10:29 Ah, Duke Nukem Forever - when 3D Realms announced the Duke Nukem sequel to plenty of giddy excitement (back in, er, well a really long time ago), little did we know how literal that sub-title would prove to be. It's famously taken forever to emerge, but despite this it's still very much alive and kicking and 3D Realm's George Broussard has recently provided an update on the progress of the first-person shooter.
Quipping in an interview with website 1UP.com that Duke Nukem Forever will be out "when pigs fly", Broussard quickly slipped into more sensible mode and revealed that things are "definitely going well now" for the game. "Things are together, we're in full production", he said, explaining that the studio is currently "just pulling all the pieces together and making the game out of it."
He went on to say that there's a lot of the game that's complete, including all the guns and most of the creatures, and that 3D Realms is putting everything together and "trying to make it fun". "We've kind of got all these disassociated elements that make up a game, and you put them together and things happen. And then you just tweak it and polish it until it's fun, and that's kind of the phase we're in now, just trying to make something that is really fun to play and interesting," Broussard concluded.
Quite how long it will be until progress on Duke Nukem Forever is at a stage where the developer will be happy to finally re-show the game in its new guise is anyone's guess. Each year since its last public showing at E3 2001, it's been whispered that the FPS will appear at the event but it's never materialised. The same whispers now suggest DNF will be present at E3 2006. To be honest, we'd be surprised if it makes it but, if it's there, well, let's just hope it proves worth the long wait.
Even after all this time, we'd still like to 'come get some'.
Yeah, sure, whatever. I'm sure we will not see this game this year or next year.
Here is the whole interview. We haven't heard a peep from old Duke for a long time but this seems to be a sign of life oh him...
George Broussard may be one of the co-founders of 3D Realms, but he's best known for his connection to Duke Nukem. A decade ago that fame was born of his role in creating the Duke Nukem the character and Duke Nukem 3D the game, but things have changed since then. As the years have rolled by without the arrival of its sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, he's become something of an Internet celebrity for his simple answer to when we'll see it: "When it's done." That's the same thing he said for Prey, and guess what, it almost is. So, we figured what better time to catch up with him, see what a decade's worth of development on Prey has been like and if any of it could shed some light on what it must be like for their other team working on DNF.
1UP: So I can start off: Just kind of take us back to 95 and just kind of tell us what was it like at Apogee/3D Realms back then. What was going on?
George Broussard: In 95?
1UP: Yeah. Back to the first days.
GB: Well, in 95 we were still working on Duke Nukem 3D, and so it was pretty hectic, just trying to get that game finished and basically trying to move from being a shareware developer doing smaller games to doing more large-scale games to try to get into the retail space. And then obviously, Duke went out and did really, really well in 96, and we were all really happy with the results from that. We started looking at wanting to expand a little bit and start another team, and that's kind of how we started building the Prey team.
1UP: So it's an important point that I didn't have noted yet, but that's something a lot of people have forgotten about, Shareware. What do you think happened the whole idea or the whole notion of Shareware games and getting games out that way?
GB: I think it still works and it's valid, it's just all the big players in that arena left. It was pretty much us and Epic and id that really, I think, pretty much led the Shareware revolution with games. And we all started doing retail games and larger-scale games and nobody really came in to pick up the slack. My theory has always been that the mods came out, for like Quake and Half-Life and Unreal and those kind of games, so people who had game design talent just started making mods for games rather than trying to make smaller-scale games and Shareware where they could, you know, make games with three or four people and make some money with it. Everybody either tried to go really large-scale with games, or they just took the easy path and made a mod.
1UP: So it's not really so much that they went away, they just kind of shifted what they were doing.
GB: Yeah, I think what happened is that the Internet became really, really huge and exploded, and I think a lot of those people went to doing Java games and Flash games and smaller things like that. It's still kind of around, but I'm not sure anybody really does the Shareware method kind of how Apogee did it originally, where you just plug your game into three different sections and give one away and sell the other two. It's this completely different model today with people like PopCap and those kind of places.
1UP: Right. Well, it was cool. I remember that, the 3.5-inch discs. Yeah. Um, so, you finished up Nukem, and you guys have been really busy. How does Prey start to take shape? What were some of the things you were bouncing around?
GB: Really, it was just that we wanted to do a full 3D game with a 100-percent 3D engine. And the idea was basically to make a science-fiction game around a Native American character, just because we thought that would be interesting. It was kind of fresh. I guess it was about the same time Turok was out. We didn't really get inspiration from that, but it was just kind of timing coincidence thing. But we just really wanted to make probably a more serious sci-fi shooter than Duke was, with a different character. Duke had pretty much claimed the throne of a guy who's all macho and who goes out there and just wants to fight and kill and kick ass, and with the Prey character we wanted kind of a reluctant hero. He was always kind of pattered after John McClane in Die Hard. He's kind of a guy who can do the job but didn't want the job. You know? And he just pretty much rose the occasion. But we kind of wanted a reluctant hero to base the game around.
1UP: OK. So if it wasn't Turok, somebody had to say, somebody threw out in the hat, "Hey, have you thought about a Native American." Where did that come from, then?
GB: I think it was just one of those random things. We were just sitting in a conference room one day, and Scott and I were talking, maybe with the project leader. I think, actually, we had the idea before we even hired the project leader for Prey and we just—there's only so many different people you can pick, and no one had really ever done much for the Native American, and we figured it might be kind of a unique angle to pursue.
1UP: Cool. So you're on that first iteration. What were those early days of development like, then? What were your focus points? What were your key concerns? Where was it going at first?
GB: Well, the biggest thing, initially, was we had the portal ideas pretty early to do the whole thing with warping space and just the whole portal technology. So really, the first bit of the engine was getting all that to work, and trying to test gameplay prototypes, and just to see how that could actually impact gameplay versus just being a buzzword. But really, in the first year, it was just hiring a team. We went from, there was basically nobody on Prey, we had to hire an entire team, and get an engine built, and pretty much do everything at the same time, so it was pretty chaotic just trying to get all that together in the beginning.
1UP: So, about the time you get it all sailing along, suddenly the team kind of goes the way of the wind.
GB: Yeah, so—
1UP: So without getting nasty, what happened? I mean, were they headed in the wrong direction? Were things not going the way you guys wanted?
GB: I think it was primarily direction and pathical issues. Scott and I were working on Duke at the time, and doing follow-ups, and doing Shadow Warrior, and working on Duke Forever, and that kind of thing. And we had kind of a whole separate team working on Prey. The technology was there a couple of times. I know in 98 we had a pretty good tactical demo at E3, multiplayer worked. And you could run around, and all the key engine features worked. And I think, honestly, it was just probably lack of oversight on our part to let them drift farther than they should have. Because they made a few key decisions that basically cost them a year, a year and a half, and we probably shouldn't have let those things happen. But it was one of those things where it was a separate team, and I guess we just didn't oversee them tight enough, and things just drifted.
1UP: I'm curious. What sort of decisions, roughly? Obviously not casting aspersions on anybody, but what sort of stuff?
GB: Well, it's hard to remember specifically. It was almost 10 years ago. But the key thing was, the engine was pretty much done, and you could start making a game with it, and they came back from E3 and they decided to redo a bunch of stuff and move to DX7 versus 6 and some other things, and that really put a skid on the content. The guys who were making content and models and maps and things were basically put on hold for close to a year while things were being revamped technically, and really the technology is probably the biggest thing that didn't come together. In hindsight, we probably should have just made some different decisions or swapped out some key personnel or something to make sure that didn't happen. It was basically a misfire, and it was a big learning experience for us. Basically we went from being a really small company of 20 to 30 people doing one internal game, with Duke, to then trying to be a larger company managing a couple of games at a time, both on new technology, and in hindsight, that was just too much for us to bite off at the time.
1UP: So when you came back and started putting it back together with Paul, was it like starting all over again? How much did you revamp that first time to take a second shot at it?
GB: Not sure what you mean, revamp, because Paul was on it from day one.
1UP: Oh, he was?
1UP: OK. Because I thought-I've been doing the research there on the Prey page. I was looking at the Tom Hall part of it for the first part.
GB: Yeah, OK, well, everything that I just said is in reference to the Paul timeframe. The Tom timeframe really didn't exist. That whole project was more of a tech demo. It was more of a tech demo for like, maybe four months. It was a couple of the Ritual guys and Tom Hall, and basically it was like a six-man team. Here's what it was: It was the ex-Rise of the Triad team. The guys who shipped Rise of the Triad in 94, basically those five or six guys, the key guys, wrapped up into Prey and were working on that. And I guess-I can't remember, was it 96? I think, in 96, two of those guys split off to form Ritual, and then Tom went to Ion. That basically killed our first iteration of Prey. But it was, we liked the idea and all, so let's basically hire a bunch of new guys to come in and work on it. And that's when Paul, and we hired a few other people and basically built that team around, to basically do that right. It's not like there was two years of work on Prey I and then two years of work on Prey II. It was really five or six months of tech work on Prey I and then those guys left to do other things, and then we just kind of took that and hired new people and decided to continue the idea.
GB: Yeah, it was a long, complicated past.
1UP: So, would it be accurate to say that Prey got caught sort of in the growing pains of learning how to build up a company?
GB: Yeah, that's exactly fair to say. Because a lot of the stuff, in hindsight, we should have done differently. It was just inexperience and growing pains, and I think it's fundamentally a bad idea to do two first-person shooters inside the same company anyway, because people get competitive and want to keep ideas and don't want to collaborate as much. There are just lots and lots of issues in dealing with multiple teams that we had to go through.
1UP: So the portal technology was pretty much the thing that everyone was talking about with Prey back in the day, right?
1UP: So, I thought it had come along later, but that was part of the core design.
GB: Yeah, that was part—well, it was part of the core design from when Paul and those guys took over. Because originally, like I said, the original Prey was really just more of a four- or five-month tech research project. I can't remember if that first version had portals in it or not, but I know the programmer at one point said, "Hey, I can do this new thing with portals," and Scott and I were like, "Yeah, that's really cool. Let's do this; we can do all these neat things with gameplay with it." But I don't think—I don't remember when that came along. I can't remember if the portals were on the first version, or if it was on the second version of the game.
1UP: So when you see what Human Head's doing with it now, does it really capture what you guys envisioned back then? What it's like comparing today's portals to 10 years ago's portals?
GB: It's pretty close; it's fundamentally the same stuff. We're all surprised that no one else really took that direction, because they're not really technically that hard to do. I know they got a lot of press from being like a whiz-bang cool thing back then, but technically, they just weren't too difficult to do, and there are some neat gameplay things you can do with it. But really, Human Head is pretty much just carrying on the torch and doing almost exactly what we were doing back then, and then expanding it into other areas with wall-walking and spirit walk and those kind of new things.
1UP: So back when you guys were doing the first engine, you got the portals and all that, I'm sure you must have been doing some other cool stuff with the engine techwise. I mean, at 3D Realms obviously, you guys wouldn't just bank it all on portals. What other stuff—what were people overlooking or what might we have forgotten from the old previews and stuff of what Prey was all about techwise?
GB: I'm trying to remember back then. Honestly, I think 90, 95 percent of it was all geared around portals and basically just large moving objects and those types of things. It wasn't really all that technically advanced—it just looked technically advanced because of the portal tricks. I don't think we were—to be honest, I don't think we got to the point where we got to play a lot of gameplay, because the engine and stuff didn't really ever come online to where we could do things with it, so a lot of time was spent getting the portal stuff to work, and the additional gameplay we never really got a chance to work on and deal with because we just basically just ran out of time for what we were all willing to spend on a project.
1UP: So, when you guys started talking, then, more recently, about bringing it back, where did that start, I guess? Where did the idea of bringing it back start?
GB: Well, we had known the Human Head guys, just off and on, through just general talking to them and just meeting developers. And they released Rune, I guess, maybe in 2001. And that was through a gathering of developers who we were working with as well. And we thought Rune was a really high-quality project and just basically had liked the game and liked the guys. So we were thinking about doing a second project, and we were thinking of teams to work with, and what we wanted to do was we wanted to work outside, with external teams. We didn't want to grow any more internally, because we'd done that in the past with Prey and multiple teams, and we knew we didn't want to go that direction again. So it was pretty easy to basically contact those guys and see if they were interested in doing something. And once they were interested in doing something, it was pretty easy to find a project, because we had Prey sitting around that we thought had some neat ideas with it. And it was an IP that we owned that was just sitting there, so it was a natural jumping-off point to talk about and try and pursue.
1UP: What kind of—so tell me about, like, what kind of feelings were you guys having when it actually started to come together, you're like: "Wow, we're going to bring Prey back"?
GB: It was a pretty fun time. We also were really close with the id guys through our past relationships, and that let us get the Doom 3 engine really, really early. I think we got it just a couple or three weeks after Raven did.
GB: So we were officially the first external licensee for the Doom 3 engine. So once we saw Doom and we knew that the engine was visually cool, it was pretty easy to see the leap for adding portals in there and seeing it all come together. But yeah, it's very exciting, a couple years later, to see it all come together and actually be a game you can play and run around in. It definitely is fulfilling to see that.
1UP: Cool. And so I guess, like, an update: What do you expect, what do you hope for out of it all when it's done? What do you expect of Prey when it's wrapped up here in the next few months?
GB: Really, we're just hoping it's a fun game to play and that people enjoy playing it. I mean, it's a pretty cliché answer, but there's really no other way to say it. We're hoping to make a game that everybody likes, and we certainly like playing it, and really, we're just hoping that it can show that you can bring back a cool idea from 10 years ago and make a neat game out of it with completely different technology and a completely different theme.
1UP: You know, that's something you guys have gotten good at now, and that's kind of cool, because like you mentioned earlier, there's Rise of the Triad, and I remember that well—there's a lot of people who, even if they don't know the game, know the personality or know the franchise by name, right? There's another game that you guys have that's upcoming; I think we all know about that one. So what kind of stuff did you learn; what were the challenges, you know, with Prey, of taking something that people had talked about and knew and were excited about, and then, you know, picking it up and starting it over and bringing it into the modern era?
GB: Well, I think what changed was, I think Duke 3D was kind of a lucky accident. We really made a game that we liked and that we wanted to play, and we did some things in there that worked out really well, but we weren't really sure why they worked. And Scott and I—
1UP: [Laughs] Wait a minute. You did stuff that worked, but it was just a lucky accident?
GB: Well, within the game, the gameplay was all not an accident, but things like the name of the character—we just knew it was a catchy name. We never knew why. We started reading lots and lots of business books and just basically started to piece together how to build an intellectual property by not quite so much luck, and basically give yourself a shot at it. We did so many things with Max Payne, working with Remedy and building up that IP, hopefully the same will happen here with Prey. You just kind of learn how to give yourself a better shot at creating a franchise rather than just taking a shot in the dark.
1UP: Valuable lessons that could be applied, say, to other games, maybe?
GB: Yeah, absolutely. It's all about building a franchise these days, because games cost so much money these days to make, and they take so long to make, that you hopefully want to make something that can at least live for a couple of sequels, maybe branch out into some other media or something. And that's generally hard to do without being really focused on characters or some unique kind of gameplay mechanics. That's really what it comes down to: Any game we design these days or are involved with these days, we try and just really have deep characters that you're going to care about, and some interesting gameplay mechanics that hopefully other games aren't gonna have, so you will at least appear fresh and interesting.
1UP: So what about Rise? Have you guys ever thought about playing with those guys again? Playing with that world?
GB: It hasn't really come up, but it's one of those things where, I mean, never say never.
GB: You know, we've been so busy on Duke Forever for so long that we can't really see past just finishing this game, but you never can tell when it's done, you know, what you want to work on next.
1UP: Wait, wait. You guys are working on Duke Forever?
GB: [Laughs] And ever and ever.
1UP: And when's that due out again?
GB: [Laughs] I think it'll be out when pigs fly. But it's definitely going well now. Things are together; we're in full production. We're basically just pulling all the pieces together and making the game out of it. There's a lot that's finished. All the guns are finished. Most of the creatures are finished. And as I said, we're just basically pulling it all together and trying to make it fun. We've kind of got all these disassociated elements that make up a game, and you put them together and things happen. And then you just tweak it and polish it until it's fun, and that's kind of the phase we're in now, just trying to make something that is really fun to play and interesting.
1UP: Hey, you know, that's awesome. I have to give you respect because with so many people out there saying stuff, it would be very easy to just, you know, pack it in or whatnot, and you guys have been resolute of, "This is going to be an awesome game. Just chill out." And I think that's fantastic.
Can't wait any longer for this game...[pc_upgrade.exe]