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Duke Nukem Forever interview: An end in sight


Duke Nukem Forever might actually be completed and released -- but like most everyone, I won't be convinced until the final product is in my hands. During a recent press event, I played through the same demo we saw at PAX and spoke with 2K Games senior producer Melissa Miller, who did her best to reassure me that the game might actually, maybe, seriously come out.

"It's really amazing when you think about it, because these guys -- along with everybody else -- thought Duke Nukem was dead," Miller recalled of one of the current developers, Triptych Games, which was founded by nine ex-members of 3D Realms. "And they were a group that just said, 'No, we're not gonna let this stop.'"

Miller confirmed that the Triptych staff is currently working out of the Gearbox offices in Plano, Texas. "It's all these guys who've been working for years and years and years," she explained. "And when people are like, 'Gearbox are taking over the game! Are they gonna change it?' It's like, 'No!' They have a group of guys who are part of the vision of making this game. Guys like Allen Blum -- who's the guy who created Duke, way back when."

"The architecture of the final game is there." - Melissa Miller, 2K Games

"The architecture of the final game is there," Miller said of Duke Nukem Forever's current state, much as it was when it landed in Gearbox's hands, "which is not to say it is necessarily the final experience." The team, she explained, has "begun polishing" the game, though, she added, "we're not towards the end."

"We know the game from A to Z, and now we're going in and looking at the individual elements," Miller said of the team's progress, reciting aloud some of the issues the team is on the lookout for: "Where are people getting tired? Where is the gameplay getting tedious? I've got these scripted sequences in the game with story info -- when are people not getting the story stuff?"

The combined efforts of Gearbox, Triptych and Piranha Games (up in Vancouver) are focused on getting the game together for a 2011 launch -- a comfortably large target date by which the game is to be finally completed. (Uh-oh, did I just jinx it again?) However, for the wary among us, three seemingly disparate development teams at work on DNF tends to give us greater pause. "A lot of the guys who aren't necessarily Triptych, but were Gearbox before they acquired the IP, still worked on Duke at some point," Miller assured. "Randy [Pitchford] and Brian [Martel] are perfect examples" -- both being founders of Gearbox and one-time 3D Realms staff.

DNF concept render by 3D Realms (2008)

Of course, the current 3D Realms staff is one team not working on the present incarnation of DNF, despite toiling over the project for more than a decade. Still, Pitchford maintains a close relationship with 3D Realms founder and co-owner George Broussard, who, along with partner Scott Miller, has unofficial ties to the current development. "George Broussard and Scott Miller are not actively involved on the project," Melissa Miller emphasized. "That's not to say that they are not people that Randy talks to. And I know Randy has a relationship with George Broussard because he worked with him. George Broussard is the guy that convinced Randy to move to Texas!" Miller laughingly noted.

With so much history in its making, I wondered if if DNF's various versions from over the years would be somehow incorporated into the final game -- like, say, playable "Quake II Engine" levels? Or perhaps an in-game vault stuffed with unlockable development memorabilia? "I can't comment on that!" Miller said with a coy laugh. That could be asking too much, of course -- at this point, some version of Duke Nukem Forever just needs to be completed. And if the demo is any indication, today's version is pretty good!

But as Duke himself points out in the game's still unreleased PAX trailer, "after 12 fucking years, it'd better be."

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