Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hail To The King, Baby

The first first person shooter I ever played (not counting a two-minute go on the orignal Doom) was Duke Nukem 3D. It was awesome, because it used humor as an integral part of the gaming experience right alongside blowing things to hell. Duke admired himself in mirrors, threw out pithy one-liners whenever he killed something in an especially gruesome manner, and generally acted like a smug jackass. At one point in the game, you can wave some cash at a stripper and she'd flash you. It was that kind of game.

It was pretty obvious the writers had been big fans of the Evil Dead movies, as many of the lines were ripped off from the character of Ash.

Even though it was a huge success and made the developers rich, there was never a sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. The reasons were always nebulous, but it turns out that a case of engine envy was to blame.

The decision to lock things down and "go with what you've got" is always a challenge in the software business, and it's especially true in the world of game development. There's always some fancy new game engine (the software used to render the environments and control the physics of the game world) coming out. Sometimes games get caught in between leaps in technology and a brand new game gets dinged for looking out of date. It happens.

It looks like 3D Realms couldn't abide letting that happen. And so began an endless cycle of switching game engines midstream, which essentially meant all the development work had to be thrown away. Now, almost fourteen years after ruling the gaming world, the company is out of business and Duke Nukem is dead. Too bad.

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