3D Realms Founder Scott Miller Responds To Duke Nukem Forever Leak

Earlier this week, the original 2001 build of Duke Nukem Forever leaked online. The build is reportedly playable, with nearly all levels to explore, weapons to fire, and a few baddies to shoot. It runs on Unreal Engine, according to the leaker, and a more built-out version of the game will be released later in June.

What’s most interesting about the leak is how close it seemed to a ready-to-ship product. Now we’re hearing straight from 3D Realms and Apogee founder Scott Miller that the 2001 build of Duke Nukem Forever was anything but ready.

"Anyone expecting much of a playable game will be disappointed," Miller wrote on Apogee’s website. "The game's brilliant trailer from that period definitely over-represented what was actually playable in the game."

Scott Miller founded Apogee Software Productions in 1987, using the name to release 2D action platformers while later founding 3D Realms to release fully 3D games such as Prey and Duke Nukem Forever, which infamously took over 14 years to develop.

"While our games like Max Payne and Prey were keeping the company afloat, Duke Nukem Forever was a constant money pit for the company and eventually killed the original 3D Realms/Apogee," Miller admitted. While he wasn't part of the original project, he was company owner, which gave him several insights into just what went wrong with Duke Nukem forever.

First, 3D Realms was "always understaffed by at least 50%," which when combined with an almost total lack of development roadmap, meant that progress was always slow. And because of the already slow development, whenever a new technology arrived, it would cause Duke Nukem Forever to reboot development using that new tech. Forever started on the Quake II engine before then moving to the Unreal Engine and finally settling on Unreal Engine 2.

Recognizing the problems surrounding Duke Nukem Forever, Miller said that he tried to divest the game to another studio, with Warframe developer Digital Extremes topping the list. However, that idea was "shot down internally." Duke Nukem Forever development would cease in 2009 as the company downsized. Only when Gearbox offered to purchase the Duke IP did development restart, with the game releasing in 2011.

"It's a very sad story no matter how you look at it," Miller added. "It brought 3D Realms to its knees, all of our development team left or was released, and the 3D Realms name is now owned by someone with no connection to our past." 3D Realms was sold to Embracer Group in 2021 along with Gearbox.

Miller does still seem to think fondly of The Duke, and even offers Gearbox a plan to bring Duke back from the dead. "I do hope that Gearbox can resurrect Duke Nukem at some point. It seems like the obvious move would be to recreate Duke Nukem 3D using Unreal 5. And if it does well, then start making more Duke adventures while also expanding the universe with new characters."

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