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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."

  • Goldengoose
    It was bad, accept that; don't try and make excuses.
    Reply
  • michalmierzwa
    If the creators had kept the story as it was originally, made few adjustments, no problem and certainly brought the graphics to today's standard than I think it would have been a better success than it worked out to be.
    Reply
  • rmpumper
    Expectations? Really? Give the game to anyone who never heard of Duke Nukem before (anyone younger that 18 would probably fit in that category) and they will say the game sucks.
    Reply
  • Raid3r
    Haha already huh guys. I disagree, it was exactly what it was supposed to be considering the huge fail that was the previous holder's of the franchise. I saw exactly, Duke Nukem.
    Reply
  • elcentral
    i had no expectations nor do i care about media revyes, and i love games like pain killer and serius sam, this game did simply not live up to my standards end of story.
    Reply
  • rantoc
    It was a mediocre shooter, not good nor bad. That was not what most fans expected for a follow-up for one of the most entertaining games ever made. That's what failed, deliver mid level quality for something that should have had AAA quality from the beginning.
    Reply
  • kettu
    "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."

    Hah, PR double speak. It's the things like fidelity, features and you know production values that you're supposed to concentrate on (among other things) inorder to fullfill the customer expectations.
    Reply
  • NightLight
    The graphics were sub-standard, it had some fun moments... I agree to a part that expectations were high, but still, they could have done a better job. That being said, i hope they get it right if there's ever a sequel.
    Reply
  • I enjoyed it start to finish. No idea what game all you other yahoos were playing.
    Reply
  • sporkimus
    What do people expect from a game that took 15 years to release?! It went through multiple design/creative teams and by the time someone finally got around to honestly making it happen, it was basically a game that evolved bunch of random pieces tossed in a box and left on a dusty shelf for someone else to figure out. Everyone knew this was going to be bad. What exactly were you expecting from something that took this long (let alone became a huge joke) to finally release? They took what they had, made whatever they could out of it and then released it. For them to say "Well, we have the game, but it's not quite right so we're going to completely redesign it", would have been the final nail in the coffin. It was a game that should have been released 12 years ago...
    Reply