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volume 1, issue 3

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

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Guest Editorial:
Why is Duke (still) So Popular?




By LevelordTM



hy is Duke Nukem so popular…even to this day? I can name that tune in three notes…the Primary Objective! Errr, that is…it's a fun game! A simple answer, an ironic answer in that "games" and "fun" should go hand-in-hand, yes? Yet it is an answer that seems to elude many a game developer as they jockey for the sleekest "looking" game and try to ride the bronco called Cutting Edge Technology instead of entertainment.

I think many of us forget we're in the entertainment business and we spend more time dreaming of downfalling our competition with bigger bursts of PR and flash, rather than simply make a game that's fun to play. I don't believe Duke is such a hit because of the particular team that made it, or the time it was released, or even it's incredible level designs. ;) Duke is the king, baby, because he is fun!

I think I've mentioned publicly before that if I had my way, I would always use "last year's" technology from now on. Using last year's tried-and-true technology frees the developer from such worries as performance and new hardware and interfaces and worst of all, designing a game before all the programming is implemented. Sometimes I feel like we're building an airplane as we fly in it.

Using the most current engine also seems to distract developers from their primary cause…again, fun! Many games seem to be merely vehicles to show-off the engine's technology rather than the game itself. I'm reminded for some reason of the movie Terminator 2 which, compared to the original at least, sucked big time as it seemed to be more of a movie made around cool, fluidous graphic effects rather than a cool movie with the effects.

I would seriously consider using the build engine for a new game right now. I can go further with my point…Doom hasn't lost any of its edge and I would even risk that level of technology. I cranked up that classic over the past Christmas holiday and was quickly refreshed to find that all the lust and fun was still there…even after Quake II. Pushing back even further, I just read an interview with some guy called John Romero who evidently had something to do with one of my other favorite games: Commander Keen, which is still a complete joy because its fun-factor is still there. The fun-factor rarely dies with time.

I surely don't want to sound too simplistic in my simple answer to "why is Duke still a fun game?" Satisfying the question "is it fun?" is actually much harder than it seems. There are at least a few requirements and rules to making a first person shooter (FPS) fun. My experience has shown that they should be very violent…obviously. That's not just in the general killing aspects of the genre, but also in the player's interaction with as much of the environment as possible. Few of us really grew-up, but were rather subdued by society. The sound of glass shattering and buildings crumbling and familiar environments being destroyed before your eyes is still as much fun as when we were kids!

Familiarity and realism help. Real environments that the player is accustomed to are especially important. Blowing up a mansion or sushi bar is tons more fun than destroying a space ship merely in its familiarity to the player's own reality. FPS shooters are immersion games and before you can instill fun, you must successfully bring the player "in".

Attention must be paid to the details as possible.

"I always enjoyed making models when I was a boy…the exact attention to every conceivable detail!"
- Hans Gruber, 1988.

Although not apparently related to fun, FPSs must have as much detail as possible in order to immerse the player. Details also add to the player's interaction.

Finally, the most important aspect of a fun game is humor. I could write a book about all the opportunities that a FPS provides for splashes of humor, but the important thing is to not be silly. One of my heroes is Bugs Bunny and I like to use him as a model. His humor was always more cerebral than silly, that is, you had to be at least slightly educated to understand it, and it made references to the audience it was catering to.

Again, it's not easy to capture all that was Duke Nukem in a few short paragraphs. However, the answer to the question "Why is Duke still a fun game?" is captured in the short answer "because it is fun!"

- The Levelord was one of the original level designers for Duke Nukem 3D. He is currently hard at work on the Quake 2 engine game Sin at Ritual Entertainment..


Credits: Guest Editorial logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Why is Duke (still) So Popular? is © 1998 Richard Gray. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited...we'll sick our lawyers on ya'.