Maybe it's the global economic slump. Maybe it's the profusion of 'casual' games. Maybe it's just a kind of natural selection. Whatever it is, it sucks.
A few months ago, I read with almost disbelief that Free Radical, the makers of Time Splitters, was shutting down. It seemed impossible that a studio with more than a few hits was having to close down. I mourned the TS titles that would now never be.
But there was worse to come.
Word came out last week that 3D Realms (aka Apogee) was closing it's doors. The house that Duke built was gone.
I might be being a bit over dramatic, but the shock of all this hasn't really sunk in yet. Losing Free Radical tore at the sentimental but newer bastions of my gaming. Their games had a distinctive look that I will miss very much. It's a shame they never had a chance to put those quirky, puppet-like characters (and monkeys) into a high-powered game for the 360.
But hearing that 3D Realms was gone left me reeling. The early Apogee games were hallmarks of what platform gaming should be. While others were playing Mario on their NES's (in sickly colors), I was playing Cosmo and Duke in glorious VGA (ok, it was a long time ago). Then Duke 3D changed everything.
I remember Duke 3D being the anti-Doom game. Doom was (and is) a fantastic game and Duke 3D owes it's life to it. But while Doom was an abstract, sterile, sci-fi inspired landscape that was difficult to relate to (much less explain), Duke 3D took us to the streets of our cities - places we knew from the action movies of our youth. It also encouraged exploration and interaction with the game environment that had previously been unknown. And it gave our avatar a wise-cracking voice, full of Bruce Campbell one-liners.
I remember the announcement about Duke Nukem Forever in 1997 and I was thrilled. A better, more detailed FPS in the style of Duke Nukem? Hell, yes! While the years and jokes flew, I honestly never lost hope. Yeah, it NEVER should have taken this long. Yes, they SHOULD have just put SOMETHING out (as long as it wasn't complete trash) using some engine or another. But I never doubted that DNF would come out someday. And when it did, I would want to play it.
But 3D Realms sudden collapse has put an end to Duke's last adventure. Rest easy Duke, you now pass into gaming history.