Duke Nukem Forever: The inside story

Insight: Randy Pitchford on the miracle of the year...

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It was difficult for Take Two to feel confident in giving [3D Realms extra time] - whilst George couldn't give up control. There were the lawsuits and the drama. It was bad. There was no hope left.


3D Realms had 30 people working on that game. It's not possible to make a triple-A FPS on the [next-gen] platforms with 30 people. Gearbox has 2,000 staff - we're in the opposite spot.

I always felt a connection to Duke. I'd work on it. There was real love there.

The the craziest coincidences of coincidences. Of all the publishers in the world, Gearbox had developed a relationship - with trust and respect [on both sides] - with Take Two, 2K, as we developed and published Borderlands.

Now, let me create an analogy. You're in a car going down the street. In front of you is an Italian sports car; a cool car, like a Lamborghini or Ferrari. All of sudden, it slips and spins [off the road]... it's a wreck. There's fire, screaming, blood - it's f*cking horrible.

Some people would keep driving and let others help. I'm not even sure what I would do.

But now imagine the people in that car are people you care about - friends, your brother, I don't know, your first boss. They're somehow in there. That changes your reaction.

Now let's imagine you're a doctor - you know how to save lives. And you're in an ambulance full of people like surgeons, A&E experts. And you're in the middle of a desert. If you don't stop, no-one else will.

I had to stop. I owe my career to Duke.


Pitchford then reveals that 3D Realms vets like George Broussard, Allen Blum and others continued to work on the game in an apartment eating "Ramen noodles and macaroni cheese" because they had so little money. They had "every piece of content, every code" and that - aside from a few holes - the game was "complete".

I didn't want to just take the [franchise] and use it. I wanted to play Duke Nukem Forever. I wanted to play the f*cking actual game.

George and Scott sold me the franchise - the brand and the game - and my studio invested in it. There were no more Ramen noodles.

It's here. You're going to play it soon. We're in the polishing stages. [But it's been hard]. Duke Nukem is the biggest case of blue balls in video gaming industry's history.

Pitchford then explains that after a meeting with 2K boss Christoph Hartmann ("He's a gamer, he just wanted to play the game"), Take Two dropped the bulk of its legal wrangles with 3D Realms - and looked to the day it could finally publish DNF.

Gearbox wanted to "do the Apple thing" - showing a complete product to the public out of nowhere. So the studio decided to unveil it at PAX this year - rather than E3 "which is all developers, publishers, journalists and retail buyers".


It was a tough deal. Gearbox was desperate to avoid "hype", so couldn't let Microsoft, Sony or its retail partners know - "Then it would get out - it would be a promise again," - so complete code was difficult. They decided to show off as much as they could at the Penny Arcade show - direct to fans. Pitchford claims kids were "screaming" in shock at the Duke Nukem Forever logo - and queued for five hours.

The Gearbox man then turns to the screen, ready to show us a trailer. He explains: "The game is set 12 years after Duke 3D [when Duke saved the world. He's the most famous... guy on the planet. He owns his own hotel and casino in Vegas - he's in the penthouse suite."

Duke lives an "opulent, decadent, hedonistic" life, says Pitchford. He explains that the aliens have returned - supposedly in peace. The President and army have welcomed them - but their real mission soon becomes clear: To breed with human women to create a super army.

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