelms decided to release this trailer.
Which might not look so great, but remember the only comparable game graphically and conceptually at the time is the original Half Life and SiN.
So in contrast to that, it seemed like Duke Nukem was yet to set out and outdo it's foundations by giving some large and epic set pieces with different action sequences to diversify the action. And to beat everyone else visually, they would just do it in the details and by the trailer it just looked like there was more going on than any scene in Half-life or SiN. Even with positive reception to the trailer, George Brussard wasn't happy with the game, and only soon after Epic released it's unreal engine in 1998 that he decided to switch. In fact it wasn't just George Brussard who made the decision it was the entire 3D Realms team. But the team soon learned what the implications of actually doing that was. Everything was disorganized and no one knew what the final game would actually look like. Design documents would have to be created from scratch and updated as time went on since games were evolving ahead of 3DRelms. A joke was created that 3DRelms staff should prevent George Broussard from seeing or hearing about a new game as it would cause frustration to him that they weren't doing something like that. E3 2001 rolled around though and we we're presented with this...
This didn't look good. It looked DAMN good. The best looking game at that time was Return to Castle Wolfenstine.
Nothing really happened except a couple of grumblings and rumors since 3D Realms other game Prey was announced to come out, though Broussard himself was active on message boards and still speaking out on the game as if it exists with no new content to show off. No real news of the game was out until 2006 when 3DRelms had a $500 000 incentive to finish Duke Nukem: Forever that year. Our own Jeff Gertsmann had this to say about it...
Yeah I think that sums it up.
So another year went by until this news story came out, of 3DRelms job listings. and stuck this photo of Duke.
No there's no resizing going on, that's literally how big the image was on the ad, and with George Broussard saying "In-game Shot". If you want you can go to Gamespot's HotSpot 1/30/2007 to hear Alex, Jeff, Jason, and Rich, talking about this event. And rRich eludes to something that I'm going to talk about after this game.
So after that we basically heard nothing till December 18th that year. Almost a year after that original story was passed in January 26th that year. And we recived this trailer...
To be fair, whatever little we saw from that teaser trailer didn't look bad at all in 2007. The monsters looked well modeled and detailed, and duke didn't look too bad himself. So maybe there was some room for this game even in 2007. Too bad our guys and Gianbomb/Gamespot didn't get to talk about it because it was in the middle of the Jeff got fired thing and all. After that, yet again nothing really happened for another year till Jace Hall got his hands to actually playing it in 2008.
Funny enough it doesn't look all too much unlike the game we have today, but even then it was alleged it was filmed 6 months before that video was released and George Broussard said the game replaced the particle effects and combat effects that had been replaced. After another year in 2009, the money finally ran out and bowls of clam chowder Broussards been eating turned into 50 cent packages of ramen noodles. The DNF team was fired and it looked like DNF would never see the light of day. Despite this, 9 employees decided to work the game from their homes and found Triptych Games to try and finish the game. Still as far as the press was concerned, there was no life to be found in this game any more.
Roll over to 2010 and the game suddenly got revived. Gearbox decided to purchase the Duke Nukem IP and announced it at PAX 2010, and said the game was almost complete and only needed minor polishing to be finished and would be released in 2011. After a whole bunch of marketing and a short delay followed by a pretty good video acknowledging the delay we finally got it. Duke Nukem: Forever.
What did we get? *deep breath* Okay there's no way to actually say anything without someone here somehow getting offended because they spend 50-60 bucks of their own money and feel like they've got to defend it to the high hills because their insecure about their purchase, so I'll just come out and say what i think. Duke Nukem: Forever is an confusing design mess that doesn't know what it should be, and graphics that looked like they came out 5 years ago and enhanced with light bloom and HDR lighting, because it is just that. It decides to be old school by incorporating jumping puzzles and underwater levels, but incorporating modern shooter design cues like regenerating health systems and limited weapon selections. As for the graphics I think Jeff was right, if what we saw back then looked good how could it possibly look good now? And the response to that seemed to be take the existing levels and add shaders to it with no regard as to how the levels were designed to reflect the lighting in the first place. And I believe that just resulted in the game looking worse with areas being overly lit and washed out and places where it's just way too dark.
Regardless whether you liked the game or not, the game is universally regarded as being mediocre by both professional critics and fans alike. Getting a 54 on metacritic and a 5.9 on gamespots user score as well as a 6.0/10 on metacritcs user ratings, to top it off an amazon rating of 3/5. Any way you spin it, professionals, gamers, and mainstream all just regard it as being a mediocre experience. And as far as this industry goes, being a 6 as opposed to a 5 isn't really a selling point. If you enjoy the game then more power to you.
So did Duke Nukem: Forever actually deliver on it's promises like the other games I featured here? You can decide for yourself, but watching that 2001 trailer, I didn't think DNF delivered on what that trailer hyped up the game to be. But that leads me to a game that is similar to Duke Nukem: Forever in almost every way through it's development and hype.
DaiKatana Remember this game?
It was the brainchild of designer John Romero, the man who made Doom. It started on the Quake engine and Romero believed that the game could be finished in 7 months with 24 levels, 4 different time periods, 25 weapons, and 64 different types of monsters. His logic was that quake only took 6 months to complete with 9 people, and this idea was called "patently ludicrous" by his friend John Carmack. The game was shown of in E3 1997, literally to be finished and released for Christmas that year. And it looked like...
Daikatana wasn't only hated for it's long development but mostly Romero's Ego as marketing genius posters like this...
It wouldn't help that Romero was living a highfalutin life style of racing Ferrari's and dating Playboy magazine models. This sparked a lot of hate within the gaming community and basically a lot of people just wanted Daikatana to fail. And it did, getting a 4.6 from gamespot and future portal writer Erik Wolpaw citing bad AI, a flawed save system, and dated graphics since by that time Quake 3 was out and Unreal Tournament.
So how is Duke Nukem similar? Well they both switched engines which caused more problems than it solved, they both had designers with big ego's, and both were hyped to being this amazing revolutionary game, and both never did it. I think Daikatana should serve as a reminder to people that through allegations of bias, being paid off, and somehow the games press is this racketeering organization thats out to get certain games like I hear some people talk about DNF, that look at Daikatana and the story behind it and John Romero, and how everyone hated John Romero and wanted the game to fail. Yet what were given by the games press wasn't "This is the worst game ever" it was "this game isn't very good." And tell me that it isn't an accurate representation of Daikatana. There is no conspiracy or personal hatred within the games press with these reviews. It's just that these games sucked, and being functional doesn't make a game not suck.
Well with that all done, I believe the industry is now free from games that were announced a long time ago and somehow still in development, I don't know if there's an air of satisfaction to that, or disappointment as we'll never make these jokes about games like this never coming out ever again. But who knows? Maybe the next Duke Nukem or Stalker is on the horizon, and it will start all over again, I just hope it's not Half Life 3.