Original Duke Nukem Forever was an RPG, survival horror hybrid and was almost finished in 2001

Ready to feel old? Duke Nukem Forever was released was released 7-years ago. That’s not as long as the 14-years it spent in development, but still. Today, we’ve learned some interesting facts about the 3D Realms developed, original Duke Nukem Forever.

3D Realms VP Frederik Schreiber recently revealed a tonne of information about the original Duke Nukem Forever on the 3D Realms Discord. According to Schreiber, the original Duke Nukem Forever was 90% complete in 2001 and was a very different game to the one Gearbox released in 2011.

This was 90% completed. Id say 14-16 hours of gameplay. It was way darker and more serious than the final product. It also played partly as an RPG in terms of your goals.

You basically had Mission Objectives on your HUD you could activate – Like quests. You also had an inventory with ID badges, keycards, etc. Things you would use in the world. Think Deus Ex Duke.

Original Duke Nukem Forever

Schreiber says that the original Duke Nukem Forever was a darker game without any camp humour. “The first few levels you are at the top floor. Then you fight your way down through the hotel. It’s very survival horror.

“You meet and save NPCs. Solve puzzles, and try and solve the mystery of what’s going on. Then you meet the infected EDF who’s attacking you. And the story evolves from there.”

This 2001 version of the game also included semi-open world elements. Players could ride Duke’s motorbike around Vegas and travel between hubs. There’d be loading screens at certain points to load the next section and players could use either the bike or an in-game subway to get around.

In 2001, the original Duke Nukem Forever featured 25 single player levels and 12 for multiplayer.

Why wasn’t it released?

If the original Duke Nukem Forever was 90% complete, why wasn’t it released? According to Schreiber, a litany of issues pushed back the release date time and time again.

An earlier build of the game using the Quake 2 engine was scrapped so 3D Realms could make use of the Unreal Engine. However, when 3D Realms implemented a new dynamic lighting and shadow renderer in 2002 “all the levels turn[ed] black and textures [had] to be recreated with normal maps,” Schreiber said.

All the levels built using the Unreal Engine were done so with static lighting in mind. So when the new renderer was put in place everything had to be redone from scratch.

You can imagine how this could have pushed development back.

To back up his claims, Schreiber released a screenshot of a file directory of the original Duke Nukem Forever build from 2001.

A user on the RPGCodex forums has compiled Schreiber’s main points in a post, which you can read below.

-This is the famous “2001” version.
-This was 90% completed. Id say 14-16 hours of gameplay.
-It was way darker and more serious than the final product. It also played partly as an RPG in terms of your goals.
-You basically had Mission Objectives on your HUD you could activate – Like quests. You also had an inventory with ID badges, keycards, etc. Things you would use in the world. Think Deus Ex Duke.

-You meet and save NPCs. Solve puzzles, and try and solve the mystery of what’s going on.
-Then you meet the infected EDF who’s attacking you. And the story evolves from there.
-But all very dark, cinematic. Lights going out, flickering in the distance. Moster closets etc. all with cinematic music to fit. Screams in the distance etc.

-VERY serious and dark.
-Nothing campy or slapstick at all. It feels like a horror game
-It’s always raining, lighting strikes in the distance, rumbling thunder
-The bike is probably the most impressive. !z2_l1 you get the bike and the game turns half open world
Hub style
-So you can drive out of vegas, and you get a loading screen. Different parts of vegas also has loading screens in between. But you get these missions from NPCs and then solve them (a bit like deus ex)

-Oh.. there’s also a subway in vegas you can take to visit different districts in the city.
-It’s super fun in multiplayer. 12 maps are pretty much done.
-Specific for Dukematch.

-25 ish levels.
-!z1_l1 to !z5_l7


With Gearbox holding the license for Duke Nukem, it’s unlikely that this original Duke Nukem Forever will see the light of day. Which is a shame, because for a game in development nearly 20-years ago, it was certainly ahead of its time.

With everything 3D Realms was trying to accomplish it’s no wonder that it was stuck in development hell for so long.

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Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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