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2009/05/08

The Darker Side of Duke Nukem Forever: Charlie Wiederhold’s Chair Story

I followed a link from a comment on one of the many gaming sites that have been going on about the closure of 3D Realms recently, and it led me to a post by Charlie Wiederhold, a revival of a story, that tells a very personal and traumatizing tale of a secret meeting or two that took place between 3D Realms, Epic, and a member of Gathering of Developers during E3 2001, when the second video of Duke Nukem Forever was shown (the one using the Unreal engine).

It’s certainly an eye opener, and it seems so detailed that it’s hard to ignore. If it’s true, then one might say that 3D Realms got what they deserved- at least the upper management. If it’s untrue, then it at least makes for a believable good piece of fiction, or conspiracy theory. The 3D Realms that I loved was the one that existed back in the nineties, when it was known as Apogee, but this one seemed like a different animal altogether. 

In short, from what I understand, Charlie claims that Duke Nukem Forever was just like a massive tech demo, showcasing Epic’s Unreal engines, and keeping the public interest going in DNF. Other developers’ interest in the Unreal engines, and subsequent licence purchases, would skyrocket, and the result would be money- money for everyone involved. Duke Nukem Forever itself would probably never be released, and kept under a guise of fake development for a long time (hence the name “Forever”), with mock up screenshots (or bullshots) and trailers (like the E3 2001 video), job adverts, and the like to keep the interest going, and to convince people that development was going on as usual, essentially putting on a face for the public, while there was a different attitude and goal behind closed doors. The story claims to expose the whole thing as a marketing ploy- a business strategy that would benefit 3D Realms, bedfellows Epic Games, and possibly Gathering of Developers, the publishers at the time. Wiederhold also says that it would be a sure-fire way to get people talking about DNF for decades and not just forgotten; that it would be billed as the perfect game- something 3D Realms might have been aiming for before the alleged greed took over.

It makes sense when you think about it. Duke Nukem Forever did, after all, use at least three different iterations of the Unreal engine during its “development”. And perhaps this is why there was such a tight-fisted approach to revealing the game in its entirety- just little tidbits every now and again, although Jace Hall got the footage of the game last year- something that 3D Realms might have wished hadn’t got out. Proof of this might be the fact that George Broussard was quick to mention that the video contained outdated combat and particle effects, and that the game had changed again- once again to keep us hooked and reel us in once more.

Then again, maybe Jace Hall was paid off, threatened like Charlie, or brainwashed, because this statement seems rather robotic and lifeless: "I saw it. They have been working. It's not a myth. You're going to be pleased." Or perhaps this one: "This might be the only game in history worth waiting 12 years for, perhaps longer.... (Read the cue card, Jace.)It was good (good boy!)."

Another thing to check out would be the development process of Duke Nukem Forever according to an
ex- 3D Realms employee, somewhat confirming the story, whether he’s aware of it or not (could be the same guy for all I know). He claims that: "The 2001 trailer was 100% scripted cinematic and not actual gameplay. They built specific demo maps just to record video from to make a trailer. Everything you see in that trailer was phony.”

It’s sad either way, whatever you believe, to think of all the jobs lost, the closure of a once great company- the second big name this year after Midway I think, and the possibility that we may never get a hold of Duke Nukem Forever, and maybe we weren’t supposed to anyway. A horrible prospect and I hope that it doesn’t come to pass- that we’ll get the game someday. But if we haven’t after twelve years, why should it be any different now?

Have a read and see what you think. Make sure to come back and comment!

Note: By the way, if you’ve read this far, it is just a story. Charlie Wiederhold admitted it was fiction a long time ago. Charlie Wiederhold is a liar! Don't know about the other guy, though...

Sources:

http://web.archive.org/web/20071229182551/www.gamingisstupid.com/?p=43
http://gamingisstupid.com/2009/05/06/the-chair-story-revival/
http://duke.a-13.net/

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