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DNF: Always bet on Duke and Randy Pitchford

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 14:01 GMT By Stace Harman

It’s been a long time coming, but Duke’s latest is – whisper it – just around the corner. We caught up with Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford to talk lengthy development cycles, parody and generation gaps.

Duke through the years

Duke Nukem – 1991

Duke Nukem II – 1993

Duke Nukem 3D – 1996

Development on Duke Nukem Forever – 1997

Five handheld and five spin-off titles released.

DNF Demo coming June 3 to First Access Club members.

Duke Nukem Forever is out on June 10 in Europe, June 17 in the US.

Meeting Duke’s savior

When you sit down to speak with Randy Pitchford you’d best be ready to think fast and interject comments and questions on-the-fly. The gregarious CEO of Gearbox Software isn’t backwards in coming forwards, and such is his enthusiasm for Gearbox’s work that he’ll happily talk long and hard about it – and a dozen disparate subjects – until the cows come home.

He’s rarely caught off-guard, but whilst drawing on a Beatles analogy when explaining how and why Duke Nukem Forever will appeal to gamers who were too young to experience Duke Nukem 3D back in 1996, he erupts with laughter when we make a make a passing comment about his age and put his slightly haggard appearance down to the current punishing international press tour.

“Wow, you had me at: ‘I’ll put it down to tiredness,’” he says, giving a wry shake of his head.

To get things back on track we suggest that he must be excited about the imminent release of Duke Nukem Forever, a title that has been awarded numerous vapourware titles throughout its protracted development cycle.

“I don’t think ‘excited’ accurately describes how I feel about it,” he offers. “I feel like a nine-year old on Christmas Eve and excitement is just too weak a word. I’m definitely looking forward to those presents under the tree.

“It’s interesting, Duke’s a big part of that excitement. Anyone who plays games and is even remotely plugged-in has heard of Duke Nukem, you can’t escape him. Frankly, the game’s great and I can’t wait for people to discover that for themselves.”

“Frankly, the game’s great and I can’t wait for people to discover that for themselves.”

He returns to his previously unfinished analogy “I remember when I discovered the Beatles,” he says, flashing a mischievous grin.

“Those guys peaked before I was born but when I discovered them for myself I felt special because I felt like I was hearing something that other people weren’t hearing. I’m seeing the same kind of thing that’s behind that feeling in people’s reaction to Duke. There’s just something about him and it’s that something that has meant folks have turned him into a meme, he’s become important to the games industry and to gamers and it’s not because of any one game because obviously there hasn’t been a game for quite a while now.

“For the guys that were clearly too young to have played Duke 3D when it came out I’m actually really excited that the first Duke game of their generation is Duke Nukem Forever because I’ve played it and it’s awesome and these guys are going to have a really great time with it.

“Gamer culture has used him over the years and he serves a purpose, there’s things like Ventrillo harassment video and the 4Chan forums took him and adopted this line ‘Always bet on Douk [sic]’, which is one of the funniest tag-lines because if there’s anything that the development cycle has taught us it’s that you absolutely should not bet that Duke is going to ship and yet here we are, a couple of weeks from launch, so I guess the bet is paying off.”

It seems then that Duke has taken on a life of his own, one outside of his original medium. He’s become an icon; like John McClane from the Die Hard franchise, the A-Team’s Mr T or Arnie as the T-800, Duke is the tough guy who’s a law unto himself. His bad boy reputation provides Gearbox with a certain element of creative freedom in both the publicity stunts that Duke can be embroiled in as well as the themes that run through the games he inhabits, including Duke Nukem Forever. So, is this why he’s managed to remain relevant all these years?

“The world that Duke lives in is similar to our world,” Pitchford begins. “That’s useful when you want to parody themes or things in our world but his world is also a different world. It’s Duke’s world. A twisted, topsy-turvy, funhouse mirror reflection of our world and that affords us tremendous freedom. It becomes this playground of infinite joy and so we can do things there that you absolutely could not get away with anywhere else, certainly we’ve never been able to get away with this stuff in any other game that we’ve worked on at Gearbox. I think that’s one of the reasons why the anticipation is what it is despite the development cycle.

DNF: Official HD Debut Trailer

“I mean, the development cycle is ludicrous, it’s an extreme edge case and the longest development cycle in the history of videogames, it’s just silly! If there wasn’t something about the game world and the context that fascinates people then it wouldn’t even be a story, it would have just dissolved into nothingness. There’s something special and unique about it that has not just kept it going, but meant it’s snowballed.

“The best illustration of that is that you can go on YouTube and search for any videogame trailer for a game that been announced but not launched and you’ll discover the Duke Nukem Forever trailer has more hits than any other videogame,” the official video posted by Gearbox in January currently sits at close to 2.4m views.

“So, according to the internet, he’s still relevant.”

On the subject of gay robots

It was widely reported last week that Pitchford had acknowledged the possibility of a gay robot sidekick for Duke during an event held at BAFTA HQ in London. We put this to him, asking if perhaps Gearbox might not consider tackling Duke’s perceived chauvinist and sexist reputation by instead including a homosexual human character and perhaps tackling the issue of sexuality in a less satirical, more head-on manner. Pitchford laughs again.

“I have to say that that if there’s one brand that’s undoubtedly the best place to really dig deep on social issues it’s Duke Nukem,” he says, somewhat sarcastically. “Look, I was at BAFTA and I was asked if Duke were to have a sidekick who would it be. I answered that he wouldn’t have a sidekick because he works alone but I was pushed for a ‘what if’ so I was kinda having fun with the premise and said wouldn’t it be interesting if it was a gay robot. The thing that nobody has caught on to is that there’s a robot that people have speculated may be gay in another Gearbox game, so I was playing with that a little bit and nobody has cottoned on yet.

“Duke is what he is, so we use that for the purposes of entertainment and parody.”

“Duke is what he is, so we use that for the purposes of entertainment and parody. Duke’s ego is fed by the love of others so it’s fun to play with that, to look at what that means for sexual experiences and how does that fit in to it. The aliens he’s battling use this too, they capture women to turn mankind’s reproductive system against itself and breed an alien army, they have technology with the biological capability to turn the male of our species into pigs ‘cos, y’know, all men are pigs, of course! It’s for the purpose of our amusement.

“Whenever a new approach is taken within our medium or when a new medium appears, we tend to feel a generation gap. I think videogames expose the biggest generation gap of all time: you have a whole generation or even several generations of people that grew up and became adults in a world where videogames did not exist. Many of these people are also policy makers and it’s scary to some of them, some are smart people who can figure it out but to some of them the fact that their children are engaging with an entertainment medium that they themselves don’t understand is frightening and instead of taking the time to understand it they’d rather just be afraid of it.

“The reality is it’s just an entertainment medium like any other, it’s interactive which makes it engaging, but it’s a form of expression and it must be respected as such. The good news is that a lot of our policy makers that didn’t grow up with videogames had their own generation gap with Rock & Roll. To them, it was absurd that their parents and their grandparents felt that a song like Louie Louie or the Beatles was going to bring forth the downfall of Western civilisation. So, they can hopefully draw comparisons between their experience and videogames.”

Gearbox and the multiplatfoprm market

It would be criminal to have time with Randy Pitchford and not pick his brains about current industry trends. With this in mind, I ask him about Gearbox’s traditionally multi-format approach to development and what he thinks of recent announcements by Capcom and Ubisoft in which they’ve reiterated their support for PC development.

“[The PC market] absolutely has a role to play in pushing videogames forward, but it’s also a great category in itself,” he says. “There are lot of people with PCs and it turns out that pretty much everyone on the planet consumes some form of entertainment, so there’s an opportunity there.

“We choose to be multiplatform because the reason that Gearbox software exists – and the reason I exist – is to entertain people. The goal isn’t to find the most exploitable business model, obviously I have to be smart about this because I have to make more than I spend, but the goal is about entertaining people and so the metrics that we use measure ourselves are how many people have we reached and to what extent have we gratified our customers.

DNF Multiplayer Video

“For us it becomes interesting to think about entertainment that can work on a number of platforms because different customers play games in different ways and I’ll tell you what, diversification is really nice because things change a lot. Sometimes you’ll see a burst in demand in one area and then that changes. Or something disruptive happens like right now with PSN being down and we’ve just seen the first information of how that’s affecting the market place, so imagine if you were not diversified and that was your only platform.

“In addition to the diversification helping with our entertainment goals it also fits with different business goals and makes it easier for us to take bigger risks and make different types of games. So, we can do stuff like take on the challenge of shipping Duke Nukem Forever or to create a game like Borderlands because of how diversified we are.”

As we’re winding up, we ask about another of Gearbox’s projects, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Announced back in 2007 little has been said about it other than to confirm that it’s still being worked on. So, will Pitchford tell us more about where it might be?

“Yeah, it’s in development,” Pitchford smiles. “It’s not up to me to talk about such things, unfortunately. You should talk to Sega about that. It’s frustrating to me that it’s not quite the right time for me to offer that information but at the same time I can say that that doesn’t mean that we’re not behind it and committed to it, we’re just doing what we need to do in our own space and when we’re ready to open that up we will do.”

We suggest to Pitchford that, given Duke Nukem Forever’s lengthy gestation period, the four years that Aliens has been in development is nothing, so should we expect to see the game before 2020?

“Well, y’know, we’re just barely getting started,” he jokes. “Seriously though, I don’t want to offer too much information because every little bit of new information is interpreted as a promise and if I’m going to be doing that I better be making a promise that I’m clear about and I’m committed to.”

Right now, Pitchford and the Gearbox team are most definitely committed to Duke Nukem Forever. In a few weeks time you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether the promises made over the last fourteen years have been kept and whether it really is safe to always bet on Duke.

Duke Nukem Forever launches for PS3, 360 and PC on June 10 internationally and June 14 in the US.

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3 Comments

  1. AHA-Lambda

    “but whilst drawing on a Beatles analogy when explaining how and why Duke Nukem Forever will appeal to gamers who were too young to experience Duke Nukem 3D back in 1996″

    not a great analogy randy. They tried this back in 2009 with the remastered cds and rock band beatles. It wasn’t considered a great success at pulling in new fans

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Lounds

    If they have a sound track in game with prodigy, I’m sold.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. cheesy

    awesome what more can you want

    #3 4 years ago

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    If you’re looking to buy a fell set of armour for your character in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate but keep falling short on Zenny, this video will show you an easy way to make lots of it. Arekkz Gaming has a very handy tip for all Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate players: how to make Zenny […]

  • This is how you claim free Xbox One games from your Xbox 360

    Microsoft is giving everyone the ability to claim their free Xbox One Games with Gold titles from their Xbox 360 console, even without owning an Xbox One. If you don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to make sure you don’t miss out on all those free Games with Gold games, you’ll be pleased […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for March 3: Heroic and Nightfall detailed

    Bungie has reset the weekly cap of Crucible and Vanguard marks and added new Heroic and Nightfall strikes, now with burn. From now until next Tuesday, the weekly Heroic strike will be The Devil’s Lair with Heroic and Lightswitch modifiers. As for the Nightfall, you’ll be fighting Sepiks Prime with the help of Arc burn. […]

  • Few Mass Effect FemShep cosplays are as elaborate as this one

    The internet is full of Female Commander Shepard cosplay from Mass Effect, but very few are as terrific as this one. Visual artist Freya Willia has spent over two years painstakingly creating the perfect suit of armour and the best weapons to make her cosplay of Female Shepard as authentic as possible, Omni tool and […]

  • Deals with Gold: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Red Dead Redemption and more discounted

    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]

  • Survarium’s latest patch removes limit on battle ammo, rebalances experience gain

    The latest Survarium patch has readjusted the value of experience and reputation points gained and removed the limit to the maximum amount of ammo you can use in combat. Survarium developer Vostok Games has released patch 0.27a to the public, having recently finished testing it. The patch is a major one and covers changes to […]

  • The Hunt Begins in new Bloodborne TV spot

    Bloodborne is so close you can almost smell its coppery tang on the wind – and also you can watch commercials for it. Bloodborne arrives on PS4 at the end of this month (March 24 North America, March 25 Europe, March 27 UK) so excitement is starting to build. Sony isn’t helping keep us calm […]

  • World of Warcraft: you’ll soon be able to buy game time with gold

    Blizzard will soon allow World of Warcraft players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard has announced a new system that will launch soon for World of Warcraft. The system is called WoW Token. Using this system, players will be able to buy game time using in-game gold. Here’s how it […]

  • 3D Realms’ Bombshell returns with the first gameplay trailer

    Remember 3D Realms’ Bombshell? The isometric ARPG that was announced last year? Well, it’s back, and we get to see gameplay footage. The game stars Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb technician turned mercenary with a mechanical arm. She will embark on a quest to rescue the president and save Earth, all while shooting aliens. The […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 is now free for everyone to use

    Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 available for anyone to download and use, for free. Unreal Engine 4 is now free. Anyone can download it and start using it, the developer announced today in a blog post. The download features the the full set of tools used by Epic, and includes 100% of the […]

  • Call of Duty European Championship winner announced

    The winner of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship has been announced. This past weekend, 28 teams representing UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the rest of Europe and Middle East attended the final of the European round of the Call of Duty Championship. UK team Epsilon eSports was crowned […]

  • GOG brings back Insomnia sale with discounts up to 90% off

    GOG.com is bringing back its Insomnia sale event with even more games. GOG’s Insomnia sale is back with double the amount of games. This year, there will be two sets of games available at once. The sets are seasoned classics and fresh new titles. Each set will feature games with discounts up to 90% off, […]

  • 2K is shutting down NBA 2K14 online servers, won’t affect career save files

    2K will be shutting down the servers for NBA 2K14 this month. The publisher revealed yesterday that online servers for NBA 2K14 will be turned offline on March 31. “You will no longer be able to play ranked games/online association,” reads the announcement. NBA 2K14 relied on online servers to store save files for MyCareer […]

  • One Dead or Alive tournament organiser is proposing ban of “over-sexualised” costumes

    A Dead or Alive tournament organiser has suggested a soft ban on some of the game’s “over-sexualised” costumes, and not everyone is happy. Tournament organiser “The HuBBs” took to the FreeStepDodge forums to suggest a list of rules that other offline tournaments can follow. The list goes over stages, characters, moves, which is certainly in […]

  • Destiny: all the news from Bungie’s open house Q&A

    Bungie hosted an open house Q&A session with the community last week and lots of exciting news have come out of it. Arekkz Gaming has gathered all the information that came out of Bungie’s open house Q&A in one handy video. The list is massive, going over Exotic weapon balance, upcoming events, PVE, Crucible rewards, […]

  • Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen to honour Nimoy with in-game memorials

    Developers behind space exploration games Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen will honour the memory of Leonard Nimoy through in-game memorials. The develops of both games have confirmed separately that in-game memorials will be established to honour the memory of the late Star Trek actor, Leonard Nimoy, famous for playing Spock. Elite: Dangerous executive producer Michael […]

  • Deal: get a PlayStation 4 + three exclusives for $399

    Amazon’s latest PlayStation 4 deal is not one to miss. With purchase of a PlayStation 4 console from Amazon in the US, the online retailer will throw in digital codes for Infamous Second Son, Killzone Shadow Fall and The Last of Us: Remastered, all for the same MSRP of $399. The Last of Us Remastered […]

  • Destiny: this is how one player predicted House of Wolves details and Xur’s inventory

    The method one Redditor possibly used to leak some details from Destiny’s House of Wolves was the same one he used to predict the inventory of Xur: Agent of the Nine. Last week, Reddit user Megamanexe4 leaked a few pieces of House of Wolves expansion content. The leaks included strikes, new Crucible mode, and a […]