In what some people were comparing to shaking hands with Bigfoot and riding the Loch Ness monster, I can now confirm (as if you didn’t know already) that Duke Nukem Forever is very real, it is coming to PS3 and I have played it.
I also grabbed this interview with the President and CEO of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford.
How does it feel to have this iconic character in the Gearbox stable?
It’s kind of surreal but I really have to forget about that and focus on the mission of finally releasing Duke Nukem Forever. I’m trying not to worry about pressure or expectations.
In what state was the code in when Gearbox first got its hands on Duke Nukem Forever?
The vision was certainly evident and there were several moments of brilliance scattered throughout the game. When 3D Realms shut down, there were eight guys that managed to take everything that had been worked on and stitch it together; they went through war to get it even to this stage. They now call themselves Triptych and they’re up on the 10th floor of our offices. They did an amazing job and they deserve a lot of respect.
Right now there’s a team based in Vancouver called Piranha and they’re working on some amazing optimisations for PlayStation 3. It was almost inconceivable, when we first received the code, that we could bring it to PS3 but we refused to accept that and have put in a huge amount of work to ensure that the software comes to that audience.
The nature of the project and the level of goodwill that surrounds it in the industry mean that we’ve had plenty of people willing to jump in and help.
Have you removed or adding anything?
A lot! It’s a complex piece of software and it would go well beyond the scope of this interview to detail the additions and omissions. Today, there are 70 people involved in the project, yet when 3D Realms closed its doors, there were 30.
In terms of the story, the design and the experience, it’s a 3D Realms game through and through.
Is the level of expectation around the game a blessing or a curse?
I don’t know yet. With Borderlands, the challenge was getting everyone’s attention. With Duke, we have the opposite problem.
Is there a sense of poetic justice in once again working with Duke?
Not justice at all – I was with Duke for a few years and there are so many people involved for longer than me. One thing I am pleased about is that Allen [Blum] is still involved. Allen created Duke; I feel honoured and privileged to be carrying the Duke Nukem torch but only because I’m carrying it with Allen and he is involved every day.
Are you including multiplayer?
Of course – I can’t imagine a Duke Nukem game without multiplayer. When 3D Realms was working on the game, they never got around to that side of things so Gearbox has enabled a huge effort on that front.
Do you see any discrepancies between the flavour of gaming of 12 years ago, when Duke Nukem Forever was conceived, and the tastes of modern gamers?
Sure, games have evolved in some ways but there are some areas where they’ve stagnated. For example, Duke Nukem 3D was really innovative, at the time, with its mix of combat and environmental puzzle solving. It was rich with interactive environments and plenty of secrets to discover if you veered off the natural path.
Not so many games bother with those any more. Half-Life does a good job with its pacing, I suppose, but hardly anything has the level of interactivity of Duke or does the hidden Easter eggs thing any more. Duke Nukem Forever does all of that.
When’s the sequel coming out?
I have spent zero mindshare on anything beyond Duke Nukem Forever!
Finally and slightly off-topic, how is Aliens: Colonial Marines doing?
It’s looking great! We’ve been radio silent but we’re very excited. It’s funny you should mention it because if you go back and look at Duke Nukem 3D, we included facehuggers and there’s Aliens stuff up on the walls. I’ve been stealing from Aliens my entire career so it feels great to finally be involved in the canon.
Truthfully, the game was announced too early – the ink wasn’t dry on the contract and we hadn’t even written the first line of code, but we’re really committed and so is SEGA, and I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll be in a position to start talking again.