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The Brief Long History of DNF: Post-3D Realms Edition

by Nick Breckon, May 11, 2009 2:55pm PDT

"Maybe the one thing you can't say about Duke Nukem Forever is that it's been canceled," I wrote in the first edition of this short history of the game. Well, that's still true--to a point.

3D Realms may now exist only in name, but there has been no word on the final fate of Duke Nukem Forever. And why should there be? A fitting end would see the death of DNF drawn out for years.

Whether the game will eventually see the light of day or not, it's time now to pause once again and look back through history, all the way to 1996 and up to the present, in our updated account of the infamous game's development.

The History of Duke Nukem Forever

January 29, 1996: Duke Nukem 3D is released on PC. Mac, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Saturn ports follow later in the year.

Mid-1996: Work on Duke Nukem Forever begins. The game, envisioned as a 2D/3D side-scrolling title in the vein of Donkey Kong Country, is soon abandoned when developer Keith Schuler shifts his focus to the Duke Nukem 3D Plutonium Pak.

January 1997: Early prototyping begins on the next true Duke game. The FPS sequel to Duke Nukem 3D is tentatively referred to as Duke Nukem 4.

March 1997: Daikatana development begins.

April 27, 1997: The fourth major game in the Duke series is announced by 3D Realms. Officially dubbed Duke Nukem Forever, the name is poached from the canceled side-scroller. id Software's Quake II engine is licensed for development. GT Interactive is set to publish.

August 1997: The first DNF screenshots are printed in PC Gamer, with other sites picking them up eventually.

November 1997: 3D Realms/Apogee founder Scott Miller states that Doctor Proton, Duke's nemesis from the original side-scroller, will return in DNF.

May 1998: The first trailer is unveiled at E3, depicting several scenes with a new pre-Alyx female sidekick, dubbed Bombshell. Wailing guitar, the infamous axe-wielding miner, and a variety of gameplay scenarios are also featured.

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June 1, 1998: Team Fortress 2 development begins.

June 15, 1998: A few days following the Duke Nukem Forever trailer debut, 3D Realms drops the Quake II engine and licenses then-Epic MegaGames' Unreal engine. "We don't feel there will be a significant development delay," says Duke co-creator George Broussard.

August, 1998: "At this point, we are really in full production mode again on the game," reports Broussard in a .plan file. "We expect to have gun and guys walking around any day like we never switched engines." The team aims for a 1999 release.

September, 1998: Scott Miller claims that DNF will "set a new standard" for first person interactivity.

October 12, 1998: Duke Nukem: Time to Kill is released on PlayStation.

September 1, 1999: Duke Nukem: Zero Hour is released on Nintendo 64. Broussard is quoted as saying DNF will probably not feature a software renderer. (News)

October 22, 1999: Scott Miller tells 3D Unlimited that the game is now making use of improvements made to the Unreal engine developed for Unreal Tournament.

October 24, 1999: Miller calls on the Duke community to generate suitable names for the inevitable DNF sequel. (News)

November 1, 1999: New DNF screenshots surface, showing off the Unreal engine-powered graphics. Future Gears mastermind Cliffy B is quoted: "Those shots rock my nuts."

November 20, 1999: Broussard to Dukeworld on recent production delays due to engine updates: "We broke off our code at Unreal 220. But unfortunately that was a fairly unstable version of the engine. We had intended to continue on our own, but Epic simply did too good a job with UT. ...Not patching to it would be a colossal mistake."

Turn the page for more, including an epic DNF trailer from 2001.

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November 30, 1999: Duke Nukem is released on Game Boy Color.

December 1999: Infogrames buys a majority stake in GT Interactive, eventually buying the company outright. DNF is slotted for a 2000 release.

March 10, 2000: Shacknews interviews Broussard, who speaks of a robust multiplayer component and innovative interactivity. "I'm not sure many people (other than the die hards) will play the game from beginning to end multiple times, but I do expect almost everyone to re-load maps and look at specific cool things they saw or did," says Broussard. "Strippers come to mind."

April 14, 2000: Daikatana is released.

September 19, 2000: Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes is released on PlayStation.

December 5, 2000: Publisher Infogrames sells the Duke Nukem rights to Take-Two Interactive. Take-Two subsidiary publisher Gathering of Developers is now lined up to publish DNF.

March 28, 2001: A Gathering of Developers calendar reveals inklings of a plot: Duke is forced out of a Las Vegas retirement when Dr. Proton blows up the city. Shooting commences. (News)

May 17, 2001: The second DNF trailer debuts on the first day of E3 2001, comprised mainly of in-game footage. It is epic.

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August 2001: Gathering of Developers closes its doors, and Take-Two takes over the duties of DNF publisher. During a Take-Two conference call, the company notes that DNF won't see a release until 2002 at the earliest. (News)

2002: The Dark Age of Duke. Work on the current version of DNF is halted. The vast majority of level design work is scrapped in transition to a new, mostly home-grown engine. Unstable Unreal code is blamed for the previous delays. New talent is brought on to continue development, bringing the team size to over 30.

May 14, 2002: Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project is released on PC.

August 12, 2002: Duke Nukem Advance is released on Game Boy Advance.

May 29, 2003: Take-Two CEO Jeffrey Lupin informs reporters that Duke Nukem Forever will not be out by the end of 2003. Broussard fires back shortly after, reminding readers that DNF remains self-funded, while also issuing a famously stiff rebuttal to its publisher: "Take Two needs to STFU imo." Later he adds: "Either we're absolutely stupid and clueless, or we believe in what we are working on. In the end, you guys will judge the final results." The spate makes national news, including a story on CNN. (Broussard's comments)

January 20, 2004: After winning the Wired.com Vaporware Award for two years in a row, Duke Nukem Forever is given an honorary Lifetime Achievement award.

September 9, 2004: New Take-Two CEO Rich Roedel claims the game is using Doom 3 technology. Broussard denies it. (News)

September 14, 2004: 3D Realms announces that the Karma physics engine will be replaced with technology from Meqon Research, a company that will later be acquired by AGEIA in 2005.

February 16, 2005: Scott Miller announces that all future 3D Realms releases will be delivered digitally by the Game xStream service, later renamed Triton. (News)

March, 2005: Take-Two and 3D Realms renegotiate the Duke Nukem Forever publishing agreement. The publisher will pay 3DR a $500,000 bonus should the game be released by December 31, 2006. (

href="http://ir.take2games.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1125282-06-3343">News)

September 30, 2005: Broussard flashes Shacknews regular mr. sleepy with a handful of DNF screenshots, which the user characterizes as "awesome." (Comment)

January 31, 2006: Interviewed by 1UP, Broussard is asked of DNF's progress, responding: "We're basically just pulling all the pieces together and making the game out of it. There's a lot that's finished. All the guns are finished. Most of the creatures are finished."

April 12, 2006: Computer Games Magazine visits 3D Realms and reports on the game's current state. They are shown "mainly just pieces of the game in progress and tech demos", such as "an early level, a vehicle sequence, a few test rooms."

August 30, 2006: Shacknews reports that 3D Realms has seen several employee departures over the previous year. 3D Realms downplays the impact of the losses, asserting that work on DNF is still progressing. "Physics and animation systems are virtually finished and shippable," Broussard replies. "It's simply maintenance and polish from here on out." (News)

Maintenance and polish continue on the next page.

_PAGE_BREAK_

October, 2006: The Triton download service begins to fail when the developing company, Digital Interactive Streams, abruptly goes out of business. Triton users who had purchased the recently released, 3D Realms-published Prey are given retail copies as compensation. The game is added to Valve Software's Steam digital distribution service on December 1.

December 27, 2006: DNF wins Wired.com's Vaporware Award again, despite already winning the Lifetime Vaporware Achievement award.

January 26, 2007: A small thumbnail attached to a 3D Realms job posting is later revealed to be an in-game Duke Nukem Forever screenshot. One additional shot is later released in this manner. (News)

March 20, 2007: Scott Miller tells YouGamers that DNF is running under a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine.

October 10, 2007: Team Fortress 2 is released.

December 18, 2007: 3D Realms announces a new DNF teaser trailer will debut on the following day, and releases a single screenshot in advance. Shacknews user Dognose, a longtime DNF fan, slips into cardiac arrest. (News)

December 19, 2007: Shacknews premieres first Duke Nukem Forever teaser trailer in over six years. Hope of an actual release peaks.

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Registered users can also use the

HD stream or download the HD trailer.

February 6, 2008: The Dallas Business Journal reports that DNF might make it out in time for Christmas 2008, and is set to be released on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Broussard quickly clarifies that platforms have not been finalized. Also announced is an Xbox Live Arcade port of Duke Nukem 3D. (News)

March 18, 2008: 3D Realms' Scott Miller co-founds the Radar Group, an "entertainment entity to incubate, manage and produce Intellectual Properties for cross-media leveraging in video game and film markets." (News)

April 28, 2008: Former Shacknews owners Steve Gibson and Maarten Goldstein are given a half-hour look at the game, which includes "environmental puzzles and interactivity, a host of finished weapons, the existence of an in-game forklift, and plenty of heads and arms being blown off." (News)

June 5, 2008: The Jace Hall show premieres with a visit to 3D Realms and 20 seconds of DNF gameplay footage. (Video)

July 14, 2008: The Apogee Software publishing label is resurrected. Frontline Games' Duke Nukem Trilogy of handheld titles is announced. "We plan on making Duke the Forest Gump of World War II," says Apogee COO Terry Nagy. (News, Preview)

June 24, 2008: A new shot of Duke appears on 3D Realms' job page. (Image)

September 8, 2008: Max Payne film producer Scott Faye announces that he is developing a Duke Nukem film with Scott Miller's Radar Group. "We're expanding Duke's 'storyverse' in a very significant major way without abandoning or negating any element that's being used to introduce Duke to the next gen platforms," says Faye. (News)

September 24, 2008: The Xbox Live Arcade port of Duke Nukem 3D is released. The port features a new replay feature, allowing players to record and share gameplay clips. (Preview)

September 29, 2008: Two DNF screenshots hidden in the Xbox Live Arcade port of Duke Nukem 3D are released officially by 3D Realms. (Images)

December 18, 2008: 3D Realms misses its "possible" Christmas 2008 release target, but does issue one new wallpaper image showing a few of DNF's enemies. (Image)

January 26, 2009: Broussard posts on his Twitter account: "Packing up to go visit our publisher and show them the game and cool sh!t to get them hyped and excited."

April 13, 2009: Another Broussard Tweet reveals the team is nearing its latest milestone: "Closing out a milestone this week. 71 more tasks to do and we started with probably 800-900. Been a good push. Next one starts Monday."

May 7, 2009: Shacknews learns that 3D Realms has been shut down due to funding issues. All employees of the company are let go. Official confirmation of the news comes later that night. Take-Two notes that it had not been funding ongoing development of DNF, and still owns the exclusive publishing rights to the game. Apogee states that the handheld Duke Nukem Trilogy is unaffected, and that a Duke-related announcement is coming soon. (News)

May 8, 2009: 3D Realms posts a "goodbye" message on its official site. (News)

May 9-11, 2009: Level assets and screenshots of Duke Nukem Forever surface, as does a lengthy demo reel.

To be continued?





Comments

  • Wow Duke Nukem comeing back to blow the game grounds a new one?..
    Duke Nukem Forever was suppose to come out wayyyyy back when quake2 hit the shelves.. But 3drealms was being onslaught by newer titles.. getting back lashed by the quake engine for this long..

    Well until Duke Nukem: Nuclear Winter.. Came to The Nintendo 64.. which was a excellent game..

    I can only asume that Take Two is gasping as The Duke Nukem is back from them years of R&R.. Because they had all sorts of crazy ideas.. for the Duke Nukem 3d , also Duke Nukem 3d was one of the first multiplayer online games.. Even had a Map editor in it.. Will that be incited threw the next coming releases will Duke Forever have a Map editor..? So many questions about these previews i've seen.. They even had the old door squashing bit.. Which was always hilarious to close a door on enemies and watch the muck stick to the door.. This game was a classic back in its day.. and very, very original..


    Why is Take Two skittish about their Source being exploited, havent they played Mercenaries2 yet!? hahaha that game sucked an also looked like GTA IV with a bunch of rendering shaders tossed out..

    Possibly Take2 is worried about this game hitting the markets.. and becoming The Duke of first person games.. once again.. half the games on the market probably had developers that loved that game.. Oh well 3d realms don't need any luck.. they were a great dev team back then.. and from the looks of them videos.. they want to blow a hole into other publishers market.. Awesome.. I am truly baffled by the return..













  • Hmm, this hits hard for me. I never really even enjoyed the duke games all that much, they were fun, didn't Duke3D for N64 have split screen co op? PSX may have had it too. That was lots of fun.

    This is one of the greatest, epic video game stories of my lifetime so far. When DNF was announced, I was playing on a 400 MHz machine with less then 16mb of RAM. 3D gaming and fancy graphics were in their infancy. DNF has been a story that everyone, even if you hate Duke, has read at one point or another. Its a let down that after 12 years it won't(see:maybe) be released. Of course I feel bad for the 3DR guys who put 12 years of their lives into this, I'm sure for some people this was their first project in the games industry, and to have spent upwards of 10 years on that and to not see it released(see:maybe) must really suck. :-\

    Sorry 3DR guys.