Learn to Let Go: How Success Killed Duke Nukem


Wired’s Clive Thompson has put together a great piece that looks into the demise of Duke Nukem Forever. In it, he examines how success had ultimately become the worst thing that could happen for it at 3D realms and the reason why the long delayed game may appear under the Take 2 label instead. It’s kind of hard to think of how such a good thing could be so bad for the Duke, but I was surprised to see just how far the combination of unbridled enthusiasm and perfectionism had ultimately wrecked his chances for a long awaited return. It’s a gripping read.

3D Realms isn’t dead as a company, that much was made clear, but as far as development goes…Thompson’s piece pretty much lays it out at the end. Ever since I had seen the working footage briefly demonstrated by Jason Hall in ’08 in his first show, it seemed as if it were close to finally gettting out. And then screenshots, rumors, more months passing without a demo, until finally the bombshell dropped in May this year.

It’s also a story that made me angry to think of how many missed opportunities there were for it to finally see the light of day, of how many lives were invested over so many years in seeing it through, and the pressure to live up to the unbelievable hype that DNF had created around itself. When you look at something such as the Duke Nukem List memorializing its fate with everything that the world had accomplished while it waited for development to finish, you have to wonder why no one had the sense to stop and see just where the endless feature creep in raising the bar would ultimately leave it.

And the thing is, from the screens and the leaked design docs scattered across the ‘net that I’d seen, I’d still play it. Even if it were in pieces.