After a mindboggling twelve years in so-called development, the mythical PC shooter Duke Nukem Forever went down in flames earlier this year when the studio behind it, 3D Realms, finally went out of business after years of hemorrhaging money without actually releasing a product. How could this have happened? Who let Duke spiral so far out of control that more than a decade passed without anything marketable to show for it? Wired reviews the long saga of the game notoriously set to be released "when it's done" and lays the blame at the feet of a single man: 3D Realms co-owner George Broussard.
Broussard simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of Duke Nukem Forever coming out with anything other than the latest and greatest technology and awe-inspiring gameplay. He didn’t just want it to be good. It had to surpass every other game that had ever existed, the same way the original Duke Nukem 3D had.
But because the technology kept getting better, Broussard was on a treadmill. He’d see a new game with a flashy graphics technique and demand the effect be incorporated into Duke Nukem Forever. “One day George started pushing for snow levels,” recalls a developer who worked on Duke Nukem Forever for several years starting in 2000. Why? “He had seen The Thing” — a new game based on the horror movie of the same name, set in the snowbound Antarctic — “and he wanted it.” The staff developed a running joke: If a new title comes out, don’t let George see it. When the influential shoot-’em-up Half-Life debuted in 1998, it opened with a famously interactive narrative sequence in which the player begins his workday in a laboratory, overhearing a coworker’s conversation that slowly sets a mood of dread. The day after Broussard played it, an employee told me, the cofounder walked into the office saying, “Oh my God, we have to have that in Duke Nukem Forever.”
I've worked with people like Broussard before, and the apparent inability to lock down a project in order to continue chasing rainbows is just as maddening and frustrating as you can imagine. After reading this article I am no longer surprised that Duke Nukem Forever never became a completed product, and it's a shame that this Sisyphean game took so many people down with it after years of wasted talent, time, and money. I'm honestly shocked that the game's would-be publisher, Take-Two Interactive, left the money drain open for so long.