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Is Gearbox doing a good job handling the Duke Nukem IP?



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Duke Nukem 3D Overview

[ Enemies | Weapons | Items ]

Duke Nukem 3D was one of the biggest releases, if not THE biggest, ever to grace the genre. Unfortunately, time has allowed dust to settle on this title and it is now looked at as an obsolete game and some even dare to say its impact on modern games is null and void. This game was undeservantly neglected and overlooked indeed.

On July 1, 1991, the gaming company Apogee released what was to be the start of one of the most successful franchises in action gaming of our times. Duke Nukum was a hit but the real success was not foreseen. Duke Nukem II was then released two years later on December 1993. The name change from Nukum to Nukem was due to the initial "Nukum" being used as a result of Apogee believing Nukem to be a copyrighted name of another game character in Europe. It was found to be not copyrighted so Apogee brought back the original idea, "Nukem." Fans of Duke Nukem waited for Duke Nukem III.

While they waited, one of the partner companies of Apogee, ID Software, released several hugely-selling games that were revolutionary to the technology and gameplay of the action genre. Wolfenstein 3D was released between the two Duke Nukem games and for the time overshadowed the two games. This joint effort between Apogee and ID was the first game to popularize the first-person shooter genre. In 1993, ID Software began another huge franchise, Doom. Doom's shareware version is to this date being downloaded from the Internet. Doom included real floors and ceilings with variable heights and depths, skies, animated textures, shaded areas, and a lot more.

As promised, Apogee, known then as 3D Realms, delivered the third installment of the series on January 29, 1996 as a shareware title with the full release made in May. It was not merely a third side-scrolling entry of the series, but it was a three-dimensional shooter in the vein of Doom- it was Duke Nukem 3D. The game had many things unseen in previous games. It had such things as slopes, jumping and crouching, swimming above and under water, scalability of object size, one-liners from the main character, more realistic areas and interactivity, improved looking system, translucency, and a palette system that could give certain parts of the game different colors than the norm. It also came standard with an insanely easy level editor, which hailed a great many maps. It also was modifiable. Users found they could tweak a lot of the settings of the game through CON files. These were text documents with their own scripting language. Todd Replogle was credited with this scripting system.

Later in November of 1996, 3D Realms released a patch called the Plutonium Pak which upgraded the then-standard version 1.3D game to version 1.4. The resultant was the Atomic Edition, which included a fourth episode, new enemies, a new weapon, new art, and new abilities of the CON scripting language. More fixes were made in December and released as version 1.5. Duke Nukem 3D became one of the biggest selling action games of all time, even showing up as such in the 1999 Guinness Book of World Records- I personally have this copy. Not long after the Atomic Edition was released, the Duke Nukem community was insanely busy. One modification author, Scott McCabe, was hired by 3D Realms for his work, Layre. Eventually, Matt Saettler, former employee of Monolith, another partner company with 3D Realms, was granted use of the source code for Duke Nukem 3D and released a source edit called EDuke which allowed greater flexibility in CON's abilities, with use of variables and greatly improved weapon editing techniques. It was the editor's tool of choice.

The engine in Duke Nukem 3D, Build, was an incredibly successful engine, being used for twelve published games. Several of these releases became fairly big sellers, such as Shadow Warrior, another creation from 3D Realms, Redneck Rampage, made by Interplay, and Blood, created by Monolith. Several of these include huge changes in the engine, notably Blood, with a complex set of flags and variables in its modified Build editor, voxel model support, and room-over-room capabilities.

The buzz about Duke Nukem 3D was cut, however, with the start of the Quake series. Quake was the first shooter to include polygonal models, perceived as being real 3D models. Duke Nukem 3D was also forgotten with the help of releases such as Half-Life, arguably another of the greatest titles to hit shelves with a mix of first-person shooter and RPG-esque styles, and Unreal, which wowed users with its beautiful artwork. There were several recent releases that attempted greatness, but- let’s be honest- they’re not worth the mention.

In the end, Duke Nukem 3D has become an underrated game because newer releases have expanded expectations in people to even seek new ideals from older releases such as Duke Nukem 3D. Personally I don’t see a respect for the older games that formed the solid foundation. It honestly saddens me to see complaints against the graphics and gameplay because they’re “old school.” As someone who still plays older games regularly, I can safely say it’s not for nostalgia purposes, but because I still honestly, for one, get enjoyment from my older games. But this is getting sidetracked. Duke Nukem 3D set the stage for many of our games today and in the end its success was forgotten. It will live on in the hearts and minds of true first-person shooter fans.

Roger Ondra,
Wednesday 01 September 2004