About seven months ago, 3D Realms closed its doors, putting an end to 12 years of Duke Nukem Forever development with no shipping game to show for it. The firm had rebooted development at least twice, released countless snippets and teasers, and eventually run out of cash.
How could it go so wrong? Basing on anonymous reports from former 3D Realms staffers, Wired has attempted to answer that question. The site has published a lengthy retrospective of DNF's development, looking into what stopped 3D Realms from shipping a game all these years.
Wired's article goes on for four pages, so we won't sum it up here—this is the kind of piece you peruse in the quiet of the evening while sipping a cup of hot cocoa. Still, there are plenty of interesting highlights. For example, the mass exodus we wrote about in 2006 (and which 3D Realms subsequently played down) did indeed happen; Wired says nearly half the team left. One employee described the exodus as a "waterfall," where one staffer's departure led to another's, and "the rest all fled in a torrent."
The article largely blames George Broussard for killing DNF. The 3D Realms co-founder reportedly attempted to produce the game with a team that "might have been adequate" in the mid-1990s but was too small for a next-generation game. Broussard seems to have been obsessed with living up to the increasing hype and making the game perfect, as well; he often asked developers to implement cool new features from other titles that were coming out. Also, likely because of the torrent of cash from sales of Duke Nukem 3D (not to mention expansions and derived products), Broussard allegedly lacked a plan to see the game through to completion.
Wired includes a revealing anecdote: when creative director Raphael van Lierop joined in 2007, he spent five hours playing through what the team had already put together. Broussard was "stunned," thinking they had half that amount of content. However, while Van Lierop thought 3D Realms could power through and get DNF out within a year, Broussard disagreed—it would take two years. The new staffer was equally stunned and thought, "Wow, how many times have you been here, near the finish line, and you thought you were way out?"
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