Duke Nukem Forever Q&A - Randy Pitchford

We talk to Gearbox's Randy Pitchford about Duke Nukem Forever, the public reaction, the pressure, and his debt to the Duke.

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When Gearbox's Duke Nukem Forever was unveiled at PAX, the shock spread fast and far. Duke Nukem was Twitter's top trending topic in North America within an hour; in two hours, it was the hottest topic worldwide and stayed there for 30 more. There was disbelief, too, among those who didn't play that demo for themselves in Seattle. It didn't seem possible that a game that had spent 13 years trapped somewhere between development hell and vaporware limbo was suddenly playable at a public show.

Pitchford: "I don't think it helps to make promises about this game anymore."

At the time of the announcement, Gearbox cofounder Randy Pitchford had been sitting on the secret of a resurrected Duke for some time, and it has been over a month since PAX. But the disbelief, even for Pitchford himself, hasn't quite gone away. "Can you believe this?" he asked the assembled press at the UK's first presentation of the game. "I'm right in the middle of it and I still can't believe it…Duke Nukem Forever is like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. It's kind of become mythological, legendary."

Pitchford weaves a good tale about the game's long and troubled history at 3D Realms, lawsuits and all, reminding us that Gearbox shipped 15 games in that same time. As he tells it, though, today there are no hard feelings on any side; the Duke commands a lot of loyalty, it would seem, and everyone has come together to get the game in stores next year. Gearbox has the resources to finally get Duke Nukem Forever across the finish line, with "over 70 people on the project," says Pitchford--when former developer 3D Realms shut down, it had 30 people.

We talked to Randy about the game, the public reaction, the pressure, and his debt to the Duke.

GameSpot UK: You've said you owe the Duke your career. How much is getting Duke Nukem Forever to market about repaying that debt?

Randy Pitchford: I know that given the situation we were in, and the position we were in to help, and the position that Duke was in, Duke needed help. Duke was dead. I felt like if I didn't do it, I would regret that for the rest of my life. It's not low risk. It's hard to imagine something riskier in this industry than betting on Duke, but they say always bet on Duke, right, so I had to do it, and the team did too.

There are so many people from Gearbox who have been part of it over the years. If you go back to that 2001 trailer and look at the credits at the end of it, with the exception of one name, every single person listed as a designer or an artist at some point had either left 3D Realms and joined Gearbox or is now part of the project. There's a lot of love and a lot of ownership that the Gearbox people feel for Duke.

GSUK: It has been a long struggle for the game so far. Did it ever seem to you like a cursed project?

RP: Everything happens because people do them, and I know the people involved. And so the way that development went kind of made sense to me, given the fact I know the people. And I think every step they took made sense to them too. I know they were committed through and through to making it. And I also know they had a lot of resources and not a lot of the same kinds of pressure, so they were able to make decisions that others might not, like starting over or changing engines and things, and each time they did this they would change the landscape.

I think what they didn't discover was as time went on and new generations appeared, the market changed and the complexity went up and the challenge changed, and because they were kind of adapting, there was another kind of difficulty that surprised them--and they got to the end of the risks they could take and they hadn't quite gotten across the finish line yet, and I know it broke their hearts.

GSUK: The surprise presence at PAX seemed miraculous at the time. How has the reaction been since?

RP: It's been wild. I mean, it's really weird. I was nervous going into PAX, but it turns out there's a lot of love for Duke. It's kind of like we all need Duke to be triumphant. I know that I need it, and that's why I got involved, and I'm feeling that [same thing] around the whole industry and around gamers, and that's kind of nice, kind of neat. That's inspiring.

"Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster."

GSUK: Duke Nukem is a character of his time. Duke Nukem Forever's roots go back such a long way. Is this a game about embracing anachronisms?

RP: It's a new game, but you can't succeed with a new game that's something like Duke without homage or fan service to its roots. But it is a new game, so it balances that, I think, pretty smartly with being a modern new game, but not forgetting the things that we remember, that we love, that we're going to need to experience again--or else we're going to be upset with it.

You can't imagine playing Duke Nukem Forever without using a pipe bomb, like from Duke 3D, or without using some of the classic weapons. I want to get online and play against my buddies, and I want to freeze somebody and break them into little ice cubes, and I want to shrink somebody else and step on them. I've got to be able to do those things or I'm going to feel like it's not an honest successor. Then again, if it's only a remake of the past, it's not fresh, it's not exciting, it's not new, and I might get bored. So it has to be a new game first.

GSUK: So it isn't relying on nostalgia alone?

RP: I don't think it could. If it was nostalgia, you would just port the old game and see what happens. No, it's not a nostalgia game at all. It's a new game. It doesn't have 8-bit graphics. It's a new game, it just remembers why we love the original and plays tribute to those things as well.

GSUK: You've said everything's at the polishing stage. When will we see more?

RP: We've announced that the game will come in 2011. Earlier this week, it was announced that the Borderlands Game of the Year edition, which launches on October 12, will include the Duke Nukem Forever first access pass. People can use the unique key code there to register with us, and they're going to get first access to a demo and some other things. And you can imagine at that stage it won't be long after that that a game comes. We'll announce more of those details as we're ready.

I know what things are going to happen within about a two-month gap of accuracy, and every day that [gap] gets narrower and narrower, things become more and more clear. The publishing partner has to manage a worldwide effort to coordinate this, and we were top secret up until the moment of PAX. They didn't tell the retailers until Friday morning at PAX, and same with the first parties, Sony and Microsoft, so now we've gotten them involved and Take-Two has to coordinate with all of that and 2K Games has to figure that all out. So they can figure out, OK, this is the right moment in the market, this is when everyone can do their part. They'll tell us what that is. Till we figure that out, they've asked me to be no more specific than 2011. But I'll give you something; I'll narrow it down a bit: it will come before Christmas of 2011. So I've given you six days.

GSUK: Thanks. Won't it feel pretty fantastic announcing a date for Duke Nukem Forever?

RP: I'll tell you what will feel really fantastic. When the game's done, and I go to the store, and I buy my copy from the store shelves. That'll be a great day. That'll feel weird. Every day it feels like, "Wow, this is actually happening." But that'll be a surreal moment.

GSUK: You're not saying much about multiplayer yet.

RP: There have been so many promises about the game. We want to be able to bring the multiplayer out soon, maybe let people play it, or maybe release some kind of stress test of it, or something, and that's where people can get it. I don't want to go into features and stuff. The thing I can say is, you can't have Duke Nukem Forever without multiplayer. I feel like I have to have it, and of course we're going to have it. But I want people to discover it, I don't want to spoil it, I don't think it helps to make promises about this game any more.

GSUK: The way you tell the story behind the game so far, it sounds like there are no hard feelings on any side. How can that be the case?

RP: Everybody's goals are aligned. I think you'd have to ask each person how they feel about things. I think George [Broussard of 3D Realms] has some regrets, but one thing that's consistent is that he's been passionate, committed, and dedicated towards this game and this brand. He's a dear friend of mine. I play poker with him every week, and right now it's cool--I feel he's really excited about the fact that it's happening. I also think he kind of feels relieved of some of the pressure. He more than anything wants his customers, his fans, to be happy. He felt such tremendous pressure, and now he's still a part of it, he's got a stake in it, but the pressure is not on him anymore, it's on me. And so I sense that relief in him. He's able to kind of enjoy it more, actually. And I'm happy to be there.

Our first game at Gearbox was a successor to Half-Life, so I've felt pressure before. We brought Halo to the PC and let people play on the Internet for the first time. We've built our own brands. I've felt different kinds of pressure, and I also know that I can't even think about the pressure, because if I do it might lead me to make some bad decisions and redo stuff--and right now we just need to focus on delivering the vision that these guys created.

GSUK: Thanks for your time, Randy.

Discussion

164 comments
PipoPT
PipoPT

Will this game be like Fallout 3 & New Vegas??

BloodOfSin
BloodOfSin

@BartRaz I didn't mean the game was made in the 80's I meant the themes in the game are from the 80's.

raichou
raichou

An icon of gaming -> PC Gaming!

Rox-pox
Rox-pox

"It's hard to imagine something riskier in this industry than betting on Duke, but they say always bet on Duke, right, so I had to do it, and the team did too." - Randy Pitchford I will always remember this.

frnuno
frnuno

"What are they waiting for....Christmas?" Hahah Nice! Nostalgia, even if some dont get it. I want to be able to pay hores, and then take them on the jet pack and let them fall... Peace of cake!! ^^ I would prefer GTA V, but ill sure give this a try!

Sorkvir
Sorkvir

Has Gearbox lost there minds, should have let this junk die off, right with 3D Realms, Boooooo!!

macaque12
macaque12

I hope Duke Nukem Forever brings the fun factor back into games, we've lost it so long time ago

mxbolt24
mxbolt24

However a name like Randy Pitchfork would get you far in life

aseries
aseries

What are they waiting for....Christmas?

xiixiix
xiixiix

@ Puddle_of_Sid I'd say reading isn't your strong point. Randy PitchFORD.

Puddle_of_Sid
Puddle_of_Sid

His name is seriously 'Randy Pitchfork'? Seriously? Randy Pitchfork and Duke Nukem... I can't believe that that's a coincidence

Lichkingx
Lichkingx

Ive been waiting for this long time ago and still waiting

ChaoticTrunks
ChaoticTrunks

i can see this being another alien vs predator...majorly overhyped, then sitting in the bargain bins 3 months later...

hvypetals
hvypetals

i came here to kick butt and chew bubble gum and im fresh outta bubble gum!

MACtic
MACtic

ALWAYS bet on Duke! C'mon Duke! Keep it up Gearbox!

engraphos
engraphos

"Can you believe this?" HA HA...OOHH YEAH WE BELIVE THIS...AND WAIT!!!

hellpolice
hellpolice

Duke is back...now I wonder how he will fare in today's gaming scene.

Garnog
Garnog

LEGENDARY EPIC FAIL... seriously, no one gives a rat's @ss anymore

SheepdogXpress
SheepdogXpress

Obviously people are going to be skeptical when it comes to duke actually hitting store shelves again...that's natural for most of us. I can remember this being the first game to introduce me to online play with friends over a 14400 baud rate dial up modem lol....to modernize the game that we all remember so well isn;t going to be easy by any stretch. However, that doesn't mean it's not possible. I can only hope with every "gamer" fiber of my being that they stay true the Duke we remember, while introducing a newer, more bad ass hero we can grow to love as well. I think pretty much everyone has their fingers crossed on this one.

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

@rafaelburigo I do understand where you're coming from. I never meant to give you the impression that I though you were trolling though, so I apologize if I came off that way. You have every right to an opinion :) If you compare this game to the ones you listed though, I promise you it will come up short. Those are some of the best games ever made, and Duke Nukem is a crass, no regrets shoot em up with heart and soul to spare, so you should try and enjoy it for what it is :) If you can go into it with the right mindset, I think it'll be a blast :D These are some of my favorite games, but it doesn't mean they're the best games out there. I just enjoy them tremendously because they hit just the right spot for what they do offer :)

rafaelburigo
rafaelburigo

@SpacePirate6 Well, I grew up playing these games, but nowadays this kind of games do not interest me anymore. In fact the gaming scenario evolved, and I hope this kind of games can do it too. I first met Duke Nukem when it was a crappy 2D platformer in a 486 PC running on DOS, not even a FPS yet. And now, you can only see kind of a HD remix of Duke Nukem 3D, I'm not saying it is going to be a bad game, but it doesn't work with me anymore. And by saying that it is ordinary i mean common, nothing different, do not have any major quality. It may have got confused because english is not my mother language, if that's the why, I apologise. But let me set things straight, it's not a destructive critic or some kind of troll, I just gave my personal opinion. You can see how series like Zelda, Mario, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, etc. turned into better games trough the years setting a new pattern to the genre, and I think (I may be wrong) that it's not happening with the Duke series.

Germandude2
Germandude2

@ SpacePirate6 me niether lol anybody have any idea when its comin out?

Germandude2
Germandude2

@ SpacePirate6 me niether lol anybody have any idea when its comin out?

calebcop
calebcop

YES! Defentaley not going to get it until I'm out of the house though.

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

RJtheShadow Holy crap I can't wait for Postal 3 :O (sorry to get off topic)

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

@rafaelburigo Duke Nukem is sort of an icon from our time. He was this testosterone filled bad*ss who could kill anything and then make a quick joke about it that would have you crapping your pants. The series was one of the pioneers of it's genre, and as such, it was wildly imaginative and inventive for it's time. Heck, today it's still incredibly imaginative. Just not redefining the genre (even though it helped define the genre over a decade and a half ago). A lot of people grew up playing these games, and they were amazing, and so it's a huge blast from the past for us, and a breath of fresh air for everyone else :) Everybody wins ;) Besides, aren't these two statements a bit conflicting? ;) "...and Duke Nukem doesn't have a consistent story, it's just kill kill kill and boobs..." "...it's just an ordinary shooting game..." :P

rafaelburigo
rafaelburigo

I'm not sure if it's going to be good, in fact I do not like first person shooters that much and Duke Nukem doesn't have a consistent story, it's just kill kill kill and boobs. Some guys talk like Duke is some kind of god, but at my sight it's just an ordinary shooting game, no more no less.

tippiify
tippiify

@shimo1989 The english is a worldwide spoken language of course.'n so much people speak this language in worldwide!But if somebody don't speak it so that person won't be on a lower level,if you can understand what i mean.To speak a foreign language isn't a duty but a claim to became a more cultured person.Something came in my mind just at this moment :do you speak any language beyond your native?????? P.S.:Sorry for the terrible english but i'm writing from Hungary:)))

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

@eyerok, take it easy on the poor kid, he can't help it that he was born into a society that has no morals or values anymore... Not to mention he isn't worth your time good sir, you know what they say stix and stones brother...

eyerok
eyerok

@shimo1989 but ofcourse, you sir are such a 'gentleman', having to know a 'foreign language' so well, just shows the level of civility you have. way ta go to the guy who thumbd up you and all those who thumbd down skatelucas comment. shows the mindset people like you have. only english speaking people have the right to be on gamespot huh?

shimo1989
shimo1989

@ skateluca T%##TRWRFqWR@%$R#Qfdeqaedqwreqre#%$GSERHG3uytq4w4 Hey look I can speak a foreign language too!

Psycold
Psycold

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

skateluca
skateluca

il ritorno di un mito....ma staremo a vedere....,comunque invece di criticare un titolo che non conoscete dicendo che è un'altro sparatutto come tanti alttri allora non giocatelo e basta!...,gli fps sono tutti uguali perché gli scopi sono obbligatoriamente sempre gli stessi...,le basi di qualunque fps sono così!....e se non vi interessa allora lasciate perdere!.....punto!

nevershoutnevea
nevershoutnevea

another shooting game :( -what a surprise- i feel like those developers looking for fast money no new idea shooter games is everywhere now they all looks the same bang bang you're dead whats new? nothing stupid developers

StarWatchers
StarWatchers

that's what happens to you if you put "forever" in the title.

Blade8Aus
Blade8Aus

@ 008Zulu The R18+ rating for video games should be introduced solely for this title :P

chertoo
chertoo

make an xcom sequel that doesnt suck after this

therickmu25
therickmu25

"now make hexen 3, and birth of the federation 2 and I will be able to die happy hehe" --- HEXEN.WAS.AMAZING. One of the first games that got me into gaming.

rquasar
rquasar

It's nice to hear. It was my first ever game, XMAS 1996(first Computer). I Remember playing it on T.E.N: Total Entertainment Network. That was the same time I started playing a little Quake, then Q2,Q3,"Q4"

kirigha
kirigha

2many games out there 4 us 2 play. need 2 det real busy. gamin bonanza ahoy!

Second_Rook
Second_Rook

@chano880 Yes I probably should, but it's always more of a "what now?" type of exasperation that keeps me reading all the coverage that this game has gotten for the last 10 years. As for press getting the quote, unquote treatment, for the most part I feel like media coverage in the gaming world is more unbalanced and biased than Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olberman rolled into one. I realize however that there are still plenty of good people out there writing reviews, but for every Kevin VanOrd there is an entire pack of crap, (the Game Informer staff for example) people that strip the entire field of credibility and trustworthiness.

domz_dream
domz_dream

jesuschristonastick! About time. You know...I think I'll get this game purely as a mercy-buy. I remember when I was a young games designer, I just started out, and I remember back then how excited I was about this came almost ready to come out. Followed by years of stalling...and stalling....and stalling. Yup, this is a mercy-buy for me.

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

All the lil COD fanboys/ FPS noobs are shaking in their pint sized boots right now cuz the king of FPS has returned. STRICTLY for the hardcore. All you COD scrubs can cry.

tokicsek
tokicsek

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

rpgnutt
rpgnutt

look i dont care to much for gearbox finishing this game BL was not that good of a game so i hope they left it to where they just finish the game the way it was and did not put any of there retarded touches on it BL storyline was lame and did not pull me in what so ever heres hopein its a gem not a costume jewelry

grasshopper6
grasshopper6

well I hope it'll be the same Duke like in old days

arkadiyk
arkadiyk

Any directx 11 API support?