Games I Own: Duke Nukem 3D

Written by Joe Martin

August 26, 2010 // 12:38 p.m.

Tags: #3d-realms #apogee #classic #duke-nukem #duke-nukem-3d #games-i-own #retro #retro-games

I’ve played the life out of Duke Nukem 3D over the years, trying most of the different editions and even somehow managing to tolerate the terrible controls of the iPhone version. It helped to shape my taste in games, though more for the impressive amount of detail and interactivity that was built into the levels than for the reasons you’d think would appeal to a teenage boy…

Really though, when I look back on Duke Nukem 3D I don’t think of the game itself – instead, I remember the shareware demo, which came on a disc I got with a games magazine as a young lad. That disc was one of my most treasured possessions at the time, as it contained demos for a whole bunch of games, not least of which were Duke and Quake. Much fun was had.
[break]
I didn’t like Quake that much. It was too grim and scary and I found navigating a real 3D space too difficult at first. I only ever played it with cheats turned on. Duke, on the other hand…

Games I Own: Duke Nukem 3D
I'm here to kick ass, etc.

Thanks to that CD Duke Nukem 3D’s shareware release became a bit of a neighbourhood event, back in 1996. My brother and I would have friends round to play it with us, everyone crowding around the ornery old CRT and jostling for the best viewpoint of the screen – especially when in the Red Light District level.

We never got anywhere near finishing the shareware pack, mainly because of the sheer bureaucracy involved. Each of us had a specialty and would insist on playing parts of the game that spoke to these supposed strengths. My brother, Sam, was the one in charge of fighting the Pig Cops, while his friend Adam was best at the underwater areas. I was supposedly the best at finding secret areas and exploring, so I was the one who found all the hidden easter eggs. Tom was the best at solving puzzles, even though Duke’s idea of a conundrum was nothing more than ‘press this button, then this one’.

Games I Own: Duke Nukem 3D
The Duke Nukem 3D HD pack is a great excuse to replay

Playing collaboratively like that was brilliant in a way, but the down side was that we spent so long swapping seats that we’d only manage a level or two before dark. Still, I look back on it fondly despite the lack of progress and often say that sharing a game is the best way to play. It reminds me of the old joke, that in the 90s it always took three people to play any computer game. One would actually play the game, one would stand by and excitedly provide a running commentary and the final player sat on a beanbag in the corner reading a comic book and occasionally offering advice. Tell ‘im to use the rocket launcher, Rob!

I never said it was a good joke, just that it summed up the memory.

Nowadays of course it would be crazy for any publisher or developer to release a game as shareware – give away a quarter of the game for free and hope people buy it? You’ve got to be joking! It really is a shame that that way of distributing died out, as it offered great value to gamers of that era, but at least the classics are still available.

In fact, I might download Duke Nukem 3D’s shareware release again right now, just for old times sake…

Number of Times Completed: Innumerable.

Random Trivia: D3D was the first game to use a realtime audio effect, apparently. In the underwater sections there was a calculated reverb effect which had never been done before.
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