Daily Lists, Video Games

A 25-Point Chronicle of the Brief Rise and Endless Fall of Duke Nukem Forever

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By Jason F.C. Clarke

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
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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
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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!

9) 2002

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.

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13) 2005

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
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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.