There’s a particularly good analysis up on Wired on how the development of Duke Nukem Forever ended up living up to its name by taking forever to develop, and finally getting canceled. (Be aware, some of the article is NSFW.)
DNF was the major game release that I had been quietly waiting for since it was announced back in 1997. Having thoroughly enjoyed Duke Nukem 3D, and seeing some of the early screenshots, it was disappointing when they finally announced that the game had been killed. It seemed all those jokes about the DNF release date being a few days short of the heat death of the universe weren’t all that far off the mark.
Still, if you read the Wired article you’ll see the biggest failure was that of perfectionism.
That’s something that every game studio and developer has to be careful with. Actually, it’s the bane of an awful lot of creative individuals. The slightest flaw or shortcoming has to be addressed, and nothing ever gets completed. Here’s one of the key points of the Wired article.
Broussard simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of Duke Nukem Forever coming out with anything other than the latest and greatest technology and awe-inspiring gameplay. He didn’t just want it to be good. It had to surpass every other game that had ever existed, the same way the original Duke Nukem 3D had.
In the sad case of DNF, this meant that the team had to scrap a ton of work a number of times in order to cater to the whims of the so-called visionary.
The irony of the whole situation is that Broussard could have completed the game on the original Quake II engine and, if the gameplay was done right, would have had a huge hit on his hands. It would have been at least as big as the original DN3D and would have made 3D Realms hundreds of millions of dollars and paved the way for the franchise to continue for years to come.
Instead, we see a potentially great game cancelled and the developers, many of whom had worked on the same game for 12 years, shown the door.