As a gamer who was fortunate enough to grow up playing Duke Nukem 3D, I have to say that THIS has been a long time coming. Today, MasterAbbot, Kelly and myself were fortunate enough to be invited to attend a special media event at the Slide Bar on Oxford Street in Sydney Australia. This was to be the venue where representatives from Gearbox software would be showing off the upcoming mega-hit: Duke Nukem Forever. What can I say? It’s the game that we’ve been waiting so many Duke-less years for. Who in their right mind would refuse that invitation?
Upon entering the slide bar, we all immediately noticed that the bar’s decor had been altered by the fellows from Gearbox and 2K, in an effort to make the place look more like a place where the King himself would go to hang out. Giant plaques of Duke and his lifetime achievements were scattered around the room. A giant backdrop with the words “Duke Nukem Forever” hung from the main stage (complete with vertical bars). Overhanging the stage hung what looked to be a neon sign for Duke’s very own Bar: “Duke Nukem’s Titty Bar”. And maybe most notably, the abundance of female staff dressed in Duke approved apparel. All we needed were a few beers, some good food and the experience would be truly.. – oh, wait a sec… that was provided to us too. Well save for the alien invasion, it really was like stepping into Duke Nukem’s world.
But we didn’t forget the real reasons why we were attending the event (but that extra stuff was still good.) Our mission was threefold: Play through the gameplay trial being presented to the media; learn as much as possible about the impending release; and obtain an interview with the heads of Gearbox software, who were present at this very event. Now while we can’t disclose exactly what sort of things we played through and saw (yet…), we were told that we were more than welcome to ask a few questions and spend time re-living those experiences of playing Duke Nukem, but in a brand new way.
The event itself was broken up into 3 2-hour sessions, which would allow different groups to come and go, speak with members the development team and play test the demos on offer. Needless to say, I was impressed with both the scale and management of the whole thing. Before everybody inevitably gravitated towards the unmanned play-test tv’s, our attention was seized by the two reps from Gearbox who were commanding attention to the stage. They introduced themselves as Randy Pitchford, the president of Gearbox software and Steve Gibson, the vice president. It was pretty clear from their mannerisms on stage that both were highly psyched about this game. Randy took us through what gamers loved so much about Duke, and even provided us with a little history lesson regarding the huge wait for this release. As an ex-3D Realms employee, Randy was already very familiar with the Duke franchise, and for years, like most of us, has been waiting to see when the King would return to video gaming. When 3D Realms answered in 2009: “never”, this set in motion a chain of events which ultimately led to Gearbox buying the rights to Duke to change that around. It was clearly a story and a situation that is close to his heart. He and Steve both proceeded to talk about what was new with Duke in 2011, and how this game stands out from the rest.
It was said that the gaming industry has changed dramatically between DN:3D and DNF. In a modern market that already features an abundance of first person shooters, all with the same, shoot, kill, move-on flow of gameplay, the designers of DNF have tried to capture the spirit of the older Duke games, while still introducing some new innovations. While of course there IS a lot of ass-kicking to be had, the game was described as more than that. Players would be forced to think about their decisions and interactions with the Duke world. It’s a first person shooter game, but it’s also a puzzler, an adventure game, and a problem solving experience. Sure many problems can be solved with heavy artillery and use of said artillery, but there apparently will be moments when players really need to think to progress. Both reps said that they were particularly fond of the work on Portal 2 which has helped define intellectual challenges in FPS gameplay.
While they continued to discuss elements of Duke’s story, I took a quick look around only to see a bar-girl offering to get me a drink. In the middle of the day, I was expecting coke and water. “We have beer for you guys” what she said, and suddenly, out rolled the Crowns. Looking over by the bar, I also spotted a few ladies clad in clothing that was even more tight fitting that those being worn by the bar staff. All three were wearing the same outfit consisting of a white shirt, VERY small red patterned skirts and long black boots. I recognised the outfit from the announcement trailers I had already seen. I figured that these ladies were reps from 2K who would later be helping us get introduced to the play-test.
Then, Randy and Steve stepped off stage. The three afore mentioned ladies moved up to the stage and positioned themselves on the vertical bars. Suddenly, I figured maybe they weren’t there to teach us how to play. Alice Cooper’s “Poison” began to play as the stage lit up, and smoke was fed in from stage right. All of the attending guests were then treated to, believe it or not, a stage pole dance show from the girls in Duke apparel. I mean, what else can I say? It was certainly fitting of the Duke Nukem theme. It was sort of surreal and kind of awkward for me, but I could tell that about half the audience were staring on with intent. Including MasterAbbott. 🙂
We were later given a photo opportunity to have with the girls, where I swear MasterAbbott thought that for a moment, he was Duke himself. Seriously, take a look at the photos! C’mon… Free food, free beer, video games, and babes? It doesn’t really get much better than that.
Needless to say, I was VERY impressed by the game test-plays. In my own opinion, I feel that this will definitely be a game worth looking out for. I can’t say exactly what I played (yet…) but take a reassuring pat on the back, it’s AWESOME. I think it captures the essence of what made previous Duke games great, but at the same time, has created new innovations that may well define the game industry and the FPS market for years to come.
At the final stage of the event, our little group was ushered upstairs to have a one-on-one chat with Randy and Steve regarding the release of DNF. Everything went pretty smoothly Randy and Steve, who are both VERY cool guys. To watch the interview itself, click HERE
All in all though ,it was a fantastic event to be a part of. It was fun, entertaining, and for me, fulfilling to see Duke had been passed into hands that shared our dream to see the final product hit selves. Not only was it able to project the Duke Nukem world into reality, it also projected that fact that the game itself: Duke Nukem Forever WILL be becoming a reality for gamers very soon. Scheduled for a worldwide release on June 10th (or 14th in the States) mark the date down, because the King will be back to kick ass, and chew bubblegum.
And trust me, he’s really, REALLY…
…out of gum.