Duke Nukem Forever Wins The True Lifetime Achievement Award For Vaporware: Coming Out Never

from the duke-nukem-for-never dept

As plenty of folks know, the video game Duke Nukem Forever has long topped Wired’s annual vaporware list. It’s been promised for over a decade, and has always been a work in progress. Wired actually got so sick of having it at the top of the vaporware awards that it tried to push it off the list by giving it a “lifetime achievement award.” But that was way back in 2003… and the fact that it stayed vaporware for a while meant that it came back on the list. However, it appears the game has now transcended all vaporware and officially become permanent vaporware as the developer working on it has shut down. At this point, it’s hardly a surprise, but it does sorta make you wonder what they were working on for the past twelve years…

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Companies: 3d realms

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Comments on “Duke Nukem Forever Wins The True Lifetime Achievement Award For Vaporware: Coming Out Never”

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SteveD says:

Gamers are always complaining about publishers forcing titles out before they are ‘complete’, requiring technical fixes and gameplay patches over the following months.

But Duke Nukem Forever demonstrates the danger of a ‘Its done when its done’ attitude in the creative industry; a lack of enforced deadlines can mean something is never really finished.

Matt says:

Re: Re:

please. There’s a thing called balance. We want a game to be complete (and more importantly, well tested) when it’s ready for release, and not rushed out.

Duke Nukem Forever is the extreme scenario, not the norm.

Sometimes a game takes forever to come out and is still broken such as Darkfall.

SteveD says:

Re: Re: Balance

And finding balance is part of the art of project management . But how complete is ‘complete’? As the saying goes, most projects spend 95% of their time being 95% complete.

So how do you define ‘rushed’ and how do you define ‘complete’?

A gamer who finds a bug that causes a fatal crash might complain the game wasn’t complete or well tested, but consider this; you could put 1’000 man-hours of testing into a game and have it exceeded by 10’000 hours of play-time by your customers in the first week of release (what’s more customers with a far more varied combination of technology then you had available to test with).

So you run beta’s and you squash what bugs you can, but there’s really no such thing as perfect code even if your engineers will happily waste months of time trying to create it.

But these are simply technical challenges. There are artistic challenges in coming up with an idea but not releasing a game around it for years; what seemed innovative originally becomes dated by release. That’s what happened to the infamous Daikatana. This is also what has happened to Duke Nukem Forever; they kept ‘updating’ the graphics engine to keep it looking modern, in the process throwing away years of work.

If you listen to the developer commentary of the Half Life 2 games the developers mention a bunch of features they’d originally intended to be in a title but (due to un-realistic expectations of development time or complexity) had to shelve for future titles. A fan might consider this evidence of an uncompleted game, but good managers know better.

Matt says:

Re: Re: Re: Balance

no game has an equal level of rushed vs complete. That is absolutely something on a case by case scenario.

What kinds of things mean rushed? Failing to acknowledge flaws when they are found, insufficient periods of beta testing (and insufficient periods of open beta testing) are certainly 2 things that are extreme indicators of this. Doing short open/closed betas is not only bad for development but bad for marketing as well.

Other things: making sure things are consistent, having games tested by testers internally (not by employees, but tested at the company by external individuals) are all extremely important facets.

Other things: How about proper hardware support/keeping a as trim/optimized as possible (demigod is an example of releasing too early with that). People recognize it’s not going to be perfect out the door but “not horrible” is expected if not required.

When a game has huge gamebreaking inherent flaws, that would be rushing to production. When you pull a game at the last minute and say “we’re releasing it next month instead”, that shows that you’re not rushing. So it is just as much people’s perspective as it is legitimate issues.

I myself have done gaming beta testing hired by companies, volunteer, open beta, and other forms for 13 years, and I’m only 26 (I started with Konami/Virgin). There are ways to do this well, and of course larger companies have easier resources to do so.

Adam says:

Re: Re: Re: Balance

They obviously got way too stuck in waterfall mode on DNF. But look at a game like Too Human. That was originally set to be on the Gamecube, and ended up releasing on the Xbox 360. It was so badly balanced in terms of play that, for example, your character could be poisoned, and you would watch your health drain all the way to the point where it killed you without any way of healing yourself. Unless you picked the ONE character version with a healing ability to play as. Encounters were far apart, with little points of interest in between. It was one of the most downloaded demos on Xbox Live, and sales tanked. Clearly, more dev time was needed, even after all the years they put into it. I could see DNF happening the same way. Everybody stuck dithering over something, and nobody in a leadership position strong enough to say, “This is what we’re doing, now stop talking about it and get to work!”

Anonymous Poster says:

At this point, it’s hardly a surprise, but it does sorta make you wonder what they were working on for the past twelve years…

Nothing, really. The last game 3D Realms developed internally was released in 1997; since then, they’ve mainly been publishing others’ games.

3D Realms deserved to die.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, when I was reading the articles on Google news yesterday I kept hearing the quote about the Duck Nukem trilogy was still in production and work on DNF was on schedule. I started laughing when I read that last part.

“Deep Silver and Apogee Software are not affected by the situation at 3D Realms” and that “Development on the Duke Nukem Trilogy is continuing as planned.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I think that people are missing part of the reason this game and similar games get pushed back so often. They start by being ambitious and trying to be the top of the line ground breaking game, but then get behind schedule. Which means that by their release date the game will be a dud, so they then need to entirely redesign large portions of the game either to stay up to date with graphics, or to add new features or to make the game play longer or deeper, or the level design more complex. But then since the management is clearly the issue, those features only push the game further behind schedule, until everything for the game except for potentially the script is reset, and they start from scratch.

It isnt hard to see how this could happen, its just unfortunate that it does.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what happened.

However, there was a certain amount of laziness you forgot to factor in. DNF started out with a Quake2 engine, if my memory serves me. Because the engine and physics were already set, there was simply no reason DNF could not have been released within a year.

Sure when the Quake3 engine was released, they decided to change gears and start all over again. However, once again, DNF could have been released a year later.

And when it switched to the Unreal engine, once again, it could have been released a year later.

Sure their drive for perfection was a huge problem, but clearly their completely lack of actual work on the game led to its downfall too.

JohnForDummies (profile) says:

It’s a hard thing to balance… to have a franchise as popular as Duke Nukem (esp. with the hype behind Duke Nukem Fornever), which direction do you go? On the one hand, it has to be GOOD or you risk disappointing your legion of fans, on the other hand, it has so many fans, the game coulda been “Duke fartin’ on a snare drum” and it would have made millions. Had the developers not started over every time a new 3D engine came out, maybe they could have released SOMETHING.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why doesn’t Obama give a tax credit to the folks who can bring it to market?

$3T was found elsewhere. If he’s such a geek as the media makes him out to be, he’d understand…

Then again, he still hasn’t showed up to get his Stan Lee signed copy of Spiderman at Colbert yet either.

Hmm. Priorities… Yes, let’s spend $3T on whatever the hell sounds good. Has anyone torn apart the new budget yet?

Ryan says:

Re: Re:

Actually, that sounds like it would fit in absolutely perfectly with Obama’s current strategy; provide 3D Realms with a $10-20 billion bailout, ostensibly so that they retain their jobs and the nation is not critically damaged by the cancellation of Duke Nukem Forever. Given that they never actually do anything, the administration would likely see this as an ideal project since it would “require” more billions every six months or so to stay afloat, although I doubt 3D Realms has expended much of their capital on lobbying bribes–which could hurt them if they attempt to pursue this course of action. I really would not be the least bit surprised…

Yakko Warner says:

Working on the engine

There’s a theory that they were just working on the engine, and that the “DNF project” was really just a research project for technology used in the Unreal engine. It helps to explain how they stayed in business, throwing resources into a project that never got finished, if they sold the tech for things like Unreal and Gears of War.

I don’t know how much stock I put in it, but it’s a nice theory… 😉

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