Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) is a first-person shooter video game being developed by 3D Realms, and is slated to be the next game in the Duke Nukem series. Like its predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, DNF is being directed by George Broussard, one of the creators of the original Duke Nukem game. It stars its eponymous character, Duke Nukem. 3D Realms has not set a release date for the game, their only officially stated position being, "When It's Done" (WID).
The game is touted for its "unprecedented interactivity", aiming to "push the limits of gaming and establish new standards in interactivity, variety, and pure fun." It is however infamous for its protracted development schedule and is often declared the most delayed videogame in the history of the industry (having been officially announced in April 1997). Promotional information has been released in the years 1997, 1998, 2001, 2007 and most recently June 2008. The game has been subject to intense speculation. It has also won several vaporware awards.
The status of several secondary characters also remains unclear. In the November 1997 issue of PC Gamer, Scott Miller stated that Doctor Proton, Duke's original nemesis, would return. It is unknown if Doctor Proton is still in the game. In the 1998 trailer, Duke was paired up with a female sidekick and occasional antagonist named Bombshell, but she did not appear in the trailer released in 2001.
The 2001 trailer shows an alien invasion in Las Vegas. It features Duke fighting with several weapons. Duke fights the aliens in many areas: a mine, some rural areas, the streets of Las Vegas, on water, and indoor areas.
As of 2003, the 3D Realms website states that "the screenshots and videos that were there have been removed as they no longer represent the game's current look and feel."
Duke Nukem Forever was officially announced on April 28, 1997 along with the purchase of a license to use the Quake II engine and the intention of releasing the game no later than mid-1998. Original prototype work on the game had begun as early as January. In August and September, the first screenshots of DNF were released in PC Gamer. In its November issue, Scott Miller restated that the intended release date was 1998. However, 3D Realms did not get the Quake II engine code until November 1997, and the earlier screenshots were simply mock-ups with the Quake engine that the team had made in their spare time. 3D Realms unveiled the first video footage of DNF using the Quake II engine at the 1998 E3 conference.
In 1999, 3D Realms announced that they had upgraded to the newer version of the Unreal Engine. They released a second batch of screenshots on November 1 that showcased Duke Nukem Forever on the Unreal engine for the first time. In December, 3D Realms released a Christmas card that suggested that DNF would be released in 2000.
In early December 2000, publisher Gathering of Developers announced that they had acquired the publishing rights for DNF. Shortly afterwards, 3D Realms released another Christmas card that suggested that DNF would be released in 2001.
At the May 2001 E3, 3D Realms released a second video that showed a couple of minutes of in-game footage, which notably showed the player moving in a very large city in a non-linear way, and a certain level of interactivity (the player buys a sandwich from a vending machine and pushing the keypads). In August, Gathering closed down and Take-Two Interactive took over the publishing rights for DNF.
In 2002, after hiring several new programmers, the team completely rewrote the renderer and other game engine modules, beginning work on a new generation of game content. Broussard estimated that around 95% of the previous level design work was scrapped in the process. He also later stated that they were never less than two years away from shipping with the UT based version of the game. The engine, which now contains parts of an early version of Unreal Engine 2.0 (the team branched off from the engine in 2001) supports such features as pixel shading, normal mapping and high dynamic range based lighting.
Broussard has stated several times that the only parts of the Unreal engine that are still part of their code base are UnrealScript, the networking code, and the UnrealEd. Everything else (except the current physics engine) has been written from scratch by 3D Realms. The principal technical reason given by Broussard for the extensive delays was the unstable tech base. Once it was stabilized, 3D Realms expanded their team considerably, from 22 to 31 members.
On September 9, 2004, GameSpot reported that Duke Nukem Forever had switched to the Doom 3 engine. Many gaming news sites mailed George Broussard, asking him to confirm or deny the rumor. After receiving no answer from him, they published the rumor as fact, ending the article with "Attempts to contact 3D Realms for comment were unsuccessful as of press time." Later that day, George Broussard explicitly denied the rumor and explained that he was not able to answer the emails because he was working elsewhere in the building.
In February 2006, Broussard gave an interview and updated the status on DNF. He reported that everything was together and in full production, and that the guns, creatures, and everything else had been finished. Broussard said that the development team was tweaking and polishing the game and putting it all together.
In April 2006, Broussard demonstrated samples of the game, including an early level, a vehicle sequence, and a few test rooms. One notable demonstration, according to the May 2006 issue of Computer Games magazine featured the interactive use of an in-game computer to send actual e-mails.
In June, in a filing with the SEC, Take-Two revealed that they had renegotiated the deal and will receive $4.25 million instead of $6 million upon the release of the game. The filing also revealed that Take-Two was offering a $US 500,000 bonus if DNF was commercially released by December 31, 2006. However, Broussard denied the rumors that DNF would be released, saying that 3D Realms never cared for or asked for the bonus. He stated that he would "never ship a game early.
On August 30, 2006, Shacknews reported that several key employees had left 3D Realms. They speculated that the departures would lead to further delays for DNF. However, 3D Realms strongly denied these claims, stating that the employees had left over a number of months and that the game was still moving ahead.
On January 25, 2007 and May 22, 2007, George Broussard posted two Gamasutra job ads with small (200x125 pixel) screenshots of Duke Nukem holding two guns and an enemy (mutated pig). Broussard later confirmed that these were real in-game screenshots.
In July 2007, Game Informer released two new, low-res screenshots, one of which appears to be a previously unseen shot of an in-game level, the other being the front shot of Duke seen in the first 2007 screen, but from a slightly different angle.
A new video was released on December 19, 2007 claimed to be made by employees of 3D Realms during their spare time to show at the annual Christmas party. The announcement had also confirmed earlier speculation that composer Jeremy Soule (Total Annihilation, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Secret of Evermore, Prey, Guild Wars, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion) had joined the team. George Broussard made clear that the video was a teaser, rather than a trailer. He noted that all other media related to Duke Nukem Forever was no longer relevant, including the trailer released in 2001, and that a brand-new trailer would be released in the coming months. Broussard also confirmed that the video was shot real-time from the game, with the exception of some introduction and ending shots. As of Thursday February 7 2008, an official teaser trailer is available for download.
3D Realms has made it clear there is no set release date for the game and any shops claiming to have "insider" information are lying.
Miller "confirmed" a 2008 release date in an email sent to the Dallas Business Journal on February 6 2008, although this was reportedly "off the record", and as such, no official release date has yet been given to the public. Broussard later denounced the statement. A small screenshot of an enemy character was displayed alongside one of Dallas Business Journal's articles on the game.
On June 5, 2008, in-game footage of the game was featured on the premiere episode of The Jace Hall Show Filmed entirely on hand-held cameras but not originally expected to be publicly released, the video showed host Jason Hall playing through parts of a single level on a PC at 3D Realms' offices. The footage was confirmed to have been shot 6 months prior to the episode air date and according to Broussard, contained outdated particle and combat effects that had since been replaced.
Another job ad update for "Level Designers or Programmers" appeared on June 20 2008 at Gamasutra featuring a thumbnail-sized, in-game screenshot of Duke Nukem Forever. It depicted an updated model of Duke Nukem wielding a pistol and pipebomb in his hands, posed within a daylight outdoor environment. The job ad was later carried on the 3D Realms website.
Two unlockable screenshots were included with the September 24, 2008 release of Duke Nukem 3D on the XBox Live Arcade. Located in the game's art gallery upon earning all of Duke Nukem 3D's achievements, one DNF screenshot featured a first person view of Duke reloading his pistol, while facing an Octabrain. The other screenshot depicted a frontal close-up of Duke with two scantily clad women in the background.
Duke Nukem Forever has drawn a number of jokes related to its development timeline. The video gaming media and public in general have routinely suggested several names in place of Forever, calling it "Never", "Whenever", and "If Ever".
When the GameSpy editors compiled a list of the "Top 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming History" in June 2003, Duke Nukem Forever placed #18.
In an interview with 1UP.com on June 5, 2008, Jason Hall, host of The Jace Hall Show spoke of his exclusive premiere episode feature on Duke Nukem Forever and his hands-on play experience with the game which he described as "amazing", suggesting it would be worth the wait.