DF Retro: Duke Nukem 3D - Come Get Some... Ports!

by: Digital Foundry

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hey guys john here with another installment of DF retro this time we're taking a look at console conversions of duke nukem 3d it's been 20 years since its release but duke was a big name back in 1996 it only makes sense then that publishers would want to capitalize on that by releasing the game on still very new consoles unlike these days however the game was never ported internally by 3d realms itself rather each platform received a custom version of the game designed by separate development studios it's fascinating to see how the course turned out with each developer taking its own unique approach to the projects let's start with the Nintendo 64 version of the game Duke Nukem 64 was ported to the n64 by eurocom and it would prove to be an interesting and challenging project on multiple fronts most obviously the team would need to self-censor much of its content Nintendo of the 90s wasn't too keen on the more violent and sexual aspects of the game and despite 3d realms objections the porting team pushed to clean things up but of course we're more interested in the conversion process here you see the original PC version was based on Ken's Silverman's build engine an engine which used ray casting to fake 3d visuals the n64 however was designed to crunch triangles and this sort of approach was very inefficient for the hardware and would have run very slowly as a result a new renderer was crafted specifically for this version of the game while utility was created in order to convert build engine map data into the new format what's interesting here is that this utility could convert sector data in real time but due to speed considerations much of the base Maps needed to be pre calculated which had an impact on certain portions of the level design one advantage of the new engine lies in its support for a true 3d perspective it was possible to look up and down in a way that didn't completely warp the viewpoint as was the case in the original PC version in addition the engine could now support polygons enemies of course this mostly did not happen due to lack of time and resources but at least the final boss was rendered in full 3d explosions however were entirely 3d on n64 with a very different look compared to the original game beyond this all weapons were recreated as 3d renders and converted to 3d sprites for the game while I'm partial to the original designs it is fascinating seeing who takes on classic weapons this also allowed the dev team to implement four new weapons as well texture work is solid throughout though obviously detail takes a hit being an n64 title the expected texture filtering is in place here but we also see a completely new take on sky rendering with a nice blue hue use instead of the 2-dimensional city background of the original it does give the whole thing a different vibe all of this was rendered as surprisingly high frame rate Duke 64 targets 30 frames per second and by and large the game comes close to hitting it but it never feels quite as fluid as it should the reason Duke Nukem 64 suffers from improper frame pacing we mouse through each frame one by one to be sure and sure enough we encountered plenty of random 16 millisecond frames throughout strange there are certainly plenty of normal dips under 30fps as well overall it feels smooth enough and smoother than many competing shooters on the platform but not quite as fluid as we would like still even reaching this level of performance did come at the expense of certain effects the team originally wanted to include dynamic lighting for weapon effects to the point where they headed up and running unfortunately the performance just wasn't where it needed to be so the feature was cut the game also includes split-screen multiplayer which was a feature not available in the other ports of the game it was pretty expected on Nintendo 64 however another major loss is the soundtrack the dev team ran into issues that ultimately required them to decide between in-game music or Dukes voice effects personally I would have preferred the music but it's clear that you really can't do Duke Nukem without his quips without a dedicated sound chip and with limited cartridge space we can understand how this would come to pass still this is a very competently made port that takes advantage of Nintendo 64 in just the right way in order to deliver a clean smooth plane iteration of Duke Nukem 3d of all the ports this version features the smoothest framerate the cleanest visuals and the best controls but while duke 64 may be a top of the heap the miracle port can be found on Sega Saturn created by lobotomy software the same team responsible for the incredible quake port that I looked at last month Duke Nukem 3d on Sega Saturn is an incredibly ambitious conversion of the game that manages to look and play very faithfully to the original the Saturn version runs on the same slave driver engine that powered quake in power slate meaning that we have full 3d environments here like the n64 game with a unique look and feel the remarkable Ezra trees back continue to improve the engine between releases and Duke was capable of supporting larger levels with improved lighting across the board this also meant recreating the levels in 3d the two-dimensional nature of the original PC game meant that a lot of environments could be faked to a certain extent but in the Saturn version rather than cutting back on these areas things were simply pieced together like an elaborate puzzle the original level design remains relatively faithful but it all fits together in a more logical fashion now all of this was created using lobotomies in-house editor brood unlike the Nintendo 64 port as much of the original art as possible was retained here some of the color data was eliminated while much of it was broken up into smaller chunks but the game ultimately feels very faithful to the original game texture warping is present of course but as with quake it is minimised by smart design and rarely becomes a serious problem despite the move to a 3d environment enemies weapons and explosions are all still two-dimensional just like the original game unlike the original game however dynamic lighting is now present in the Saturn version and looks excellent the game has a different sense of scale than the other versions due to the recreation of its maps and it ends up feeling unlike any other major port of the game the game also has a very different feel from other versions of DU character movement has real momentum and weight and the game speed has been slightly modified this fact alone makes the Sega Saturn version the most fascinating version to actually play oh and perhaps the most important inclusion is death tank yes this excellent game is a great bonus and a blast with friends and you won't find it in any other version of the game of course performance wise things are far sight worse here than with do Nukem 64 once again the game targets 30 frames per second but it regularly dips below this it never becomes difficult to play but it certainly doesn't feel as smooth as we'd liked either considering the hardware however it's a miracle it runs this well especially in the face of the poor performance we saw in many other shooters on the platform overall those Duke guns Saturn is a great port and perhaps my favorite of the bunch but duke 3d also made an appearance on Sony's PlayStation and unfortunately things didn't quite turn out as favorably the PlayStation version is perhaps the one which I know the least about it was developed by a company known as aardvarks but there simply isn't a lot of information out there on it what I can't say is that it runs and plays worse than the other two versions that's not to say it's inherently bad however unlike the previous two ports it appears that the PlayStation version is actually using the original build engine here it looks very similar to the PC version running in low resolution and quite unlike other PlayStation games of the era the reason is simple if the game is running build then it's likely being executed entirely in software there's no evidence of a fine texture mapping here and it's clear that the game is still very much two-dimensional something that becomes obvious when you start looking up and down the texture work enemies animation and effects are all very close to the PC original heck you can even make use of quick saves during the levels a feature absent in other versions of the game beyond that an enhanced soundtrack is present and features a selection of interesting remixes of well-known tracks

so it looks and sounds nice but what's the issue well if you couldn't tell already its performance the game simply doesn't run well at all right out of the gate the framerate is well under 30 fps and it just feels incredibly dirty to play the framerate is completely unlocked and can jump between 60 frames per second all the way down to 10 just by moving the camera around it just doesn't feel responsive to play at all as a result this is likely the result of presumably using a software renderer here on one hand it eliminates many of the visual flaws you typically find in PlayStation games but at the same time you do lose a lot of speed we saw a similar situation with doom on Sega Saturn where John Carmack requested that the developer use a software renderer in order to produce a more accurate looking game at the expense of speed all of this is compounded by the controls the whole thing feels too fast for its own good making it very difficult to accurately move an aim the game does have generous auto aim of course but it generally just feels uncomfortable to control in the end it's a neat version of the game and I'm a pretty accurate port of the PC version but the poor frame rate and lousy controls make it very difficult to enjoy today the wait we're not done yet

first and foremost we have Duke Nukem 3d on the Sega Genesis or Mega Drive depending on your region yes duke appeared on Sega's 16-bit console and a very strange take on the franchise it's not much of a looker but that doesn't mean it isn't impressive in its own right this is obviously not a port of duke 3d rather an original game modeled after Wolfenstein 3d the fact that this runs at all in a stock Genesis is actually pretty impressive I'd argue and the game itself isn't half bad the framerate is rather low of course but it is fascinating to see this game exists it was originally released only in Brazil by tech toy but the rights were eventually purchased years later and it has since been released elsewhere an interesting story indeed but there was actually one more version that was significantly worse yes it's Duke Nukem 3d on the game.com okay so in this case I actually had to resort to emulation now I actually do own one of these game comm units and let me tell you it is one terrible system the screen is simply the worst thing I've ever seen in a portable game machine and it's games are only one step above tigers older products it's really that bad and so is this game duke3d young game calm consists of flipping between a series of flat images while shooting enemies there's really nothing 3d about it it's just a slow choppy shooting gallery this is without a doubt the worst product with Dukes name on it I mean it's fascinating in some ways but the end result simply isn't fun to play at all now there were more ports of duke 3d throughout the ages but these are some of the ones that I found the most interesting hopefully you've enjoyed revisiting them with me but that's all the time we have for now if you enjoyed this video be sure to LIKE and subscribe and until next time stay retro


More from this creator:
DF Retro returns with a bang! This time, John takes a look at five different console ports of Duke Nukem 3D all ported by different studios. Does Duke hold up across all of them? Watch to find out. Subscribe for more: http://bit.ly/DFSubscribe

Chapters 00:45 - Nintendo 64 04:37 - Sega Saturn 07:24 - Sony PlayStation 10:01 - Sega Genesis/Megadrive 10:59 - Tiger Game.com

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