Tuesday, December 22, 2009

“A fractured and demoralized project that lacked direction, milestones, or cohesion."

By Kirk Hamilton

...or, at least that's how Taramell Isaac described Duke Nukem Forever when he joined 3DRealms in 2006, nearly a decade after they started development on the game. Three years later, after spending over twelve years trapped in the most frustrating, doomed, and widely-ridiculed development cycle in the history of gaming, 3DRealms finally shut the project down and closed their doors for good.

You can read all about it in Clive Thompson's excellent, tragic Wired Magazine Piece that just went up.  Since it covers the long, long, loooooong death rattle of The Game That Wouldn't Launch, it's a painful read, but fascinating, and features a couple of rad illustrations by Olly Moss, including the one above.

I can think of no other medium in which such a lavish, drawn-out failure can occur. By the article's accounting, George Broussard, the co-head of 3DRealms, undid himself at every with non-stop second-guessing and mid-stream horse-changing. And so the years ticked by, and expectations grew and then diminished, and oh my god it sounds excruciating.

3DRealms went out of business earlier this year, and by the time that happened, I don't think that anyone honestly expected the game to come out.  Zero Punctuation already reviewed it, after all (and liked it!), and I haven't seen a preview or developer interview that featured the game as a serious product in years.

My heart goes out to everyone on this team.  I can't begin to imagine how it would feel watching the weeks, months, and years creep by, slaving over a product while by the day growing more aware of its utter doom. Or perhaps worse, to be Broussard, buoyed by early success, locked away from his team while making increasingly erratic changes, desperate to keep up in an industry that has already passed him by.

Lots of people talk about wanting to get into game development, but between this article and Leigh Alexander's recent Kotaku feature about how shockingly difficult it is to get credit for working on a game, I get the sense that it's thankless, anonymous, and occasionally fruitless work.