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



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Article - Why I Think We Will Play DNF In 2008

by aftli on Monday 9 June 2008

Hey everybody. You guys might happen to remember me as Brett Gmoser, the guy who made the MAP Editing FAQ for Duke Nukem 3D awhile back. I'm still very excited about DNF. Recent events (starting with small screenshots, all the way to the Jace Hall gameplay footage) have gotten me even more excited. I think I've got some good theories on why we'll see a release date this year. Of course this is all speculation at this point, but I figured I'd share my theories here.

So here is my reasoning behind all of this, in no particular order:
  • The DBJ article. Yes, we all know that the article and included release date speculation was denounced by George Broussard, but you can't deny that it actually happened and the article can't be ignored. Hell, DBJ was pretty pissed off over 3DR trying to discredit them that they actually went as far as to post an audio clip of Scott talking about the possibility of the game making this year. No matter the case, clearly there's an internal push to release the game by the end of 2008. And if there's an internal push, we know that it's at least remotely feasible.
  • The teaser trailer, and other small bits of media (small screenshots from early 2007). I think that 3D Realms are as excited to show off their hard work as we are to see it. As a developer, I know that praise really helps to keep the ball rolling on a long project. This can be used to speculate on a release date because of the fact that 3D Realms has been so tight lipped about the project, and if it wasn't getting close, I don't think they wouldn't be releasing that stuff.

    The fact is that while they clearly like messing with us, and getting us excited, they hadn't done it in years before early 2007. With 2002 came the dark era of DNF, and we really didn't hear much at all, aside from some news about a physics engine switch. It's likely the only reason we even heard about that was that they were helping to promote the engine itself, and they (and Meqon) knew that it would be big news when they announced the switch. My point is that if it weren't remotely close at all, they probably wouldn't be feeding us snacks like that.
  • The Jace Hall footage. To most of us, the game looked to be in a pretty good state of polish. Jason Hall described the game as being "a work in progress", but that he has "seen things shipped in far worse states of completion". Keeping in mind that the version of the game that he saw was circa six months before we saw it, we know that the game is in an even better state today, judging by recent statements about how well development is going now.

    Everybody noticed how well the game looked in this six month old footage, it was quite polished aside from some things that were likely there just for development purposes (the ego points when killing enemies, for example). George said that "We do polish passes on things all the time" and that "there are times when we lock down for 3-4 weeks and virtually everyone works on polish as a core goal", and also that they were just about to go through another of those polish passes very soon. With the game looking pretty polished six months ago, I believe that the upcoming polish pass will make the game good enough to make a real trailer. Which brings me to...
  • The renewed interest in trailer discussion. I'm talking about this post. Scott is asking us what we liked about the 2001 trailer, and I think that means they are ramping up to create a new trailer very soon.
  • Normal development time for today's modern games seems to be about five or six years. We know that DNF was restarted back around 2002, so it makes sense that the game would be in a pretty good state right about now. Development houses regularly churn out games much quicker than that. We know that George and co. are perfectionists, but also that development has been going "really well" and they probably have a large size team working on the project. Human Head started work on Prey in 2001, and finished by mid 2006.
  • We know there probably isn't going to be another restart. Scott Miller is quoted by the DBJ article as saying that they've finally achieved the goal of creating the super-interactive environment that they've wanted all along. We can probably speculate that previous iterations of the game weren't able to do this due to hardware constraints of the time.
  • Jon St. John did some recordings for 3D Realms. I don't know when he produced the recordings, but we know it was before the teaser trailer was produced in December of 2007. We can hypothesize that the four minute or so audio clip wasn't the only thing he produced, or at the very least 3D Realms has been in contact with him about the voice work for the game. I'm sure that there is no need for voice work if the game isn't in a pretty good state of completion, it just isn't totally necessary for development.

So, those are my clues that I'm basing my theory on. I feel we do have enough information these days to make an educated guess on an approximate release date. 3D Realms hasn't given us much, which really annoys me to be honest. We, the fans, are their bread and butter, and we are numerous. Aside from the jokers that just say stuff like "yeah, I'll believe it when I see it on a store shelf", there are those of us that are true fans of 3D Realms. Somehow I think that the DNF teaser trailer, for example, got much more attention than say even a DOOM 4 trailer from id Software would. Even if they're sick of hearing about it, there's really no harm at all in giving us periodic updates on the games progress.

As for the games current state of completion? Here's my educated guess. All of the monsters and enemies are in, and modeled. They are mostly complete, but may go through some more polish stages. Same with all of the weapons - from the gameplay footage, it looks like they are in a high state of completion as well, judging by the number of weapons that we can guess are available for selection in the HUD. Duke himself is in and modeled, and he's gone through some changes since the teaser trailer. Things like this are changing all the time due to feedback from fans - I fully expect that Duke's hair is redone by now due to the criticism over the model in the teaser trailer. Since we can guess that some voice work is done, then we can guess that the story line and most scripted gameplay elements are in a high state of completion as well. And if we can guess that, we can guess that much of the game maps are also in a high state of completion. George was quoted years ago now saying that it's "all polish from here on out". There's only so much polish they can do before they have a completed product.

Final verdict in my opinion? Much of the game is in a high state of completion at this point, and we can expect a trailer really soon. Once they do that, I think soon after we can expect them to be more public about the completion of the game. I'm looking forward to them doing weekly development updates, a-la Prey.

So here's looking forward to a trailer in July!

The more I think about that post, I think of things I want to elaborate on:
  • Currently I personally make a living as a software engineer. I don't actually work on games, but I feel I have pretty good insight into the software development process. The process should be largely similar for games, and I think things like Jon St. John doing voice-over work really speak volumes about the games current state.
  • I want to stress that while the above is all of course speculation, we currently have more information now than we have had since 2002 or so. And I really feel that information gives enough clues to speculate on an approximate release date.
  • 3D Realms really do seem excited to show things off, and we've all noticed they have been posting a bit more now in the forums. Given how tight lipped they have been in the past, this is a clear indication that at the very least, things are going well.
  • A lot of us expect a trailer in July or so. George has said that they will start this "media blitz" approximately six months before release, give or take. In my opinion, it'll be a "take" - they're planning on releasing the game less than six months after trailer. GTA IV took around 4 years to develop (work started in November 2004 according to the wikipedia article). The trailer was originally released in very late June of 2007, with a targeted release date of late October of the same year - about four months after the trailer. We know GTA IV didn't actually release in October of 2007, but it goes to show not only that game development houses and their publishers will release a trailer just four months before intended release, but that games can be in a very high state of completion at the time the trailer is released. My guess is that with previous missed milestones and release dates, 3D Realms isn't going to be a company that will "announce but not release" and miss another targeted date at this point. If we hear any speculation about a release window from 3D Realms directly, we can be pretty sure at this point that they'll hit their mark.
    Point being that if we get a trailer in July like we've all pretty much been expecting (even without recent Scott Miller comments about a trailer which indicate they're at least thinking about going forward with one), then we can be fairly confident that we'll see the game this year.
  • In the case of Duke, they simply don't need six months of hype. Word will travel really fast - the quote about six months from trailer to release is quite old now. In the days of Digg, Slashdot, Shacknews, etc, they simply don't need six months to hype a game. The game has been hyped for 12 years already, and once it's really close to completion they just aren't going to need another six months. They are a business like any other, and they're going to be really anxious to cash in on their hard work.

I really just can't wait for the "weekly development updates" or similar from them. We're so used to being so shut out with information about the game, that a weekly tid-bit like they did with Prey would be most welcome.