It was confirmed today that the perpetual developer of Duke Nukem Forever, 3D Realms, is being shut down for financial reasons. If you’ve never heard of 3D Realms or Duke Nukem, this won’t mean much to you. But if you’ve been playing computer games since the early 90’s, you’ll almost certainly remember the iconic Duke Nukem 3D.
Unlike other early “3D” games, Duke Nukem’s greatest strength was its main character- a rough-talking, wise-assed musclebound guy as quick with a one-liner as with his shotgun. This was a game with a sense of humour, and an off the wall quirkiness: I recall the shrink ray which allowed you to shoot a monster or, in multi-player, another player, to reduce them to mouse size… then stomp on them. Or the remote control mines: set down four or five mines in various locations, then selectively detonate them using the remote control. Combine this with a “security station” containing monitors showing camera views of various places in the game, and you could remotely kill your enemies. Brilliant stuff!
Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996. In 1997, 3D Realms announced their next installment in the series: Duke Nukem Forever. Originally, it was supposed to ship in 1999. 3D Realms was one of the original inventors of the term “it is ready when it’s ready”, and every year after 1999 there was another “not yet” from the developers when asked about DNF. The perpetual delays of Duke Nukem Forever became a long-running joke in the industry.
Today is the punchline, and it isn’t very satisfying. The employees of 3D Realms are, no doubt, even more disappointed than I am, and are stuck trying to get new jobs in a challenging economy. Will Duke Nukem ever reappear? Supposedly Take Two (the “when it’s ready” publisher of DNF) still owns the rights to the publication of the game, but all of the intellectual property (I.E.: the game in progress, the story, the artwork, etc) is locked up in the collapsed company. I suspect we’ll never see Duke Nukem as he was intended to be seen, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a never ending stream of cheap knockoff Dukes on various platforms like the the Game Boy and PSP.
Farewell, Duke: as you walk off into the sunset, may you always kick ass and chew bubble gum, and may you always be out of gum.