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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

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • The wait is almost over – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has gone gold

    CD Projekt RED has announced the news we’ve all been waiting to hear: The Witcher 3 has gone gold. This means Geralt’s latest, and possibly last, adventure has been sent to the factory to be pressed into lovely gaming discs. “We worked so damn hard over the past three years to bring you this game,” […]

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a “couple weeks out from beta,” new trailer

    Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is just a “couple of weeks out from beta,” according to development studio The Chinese Room, and a release date will be announced “shortly.” To give you an idea of how development has been coming along since it was announced at gamescom 2013, the team has released a new trailer […]

  • GTA 5 on PC looks incredible, but I can’t recommend it to console players

    As much as Matt Martin loves GTA 5, he can’t recommend upgrading from console to PC just for a slick editing suite and even prettier graphics. “This is the third time in as many years that I’ve bought GTA 5.” I have a Grand Theft Auto 5 obsession, as I’m sure you know if you’ve […]

  • The Forest engine updated to Unity 5, major graphical and gameplay improvements made

    The Forest’s latest patch added substantial improvements to the game. The Forest version 0.16 is now live on Steam with plenty of new additions. The game has been ported over to Unity engine version 5. The plant and skin shaders have been replaced or rewritten. Many other visual tweaks have been made, such as model […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront banner leaks from Star Wars Convention

    EA has been setting up the Battlefront booth at Star Wars Celebration, and one leaked picture shows what could be the game’s main art. Someone on Reddit posted a picture of the game banner at EA’s booth. Here it is: Lots of things happening here. There’s a Star Destroyer in the distance, TIE Fighters and […]

  • Get GTA 5 working with Oculus Rift using this tool

    There’s a way you can play GTA 5 in VR if you own an Oculus Rift Dev Kit and have a bit of cash to spare. VorpX, the go-to program for adding VR support to games has received an update recently to support GTA 5. This is far from perfect, as it only translates the […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 15 team revealed

    This week’s Team of the Week is now available for anyone to challenge in FIFA Ultimate Team. The team members get selected each week based on their performance during the weekend matches. You can fire up FIFA Ultimate Team on any platform and challenge this squad. You’ll also find some Team of the Week items […]

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will let you stealth all encounters, including bosses

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will bring back one of the original game’s major features. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is considered by many to be a great game and worthy of bearing the franchise name. One of its grating issues though was its boss fights. You only had one way to fight them: be confrontational. The […]

  • Project Cars PC specs and supported wheels announced

    The release date of Project Cars is inching ever closer and more details have been revealed to answer all your burning questions. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad Studios has revealed the full list of supported steering wheels on all platforms, as well as the minimum and recommended PC specs. Minimum specs CPU – 2.66 GHz […]

  • GTA 5 gets custom FOV mod on PC

    Those not satisfied with GTA 5′s built-in field of view slider can use a new mod to push the number even further. The PC versions of GTA 5 – just like its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts – lets you switch between third and first-person view in shooting and driving. The game has an FOV […]

  • Win! GTA 5 on PC!

    Want to win a Steam key for Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC? Just enter here. GTA 5 released on PC this week and is going down a storm. We like it a lot, which is why we’re giving away a Steam code for Rockstar’s latest. All you need to do is enter your email […]

  • GTA 5 topples Skyrim’s record for highest concurrent players on Steam

    Not factoring in Valve games, GTA 5 is the new king of concurrent player numbers on Steam. GTA 5 is very popular on PC, even more popular than games like Skyrim in its heyday. The number of concurrent players for GTA 5 has peaked today at 301,246. This makes it the only non-Valve game to […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: what does a modern fighting game look like?

    Mortal Kombat continues to evolve as NetherRealm adds RPG systems and daily challenges to a solid fighting game, says Sherif Saed. “Mortal Kombat X takes many cues from games like Destiny, Call of Duty, and GTA Online with hourly, daily and weekly events.” For as many of its familiar facets, Mortal Kombat X has enough […]

  • J-Stars Victory VS+ coming west in June – new trailer

    J-Stars Victory VS+ will make the jump (see what I did there) to the west after all. J-Stars Victory VS+ is the western title for the fighting game which stars characters from a variety of Shonen Jump-published manga. Bandai Namco has announced the fighter will release in Europe on June 26 and in the Americas […]

  • Codemasters F1 license good through 2016

    Codemasters has at least one more F1 game in it. F1 2015 isn’t out yet, so Codemasters is naturally not talking about what it might get up to in the future. We do know what it can get up to, though; Codemasters’ Steven Embling told Videogamer has the option to continue the series. “We have […]

  • Project Cars has pretty deep graphics options on consoles

    Project Cars offers players a wide variety of ways to customise their graphic settings on PS4 and Xbox One. Project Cars is a graphics showcase and all early indications suggest it’s going to be one of the best-looking games out there. Slightly Mad’s commitment to graphics seems to go deeper than making things pretty, though: […]

  • Super Smash Bros. patch nerfs Diddy Kong – report

    Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U is great but Diddy Kong is a beast and must be stopped. The latest Super Smash Bros. 3Ds and Wii U patch seems to have nerfed Diddy Kong, a character so over-powered that serious tournament players generate controversy by choosing to use him. Nintendo doesn’t publish patch notes, […]

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer shuttered

    Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer 2K Australia has been closed down. Kotaku broke the news, and also had word from an anonymous source, who said that all staff have been let go. 2K responded to our request for comment with the following statement: We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process […]

  • Samorost 3 trailer shows Amanita still in fine form

    Samorost 3 looks as delicately beautiful as its siblings. Samarost 3 developer Amanita Design has a reputation for gorgeous, slightly surreal world building. This new trailer for its latest adventure looks just as if not more lovely than the previous Samarost games and Botanicula. Samarost 3 is coming to Mac and PC later this year, […]

  • Amnesia dev’s new project SOMA now in beta

    SOMA is nearly here and I am torn between excitement and horrified dread. SOMA is the latest horror project from Frictional, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We’re pretty excited to see what Frictional comes up with next, and we won’t have too long to wait, apparently; the developer has announced that SOMA is […]

  • Steam Guard mobile authenticator now in beta testing

    Steam is now testing its latest security measure. Steam helps you protect your account by offering two-factor authentication, a solution so beautifully elegant and effective that it’s astounding every gaming network doesn’t do the same (looking at you, Sony). Valve’s version is called Steam Guard, and it works via email. This isn’t always super convenient, […]

  • Godzilla battles Mothra in new trailer

    Godzilla lets you stomp around cities and battle classic kaiju. I’m in. Godzilla is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 in early July, but we haven’t seen a great deal of it since its December reveal. The new trailer below gives you an idea of just what Natsume has done with one of the biggest […]

  • Tales of Zestiria to launch this year – new trailer

    Tales of Zestiria continues Bandai Namco’s delightful new habit of bringing the popular JRPG series to the west before the shine wears off. Tales of Zestiria is coming west in northern autumn, the publisher has announced. That’s not a bad turnaround, given it first hit Japan in January, and localisation of text-heavy titles is expensive […]

  • Project Cars release date locked down, new trailer released

    Project Cars finally has a release date. Project Cars will release on May 8, Bandai Namco UK has announced. We haven’t yet had an update from Namco Bandai’s other regional offices, but its probably safe to bet the racer will release around the same time in the Americas, Europe and ANZ region. We can now […]

  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows combat, online multiplayer

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has plenty to offer fans of the anime. Previously known as Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, the Spike Chunsoft action game is coming west thanks to Atlus. Gematsu reports it’s due in both Europe and North America in May, via the 3DS eShop. The trailer below […]

  • Bloodborne stamina recovery rate affected by equip weight

    Bloodborne players have unearthed an important gameplay detail not mentioned in the game’s menus or manual. In Bloodborne, players need to manage their stamina carefully for best results. A far more aggressively-tuned affair than past Souls games, Bloodborne does away with equip weight limits, and items have no listed weight details. As far as players […]

  • Street Fighter’s Ryu, Fire Emblem’s Roy spotted in Super Smash Bros. patch – rumour

    Street Fighter’s Ryu is rumoured for future Super Smash bros DLC following datamining of the latest patch. Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U were updated recently, and hacker shinyquagsire23 claims to have found some interesting files while poking around in the 3DS patch data. As detailed on Reddit, the audio files included a new […]

  • Suikoden 3 PEGI rating suggests PS2 Classic re-release

    Suikoden. Suikoden 2. And now: Suikoden 3. Suikoden 3 has been rated by PEGI for PlayStation 3, presumably ahead of an upcoming re-release. Gematsu turned up the rating, and although we have no further information at this time, it’s not much a leap to assume the RPG will turn up as a PS2 Classic on […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal to be streamed live, new Instagram tease

    The Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal will be live-streamed during a panel hosted by EA as part of the Star Wars Celebration festivities this Friday. This is according to an announcement from Verizon and Disney courtesy of MP1ST. The main stream for the event kicks off at 10am PDT/1pm EDT on Thursday, April 16. It […]

  • GameStop to launch retro game and console trade-in experiment

    GameStop wants to get into the retro game and console business, providing it’s a worthwhile endeavor. To test the possibility, it will soon allow customers in Birmingham, Alabama and New York City to trade-in classic consoles and games in-store. Speaking with IGN, a spokesperson for the company said the initiative will kick off on April […]

  • Battlefield Hardline’s first patch addresses five priority issues requested by the community

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch is in the works, and today, Visceral Games has added Punkbuster and Nvidia DirectX driver fixes to the list of issues to be addressed. Miscellaneous fixes for “the most frequent crashes” will be included in the patch, as well as the following “top five priority” issues voiced by the community. Punkbuster […]

  • GTA 5 user videos: Franklin’s exploits, a traffic jam tickle our funny bone

    Since GTA 5 was released on PC this week, the amount of videos being created with the new editing tools are releasing at a quick rate. Below, are three in particular I found amusing. The first one is from James McVinnie, originally posted on Reddit, showing what occurs after he happens upon vehicles in a […]

  • Invisible Inc. is coming to PS4 and has left Steam Early Access

    Invisible Inc., from Don’t Starve developers Klei Entertainment, has been announced for PlayStation 4 and the game has also a release date on PC. The game has now left Steam Early Access and will arrive on PC May 12. Per a post from studio founder Jamie Cheng on the PS Blog, the game will contain […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Ascendance DLC dated for PC and PlayStation

    The Ascendance DLC pack for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare now has a release date for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4. It contains four new maps, the OHM 2-in-1 directed energy light machine gun, the OHM Werewolf custom variant, and the new Exo Grapple ability and playlist. The Infection episode of the exo Zombies saga […]

  • Killing Floor 2 PC specs and Digital Deluxe Edition contents announced by Tripwire

    A Digital Deluxe Edition for Killing Floor 2 along with PC specs for the title have been announced, along with the new of a Steam Early Access launch later this month. According to Tripwire Interactive, the Digital Deluxe Edition will run you $39.99/£26.99/€36.99 starting on April 21 on Steam. This edition contains the following additions […]

  • Content in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood tips its hat to Return to Castle Wolfenstein

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, the standalone prequel to last year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, will contain a few nods to the franchise classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein, according to the developers. According to developer MachineGames, the setting works “well with the pulp B-movie thing we’re going for,” and created a prequel instead of DLC for […]

  • Bloodborne is the latest to receive the Honest Game Trailers treatment

    Smosh Games has released another entry in its Honest Game Trailers series, and this time, it’s poking Bloodborne. According to the trailer, the game is “more disturbing” than the scene in South Park: The Stick of Truth where you are “crushed by your own Dad’s balls.” It also has more “stupid top hats than a […]