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Why did Duke Nukem 3D get all of the attention?

User is online   ck3D 

#61

View PostTrooper Dan, on 15 February 2019 - 05:42 PM, said:

Speaking as a person who was already an adult in 1996, I had never heard of Duke Nukem until Duke Nukem 3D came out. I can't imagine that the use of an existing character had much impact on sales. Sure, there must have been a few fans of the 2D games who were excited to see him return, but they were a small minority.


I'll chime in on this to share my personal experience as it's quite different (but, I'm sure, by no means representative of the bigger picture). Maybe it's a regional thing, but at least in my country the first two platformers had to be amongst the most commonly pirated games; most everybody I knew had them, or had played them. In my family counting quite a lot of people living in different regions, as kids a lot of our first computers were successions of second-hand 386's and 486's, never completely formatted and those computers ALL had the first Duke Nukem games on them as well as other classics: Prince of Persia, Commander Keen, Doom then later Doom 2...

When the news broke out about a 3D Duke game, we were stoked on two aspects: obviously the game itself looking amazing and pioneering with crazy level design and previously unseen interactivity and effects, but also the fact that it was a 3D Duke Nukem game. The first two platformers we had been playing for so long, and that's all of Duke that had been put out there at that point too, so quite logically Duke was ingrained as your typical, basic 2D jumpman in most brains; he really was quite the bland character (who looked tamer at the time too: no shades, etc.) whose only display of personality thus far had been in scarce little cutscenes - mostly in Duke Nukem 2, too - due to the technical limitations at the time. Duke 3D was an occasion to add depth to not just video games altogether, but also to a parody character that had been around for a while and could very well use all the new tech (Duke talk, etc.) to flaunt and establish an even more distinctive, modern and exacerbated persona. In many ways, it kind of was the Super Mario 64 of the Duke Nukem franchise.

Thread is great and quite the interesting question to ponder under many angles, most of the points I would have spontaneously brought up you guys have already covered, though. There's one bit I'd like to emphasize: the numerous, open city levels probably added a lot of relatability to the game, and as far as popularity amongst an audience, relatability is key; those aesthetics probably resonated with many casual players who otherwise wouldn't have messed with the intensity of a classic FPS, but just so happened to be familiar with urban environments because they lived in cities (so probably, the great majority of them), making the idea of tipping strippers, playing pool, breaking windows and lights or blowing up entire city portions with one flick of a switch and no illegal to sweat to break (... well yes, pool is legal) a lot more appealing than the more typical (back then) gloomy confined locations or in the case of RR, rural settings. The visual packaging and presentation of the game's dynamism probably spoke the people's language better and helped it stand out.

On a side note, for that very reason I'd also be (casually) interested by statistics regarding the countries or general geographical regions of the world in which the games was the most, and least, successful not just in terms of sales and immediate audience, but less quantifiably as far as keeping a core fan community alive over the next years is concerned - actual popularity and enthusiasm from the people it actually stuck with for good. I guess right now the best way to have a time capsule of that is to look back on the history of the community, and see where all those master user maps and websites came from, throughout the years. It just seems like it would be an interesting subject to study; with its storyline, pop culture references, modern Western humor and constant confirmations of the Los Angeles theme, Duke 3D was an epitome of the U.S. video game of sorts. It obviously did accomplish its goal of reaching to an audience far beyond its country of origin, but that's also making more and more of its most fundamental elements prone to become subject to (re-)interpretation as you introduce it to geographically and culturally more foreign players. I think this is why a lot of non-U.S. mappers have traditionally had a different approach to the design of the game (Pascal Rouaud getting creative with the original resources to pump out smaller scale French cities, or the Oostrum brothers' city maps, or Taivo's maps, etc.) - with Duke and Build they were given the ability not just to mod an existing game (which is a niche), but to create free environments (partly thanks to how incredibly versatile the original texture set turned out to be) reflecting their own visions, themselves shaped by an existence in specific surroundings that just so happened to be more or less disconnected from L.A. / U.S. pop culture, quite logically influencing their eventual creative output. For that reason I always love checking out maps from the least popular countries in the history of releasing levels for this game; even when the levels themselves aren't good as such, I can always sense an author's intent behind little quirks and details in the design. As a creator myself, I find that sum of many different individuals' perspectives enriching and inspiring.

Oh - obviously Duke was as successful as it was for more reasons than 'just' being contemporary, as I went over above. But again you guys have covered and cornered the subject already, a lot of those points would be fun to discuss and explore but hey, this post took long enough already.

P.S. to expand on the bit regarding the relatability of the original city maps, I wonder if that would also affect the odds of episode 1 and 3 being the most casual players' favorites (my personal situation at least), whereas episode 2 would be more popular amongst the more classic or hardcore gamers.

This post has been edited by ck3D: 18 March 2019 - 01:27 PM

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