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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Duke Nukem 3D

Duke Nukem 3D is a first-person shooter developed by 3D Realms and released on January 29, 1996 by Apogee Software, featuring the adventures of Duke Nukem, based on a character that had appeared in earlier platform games by the company: Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II.

1 Synopsis
2 Humour
3 Gameplay
3.1 Level design
3.2 Weapons and equipment
3.3 Monsters
3.4 Multiplayer
4 Criticism
5 Successors
6 Unofficial add-on packs
7 External Links

"Murderous aliens have landed in futuristic Los Angeles, and humans suddenly find themselves atop the endangered species list. The odds are a million-to-one, just the way Duke likes it!"
Taking on the role of Duke Nukem, players must fight through 28 levels spread over three chapters (later versions of the game added a further chapter, with an extra 11 levels). As usual for a first-person shooter, players encounter a whole host of different enemies, and can engage them with a range of weaponry. As well as killing aliens to free the Earth, players must also puzzle-solve to progress through the various levels. Some puzzles allow access to extra, hidden levels.

Duke Nukem 3D is mainly notable for the (often crude) humour it introduced into what had previously been a fairly humourless genre, including a stream of one-liners from the title character. Many of these related to the frequently gruesome deaths meted out by the Duke ("That's gotta hurt"), or to interactions with useable props such as toilets ("Ahhh, much better"). The game also references many films and other games, usually humourously. For instance, when the player comes upon a corpse that closely resembles the player character in Doom, Duke comments, "That's one doomed space marine". This quote became famous after websites dedicated to Duke Nukem 3D began reporting that Doom's publisher, id Software, had filed a lawsuit against Apogee Games and 3D Realms, trying to obtain an injunction to remove it (the suit was ultimately unsuccessful).

The game freely plundered many themes from cinematic sources, notably the Alien and Evil Dead film series. There were also cameos from Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Hunt for Red October (the submarine USS Dallas in Episode 1, Mission 3), 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator. In the Atomic Edition, the game contained references to Dirty Harry, Mission Impossible, and Independence Day.

Level design
A notable quality of the game was the immense interactivity and realism of its levels. While many past first-person shooter games like Doom took place within relatively confined corridors, usually in gloomy, claustrophobic bases, the levels of Duke Nukem 3D took the player through attractively rendered street scenes, military bases, deserts, flooded cities, space stations, moon bases and even Japanese villas. Levels were also designed in a fairly non-linear manner such that players could advantageously use air ducts, back doors and sewers to avoid enemies or find hidden secrets (also good in deathmatches). As well as being highly detailed (for the time), these locations were also filled with objects that the player can interact with (including light switches, toilets, pool tables, arcade games, closed-circuit cameras and, infamously, strippers). While these rarely had a crucial role in play, they gave Duke Nukem 3D an immersive feel greater than that in its rivals. As previously indicated, they also usually added considerably to its humour.

An extra "feature" in the game that could be exploited by players was warping (i.e. teleportation from place to place very quickly). This feature would only operate at some very specific locations in the game, and usually only under complex sequences and/or simultaneous moves. Many players particularly liked these warps as they were very difficult to find and because they were able to convey powerful advantage during play. In fact, the warps were nothing more than an unwanted bug in the software, more specificaly in the 3D engine. 3D Realms eventually fixed most of the warps in version 1.5 (also known as Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition). However, for many experienced players the warps contributed a lot to their enjoyment of the game, and many people kept playing with the earlier version v1.3d (in which the warps were allowed), instead of using the v1.5. Most of these warps were an indirect result of the Build engine's inability to support rooms on top of other rooms. The developers had to work around this problem by overlapping different rooms to give the illusion of different floors. Crouching or jumping around in certain spots inside said overlapped rooms would occasionally confuse the game and warp the player to another "floor." This concept can also be seen in underwater portions of the game - crouching down on the surface of the water would actually teleport the player to a completely different sector shaped to look like an underwater room. However this behaviour is intentional and was used to create the illusion of being underwater.

Weapons and equipment

Duke Nukem engages some enemies with a freeze gunThe game also featured some of the most varied weapons in any first-person shooter game. Traditional weapons such as pistols, shotguns and machine guns were augmented by the inclusion of a range of more imaginative weapons, some of which, even today (Summer 2005), are still unique to Duke Nukem 3D. Pipe bombs with remote triggers and laser trip bombs allowed the player to set traps for enemies to blunder into. A freeze gun locked enemies in a block of ice long enough for Duke to smash them with a well-placed shot or boot. A shrink ray would turn enemies into vulnerable miniature versions of themselves, that again were at the mercy of Duke's boot (using mirrors, the shrink ray could also be used on Duke himself to complete objectives that required a shorter stature).

Aside from weapons, Duke's inventory also included a series of items that could be picked up during play. A portable medkit allowed a player to heal themselves whenever they chose to. Steroids sped up player movement making transit through hostile territory easier (additionally, they rendered the player immune to the effects of the Shrink Ray, especially useful in multiplayer mode). Infra-red goggles allowed players to see enemies in the dark. The "HoloDuke" device would project a hologram of Duke that could be used to distract enemies. Protective boots allowed the player to cross dangerously hot or toxic terrain. Where progress required more aquatic legwork, an aqualung allowed the player to take longer trips away from air. Perhaps most impressively, a jet pack allowed the player to range fully in 3D, often to reach carefully hidden weapons caches or extra health, although typically jet pack availability was restricted to avoid making levels too easy.

The game featured a wide range of monsters, some of which were bona fide aliens, others mutated humans. As usual for a first-person shooter, the Duke encountered a large number of lesser foes, and a small number of boss enemies (usually at the end of chapters). Like the Duke, these enemies had access to a wide range of weapons and equipment (some weaker enemies have jet packs). In keeping with the general tone of the game, Duke's enemies frequently experienced humourous deaths, or engaged in amusing, everyday activities (e.g. using the bathroom).

See also the main article on Duke Nukem 3D monsters.

Fans may have happy memories of Duke Nukem 3D's network gaming maps. In particular, fort was the pick of the community maps especially for 2 or 4 player mode. The game can be played either in Death Match with or without monsters or in co-operative mode versus the monsters, a feature ever less frequent in newer first-person shooter games.

See also main article on multiplayer Duke Nukem 3D.

The game has been heavily criticized by some feminists, who allege that it promotes pornography and murder. For example, Media Watch wrote that:

"Duke Nukem 3D moves the "shooter" through pornography stores, where Duke can use XXX sex posters for target practice. Duke throws cash at a prostituted woman telling her to "Shake it, Baby" his gun ever ready. In Duke Nukem bonus points are awarded for the murder of these mostly prostituted and partially nude women. Duke blows up stained glass windows in an empty church or goes to strip clubs where Japanese women lower their kimonos exposing their breasts. Duke is encouraged to kill defenseless, often bound women." [1]
However, such critiques appear to selectively use facts, invent them, or take them out of context to further political agendas. For instance, in the example above, while the Duke does visit the "Red Light District", this is only a single level out of almost thirty (most of which take place in more traditional settings such as space stations, underwater cities and deserts). Also, the Duke does not score extra points for killing women (there is no scoring system in the game at all) and, in fact, killing women summons alien forces - it is not encouraged. Furthermore, the bound women the Duke encounters are infected with alien parasites, a direct homage to the movie Aliens, not an allusion to BDSM.

George Broussard, the president of 3D Realms, defends the game, noting its success and arguing that consumers obviously do not find the content abusive or immoral. However, success with some consumers is clearly not evidence that Duke Nukem 3D is more widely acceptable. Significantly, the only women that appear in the game are either strippers, prostitutes, cheerleaders or alien prisoners. Consequently, while the game's treatment of women (which is extreme even by the standards of video games) could be viewed as an ironic, over-the-top send-up of Hollywood action-film stereotypes, it is easy to see why it causes offence (even if this was never intended by the developers).

Years later there would be a similar controversy about the Grand Theft Auto series distributed by Take-Two Interactive. Coincidentally, Take-Two Interactive is the distributor for Duke Nukem Forever, the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D.

As a result of a gunman's rampage through a movie theatre in Brazil, Duke Nukem 3D was banned in that country along with Quake and Doom and several other violent first-person shooters, due to Duke Nukem 3D's opening level "Hollywood Holocaust" (Episode 1, Mission 1) where Duke inevitably gets into a firefight with aliens inside a cinema.

The source code to the Duke Nukem 3D executable, which used the Build engine, was released under the GPL on April 1, 2003. However, the game content still remains the sole property of 3D Realms. The game was quickly ported by enthusiasts to modern OSes, including Microsoft Windows and Linux. The warps have been re-enabled in all the ports, which satisfied most of the players. As of today 2004/2005, these ports gave the game a second life in multiplayer games through the Internet and a growing community is still actively playing.

Duke Nukem 3D's graphic engine was revolutionary for its time since the levels were fully 3D in the sense of geometry. However, Id software's Quake is still regarded as the first fully 3D game because it made additional innovations into lighting and shadows (via use of light maps), whereas Duke 3D still used the existing texture mapping pioneered in Doom. Duke 3D and earlier games like Doom have thus been re-referred to as 2.5D instead of 3D after Quake's release. Quake also had polygon enemies and objects while Duke 3D still used 2D sprites. Finally and most importantly, Duke 3D was intended to be played like Doom or Star Wars: Dark Forces with the keyboard arrow keys as the main movement AND aiming (turning). Dark Forces and Duke 3D did have crouch and jump and lookup/lookdown but those were only intended for "ocassional" use (sniping or swimming), but this was cumbersome since a player would often have to change hands and as a result the player could not fully appreciate the geometry of the levels under the expectations of fast-paced action. Quake on the other hand pioneered the fluid mouse-keyboard combination; using the mouse to look/aim and the keyboard to move/strafe, a control scheme still in use today.

Today, the long-promised sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, is still in production after 8 years of development. Duke Nukem Forever last made a public appearance at the E3 of 2001, where a video trailer of the game was released, citing again the "When It's Done" release date. However, even that recent appearance no longer represents the true state of the game, which has been rebuilt from the ground up several times.

Unofficial add-on packs
Although Plutonium Pak is the only official add-on pack, some companies have marketed their own add-on packs for Duke Nukem 3D. Three well-known add-on packs are Duke Caribbean, Duke it Out in D.C., Duke Nuclear Winter, and Duke Xtreme.

Duke Caribbean: This game supposedly takes place after Duke Nukem 3D. Duke relaxes on a tropical island when he discovers that the aliens are having their own "vacation". This add-on pack has often been praised by players.

Duke it Out in D.C.: Duke Nukem has been called out to rescue President Clinton from an abduction.

Duke Nuclear Winter: The aliens have taken over the North Pole, and kidnapped Santa Claus. Duke Nukem must fight the aliens to rescue him. Although this add-on has been praised for its Christmas theme, it has still been criticized for unoriginality and poor level design.

Duke Xtreme: This add-on pack contains around 50 levels and many utilities for Duke Nukem 3D. This pack has often been criticized for its many software bugs.

External Links
Official Duke Nukem 3D homepage
Planet Duke (GameSpy) Duke3D Port
Category at ODP
Polaris Map Central -- Many files and resources

What is actually needed to play Duke Nukem 3D multiplayer games through the Internet on a PC with Windows XP:

Rancidmeat's Duke Nukem 3D Windows Port (Duke3d_w32)

JonoF's Duke Nukem 3D Windows/Linux Port (JFDuke3D)

Internet Client/Server -- Manage multiplayer games on the internet through the Rancidmeat and Jonof ports under Windows XP.

1:55 AM


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