Duke Nukem Forever: The inside story

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

Duke Nukem Forever. It's a myth, it's folklore - it's a PUNCHLINE, for Chrissake's.

Except it's not. Not anymore. Not now Randy Pitchford and the team at Gearbox have their hands on it.

It's real. Better than that, it's finished. All the bitterness, the lawsuits, the hurt, the giggles, the frustration - forget them.

But it hasn't been an easy ride. As Pitchford explained to CVG and assembled UK press at a special London event this morning, it's been one hell of a journey.

The highlights of his incredible DNF story are repeated below. Settle in:


Can you believe this? This is pretty wild. It's crazy this is even possible. It should be impossible. But it's here.

How did this happen? Before Gearbox, my first job in games was in Dallas... with Scott Miller, George Broussard and [the team] at 3D Realms. I was part of the Duke Nukem 3D team.

Duke is part of my legacy. I owe him my career. Life would be very different for me now if I started my career working on something else.

When I left 3D Realms in 1997, Duke Nukem Forever was just beginning development. We started on the the Build engine, then the Quake engine was licensed.

From that moment on, I was on the outside looking in - just like you guys; just like the journalists, just like the fans.

What a crazy story. It's hard to fathom how it could take 12 years to do anything.

Duke Nukem 3D innovated in the shooter genre. It had action followed by puzzle moments. You can see that influence in Half-Life, where it became much more contextual.

[3D Realms] were saying: "It will ship when it's done. Trust us." It was: "Okay, you're the game-makers."

But then it was the year 2000. We'd already played Daikatana by now! In 2001 they released an incredible trailer. I was working on Half-Life on PS2 at the time.

I believed again! It had been so long - but now I was going to get to play this wonderful thing!


[But I didn't]. 'Dude! This is insane! What's wrong with you f*cking people!' Then they'd release a screenshot, then we'd get excited... and then we'd get pissed [because the game didn't arrive].

Duke Nukem Forever became something to make fun of. I remember Wired was doing a Vapourware Games Of The Year feature. Duke Nukem Forever was No.1 the first year. It was the most vapour-ous of all the vapourware.

Then it won the next year... and the next year. Duke was the king all right - the king of vapourware. He won the lifetime achievement award [from Wired].

After all that believing, lusting, anger, confusion and making fun... Duke was a weird thing.

Then there was the bad news in May 2009. You all saw the stories; 3D Realms was shutting down, Duke was dead. That sucked. It was tough being in Dallas, many of my friends lost their jobs.


I spoke to George Broussard and he said, 'Randy, this is the worst day of my life'. But you could hear in his voice there was more. This was 12 years of his life... try and imagine what you've achieved in 12 years. Gearbox had made 15 games in that time.

George Broussard is not a poor man - but I would estimate that he spent 20 to 30 million dollars of his own money on Duke Nukem Forever. I don't care who you are, that's a hell of a lot of money. He was committed to Duke to the point of insanity - and now Duke was dead.

Eventually he ran out of time... he ran out of money. He decided to burn the whole thing down rather than let something bad [happen] to it, you know, for it to come out and be no good.

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