Take Two Interactive Software pulled off one of the video game world's biggest surprises Friday, announcing not only that the over-a-decade-in-development first person shooter was nearly finished, but backing that claim up by giving the 150,000 people attending the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle the chance to play the game.
First announced in 1997, "Duke Nukem Forever" became an annual presence on vaporware lists and a running joke among gamers for its molasses-like development schedule and frequent restarts. A year ago, it appeared the final nail had been hammered into the game's coffin, when developer 3D Realms ran out of money, let go virtually all of its employees and began a legal war with its publisher, Take-Two Interactive Software.
That suit was settled earlier this year, however. And while 3D Realms is no more, Gearbox Software, the studio behind "Borderlands" and "Brothers in Arms" (and staffed with a number of former 3DR employees), has taken over development on the game.
"Gearbox has enabled die-hard key Duke Nukem franchise builders and skilled veteran game makers to stand together and deliver," said Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software. "All gamers deserve a happy ending and after all of us gamers feeling the full range of emotions about Duke Nukem Forever, I am thrilled to be in a position with the trust, power and means to make it happen."
"Duke Nukem Forever" is, technically, a sequel to 1996's "Duke Nukem 3D" - though normally a sequel takes no more than three years to put together, while "DNF" started in the Clinton administration.
The game missed ship-date after ship-date, and many began to assume it would never see the light of day. Many pointed to 3D Realms co-founder George Broussard as the reason for the delays — noting that his obsession with perfection for the title resulted in a never-ending cycle of changes.
The bad times are over now, though — and the game is nearing completion. And after 13 long years, some of the industry's most core fans at PAX have finally gotten to see for themselves if the wait was worth it.