Waiting for Dudebro

Before I could stop her, the helpful 2K rep had steered me over to the Duke Nukem booth and put me in front of a demo unit. On the other side of the carrel, a series of encounters between awkwardly smiling visitors, a throne, and a quartet of breasts were immortalized by incessant camera flashes. Then the demo started, and I was shooting a big monster in a stadium just like old times. After the monster died, the camera pulled back through the big-screen TV in Duke's rec room. He was holding a 360 controller and sounded pleased, but then the camera revealed two women who were taking turns servicing him. "Was it good?" one of them asked.

"After eleven years, it better be!" Duke said, inaugurating a final, grim passage in his odyssey toward irrelevance.

I have no doubt that, had 3D Realms ever finished the game and brought it to launch, the promotions and demos would have been much like this one. But they didn't finish it, and we all know it wasn't for lack of time or funding. Duke Nukem Forever and its original developers suffered from a terminal case of stage fright, and I can only assume it was because on some level they knew that the jig was up. With its prophetic acronym, DNF was always racing to catch up to a field of shooters that pulled away technologically and stylistically. DNF never saw the light of day because it was never going to measure up, and all 3D Realms' efforts to salvage it only succeeded in postponing the day of reckoning beyond the company's own expiration date.

Long, long before 3D Realms bowed out, DNF was more an object of morbid fascination than a hot title. I don't ever remember the questions about DNF being about how good it would be. It was always, "What could possibly be taking so long?" or, "What scale of disaster are we talking about?"

What bothered me about the DNF booth, and the direction that 2K, Gearbox, and Piranha seem to be going with in marketing and finishing the game, is an overall sense of denial. Duke Nukem has all the appeal of a roadside accident, and the people lined up to play it are there to rubberneck the aftermath. Yet there they are, pushing DNF as if it were a real game that people wanted to play on its merits.

They would do well to consider those merits before celebrating them. The game presented by the demo is that of an old-fashioned shooter deriving its identity from a combination of juvenile sexism and broad genre parody. Except Duke isn't smart enough to seem ironic and is too dumb to offend, so the game's attempts at parody come across as ill-conceived sleaze. It gets stranded halfway between making fun of its own trashiness and using it for titillation—and in the meantime, Duke's adventures play like a "Why didn't I think of that?" homage to Painkiller or Serious Sam. It's not hard to see why 3D Realms could never quite bring themselves to complete DNF. They just wanted to make an ironic send-up of exploitative schlock, but instead they got mired in it.

It always struck me that the way to bring Duke Nukem Forever to an end was to make it playable with as few changes as possible, then release it without comment. Nobody cared about Duke's new adventure. After almost fifteen years, you find fewer people who care about his last one. What is interesting is the final fate of a title that has become a symbol of failed game development and a bygone era.

In a decision that threatens to turn the entire release into an elaborate piece of corporate performance art, 2K and Gearbox have embraced anachronism and are ostentatiously reveling in DNF's tastelessness. Although, that might be the only way to play it from here. A developed sense of embarrassment already killed Duke's first handler. Perhaps Gearbox and 2K are the pair that can finally finish him off.

Comments

Oh hey. Guess I'll just drop this here.

Ah ha ha ha. They just had to.

wordsmythe wrote:

I don't think Bulletstorm is going to make any GOTY lists, though.

I dunno, I mean, it IS a pretty sweet game. I suppose it all depends on the competition, doesn't it?

*looks at release schedule for the remainder of the year*

Oh. Right. Never mind. Carry on.

PyromanFO wrote:

If your game is a car crash might as well ramp that f*cker into a flaming pit of monkeys to the tune of "Any Way You Want It"

I'd like to make it known to all that this is the way I want to go when my time finally comes.

June, eh? One final kick in junk. Maybe. There could always be a "PS- Kick in the junk."

Tycho at Penny Arcade actually just wrote a piece yesterday about Duke 3D. His point is although that Duke was, in fact, a dumb game about a jerk, that the game actually did add a lot of innovation to the genre and did a lot of things that even Quake, which came after it, didn't do.

Tycho wrote:

Jetpacks. Tricksy holograms. Shrink-rays. I mean, there are entire games based on individual Duke features. Timed detonators! It's like they had access to a different alphabet, and somewhere they are still hoarding those secret letters. Why are all of those ideas in the same game? It's from 1996, and it still comes up in conversation. The Subway. The Bank. Virtually unlimited levels to play on, 20k or less in most cases. I shot Gabriel once with a shrink ray, and he used his jetpack to fly out the window like an insect. Fifteen years ago. Still talking about it, about scenarios that to this day no game has managed to top.

Say what you will about Duke, but it was memorable - in many different ways - that its competitors and predecessors, and even many of its successors, were not. I don't think it was realistic of 3D Realms to expect DNF to live up to that, if that's what they were doing. And I don't think it's realistic of Gearbox to expect it, either. It will be interesting to see how well - or lack thereof - this one actually does if they ever stop pushing the release date back.

Sure, no one expects this to be any good, but what if it turns out to good? The character and the IP might be dated and no longer relevant but what if the game turns out to be one awesome action set piece after another?

I'm glad "Bulletstorm" came up since it's the closest we've seen to a new Duke, but Duke (and all build3D games really) have ultimately been about environment interaction: Pull this lever, push this switch, pay this stripper etc. As long as the new duke has the same care taken in environment and level design, it could really be something we haven't seen in a long time, which is a nice change of pace in the FPS genre.

I'm getting the feeling I'm in the minority when I say I'm still looking forward to DNF.

Stylez wrote:

I'm getting the feeling I'm in the minority when I say I'm still looking forward to DNF.

I'm still looking forward to it, but I'm pensive based on what I mentioned earlier about the gameplay not being very good, based on reports from PAX and the like.

Honestly though, and this is the reason behind my snippiness earlier, I'm tired of gamers being so defensive and quick to outrage over their entertainment. The 'smack a b*tch' mode or whatever it's called is the controversy du jour because many gamers are scared of Fox looking at our hobby and embarrassing us.

It's as though out of fear of a Comics Code type of regulation, or worse, gamers are trying to regulate the industry via media outrage.

Does the mode sound stupid? Yes. Is it sexist? Yes. Is it going to turn otherwise balanced gamers into woman beaters? I doubt it. And the same could be said of the whole game.

I think we should just allow Duke to be Duke and see how things play out, without any angst about what the game says about us of the wider hobby.

*climbs off soapbox*

As for the article. It's an interesting piece. Overall I agree that Duke isn't culturally relevant, but then, when has he ever been?

DanB wrote:

Sure, no one expects this to be any good, but what if it turns out to good? The character and the IP might be dated and no longer relevant but what if the game turns out to be one awesome action set piece after another?

The thing is "good" is subjective. DNF has 14 years of baggage now, but as long as it's a good fun game when you play it, can you ask for more? I don't like every type of game and every setting, and I don't expect DNF to be everything to all people. Just like any other game, if you look at the footage and think that looks like fun, then think about buying it. Anyone putting up additional barriers because they're 'owed' 14 years worth of development, or being offended on behalf of someone else (can of worms... everywhere), isn't doing themselves any favours and wants to play games they hate.

I really feel like gamers in a lot of quarters are struggling - struggling very hard - to legitimize gaming when it's not necessary. It's a hobby - an entertainment. I know we strive to avoid comparisons to movies, but it's apt sometimes. There are movies that affect me emotionally, making me re-examine my relationships, choices, or moral stance. There are movies that frighten me, making me jump at shadows when I'm alone at night. There are movies that make me laugh - they might be juvenile, or clever, or just bizarre. A movie really only "fails" if it aims to do something and can't accomplish it.

Do you shake your fists angrily at the release of the newest Scary Movie #5,987? Do you protest that Yogi Bear continues the trend of mindless laughs for kids that will entice hundreds of thousands of parents to shell out cash while it doesn't advance the art form of comedy at all? Does that fact that SAW has had no less than 7 major movie releases - each of which is a rehash of the same plot - make you weep for the future of humanity?

If so - you're missing the point entirely. If Duke Nukem's humor isn't your thing, and it's going to keep you from wringing any fun from the gameplay, then nobody is going to make you buy it, rent it or even watch somebody else play it. It doesn't bring down your experience in any other game you'll play. Gaming isn't one united front, where the bad behavior of one developer somehow tarnishes the experiences of others in some bizarre way.

I fear we're reaching a point among many gamers where discussion of a game as "art" exceeds discussion of a game's merits as, well - a game.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Honestly though, and this is the reason behind my snippiness earlier, I'm tired of gamers being so defensive and quick to outrage over their entertainment. The 'smack a b*tch' mode or whatever it's called is the controversy du jour because many gamers are scared of Fox looking at our hobby and embarrassing us.

It's as though out of fear of a Comics Code type of regulation, or worse, gamers are trying to regulate the industry via media outrage.

Does the mode sound stupid? Yes. Is it sexist? Yes. Is it going to turn otherwise balanced gamers into woman beaters? I doubt it. And the same could be said of the whole game.

I think we should just allow Duke to be Duke and see how things play out, without any angst about what the game says about us of the wider hobby.

*climbs off soapbox*

As for the article. It's an interesting piece. Overall I agree that Duke isn't culturally relevant, but then, when has he ever been?

Here's the problem, as I see it: The mere fact that the game doesn't say anything new or worthwhile does not mean that the game isn't still saying something.

InspectorFowler wrote:

Do you shake your fists angrily at the release of the newest Scary Movie #5,987? Do you protest that Yogi Bear continues the trend of mindless laughs for kids that will entice hundreds of thousands of parents to shell out cash while it doesn't advance the art form of comedy at all? Does that fact that SAW has had no less than 7 major movie releases - each of which is a rehash of the same plot - make you weep for the future of humanity?

I weep for the film reviewers.

I don't plan on buying or playing DNF, but a few points:

A game is more than entertainment, regardless of what it's generally approached as. That doesn't mean that I take issue with games that are geared towards mere entertainment, but I will hold games accountable for being irresponsible in their quest to entertain. PopCap does a wonderful job of entertaining players without aggrandizing the mistreatment of women, so I'm in no rush to write off Duke's stance as necessary collateral damage.

Slapping some sweet virtual buttocks shouldn't be more shameful than killing entire armies single-handed, whatever the cause. *ESPECIALLY* since sometimes a nice ass-slap is warranted, wanted and enjoyed.

Enemy soldiers have families too.

Now someone go make me a sammich.

wordsmythe wrote:

I don't plan on buying or playing DNF, but a few points:

A game is more than entertainment, regardless of what it's generally approached as. That doesn't mean that I take issue with games that are geared towards mere entertainment, but I will hold games accountable for being irresponsible in their quest to entertain. PopCap does a wonderful job of entertaining players without aggrandizing the mistreatment of women, so I'm in no rush to write off Duke's stance as necessary collateral damage.

But do you feel the same about movies or books? Actually, I'm sure you do. You're an intelligent, moral person.

But how many people squealing about Duke are squealing about Sucker Punch, or umm, the writer with the really sexist fantasy books? (Terry Goodkind?) I'm more than fine with people who have a coherent set of expectations regarding all entertainment media, but the moral dudgeon over Duke Nukem and the Witcher always comes across as kind of hypocritical.

To be honest, I don't have a coherent viewpoint. But one thing I can say for sure is I don't like censorship, and clucking morality of the easily outraged is one of the most insidious forms of this.

Well, I am squealing about Sucker Punch. There is far too much mascara in that mental institution.

Wordy's post elsewhere helped me realize that I don't hate Duke, I hate the pubbies who will take this cue. "Capture the babe" is the setup for an earful of rape jokes if you make the mistake of leaving the headphones on.

And now, the lighter side of misogyny.

I've no doubt you're correct. Thankfully I stay well away from online shooters.

oMonarca wrote:

Slapping some sweet virtual buttocks shouldn't be more shameful than killing entire armies single-handed, whatever the cause. *ESPECIALLY* since sometimes a nice ass-slap is warranted, wanted and enjoyed.

Enemy soldiers have families too.

My last comment as originally drafted added violence towards humans as problematic.

Scratched wrote:
DanB wrote:

Sure, no one expects this to be any good, but what if it turns out to good? The character and the IP might be dated and no longer relevant but what if the game turns out to be one awesome action set piece after another?

The thing is "good" is subjective. DNF has 14 years of baggage now, but as long as it's a good fun game when you play it, can you ask for more? I don't like every type of game and every setting, and I don't expect DNF to be everything to all people. Just like any other game, if you look at the footage and think that looks like fun, then think about buying it. Anyone putting up additional barriers because they're 'owed' 14 years worth of development, or being offended on behalf of someone else (can of worms... everywhere), isn't doing themselves any favours and wants to play games they hate.

Yeah. I kind of feel though that it's 14 years worth of baggage that we should all just put aside at this point. To say nothing of the fact that said baggage really belongs to 3DRealms. Whatever it is that 2K/Gearbox put out we should judge it on it's own merits rather than in light of 14 year's dashed hopes.

wordsmythe wrote:
oMonarca wrote:

Slapping some sweet virtual buttocks shouldn't be more shameful than killing entire armies single-handed, whatever the cause. *ESPECIALLY* since sometimes a nice ass-slap is warranted, wanted and enjoyed.

Enemy soldiers have families too.

My last comment as originally drafted added violence towards humans as problematic.

Taking me seriously is a perilous road towards a dead end filled with pornography.

I would expect nothing less from the Portuguese! Is there black wine involved?

Yes, there is. However, you must find where the bottle is hidden.

As is so often the case with these issues, Penny Arcade already said what I wanted to say better than I would have said it.
IMAGE(http://art.penny-arcade.com/photos/1225003176_APGME-L.jpg)

Delayed until June. Publicity stunt?

MaxShrek wrote:

Delayed until June. Publicity stunt?

I think it would be funny if the games industry kept this going forever. Make it into one giant games industry inside joke. Each year DNF gets passed on, like the Olympic torch, where one lucky developer will get the joy of creating a new trailer and hosting a booth for it at an entire 4 years worth of gaming/convention events. It will send out screen shots, create a triple-A facebook page and do interviews exclusively with IGN.com (including IGN.com press quotes for the "future" game box).

And every year it becomes more of a caricature of itself. It's ludicrousness gameplay promises, one-up'd every time it is passed to the next honored studio. The absurd hardware requirements as ridiculous as Duke's inhumanly, ripped physique. Upon which it will come to a point where its meta-jokes will become meta-meta-jokes. And DNF will be remembered as the game that never arrived, but was more popular than anything ever actually made.

Snadzies_McSnadz wrote:

While there is a part of me that is rubber necking to see if DNF is the wreck you'd think 13 years of development hell would cause, I'm also interested in it because I miss those big dumb not realistic shooters.

I miss carrying 15 weapons, each one large and heavy enough to give Arnold Schwarzenegger a hernia, circle strafing 20 demons from the 7th level of hell, watching them gibb into meat chunks as I run over the armor pickup behind the not-so-well-hidden secret room with the giant crack in the wall, and the biggest plot twist is that the switch I just pressed gave me the blue key card rather than the yellow one I thought I would get.
Seeing a chest high wall and not having it lure me towards it with its cover like a siren calling a young sailor.

MEGA-AGREEMENT!!!

MrDeVil909 wrote:

But how many people squealing about Duke are squealing about Sucker Punch, or umm, the writer with the really sexist fantasy books? (Terry Goodkind?)

Stephenie Meyer.

Coldtouch wrote:
MaxShrek wrote:

Delayed until June. Publicity stunt?

I think it would be funny if the games industry kept this going forever. Make it into one giant games industry inside joke. Each year DNF gets passed on, like the Olympic torch, where one lucky developer will get the joy of creating a new trailer and hosting a booth for it at an entire 4 years worth of gaming/convention events. It will send out screen shots, create a triple-A facebook page and do interviews exclusively with IGN.com (including IGN.com press quotes for the "future" game box).

And every year it becomes more of a caricature of itself. It's ludicrousness gameplay promises, one-up'd every time it is passed to the next honored studio. The absurd hardware requirements as ridiculous as Duke's inhumanly, ripped physique. Upon which it will come to a point where its meta-jokes will become meta-meta-jokes. And DNF will be remembered as the game that never arrived, but was more popular than anything ever actually made.

Archaeologists will have great fun with that, then they could try and finish it. Then aliens discover the remains of our civilisation on the charred remains of our planet when the sun turns into a red giant, and they will wonder what the hell we were thinking of, and try and finish it...

"DNF" can stand for either "Duke Nukem Forever" or "Did Not Finish." Is it really a coincidence?

Coldtouch wrote:
MaxShrek wrote:

Delayed until June. Publicity stunt?

I think it would be funny if the games industry kept this going forever. Make it into one giant games industry inside joke. Each year DNF gets passed on, like the Olympic torch, where one lucky developer will get the joy of creating a new trailer and hosting a booth for it at an entire 4 years worth of gaming/convention events. It will send out screen shots, create a triple-A facebook page and do interviews exclusively with IGN.com (including IGN.com press quotes for the "future" game box).

And every year it becomes more of a caricature of itself. It's ludicrousness gameplay promises, one-up'd every time it is passed to the next honored studio. The absurd hardware requirements as ridiculous as Duke's inhumanly, ripped physique. Upon which it will come to a point where its meta-jokes will become meta-meta-jokes. And DNF will be remembered as the game that never arrived, but was more popular than anything ever actually made.

+1