By Chris "3D Portal" Day
e've all heard the term "Quake Killer" a few million times in reference to nearly every shooter to be released since id Software's Quake, and I am sure that most of you are as tired of reading the phrase as I am. Last Tuesday while catching up on news, I read something quite interesting over at Cyrellis 3D. For the first time ever, I saw the term "Duke Killer" used on a gaming news site, in a news update by Amer "Mossad" Ajami. hat's right, "Duke Killer," not "Quake Killer." The term was used in reference to the upcoming third person shooter Max Payne, from Remedy Entertainment and 3D Realms, the folks who also brought us Duke. I guess that means that there are still some people who are still looking for a "Duke Killer," which raises an important issue... two and a half years after the release of Duke Nukem 3D, the fact is that the game still isn't dead. Many people like to say that it is, however its popularity is as great as it has ever been.
The Duke Nukem 3D community continues to expand more so now than ever before, and it continues to baffle the minds of many gamers including myself. Sure it was and still is a great game with more than enough innovations to avoid being permanently labeled as a Doom clone, but very few shooters have possessed the staying power of Duke, and at first glance it doesn't make sense as the numbers don't seem to add up. The thing that most people forget is that Duke Nukem 3D was the number four best selling PC game of 1996, and the top selling first person shooter of the year then as well, while Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition also struck top 10 success a year later. Combined with solid sales even today, Duke Nukem 3D has a huge user base, many of whom still choose Duke over more current titles such as Quake 2, Jedi Knight, or Unreal.
Clearly the biggest strength Duke Nukem has compared to the competition is Duke himself, one of the most recognizable characters in modern computer games, right up there with Lara Croft. The most recognizable aspect of the Quake guy is the grunting noise he makes while jumping, which although memorable, is not what most developers would like their heroes to be remembered for. Duke Nukem has the arrogance, chauvinist attitude, and sense of humor that gamers simply cannot get enough of. Combined with great single player gameplay, and one of the most fun multiplayer experiences out there, Duke 3D has the total package that is rarely seen in first person shooters, even if it is ancient by gamers' standards.
So what is it that still brings gamers back to Duke, besides his charming personality? Although its graphics are weak by today's standards, it lacks TCP/IP support, and is generally outdated in almost every way possible, Duke Nukem 3D is able to overcome these glaring weaknesses. Duke has a clear advantage over all newer first person shooters in an under-emphasized area, the ability to edit the game. Sure there are editors available for Quake, Unreal, and most other hit first person shooters, but they lack much of what the Build editor packaged with Duke Nukem 3D possesses. Build is the only mainstream editor out there able to work on nearly everyone's PC, is also easy to use for even the novice designer, and doesn't require the compilation time required for Quake or Unreal engine levels.
None of this would mean a thing if it weren't for the overwhelming support from the 3D Realms community, and the often-overlooked TC groups that fuel its existence. Although the quality of Duke 3D add-ons is arguably not on the same level as Quake mods, they outnumber them by far, with well over fifty Duke Nukem 3D add-ons still early in production today. Although a good portion of current projects will not be finished, the add-ons that do make it out for public consumption will keep the Duke 3D scene active well into 1999. It's a bit frightening that a game can last three and a half years like this, and then be followed up by what looks to be one of the few upcoming titles that could blow it away, Duke Nukem Forever.
Although most gamers do not realize it, game developers are not out to produce "Quake Killers" today, despite what corporate media loves to say; they strive for two keys in their upcoming titles, gameplay and longevity. For any game with these two assets, the sales and critical acclaim associated with them will follow naturally. With these goals in mind, it seems that the developers of shooters in '98 may be setting their sights on creating the first "Duke Killer" rather than futilely attempting to knock Quake down from its media-built throne. Ask any development team of an upcoming shooter what games they've gone back to play again lately and you're more likely to hear Duke Nukem 3D than any other game of years past. Chalk it up to whatever you want to, but you can expect most upcoming shooters to attempt to capture the elements that only Duke 3D has been able to execute so well. The first game to do so successfully will likely emerge as victor in the battle of upcoming shooters, even if it takes two years to become evident.
- Chris Day is one of the webmasters over at 3DPortal, the largest 3DRealms site on the web.
|Credits: Guest Editorial logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. What's a Duke Killer? is © 1998 Chris Day. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, god dangit.|