You don't acquire the rights to one of video game's most famous characters without planning on doing something great with him.
And if you're Randy Pitchford, the Gearbox game development chief who expected to discover a "trainwreck" of a game when he set about reviving Duke Nukem Forever, you don't plan to let a flawed, critically eviscerated Duke game be the last and best one you're associated with.
In what amounted to a State of the Duke Union Address at the Gearbox community panel at the Penny Arcade Expo this past weekend, Pitchford explained how low his expectations for DNF were, what he's proud of with that game, and that, yes, beyond reviving DNF, Gearbox "wanted to make our own Duke game." He added: "Soon, we'll talk about that, but not today."
This being the Duke part of the panel, Pitchford even managed to make a boob joke. Here's the speech, picking up with a discussion of the review scores for Duke Nukem Forever. Pitchford was speaking in front of about 900 Gearbox fans, few of whom clapped when he asked if the press who slammed the game were "full of shit":
"It's such a polarizing thing... There was this one guy that mapped out the different review scores. Here's the number of people who gave it a zero to 10. And here's the number of people who gave it 11-20, 21-30, and so on and so forth. And most games have a perfect bell curve, you know, where the center of the curve is the average score. Duke had two curves. There were people who panned it and there were people who kind of liked it. And Alan [one of the long-time developers on the game] pointed out: 'It looks like a pair of boobs.'" [much laughter from the audience] That was our plan from the beginning! That actually happened. That's a true story.
"I hope some people kind of enjoyed it. When I dug through all the stuff that [the orignal development studio[ 3D Realms had done, I expected a trainwreck and I was actually quite pleased. I had a lot of fun with it. It was fun for me, and I'm really glad that we not only rescued the franchise but took the time to make sure the world could see what those guys had been doing for all of those years. And I'm also proud of the things we added to it. I think we did some things to make it a little better.
"I liked it. And we're no giving up. We've updated the game. I know the load times weren't very good on the 360 and so some of the patches improve that. I don't know if you guys noticed.
"And then, we also have some DLC coming. It's pretty cool. It's pretty fun. So if you like Duke… I think you're really going to like the DLC coming out that's being developed by the guys that actually made Duke Nukem Forever—the guys at Piranha, the guys at Triptych. The Triptych guys are the ex-3D Realms developers. And they're still working at our studio on the 10th floor, and they're committed. They're going to go all the way.
"And then soon… I know that you guys figured out that, when Gearbox acquired the franchise, we didn't do it just to make sure we could all play Duke Forever, but because we wanted to make our own Duke game. Soon, we'll talk about that, but not today. [the crowd cheers]"
That sure sounds like a new Duke game is underway at Gearbox, a new one we can guess will not laden with old tech and ill-suited game design. We can guess these things because the "we" Pitchford is talking about, when he says "we wanted to make our own Duke game," would be Gearbox, makers of modern, acclaimed shooters like Brothers in Arms and Borderlands. Ready for their Duke?