After 13 years in the making, Duke Nukem Forever is now in the final stages of production and almost ready to be unleashed upon an audience that had all but given up on ever seeing it. We recently met up with Gearbox Studio’s VP of Marketing, Steve Gibson, to chat about Duke, 3D Realms and blow jobs…
IncGamers: How did Gearbox come to a decision on whether or not to take this project on?
Steve Gibson: I guess there were a few steps we went through. First, on an emotional level, we were like “wow, that’s some crazy stuff, do we want to take that on?” We knew we were the only studio in a stop to do it because of our relationship [with 2K] on the Borderlands stuff and the 3D Realms thing. But still, y’know, do you wanna be the studio involved in that slow-motion 10-year train wreck?
So we got to get a look at the game, and we’d already seen it a couple of times, but we had to take a serious look – a technical look – and we had engineers go in and take a look at it to see whether we still wanted to do this and whether it was possible. We got through that and we were happy that it was technical possible, and that helped us get a little more emotionally comfortable.
Then more people played through it and their reaction was like “man, there’s some really good stuff here and we know we can technically get it done”. So then it was like that weird pressure and difficulty of looking at it has now turned into this inspiration for realising that we can be the guys who actually complete this dream, we are the guys who can go in there and finishing this out and be a humble little part of the tail end of this thing to make it happen.
You say you’re just a little part of making this happen. How much of the content 3D Realms had created remains in the game?
A very good portion. The game was in reasonably good shape when we got it. There were inconsistencies in content and pacing and things like that, there was no multiplayer, the platform stuff for PS3 and 360 had to be worked out so we replaced the rendering for the console stuff a bit. But the game itself, the vision of this game, this is the vision of 3D Realms.
So the story is the same?
The story is the same. Well, story… really. [laughs] What story? Yeah, we brought in 14 writers and they brainstormed for three months and decided you should save the world.
It’s great to play a game in which you can kill aliens without having to be a space marine…
And we don’t have all that emotional bullshit going on either.
Just from the demo, it’s clear there’s a fair amount of adult content, are you worried you’re going to be crucified by the ratings boards and national press?
We think there will be continued concerns from the ratings boards. Y’know on the ratings thing there’s the various categories – graphic violence, partial nudity and all that stuff? And there’s another one called ‘mature humour’, we think that is the only time it will ever be called mature humour. But we think it’ll be fine, it’s just a matter of going through the technical paces of it.
I guess we hadn’t really given much worry to it. The thought has crossed our mind but the worry about the national press saying “hey, this game is too crude for your kids!” well… this is an M rated game and I think you probably realised that within the first moments of playing.
So, you’ve got to be 17 or older [in the US] to play it anyway. The fortunate part for us also, in regards to the technical and political hurdles of getting something like this out, is that our publisher happens to be the guys who did Grant Theft Auto. Those guys have dealt with that stuff probably more than anybody else. So, I think it’s going to be fine.
Do you think the extended, very public, very problematic development history of Duke Nukem Forever will actually help sales? In that it has already achieved a somewhat legendary status?
From a business perspective (I guess you could call it) it will get people to look. At least, that’s what we’re hoping. It seems like that’ll happen. We weren’t even sure that was the case though, do you remember the movie Snakes on a Plane? And how everybody talked about it and how it was so funny, but then nobody actually showed up to watch it. So that was the first question “man, are we Snakes on a Plane?” PAX proved otherwise, PAX proved people were willing to wait in line for 5 hours. So we got that hurdle cleared.
Right now though, we’re just inspired to complete it. At the beginning we were like “how much of an asshole are we going to look like if we don’t do a good job?” But I think we’re cool on that now.
If you look at Red Dead Redemption or Avatar (the movie) – the ones that took a while but were completed and people were happy with – y’know, people don’t talk about how long it took Red Dead to be completed anymore – or Avatar. But, they do talk about Waterworld in that way.
So we think yes, the long history will be attached to [Duke Nukem Forever] if it turns out that people don’t like it. But, if and when, people love Duke then I think that’s all people are going to care about anymore and the rest is just going to be forgotten as a footnote.
How much is this going to appeal to those people that aren’t familiar with Duke Nukem and haven’t played the older games?
There are new gamers born every day, right? We paid close attention to who was waiting in line [at PAX] and who played the demo and what they thought. It was all age ranges, which was great. Because we weren’t doing market research and we weren’t announcing [the game] and gauging what people thought, we just showed up at PAX with the game and that turned out to be an excellent way to gauge it. We think it came out that people young and old liked it.
We’re doing a lot of things for those guys that played [Duke Nukem 3D] because that’s a big deal, the legend of this game is really important. The football field in the demo you played that’s actually from the original; there are lots of themes in this game from the original. There’s a fully functional pinball machine, which is not a reference in itself, but the name of the game is ‘Balls of Steel’. You and I, we played the original and we know what that’s referencing and that sort of thing is spread throughout the game.
What do you think it is that’s so appealing about the Duke Nukem brand?
We think we’re in a unique spot, we think Duke Nukem is unlike any other lead character in video games. If you look at your Gears of Wars, Call of Dutys and Halos the characters in those games are all serious dudes, y’know, they’ve got all this emotional shit going on. Whereas Duke’s just like “I’m a badass, I love blowing shit up and I love looking at titties.” We think there’s nothing like him.
Imagine your average gamer thinking about what to buy, they can buy three games and they’re looking at Halo, Call of Duty, Gears, Civilisation, Red Dead and Duke. Our guess is that you’re probably going to highlight the games that are similar and eliminate a couple of those first. We think Duke stands alone though and if a gamer wants diversity then they’re gonna pick Duke as one of their games.
I mean, how many games have you seen where you’re getting a double blowjob to open things up?