There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the decade long debacle of Duke NukemForever, but the key one here, I think, is that any creative process is going to have elements of disappointment when you launch. Things you imagined would be better but aren’t, or ideas that you hoped would flourish but didn’t. But at some point you have to look at what you have, and try to make that great. Otherwise you’ll either end up making more, and more drastic, compromises then you ever expected, or not ever shipping at all.
Ironically, the end was within reach, even if Broussard couldn’t see it. Raphael van Lierop, who was hired in 2007 as a creative director, was given several pieces of the game to play. It took him about five hours. Broussard was stunned; he’d thought those levels would take half that time to get through. “You could see the gears turning, with him thinking, ‘Oh wow — maybe we’ve got more game than we think,’” says van Lierop. Broussard had been staring at the game for so long, he’d lost perspective.
Van Lierop was excited: From what he’d seen of it, Duke Nukem Forever was so well developed — and so graphically superior to any other game in production — that if 3D Realms pushed hard for a year, they could release it and “blow everyone out of the water.” No, no, Broussard replied. It was two years out. Van Lierop was stunned. “I thought, ‘Wow, how many times have you been here, near the finish line, and you thought you were way out?’”