Gearbox: Duke Nuken Forever Was Victim of Expectations

Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford recently talked with The Verge, covering the studio's track record from Half-Life: Opposing Force to the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever PC game released last summer. He said the latter was an unfortunate victim of high expectations built up over the 15 years before its eventual release, and because of this, Duke didn't stand a chance.

"I took the risk to dive into the middle of that and be the one to finish it," said Pitchford. "I bought the game and the brand and said look, this is never coming out unless we do something. I thought it was a worthwhile thing to do and I am very proud of [it]."

By the time Gearbox gained access to the 3D Realms shooter, 12 years of development had already passed. The new team did its best to piece together a fragmented game, to turn it into something playable. But critics and gamers alike either loved the Duke Nukem 3D sequel, or they hated it. Both sides had their valid reasons which ultimately painted the picture of a final product that felt pieced together in chunks rather than a fluid experience.

"There are a lot of people who were perfectly gratified by the game; they liked the surprises, the details of how the humor manifested itself or how the scenarios manifested themselves," he said. "And there were other people, because of the development effort or because of the way it’s been upsold throughout the years, there is just no possible way to meet or exceed such expectations."

Surprisingly, out of all the games Gearbox has shipped over the years, the studio gets more positive fan mail from players of Duke Nukem Forever -- meaning they must have done something right getting the scrambled Duke sequel back into order. Despite all the negativity, there's a quality game the team can be proud of.

"The true definition of quality is not about things like fidelity or features, or you know production values, or anything like that," he said. "The true definition of quality ... is to what extent does the thing meet or exceed expectations of the customer."

After all the development and funding problems Duke Nukem Forever faced for more than a decade, it's a gaming miracle that it even reached store shelves, and Gearbox is extremely proud it could make that happen. As for the future of the franchise, we already know a sequel will eventually arrive which supposedly won't take quite so long in reaching the market. Beyond that, who knows.

"As long as we want to make a game set in a Borderlands franchise, we will be doing that," he admitted. "As long as we want to make a game set in Duke Nukem franchise, we will be doing that. As long as we want to make a game in the Brothers in Arms franchise, we will be doing that. As long as we want to create new franchises we will be doing that to the extent that we can. There are a lot of other things we have our eyes on that we would love to be a part of."