Welcome Guest.   Make a donation to an author on the site December 19, 2014, 05:31:41 PM  *

Please login or register.
Or did you miss your validation email?


Login with username and password (forgot your password?)
Why not become a lifetime supporting member of the site with a one-time donation of any amount? Your donation entitles you to a ton of additional benefits, including access to exclusive discounts and downloads, the ability to enter monthly free software drawings, and a single non-expiring license key for all of our programs.


You must sign up here before you can post and access some areas of the site. Registration is totally free and confidential.
 
Check out and download the GOE 2007 Freeware Challenge productivity tools.
   
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
Author Topic: How Success Killed Duke Nukem - A heartbreaking story of developer failure  (Read 6429 times)
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,784



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« on: December 22, 2009, 02:06:49 PM »

This is the heartbreaking story of a video game that never made it to market, and whose developers had to give up after 12 years of struggle.

Quote
On May 6, 2009, everything ended. Drained of funds after so many years of work, the game’s developer, 3D Realms, told its employees to collect their stuff and put it in boxes. The next week, the company was sued for millions by its publisher for failing to finish the sequel...
What happened to that project has been shrouded in secrecy, and rumors have flown about why Broussard couldn’t manage to finish his life’s work. What went so wrong? This is what happened.

Logged
40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 11,061



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2009, 02:25:36 PM »

Great article. And an all too common story that once again illustrates how pursuing absolute perfection at the cost of  producing something that's extremely good leads to disaster.

Couple that mentality with access to virtually unlimited development financing and the outcome becomes almost inevitable.

Too bad the rest of the dev team had to pay the price for one guy's unbridled ego.

« Last Edit: December 22, 2009, 02:27:56 PM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
mouser
First Author
Administrator
*****
Posts: 33,784



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2009, 02:35:35 PM »

as true and important as it is, i think almost everyone would agree with the statement:
"pursuing absolute perfection at the cost of producing something that's extremely good leads to disaster."

i think a harder and more subtle lesson for people to come to terms with is how many benefits there are to be gained from just getting something finished and working, even if it's flawed and not as good as you want it to be.  And how much focus and determination and it takes to do that while the siren song is calling out to you to extend the project longer and spend more time improving things.

Logged
zridling
Friend of the Site
Charter Member
***
Posts: 3,291


Linux captive

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2009, 02:48:30 PM »

Yea, Wolfenstein 3D was definitely a time sink for me back in the day. I'd still play it today if a new one were around. Great piece of journalism by Clive Thompson, that's for sure. They should have outsourced more than merely licensing the engine. Unbelievable.
Logged

- zaine (on Google+)
mnemonic
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 176



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2009, 02:56:16 PM »

I guess that's why developers need project managers to get scopes agreed and ensure that they're kept to.
Logged
JavaJones
Review 2.0 Designer
Charter Member
***
Posts: 2,541



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2009, 03:55:37 PM »

Good article. I have to say, Wired has some real gems sometimes.

- Oshyan
Logged

The New Adventures of Oshyan Greene - A life in pictures...
40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 11,061



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2009, 05:53:14 PM »

i think a harder and more subtle lesson for people to come to terms with is how many benefits there are to be gained from just getting something finished and working, even if it's flawed and not as good as you want it to be.  And how much focus and determination and it takes to do that while the siren song is calling out to you to extend the project longer and spend more time improving things.

I agree.

But isn't that exactly what FOSS developers get so harshly criticized for doing?  smiley

Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
sajman99
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 663


View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2009, 06:09:59 PM »

Wow, this is a truly sad tale--Duke Nukem Fornever. Wink
Logged
lanux128
Global Moderator
*****
Posts: 6,136



see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2009, 08:38:03 PM »

a good insight on the whole operations. blowing $20million on the project and still without an end, that is telling something. i wonder what happened to ken silverman who wrote the original Build engine?
Logged

Lashiec
Member
**
Posts: 2,374


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2009, 09:01:00 PM »

a good insight on the whole operations. blowing $20million on the project and still without an end, that is telling something. i wonder what happened to ken silverman who wrote the original Build engine?

He wrote PNGOUT, and still maintains it smiley
Logged
OldElmerFudd
Charter Member
***
Posts: 181


Bite-sized trouble

see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2009, 12:28:58 PM »

a good insight on the whole operations. blowing $20million on the project and still without an end, that is telling something. i wonder what happened to ken silverman who wrote the original Build engine?

He wrote PNGOUT, and still maintains it smiley

PNGOUTWin is a pretty nice little image utility. It compresses different image file formats to PNG. I just ran across it recently and find it very useful.
http://www.ardfry.com/pngoutwin/
Logged

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code is a violent psychopath and knows where you live.
Paul Keith
Member
**
Posts: 1,982


see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2009, 02:50:51 PM »

Great article. And an all too common story that once again illustrates how pursuing absolute perfection at the cost of  producing something that's extremely good leads to disaster.

Couple that mentality with access to virtually unlimited development financing and the outcome becomes almost inevitable.

Too bad the rest of the dev team had to pay the price for one guy's unbridled ego.


as true and important as it is, i think almost everyone would agree with the statement:
"pursuing absolute perfection at the cost of producing something that's extremely good leads to disaster."

i think a harder and more subtle lesson for people to come to terms with is how many benefits there are to be gained from just getting something finished and working, even if it's flawed and not as good as you want it to be.  And how much focus and determination and it takes to do that while the siren song is calling out to you to extend the project longer and spend more time improving things.

I don't think that is a better alternative. Just look at Daikatana's story.

Based on the article, it seems less about pursuing perfection and more of a warning on how not to be a graphics whore unless you plan on milking a franchise.

These are not FPS games but consider how many of these games got away with bad graphics that seem like great graphics at the time just through sheer milking and "minor updates" (Dynasty Warriors 2 and beyond, NBA Live/NBA 2k, Megaman, Mario, Metroid...hell, Pokemon got away with it by adding animations)

Quote
“George’s genius was realizing where games were going and taking it to the next level,” says Paul Schuytema, who worked for Broussard and Miller heading up the development of Prey, another 3D Realms title. “That was his sword and his Achilles’ heel. He’d rather throw himself on his sword and kill himself than have the game be bad.” By the end of 1999, after blowing several publicly proclaimed release dates, Duke Nukem Forever was nowhere near completion. Half the weapons were still just sketches, and when a new version of the Unreal engine was announced — one designed for live, multiplayer online battles — once again Broussard opted to upgrade. Worse, former employees say, he did not appear to have an endgame — an overall plan for what the finished product would look like, and thus a way to recognize when it was nearing completion. “I remember being very impressed by the features. It was incredibly cool technology,” says the developer hired in 2000. “But it wasn’t a game.” It was like a series of tech demos “in a very chaotic state.”

^This isn't pursuing perfection.

This sounds like:

Prototype

Quote
Feels like it's still in development...

Left 4 Dead

Quote
Valve slap some zombies into a half-finished game? It sells at least 1.8 million.

You see, Valve are a crafty bunch. They knew this game wouldn't sell on its own merits. Valve haven't made a complete game since Half-Life 2, five bloody years ago. The Orange Box consisted of a half-finished Team Fortress, a half-finished Half-Life 2 sequel and a fun but extremely short puzzle game with the world's most excruciatingly over-quoted humour. Oh, and a demo for Peggle. A bunch of half finished stuff, but bundled together so that you were actually getting okay value for money. This time, there's no other stuff. No zombie Peggle, no puzzle game for you to quote ad infinitum. There's only Left4Dead, and it isn't much. BUT HEY LOOK, ZOMBIES!

Give Valve their due, though, when they can be bothered, they turn out good stuff. Left4Dead is as atmospheric as all Hell. The graphics are absolutely awesome. The zombies (or Infected, or whatever), are as gross as all get out, and they run, skip and get shot to bits with a realism that borders on the unsettling. These aren't your shambling, Noun of the Dead style brain-chompers, these are [.REC] style, blood-dripping-from-mouths, running and flailing lunatics. Shoot them mid-sprint, their inertia carries them on and they stagger about most convincingly. Bits fly off of them, with lots of gore and splatters all over walls. Corpses heap up, making a spectacularly unpleasant tableau. The Special Infected, are even worse. The Boomer, in particular, is a wobbly, pustulent fatass, covered in tumours so nasty they look like they're straight from Rotten.com, and walking around with a hilariously realistic fat man gait. I tell ya, it was like looking at your mother. The Hunter runs with a creepy, vermin-like run, and he looks so grubby and unpleasant you can almost smell his unwashed hoodie. The Smoker has his own smoke machine, perfect for 80s metal concerts, and facial protuberances that make John Merrick look positively kissable. The levels, too, look absolutely fantastic. Environments are grimy, dark and ruined looking. Blood and graffiti (including messages from survivors to other survivors - a nice touch) are all over everything, and all really does look like a world that's been screwed over by hordes of super-rabid throat-biters. Special shout out, cause I know you kids don't notice this stuff, to the lighting, which really sets it all off. The use of light and shadow makes Eraserhead look positively amateurish, which is testified to as soon as you turn it off. BOOM, you're back in CS 1.2! Blast those zombies faster...OH CRAP COUNTER-TERRORISTS WIN. There's some kinda shenanigans with film grain effects, too, which sure is purdy.

Assassin's Creed

Quote
"A Glorified Tech Demo Thrown Together Cheaply."

ack when the Next Gen consoles were initially making their bids for my money, this title was up there as one of the most important in getting me to join the modern age, unfortunately for Microsoft and Sony's bank accounts, the game was released on PC, bringing the total of games I was interested in on consoles down to below what was reasonable. And what can I say, I'm thankful for this PC release, because if I had have forked over $800 for a PS3 and this game I would have been furious, because this is not a game. This is the initial prototyping stage of a game, it's fully functional in it's controls and movements, and it's graphics are quite shiny, but no, this game is not complete. This is a game which still had much more to be done before it was completed. This is an initial tech demo that the game designers would have shown to their publishers in order to get funding to get their game made, with the rough outlines of a game placed around it.

Assassins Creed feels like a bunch of game designers created a platformer based around jumping, climbing and hanging off stuff, then got a bunch of guys who were fantastic at creating graphics involved. At which point they decided they wanted to make a game really, really urgently, and in turn added everything else in the game in with little to no thought. The resulting game appears to have been constructed purely from the creators first ideas, with no other thoughts given. Basically, the whole game feels like the designers brainstormed for ideas until they came up with a single idea, and ran with it, no matter how boring, useless or just plain idiotic the idea was.

Really from this comment it seems more like a lack of greed + groupthink than anything that killed the project:

Quote
Yet the truth is, Broussard’s financial freedom had cut him off from all discipline. He could delay making the tough calls, seemingly forever. “One day, Broussard came in and said, ‘We could go another five years without shipping a game’” because 3D Realms still had so much money in the bank, an employee told me. “He seemed really happy about that. The other people just groaned.”

Quote
One particularly crucial hire was Brian Hook, who became the project’s lead, a central boss operating directly below Broussard. Hook realized the challenge ahead: He was inheriting “a fractured and demoralized project that lacked direction, milestones, or cohesion,” as he later described it. Hook, former employees say, also attempted something nobody had done successfully before: He pushed back on Broussard’s constant requests for endless tweaks and changes. And when Broussard complained, Hook held firm. He was the first employee to stand between Broussard and his beloved game, making it possible for the team to move forward without getting stalled by new requests.

IMO this should have been titled: How Restarts Killed Duke Nukem or to quote some Wired comments:

Quote from: itechchef
So there should have been a Duke release on every major game engine but instead of putting it out they just erased it…and started over…dumbest thing i ever read…Release it and move on…ouch

Quote from: jackccx
If the company had any owner/manager with any discipline heading the company, they could have released a Duke Nuk’Em for every game engine they shifted to:
1) Quake 2
2) Unreal
3) Unreal 2
4) Unreal 3 or Valve’s Source Engine

And instead of losing 20 million dollars, they would have made hundreds of millions.

Quote from: Blasikov
Ah, George, you big idiot.

You guys could have released ANYTHING and the rabid fans would eat it up.

Quote from: bfwebster
“Real artists ship.” — Steve Jobs

Game design != special effects. Yes, competition in quality is pretty brutal, and the phrase “clunky graphics” in a review is a stake through the heart, but you have to get the game out the door. Otherwise, no revenue, except from investors/publishers (who are now suing).

jackcxx has it right: release a DN game for each successive engine. I think the real failure was choosing the title “Duke Nukem Forever”, which said that the game had to be the ultimate in DN games. Episodic releases, with stepwise improvements in technology, would have been a lot better. ..bruce..
Logged

<reserve space for the day DC can auto-generate your signature from your personal PopUp Wisdom quotes>
40hz
Supporting Member
**
Posts: 11,061



see users location on a map View Profile Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2009, 07:10:11 PM »

Y'know, now that I've reread and had a little more time to reflect on this story, I've reached the conclusion that Wired's title does us all a disservice.

I think a more accurate, albeit less 'snappy' title would be:

How George Broussard's personal inability to manage a major software development project killed the Duke Nukem game sequel.

If anything is to be learned from stories like this, it's necessary to look squarely at what the real problem is.

'Success' isn't some mystical entity that comes into a software project and takes control of its destiny.

Project screw-ups are caused by people making mistakes. Always.

Management mistakes are made by managers. Just like programming errors are the result of coding and design mistakes made by programmers - they're not something (i.e. "bugs") that crawls in from outside and somehow infests a piece of code.

'Success' didn't do anything to Duke Nukem. George Broussard's poor management did.


« Last Edit: December 23, 2009, 07:15:15 PM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
f0dder
Charter Honorary Member
***
Posts: 8,774



[Well, THAT escalated quickly!]

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2009, 08:25:23 PM »

Yea, Wolfenstein 3D was definitely a time sink for me back in the day. I'd still play it today if a new one were around.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein? Or perhaps the almost-brand-new Wolfenstein? smiley

Too bad Duke Nukem Forever went belly-up... pretty hard imagining anybody else daring pick up the DN title anytime soon. When Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was released I was all psyched because I thought it was DNF, and got "kinda" disappointed when I figured out it wasn't... was a pretty nice platformer, though.
Logged

- carpe noctem
housetier
Charter Honorary Member
***
Posts: 1,321


see users location on a map View Profile Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2010, 08:15:36 AM »

There is a little wisdom in "release early - release often" it seems.

For several years I had problems finishing projects myself. Sometimes I wasn't even working on them anymore and still could not "let go".

This improved after a showed some of these projects to a friend of mine who, in my view, is a brilliant programmer. He not only criticized my work in kind words but also added improvements that led me in the right direction.

I am now much more confident to say: This is Good Enough! It passes the tests, it does not throw exceptions, it completes the use case - let's release it.

Being able to say "Good Enough" also relieves a lot of stress! smiley
Logged
superboyac
Charter Member
***
Posts: 5,794


Is your software in my list?

see users location on a map View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2010, 10:10:28 AM »

as true and important as it is, i think almost everyone would agree with the statement:
"pursuing absolute perfection at the cost of producing something that's extremely good leads to disaster."

i think a harder and more subtle lesson for people to come to terms with is how many benefits there are to be gained from just getting something finished and working, even if it's flawed and not as good as you want it to be.  And how much focus and determination and it takes to do that while the siren song is calling out to you to extend the project longer and spend more time improving things.
I need to learn from their experience concerning my drawing ambitions for the book I'm working on.  Thanks 40hz and mouser...
Logged

higherstate
Participant
*
Posts: 27


View Profile WWW Read user's biography. Give some DonationCredits to this forum member
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2010, 06:13:10 AM »

yeah, I love the quote "you don't have to be perfect you just have to get going". More often than not perfectionism is a vice rather than a asset.

Having said that you can draw parallels with the movie industry, James Cameron is a perfectionist, blowing the Titanic budget literally out of the water (i believe he had to put his own money in to finish the project)....but somehow, always coming up with the financial goods in the end.
Logged

My Antivirus Firewall Software blog & advice.
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Reply  |  New Topic  |  Print  
 
Jump to:  
   Forum Home   Thread Marks Chat! Downloads Search Login Register  

DonationCoder.com | About Us
DonationCoder.com Forum | Powered by SMF
[ Page time: 0.056s | Server load: 0.12 ]