Gaming & Technology

Developer's demise is death of 'Duke Nukem Forever'

The most ridiculous saga in the history of video games has to be the development of Duke Nukem Forever, the first-person shooter that was first announced in 1997.

As the years rolled by, and developer 3D Realms kept promising to release it "when it's done," the game became synonymous with "vaporware," software that was promised but never delivered.

Our long national nightmare is over. 3D Realms has closed up shop, citing lack of funding. The Web site says "Goodbye" and "Thanks for being fans and all your support."

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., which owns the publishing rights to Duke Nukem Forever, could pick up the pieces. And Apogee Software, developer of the hand-held Duke Nukem Trilogy, said it won't be affected.

In time, I hope, someone at 3D Realms will explain how such a high-profile project went so terribly wrong.

Young and restless

Neil Young, like his more famous namesake, was a rock star of sorts. As an executive at Electronic Arts, he was involved in some of the company's biggest franchises, including The Sims and Spore. Then he surprised just about everyone in the industry last year by leaving the mighty EA to make cell phone games.

The phone in question, though, is Apple's iPhone, which has become (among other things) the hottest game-playing device on the market. Young's company, ngmoco ("next generation mobile company"), has become one of the iPhone's most reliable app developers, thanks to hits including Rolando, Topple and WordFu.

"The iPhone removes a lot of obstacles," such as manufacturing and retailing, Young said. "We're selling directly to customers. Apple has trained millions of people to download games."

Apple's download-only model gives ngmoco the chance to continually improve its games. Rolando launched in December with 36 levels for $10. Since then, ngmoco has added 20 free levels and has 36 more paid levels (again, for $10) on the way.

"For less money, that's twice as much content as a Nintendo DS cartridge," Young says. "And it's all built on feedback from players, taking advantage of all that knowledge."

And Rolando 2, coming this summer, should take that further.

Young says it can be tough to get attention among the thousands of games available at the App Store. "It's a very crowded marketplace with a lot of pricing pressure," he says. His company has managed to cut through the clutter with a mix of public relations, fan outreach and cross-promotion. Still, he says, "our job is to connect consumers with games. These are challenges we have to solve as an industry."