Duke Nukem Forever. For a long while, many thought this game would never come. Constantly the butt of jokes, people could only look on as the game was delayed and delayed, until finally 3D realms shut its doors entirely. Thankfully, Gearbox Software stepped in to save the day, and so we talk to Vice President Steve Gibson about The Duke, and what it took to save him.
Strategy Informer:So, Duke Nukem. This must be kind of exciting.
Steve Gibson: Just a little bit.
Strategy Informer:Semi-serious question here: When Gearbox first acquired the game, did you ever think to change the name? You could almost see the "Forever" tag as a kind of curse, and Randy Pitchford was saying how it was always the butt of jokes. Was there ever a desire to try and change that?
Steve Gibson: You know, it never came up. That's a good question, you would think that it would have come up... hmm... no... I wish I had a better answer for you! Sorry.
Strategy Informer:Duke Nukem is obviously steeped in very adult themes, and it caused controversy back in 1997. Do you think these kind of themes are going to be more of problem today than they were back then? Especially with the rating boards.
Steve Gibson: It just has to be rated properly, but [PEGI et al] don't control the content. They do go through every scene, and classify everything. It becomes a lengthier process the more controversial stuff you have, and I think there's a lot of that here, but it's not that much of a worry. The only thing would be if you're towing the line of being rated 'AO', Adult Only. That's a possibility with this game, but if you get an AO rating then some retailers won't even stock your product. We think it'll be fine though. I hope!
Strategy Informer:What about territories like Germany or Australia? Who are notorious for being very strict on game content.
Steve Gibson: Yeah well... we're about to find out! As Randy said we've just started on the process, and those guys are slower on the turn-around then others. It's funny how Germany differs from the US. In the US it's like "Wow, violence is great but boobies are hmmm", and in Germany it's like "Wow, boobies are great but violence is hmmm" - which I lean more towards. It's different for every territory.
Strategy Informer:With a game like Duke Nukem, it's not so much about the game itself as it is about the character and just the overall experience. The FPS genre has become incredibly crowded lately - is this a concern for you guys?
Steve Gibson: You know I think it was more of a concern for Borderlands actually, because of the nature of that game. But with Duke we feel like it's not like any other game. We look at your Call of Duty's, Halo's Gears of Wars... outside of being just a first-person shooter, it's so different. I can't imagine someone going to the store and thinking "Hmmm, do I want Gears of War 3 or do I want Duke Nukem Forever". The two are so different that one isn't going to exclude the other. We feel it's a very unique game, and now the only question for gamers is 'is it real?', and do they still love the Duke? Hopefully when we get the demo out we'll know.
Strategy Informer:Are Gearbox just invested in this just to get Duke Nukem Forever out? Or, providing it's the success everyone wants it to be, will you guys continue on the franchise from here as if there never was this 13 year long wait?
Steve Gibson: I can't imagine that if it was a huge success that we wouldn't contemplate doing more stuff with it, but we're not at that stage yet. This conversation we're having right now is about as far as we've gone back at the studio on this topic.
Strategy Informer:And are you guys considering DLC, which has become a big phenomenon since the days of DN3D?
Steve Gibson: The philosophy at Gearbox is that we don't look at a game and say "hey, we can pull this piece of content out and then sell it as DLC". We prefer to look at a game as a whole, and then when we get to certification, then we start drawing up plans for DLC. When you look at Zombie Island, Nox and Moxy and Claptrap (for Borderlands), it's clear that we didn't start working on these until after the game had shipped. If we are going to do DLC with Duke, we'd follow the same philosophy.
Strategy Informer: Is the voice actor for Duke Nukem the same guy as before?
Steve Gibson: It is John Saint John yes. He actually has a history with Gearbox as well. In Opposing Force, our first title, he was the voice of pretty much all of the soldiers in that game.
Strategy Informer:Duke Nukem has gone truly multiplatform now - would you say that the PC is still the leading platform?
Steve Gibson: Well, it's whatever platform you're playing it on. But I'd imagine those who know the history of the series will get it on PC. But we feel like the game and the experience of Duke is great sitting on your couch too. I wish I got to play Duke on my couch back in the day, it's about the character and the humour, and that's a great 'living room' experience.
Strategy Informer:What can you tell us about multiplayer at the moment?
Steve Gibson: Our philosophy of how we're going to handle multiplayer information is the same as how we handled revealing Duke Nukem Forever itself. We don't want to just make promises about it, we just want to put it in your hands. I can say it will have multiplayer - it wouldn't be a Duke Nukem game without it, what it will be though we hope to get back to you shortly on that.
Strategy Informer:In the demo we played, you see Duke Nukem playing his own game, and you see him holding a very special looking Xbox 360 controller - any plans to get that released?
Steve Gibson: You know there weren't any, but we've had people come to us and say "hey, we'd like to make that controller". But I think that's not something that Gearbox has really been involved in before, so who knows.
Strategy Informer:Obviously Duke Nukem Forever is infamous for its development time - another game which had similar infamy was Too Human. Now, everyone knows how that turned out. Does this precedent if you will worry you? Is there anything Silicon Knights did wrong do you think?
Steve Gibson: That's not the framework we're hoping to follow *laughs* but there's plenty of examples: Red Dead Redemption - that took a long time too. We've talked about this and decided that when a project, whether it be a game, a movie, or whatever, people talk about it right up until release, and then once it comes out, if it's good then people don't care anymore. I mean look at Avatar, that took forever, and then take something like Waterworld. Nobody talks about how long Avatar took to make anymore, but when they talk about Waterworld they go "well, wasn't that a clusterfuck". If you deliver, nobody cares how long it took.
Strategy Informer:So do you think then that Denis Dyack's more pro-active 'hyping' of his own game is a bad idea?
Steve Gibson: If Too Human had turned out to be a success, he would have been called a genius. I think that what people do when they talk about stuff like that, but it's funny how people forget if the games a hit. I thought it would have been great if it was a hit. I can't blame the guy for doing what he did, but if the game had been a hit, this would be a very different conversation.
There you have it. They've got the weight of thirteen years of expectations on their shoulders, but Gearbox seem to be taking it in their stride. They'll be no false promises or unrealised dreams from these guys, they'll give you a playable, finished Duke Nukem Forever, and that's it.