3D Realms: A Post Mortem
by: Dr. Boogie

Friends, I want to tell you a story. A story about a little company called 3D Realms. They made video games. Mostly, they were a publisher, but they developed some of games of their own, too. Most notably, they were the ones responsible for Duke Nukem 3D, the first person shooter that taught us corny machismo and ultra violence combine to make a rockin' good time. Things were looking good for the company, until they tried to create a sequel entitled "Duke Nukem Forever".

Fans of the site know that I have had the utmost faith in Duke Nukem Forever since it was first announced in 1997. I wasn't bothered at all by the knowledge that the game was record-breaking in its tardiness. The developers assured us that the game would have "unprecedented interactivity," and I believed them. I was confident that the game would be great. It would have to be. I mean, can you imagine being involved in developing a game for that long, only to have it be god awful? You'd have to put your entire development staff on a suicide watch.

A couple weeks ago, nearly twelve-and-a-half years after the game was first announced, the company hit a bit of a snag: They ran out of money and fired everyone who was working on DNF. So what happened? What went wrong with this game developer that was only developing one game and took over a decade to do so? If you were to ask the people who ran the company, you'd probably get a response like "when it's done," or "STFU".

That's why, with the help of the intrepid interns of the I-Mockery research division, I have recovered a long list of some of the more important events to occur during the course of the game's 12-year development process:

April, 1997:

Duke Nukem Forever is announced as a follow-up to the wildly successful Duke Nukem 3D. To celebrate, George Broussard, co-creator of the character and creative director for the title, commissions a 10-foot concrete likeness of Duke Nukem. The contractor states that it will take three months for the statue to be completed. Eight months later, the statue was still under construction, and all inquiries made to the contractor were met with the same response: "when it's done."

February, 1998:

Broussard fires roughly half of the entire level design team after learning that many of the levels in the latest build had been plagiarized from other works. The issue comes to a head during playtesting of the new "Walden Pond" arena map.

April, 1999:

Prey, another project under development by 3D Realms, is canceled. Fans of the upcoming shooter were disappointed by the news. As a consolation, 3D Realms would pick the game back up years later and release it as a mediocre FPS with a shellac of good graphics and no challenge whatsoever.

I have "reservations" about this game.

March, 2002:

As part of their push to provide unheard of levels of interactivity in the game, 3D Realms manages to work in a 3-point shootout minigame using the actual game physics. A few days later, the developers organize a company-wide tournament. Unfortunately, they lose their very first match to the QA department. In response, George Broussard decides to switch the game to a different physics engine.

May, 2003:

Jeff Lapin, The CEO of Take Two, expressed some doubts about DNF being released this year. In response, George Broussard commented that "Take Two needs to STFU". Some members of his staff worry that insulting their publisher might not be a sound business strategy, but Broussard scoffs at the notion, saying that sometimes the best way to communicate with a business partner is to insult them publicly. "And besides," he reasoned, "it's not like we'll ever need anything from Take Two.

September, 2003:

Rumors surface that Bruce Campbell is working on another big movie. George Broussard decides to put development of DNF on hold, in the hopes that this new movie will supply him with new quotes for Duke. Broussard had done this before for Bubba Ho-tep, but ultimately decided to pass on "I'll lube my own crankshaft from now on!"

"It's time to kick ass and crank out more cheesy one-liners, and I'm all out of creativity."

November, 2004:

The decision is made to switch the physics engine once again; this time to Qwarc, the new quantum physics engine. The new engine claims to revolutionize in-game physics by allowing programmers to add in considerations for condensed matter physics, chemical bonding, electromagnetism, and a host of other fundamental forces of nature not normally found in modern FPS games. Unfortunately, the new engine doesn't contain any settings for gravity. The programming department is devastated by a wave of aneurisms during the struggle to stop all the world geometry from floating off into space.

Give Albert Einstein the Unreal Engine and this happens.

June, 2006:

Take-Two Interactive, the new publishers of the game, reportedly offer a $500,000 bonus if the game is released by the end of the year. Broussard balks at the idea, saying "if I cared about making money, don't you think I would've finished this game by now? And where's my statue!?"

October, 2006:

In a controversial move, development is reset once again, this time with the entire game being rendered with the new Line Rider Engine. Early screenshots confirmed rumors that a sled-bound Duke would be fighting off pig cops while traveling along a cursive rendition of, "hail to the king, baby!" (Landing on the comma was said to trigger a bonus level, but the level designers were unable to complete it before the next big redesign)

Duke Nukem Forever
E1M1: The Widowmaker

January, 2007:

Interest in Duke Nukem Forever is lagging thanks, in large part, to there being no substantial news about its release for months. Even more troubling, several of the programmers have died of old age in the midst of development. George Broussard sees an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (or in his words, "to kick two asses with one boot"): he posts a job opening on the 3D Realms site for programmers, along with a screenshot from Duke Nukem Forever. Unfortunately, this came right after he instituted a mini-reset, namely keeping all the levels, but deleting everything within them (props, monsters, weapons, Duke Nukem, etc). Always one to think on his feet, Broussard orders one of the interns to paint a couple of his pewter Duke Nukem figurines, stand them in front of a monitor showing one of the empty levels from the game, and take a picture. After some liberal use of the blur tool, along with a substantial drop in resolution, it is slightly harder to tell the "screenshots" were faked. The post goes up, and interest in the game spikes for almost thirty minutes.

Duke Nukem, as seen through your grandmother's cataracts.

December, 2007:

Former Monolith CEO, Jason Hall, is taken on a tour of the 3D Realms studio for an episode of his web show. When asked why Duke Nukem Forever is taking so long, George Broussard admits that the source of the delays is a lack of focus on the part of the lead developers, a lack of communication between the creative director and the rest of the team, and a lack of motivation due to the company setting its own milestones and deadlines for the game. Broussard goes onto admit that he believed the profits from rehashing Duke Nukem 3D every year or so would be enough to cover the seemingly endless development costs for Duke Nukem Forever. In retrospect, Broussard confessed that he wished the game had been turned out after the first big engine switch so that the company could recoup some of its losses and show the gaming world it still had what it takes to make good games in a timely fashion.

After some consideration, Broussard decides to scrap this answer. In its place, he blames the delay of DNF on cocaine, hookers, and World of Warcraft.

Pictured: George Broussard (Creative Director) and Scott Miller (3D Realms CEO)
Not Pictured: A finished copy of Duke Nukem Forever

April, 2008:

George Broussard discovers Twitter, giving him the chance to dangle an even smaller carrot in the face of the dwindling DNF community. He briefly considers resetting development again to celebrate.

February, 2009:

George Broussard announces, via Twitter, that the game is entering the final stages of development. Rumors begin spreading that DNF will see a 2009 release. Things are really looking up for the company.

May, 2009:

All but two members of the company are fired, and the remaining two are preparing for a lawsuit from Take Two. Adding insult to injury, the Duke Nukem statue finally arrives at the offices of 3D Realms, albeit missing an arm and bearing the likeness of Kurt Russell instead of Duke Nukem.

Which brings us to the present. The future seems bleak for the infamous title, but some gamers (mostly confined to the 3D Realms forums) believe that someday, somehow, Duke Nukem Forever will see the light of day. I'm here to tell you that despite losing nearly everyone who has put even a minute of work into the game, it is still not technically "dead". Rather, it is in a "persistent vegetative state".

Still, I suppose it is about time to say goodbye. Farewell, Duke Nukem! You'll live on in our hearts, and in the countless reiterations of your earlier games. And farewell to you, 3D Realms! I'm still waiting on the sequel to Shadow Warrior!

Questions or Comments about this piece?
Dr. Boogie

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

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Reader Comments

drifting in the void
May 28th, 2009, 05:44 AM
I have a very simple formula: There are two reasons why the development of a Video-/Computergame can take more than five years:

a) You´re Blizzard Entertainment

b) You´re just slow and your game will have a 75% Chance to suck quite a bit.

or in this case, there´s a special C:

c) You´re a bunch of lazy liars that couldn´t get a mediocre game done, even if your job depended on it. Fits 3d Realms post-Duke3d rather well I think

I sometimes wonder, what the hell they were doing all the time (Drinking in Mexico, smoking Crack in Atlantis, every 3 months, someone has to write a half-assed excuse why they don´t have anything to show...again) and why the publishers couldn´t see through such an obvious charade...ah well.
Last of the Time Lords
May 28th, 2009, 05:49 AM
Ah, DNF. So fun to tease my gamer friends about. In some ways I think they actually prefer this to the damn thing getting released.

After 12 years, each copy of the game could come with a free clone of the centerfold of your choice and it still wouldn't live up to the hype. At least now, the Nukem fans can pretend that it really would have been the shining beacon of perfection they always dreamed about.
I am Johnny Luchador
May 28th, 2009, 09:50 AM
I myself also waited for this game Dr. boogie. I had faith that 3d Realms could do it, but what it all comes down to is that Duke Nukem Forever is mythical like the Sasquatch, and the McRib Sandwich at McDonalds.
May 28th, 2009, 10:29 AM
I'm sure someone could have even made a half decent DNF knockoff from a half life mod by now.

.....Someone go do that.
May 28th, 2009, 11:11 AM
We all know the best Build engine FPS was Blood, and Monolith needs to get off their asses and make a Blood 3 instead of fucking up the FEAR franchise.
skank pronger
May 28th, 2009, 11:22 AM
By not being released, DNF has achieved legendary status like the Beach Boys' "Smile" or Prince's "Black Album."
What Video Games?
May 28th, 2009, 11:31 AM
Stange article. But it is amusing to see how this game played itself through. Sadly, Starcraft: Ghost's tepid story isn't nearly aas amusing as this.

RIP Duke Nukem. Shame you couldn't take Lara Croft with you. Gamepro had a wierd knack of coupling you two together (Hell, are they still around? I know EGM & Tips&Tricks are gone. Or at least a couple videogame mags are gone.)
Token Bleeding Heart
May 28th, 2009, 01:05 PM
This made me pretty depressed over all the great games that COULD have been made, but were scrapped at the last minute. Hell, I was freaking out for Ghost and DNF so bad...
A little slice of wisdom
May 28th, 2009, 02:34 PM
I remember playing a 2D side scroller version of Duke back in the day before the game resembled doom.

I'm going to miss you Duke. ( Dies inside)
Shinobi Hero
May 28th, 2009, 11:36 PM
I loved them better when they used to be Apogee. Man, they had awesome games back then... I'm going to miss those guys.

Duke Nukem 3D was a title of 3D Realms' that I was proud to own when I first got it in 1996. I've still got it intact in it's entirety, manual, jewel case and all, for the past 13 years! Had a lot of good times playing it, too. Plus, it came with the full versions of the first Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II, which made it even more worthwhile.
May 28th, 2009, 11:39 PM
Videogames in the 90's were just awesome. I remember having CD's full of demos and wanting to have the original version of everyone I liked. Playing the demos was enough to keep me entertained for a good while. The shareware edition of Doom is the prime example.

Nice article, doc. Keep up the research.
May 28th, 2009, 11:41 PM
By the way, I have to agree with OxBlood and Angryhydralisk about games from Blizzard Entertainment that are delayed for plenty of time without notice. Starcraft II is taking too damn long and it is evident that Starcraft Ghost is a dead topic.
Funky Dynamite
May 29th, 2009, 02:08 AM
The thing with Blizzard is that while one of their A-list titles was taking a while, you could be sure there was another game/expansion for a different series coming up a year or two later. Lately, it's been just a stream of WoW expansions, but who knows. Maybe Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and the new IP they're developing will get things back on track again.
is hopped up on goofballs
May 29th, 2009, 12:01 PM
Not to point anyone to someone else's site, but Yahtzee's "review" of DNF is goddamn hilarious.
Last of the Time Lords
May 29th, 2009, 01:27 PM
Yeah, I watched that. It's got to be his best one yet.
Funky Dynamite
May 29th, 2009, 02:55 PM
It really is spectacular. I don't think there's any other way to handle this tragedy than with irony.
May 29th, 2009, 04:19 PM
I liked watching that video of the unreleased game. It looked fun.
Kat Kat is offline
Breathes Comics
May 29th, 2009, 04:51 PM
Give me god mode, and RPG, and five minutes.
Pickled Patriarch
May 29th, 2009, 06:49 PM
Originally Posted by Dr. Boogie View Post
The thing with Blizzard is that while one of their A-list titles was taking a while, you could be sure there was another game/expansion for a different series coming up a year or two later. Lately, it's been just a stream of WoW expansions, but who knows. Maybe Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and the new IP they're developing will get things back on track again.
Having played both games, I can say that they are definitely going to rule - particularly Diablo 3. That is honestly the nicest looking, smoothest game I've ever had the change to play and I look forward to it taking over my life.

Starcraft 2 is gonna be a blast as well, though I wish they weren't splitting it up into those 3 separate releases. They can say it was for whatever reason they want, but to us gamers, it just looks like money-grubbing.
May 29th, 2009, 09:21 PM
What I would like to know is how the hell has Deckard Cain managed to stay alive during all the saga. How come that a guy that already looked old enough in the first Diablo still has his wrinkly old ass 20 years after the events in Diablo II?
Former Virgin
May 29th, 2009, 09:24 PM
I think it would be spectacular if they announced the release and made a huge show of it. It would start with one really good level that turns into a rick roll. Every copy. A rick roll. It would be the ultimate fu to the fans. Then we could all move on.
Forum Virgin
May 30th, 2009, 02:27 AM
Very nice article, very funny.

While I've never even played any of the DN games, I can't really expect DNF to have been all that great for all the hypes it's gotten.

Your still my favorite writer on this site Boogie, you gonna be working on any more ROM hack reviews anytime soon?
May 31st, 2009, 03:39 PM
Chinese Democracy thinks Duke Nukem Forever was going too sluggishly :P
Funky Dynamite
May 31st, 2009, 04:45 PM
Originally Posted by Earthbound_X View Post
Very nice article, very funny.

While I've never even played any of the DN games, I can't really expect DNF to have been all that great for all the hypes it's gotten.

Your still my favorite writer on this site Boogie, you gonna be working on any more ROM hack reviews anytime soon?
I'm planning on getting back into rom hacks sooner or later. These days, I'm dividing my time between writing for the site and sending out resumés, so it's been slow going to say the least.
May 31st, 2009, 07:20 PM
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
High Priest of Burbank
Jun 1st, 2009, 10:48 AM
I second the Rick Roll idea.

It's true that DNF had a longer development cycle than Chinese Democracy, although I'm not sure which one went through more staff.
High Priest of Burbank
Jun 1st, 2009, 10:49 AM
Oh, wait, I'm sorry, "development cycle" implies that it came all the way around.
Jun 1st, 2009, 09:08 PM
Damn, now I'll never get to see digital strippers rendered at a level previously unknown to man.
Funky Dynamite
Jun 1st, 2009, 09:24 PM
At least not in an "M" level title.
Forum Chaos Lord
Jun 2nd, 2009, 04:46 PM
What's the biggest bit of humor is how few of these were edited by Boogie. Normally his mock-tastic articles show a bit of digression for comedic impact, but this time, to say anything really would only have detracted from the hilarity.
King of the Monsters
Jun 2nd, 2009, 11:00 PM
Well this is what happens when you buckle under the pressure of your own hype, wanting to remain "cutting edge and relevant", and not wanting to swallow whatever pride you have and admit to making a mistake.

If it happens after, say, a year or so... people will forgive your dumb ass for such missteps... but not doing so after... 12 freaking years... just makes you look legendarily ridiculously stupid.

3D Realms shoulda released the damn thing instead of keep trying to outdo the then current FPS competition.
Jun 14th, 2009, 05:16 PM
I can't say I was a big Duke Nukem fan (please don't kill me everybody), but this was still a pretty funny article. Just a couple notes.

Dr.Boogie - Kudoes on the Lewis Black reference. DNF definitely qualifies as "persistent vegitative state."

ROG - Do you honestly think Diablo 3 will be worth the wait? I sure hope it is, because if it isn't, I will seriously be going on a mass killing spree the day it gets released.
Space Case
Jun 19th, 2009, 02:10 AM
You know what would be nice? What if Bethesda bought the Duke Nukem liscence and actually put out the game, like the Fallout sequel?
Jul 1st, 2009, 05:43 PM

3D Realms A Post Mortem

I know this is for the new kids and new members but Hi its been a long time since I seen everyone. Yes Im one of the old timers but havent talked or seen anyone in like years. I think Ill welcome myself back to the realms.
Forum Virgin
Apr 5th, 2010, 11:02 AM
Whoa. My PC broke down last year, so I missed this one.

Really ... I'm not surprised 3D Realms and the DNF team went under, what did surprise me is:

1 - it took so long
2 - they were still "trying" to do it
3 - Huh? They're still developing it? I thought they had abandoned it by now!

BTW, Prey may have been cancelled in 1998, but it was one of the original reasons DNF got bumped. 3D Realms didn't want to show off its Prey engine until Prey was released, so they switched DNF to the Quake2 engine... which is another ironic event, as Duke3D took potshots at that series with the "Ain't afraid of no Quake" easter egg. Little did we know that Prey would die, and that the Q2 engine switch was the first of many switches they would do. I lost interest sometime after they switched to the Unreal one.
Nuclear Waffle
Jun 18th, 2010, 07:04 AM
Blaster Atoms, I fully agree with you. Bethesda is one of the greatest publishers at getting games out and making them good. The only problem, Bethesda specializes in Action RPGs, so it would be like DN3D and Mass Effect, Fallout 3, or New Vegas combined. I don't know how that would work for Duke fans. And it might not be released in stores, or at least will give a bonus to those who preorder it on the Steam platform, and I'm sure that there are some people who won't feel safe with their ownership of a game tied to one account on a web service, even if Valve is good at keeping down the loss of accounts. Hell, they even say in chat what not to do. Such as, Don't give away your account information to anyone.
Forum Virgin
Feb 3rd, 2011, 11:16 PM
update:DNF is being released this month!!!

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