Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction caused a cease and desist letter to be sent to developer 3D Realms from Gearbox Software’s legal team. Gearbox claimed that 3D Realms did not have the rights to create the game, based on their ownership of the Duke Nukem property. Now, the argument has been settled out of court, and screens from the game have leaked as part of the court documents.
The original owner and developer of the Duke Nukem franchise, Apogee Software, who does business as 3D Realms, had announced the franchise entry entitled Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction in 2014. This raised the eyebrows of Gearbox Software, who currently owns the rights to the titular character and did not give their blessing to the project. NeoGAF, the popular gaming forums, obtained court documents and screenshots of the game in development that had not been released to the public, like the one featured above. The isometric game featured images and characters that are currently owned by Gearbox Software.
Duke Nukem is an iconic video game character from the 90s with a blond crew cut, red tank top, and arsenal of weapons that would make the Pentagon jealous. He is an stereotype of the classic 80s action hero, who always had a catchy one liner and a cigar in his mouth. Originally a 2D side scroller, Duke would lead the way in 3D game development, with aliens that looked like pigs and controversial pixelated strippers.
The ownership of the Duke Nukem franchise by Gearbox originally stems from the troubled development of Duke Nukem Forever, an intended reboot of the series that began development back in 1996. Originally announced in 1997, the game was almost dead when 3D Realms laid off all internal development staff in 2009, but key personnel continued development out of their homes.
Randy Pitchford, Gearbox CEO, had worked on an expansion to the original Duke Nukem 3D and felt that “Duke can’t die.” The core team from 3D Realms would become Triptych Games, and take up residence on the tenth floor of Gearbox Software during the final months of development under Gearbox Software. Duke Nukem Forever went gold in 2011, according to another story on the Inquisitr. Part of the agreement allowing Gearbox to finish up the game included the ownership of the Duke Nukem IP.
The mediation of the case would seem to maintain Gearbox’s ownership and control of the Duke Nukem IP until Apogee has reached the requirements to buy it back. The requirements are a complex tangle, which can also be seen in the NeoGAF post. Parts of the buy back include the original purchase price of the IP, publisher settlement, Gearbox’s costs for development, royalties, and other amounts, which are sure to add up to a hefty sum.
The Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction screens and documents show that it was to be an isometric action role-playing game, a stark departure from previous iterations. A teaser was originally released in 2014 which lead to the legal action from Gearbox Software. The game has since been given a makeover into Bombshell, which will feature a female lead who enjoys “kicking a**, motorcycles [and] kicking a** on motorcycles.” Bombshell was slated to release in the first quarter of 2015 but has not launched and no further information is available.
[Image Source / NeoGAF]