Believe it or not, but just over 13 years ago a group of huddled journalists excitedly scribbled in their notepads after hearing the first news of 3D Realms' Duke Nukem Forever.
But before the well-deserved triumphant reaction to Gearbox's phoenix-like rescue job, there was heartbreak. Lots of it:
The first iteration of Forever ran on the then-cutting edge Quake II engine and the debut screenshots in a November issue of PC Gamer looked far above anything else around in terms of visual quality. Speaking in that issue of PCG, Scott Miller said that the game would be released in 1998.
The first trailer (which you can watch below) was unveiled at E3 1998 and showed the first in-game footage of Duke Forever. However, the following month 3D Realms announced that it would be porting the shooter sequel over to Epic's Unreal engine, and reassured fans that the transition from Quake to Unreal would take only "a month to 6 weeks" and Forever would be released the following year in 1999.
...then in 1999 3D Realms backtracked, announcing that it would be upgrading to the newer version of Unreal Engine, and released a Christmas card suggesting that Duke Nukem Forever was now set for the year 2000.
Almost a year later publisher Gathering of Developers announced that it would be taking over publishing duties for Forever, and 3D Realms released another Christmas card suggesting it would finally release in 2001.
At E3 2001 a second Duke Nukem Forever trailer was released (see below), revealing a few minutes of new gameplay footage including impressive game features such as destructible environments, advanced AI, weather effects and massive draw distance. The trailer, amazingly, still looks quite good today.
But it was never to see the light of day. Gathering of Developers closed down in August 2001, Take-Two took over publishing duties and Duke Nukem Forever was once again thrown into limbo.
In 2002, 3D Realms went back to the drawing board, hiring an army of new programmers and scrapping over 95 percent of the previous level design work in the process. The new engine was built using parts of Unreal Engine 2, with everything else written from scratch by the Nukem developer.
In early 2003 Take-Two CEO Jeffrey Lapin stated that Duke Nukem Forever would not be released that year. Duke creator George Broussard responded by telling Shacknews that "Take-Two needs to STFU imo". Later that year Jeffrey Lapin said that 3D Realms told him DNF was now expected late 2004 or early 2005.