Whither Duke Nukem Forever? While Duke co-creator and producer George Broussard assures fans that the rumored death of 3D Realms is greatly exaggerated, many are beginning to believe the hilariously long string of epic fails known as Duke Nukem Forever may finally end with a whimper, instead of the bang (explosive or sexual) Duke himself would no doubt have preferred. In memory of Duke and his decade-plus quest for a sequel, Topless Robot presents this chronology of the highlights and lowlights of DNF‘s development. We come to bury Duke Nukem Forever, not to praise it — because there’s nothing to praise.
1) April 28, 1997
Following the runaway success of Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms announces a sequel with the foreboding title Duke Nukem Forever, to be built on iD Software’s Quake II engine. The press release also notes that 3D Realms’ partner GT Interactive “obtains merchandising rights for all derivative works, including films, home video and books for Duke Nukem Forever, as well as rights on a future title, tentatively called Duke Nukem 5.” A few short years after this little licensing coup, GT’s stock sank like a stone and was bought out by Infogrames (now Atari Inc.).
The same day, 3D Realms issues another press releases explaining why they weren’t building DNG on their own proprietary Prey engine: there won’t be enough market penetration of new 3D video cards that can handle the Prey engine until late 1998, and Duke Nukem Forever was scheduled to be out months before that. And so the hilarity begins!
2) August 1997 The first screenshots of Duke Nukem Forever appear in PC Gamer.
3) May 1998
The first Duke Nukem Forever trailer, still using the Quake II engine, premieres at E3.
4) June 1998
Weeks after the E3 demo, 3D Realms announces they’re switching to the Unreal engine for DNF. Broussard refers to it as a “1999 game” and assures fans, “the game should not be significantly delayed.” The videogame gods, feeling taunted, prepare a horrible vengeance.
5) November 1, 1999 With no sign of a release date, 3D Realms releases a few screenshots of the new, Unreal-ized Duke Nukem Forever.
6) December 4, 2000
A publisher called Gathering of Developers announces the acquiring of publishing rights to DNF.
7) May 2001
At E3, three years after their first DNF demo, 3D Realms shows off the new Duke.
8) August 2001
Gathering of Developers closes and Take-Two Interactive swoops in to nab the DNF publishing rights. Score!
Time passes. No major news on DNF.
10) May 20, 2003
Take-Two Interactive’s president says DNF would not be out by the end of ’03. George Broussard responds, “Take-Two needs to STFU imo.”
11) January 20, 2004
Wired awards Duke Nukem Forever with the “Vaporeware Lifetime Achievement Award.”
12) September 9, 2004
GameSpot reports that the DNF team has switched to the Doom 3 engine. After a flurry of reports and speculation throughout the day, Broussard denies the rumor.
Duke once again goes into hiding. No major news on DNF.
14) January 31, 2006
In an interview with 1up.com, Broussard mentions 3D Realms is still working on DNF, adding, “I think it’ll be out when pigs fly. But it’s definitely going well now.”
15) May 2006
Computer Games Magazine has a feature on 3D Realms and Broussard demonstrates a few bits of the game.
16) January 25, 2007
Broussard posts a job ad on Gamasutra with two small screenshots of Duke Nukem in what appears to be a next-gen game. Fanboy speculation goes nuts.
17) July 2007
Game Informer releases two new, low-res screenshots.
18) December 19, 2007
3D Realms releases a “teaser trailer” of DNF. Despite being mostly FMV with only a few bits of gameplay, it’s actually kinda cool.
19) September 4, 2008
Duke Nukem 3D is released for Xbox Live Arcade and includes two unlockable screenshots from Duke Nukem Forever.
20) November 23, 2008
Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy album is released. Hell freezes over briefly, but re-thaws when the Devil remembers Duke Nukem Forever still hasn’t been released.
21) February 11, 2009 George Broussard posts a photo of a buglist. A buglist! Exciting!
22) May 6, 2009
3D Realms releases the DNF team, allegedly due to financial wrangling between Take-Two and 3D Realms.
23) May 9, 2009
Video footage of the game is leaked, allegedly intended to be a demo reel for animator Bryan Brewer.
24) May 14, 2009
Take-Two files a lawsuit against 3D Realms over their failure to complete DNF in a mere 12 years.
25) May 18, 2009
Broussard and 3D Realms issue a press releases to give their side of the story, claiming Take-Two is employing “bully tactics” to obtain ownership of the “hot” Duke Nukem property. No one cares, not even Duke Nukem himself.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.