Interview – Gearbox’s Martel on DNF: “He’s the king”

Friday, 3 September 2010 20:36 GMT By Patrick Garratt


Duke Nukem Forever is releasing for PS3, PC and 360 next year. Gearbox said so this morning in Seattle. After playing the game and sending back impressions, VG247’s Steph Nunneley got herself in front of Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel to quiz him on the story of the game surviving the 3DRealms meltdown, diversity and linearity in the shooter, vehicle combat, multiplayer, and loads more.

Hit it.

Interview by Stephany Nunneley.

VG247: Did you previously worked at 3DRealms?

Brian Martel: I previously worked at 3DRealms. Randy and I [spent] our first days there. I was an artist and he was a level designer. We just happened to sit next to each other and really started to collaborate on all the levels that we worked on. We built a bond, a really great friendship, and we eventually started Gearbox together. That was how we met.

Did you work on Duke Nukem at 3DRealms?

I did. In fact, I worked on the Atomic Edition. I also worked a little bit on Duke Nukem Forever. It went through a number of engines. I actually worked on a version back when it was still the build engine.

This game’s been through a lot. There have been lawsuits, cancellations, the team getting laid off. After 3DRealms ended and 2K said it wanted to do something with the game, did you jump at the chance or did they come to you because you’d previously worked on it?

Brian Martel: We kind of also went to them, to broker the idea of, ‘Hey, we’re really good friends with these guys over at 3DRealms. It’s really unfortunate that the lay-offs happened and those kind of things, but we really don’t want to see this thing die. We think we can facilitate a way to make this thing see the light of day.’

We’ve got a great rapport with 2K, and then there was our relationship with 3DRealms; it was just a natural fit to get everything out of the way, clear the air and make sure we could pull it off.

We were able to get the guys that were working on the game back together, and working with us, working with Gearbox. It’s a good relationship.

So how long has all this been going on behind the scenes?

Brian Martel: It’s been quite a while. Probably since a little while after everybody knew about the cancellation. Beinhd the scenes we were thinking about how to do it, talking to everybody. Things had to happen fast before everyone spread to the winds and we lost that institutional knowledge.

This is a crazy game, and you want to make sure you have the right people that can do all that stuff stay together.

You said the game had switched engines quite a few times. Which one are you using on it now?

Brian Martel: Well, we don’t really want to talk about the tech. We want to talk about the game. We’re going to leave it at that.

OK. How far along was the game when you finally got hold of it? How much work had been done?

Brian Martel: In 12 years, a lot of work had been done. It was epic. There were more levels than you could probably put into the game. All the levels were finished to different quality.

What we really did was work with these guys to narrow it down to the best, right sort of diversity of levels, to the crazy gameplay that you expect out of Duke. That was the key aspect: bringing all this stuff together. It’s a big game, and there was a lot already done, but it was really a matter of polishing and getting it ready.

We’ve heard rumours that there may be a demo pretty soon.

Brian Martel: I don’t know anything about that.

You’re looking at sometime in 2011, so we’re maybe looking at spring?

Brian Martel: We’re just saying 2011. Obviously, with Duke Nukem, and especially DNF, you don’t want to come out and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be this date.’ You’d better be sure and everything better be right. It’s 2011.

And PC, PS3 and 360?

Brian Martel: Correct, yeah.

Duke’s always been over the top, and what I played involving the big Cyclops thing is definitely over the top. Can we expect a lot of different enemies and diversity?

Brian Martel: You can expect a lot of the things that you may remember from Duke 3D, all of it obviously updated and changed. Then there’s a lot of new, big, giant boss monsters and tons of other creatures. I don’t know exactly what the numbers are, but I can tell you that it’s very, very diverse throughout the whole of the game. I mean, the types of things that you do in the game, plus the things that you’re fighting.

I noticed there were many different environments. I’ve played Borderlands and it’s massive, so how big a scope are we talking in DNF?

Brian Martel: It’s not as open-world as Borderlands of course. We’re really talking about a shooter shooter. But we have things like using an RC car to solve puzzles, and it really harks back to the days of the old shooters: solving puzzles, having great combat, solving some other puzzles, doing something epic, and that kind of rhythm that you expect from games of yore, if you will.

But now, obviously, everything’s next-gen and looks amazing, and frankly it’s kind of rare to see anything like this in contemporary games.

So, as far as diversity, and just wacky gameplay and epic scale goes, there are times when you’re on the sides of buildings fighting a monster, there are times when your’e in tunnels and things like that, you’re out driving a big truck; just cool stuff.

We saw different vehicles to drive, and he was crashing through enemies. So there it vehicular combat?

Brian Martel: Yep, absolutely.

And big over-the-top weapons and wisecracks.

Brian Martel: Yep. He’s the king.

You said that y’all are going to talk about multiplayer at a later date. Any idea when?

Brian Martel: As soon as soon.