PODCAST THREE: GUNS, GRENADES, AND OTHER SHIT THAT GOES BOOM
April 20, 2011
ELIZABETH TOBEY: Welcome to the third episode of the Duke Nukem Forever podcast series. I’m Elizabeth Tobey, and today I sit down with artists, level designers, and the QA lead on DNF. What are we talking about? Duke’s arsenal and all things exploding. First, let’s get into the introductions, and then talk about some guns.
CHRIS D: Chris DeSimone, CG Artist at Triptych Games.
ANDREW: Andrew Baker, Level Designer at Triptych Games.
BRAD: Brad Jacobs, Level Designer at Triptych Games.
NICK: Nick Wilson, Effects Artist at Gearbox Software.
JAMES: James Lopez, QA Lead for Gearbox Software.
ELIZABETH: Today we’re going to talk about all the weapons that you can encounter in Duke and there are many of them, so we probably won’t get to them all. But I want to give you some insight into some of the cool things you can do and play with in Duke Nukem Forever; so how about we just talk about some of the basic weapons that Duke has access to. What’s in his arsenal?
JAMES: The first two weapons that we revealed at PAX were Duke’s pistol and the Devastator which are mainstays ; they’re staples of the Duke experience. Those come back; they’re still just as strong in single player and highly useful in multi-player: they can be devastating. Nothing in multi-player is useless. You can use anything to master anyone else.
ELIZABETH: How about alien weapons? Does Duke get to play with any alien technology?
BRAD: There are some alien weapons in the game.
ANDREW: Yeah, as part of working your way through the hordes of aliens coming down on you, you encounter all kinds of enemies who have integrated weaponry as part of their biology or armor and you can take advantage of a couple; two or three different kinds of those.
ELIZABETH: Can you give an example or two?
ANDREW: My favorite one is the Enforcer Gun. That’s my favorite. You can fire off a triple shot of homing energy missiles at any moment and it’s got a great look, great animation and sound effects. It’s just cool.
BRAD: Yeah if you want to see how funny and awesome the rag doll is in the game, use that gun.
JAMES: Yeah. It’s also the sound of your doom coming right at you in multiplayer and you’re like, “Oh no.”
BRAD: And it’s funny but at 3D Realms it was one of the later additions to the game weapon-wise before closing and you know as a Duke 3D fan, my favorite really strong weapon, when you go into explosives, is probably the Devastator. But for me, the Enforcer Gun—I gotta say---has taken its place. I like it more than the Devastator. It’s so much fun to use.
ANDREW: It’s got a limited range but if you use it right it’s a “fire and forget” kind of weapon, which I think is kind of like putting a trip mine on somebody. You get your chance, you take your shot and then you can bug out and let your missiles do your work and go on to the next goal or another battle with a player or whatever. And the player can survive or outrun those homing missiles as well in different ways; find a way to take cover, to cause them to explode prematurely, drink a beer and toughen himself up to stand the explosions. There’s all these different options.
ELIZABETH: So in the game weapons are weapons, but you’ve got to have them sound and feel and look the way they should so you get that right feel and joy out of firing them. How do you do that? I think you’ve talked about this which is why I’m staring at you.
NICK: Yeah, I know. A lot of the stuff I did was tuning up the older particle effects we had for some of the weapons that we had in DNF. I looked at most of them, I think by this point. Freeze Ray was a big one. Allen [Blum] changed a lot and was like “Oh, could we do a beam instead of the Duke 3D bouncing ice projectiles?” which actually you have both in the game, so that’s really cool. But it’s like yeah, we’d really like to do a beam but Rob [Faison] had hooked up this kind of watery Ghostbusters looking thing and we’re like hey let’s get some bloom on this and get it to glow and I think people were pretty happy with that one. The Enforcer again, was one that I already thought looked awesome, but then the task came in they’re like let’s tune this up and I was like OK I’ll add some tiny blue balls that are glowing and stuff like that and that’s about it for that. And that is an excellent weapon. When was the last time you played a game where you had a homing rocket launcher that fired in a burst?
ELIZABETH: It’s true.
CHRIS D: As far as the sound is concerned, Eric [Von Rothkirch] is the one who made all the sounds for the weapons. It took him a while to get some of the really subtle ones like for the Ripper. You don’t think that would be hard to make, but he was trying to get some really good bass in it without overpowering it.
BRAD: Yeah, he was really dedicated to getting the sounds just right and went through several iterations, I think for pretty much every single weapon.
JAMES: Each weapon sounds unique. It’s like whenever you hear one being shot, you know what’s being shot. It’s like, “Oh that’s the AT Laser” or “Oh that’s the Ripper. That’s the shotgun.”
BRAD: Yeah, they’re all very unique.
JAMES: Right. It’s not like hearing a bullet being fired and you go, “Oh that could be anything”. No you know what’s coming after you.
CHRIS F: I think something that’s really interesting is not only does each gun have its own unique sound, it has its own unique look and I know there’s a lot of different inspirations for the weapons. Some of them are from real life. Chris, do you have any stories about that?
CHRIS D: Duke’s pistol actually was modeled after George Broussard’s real 1911 handgun and that’s when they decided to change the pistol from a Desert Eagle to what it is now. I was working at 3D Realms when he brought in the gun and gave it to an artist named Mark Skelton and Mark’s job was basically to model that gun and make it look like it actually would fire like a real pistol.
JAMES: So George actually had a gold-plated…
CHRIS D: It’s not exactly like that gun, but it’s very similar. There’s an actual ivory handle, but I don’t remember if it was gold plated or not.
ANDREW: Maybe chrome. I think so.
CHRIS F: Was that the only weapon George brought into the office?
CHRIS D: No I heard that he also brought in a shotgun. I was not there that time, but he did bring in a shotgun when they actually modeled the shotgun for the game.
JAMES: Not a lot of places you can work at where you can just bring guns in very matter of fact and say, “OK prop.”
ANDREW: We had a Christmas party somebody gave away swords.
JAMES: That’s so 3D Realms.
ANDREW: Yeah, one of our white elephant gifts was a set of swords.
CHRIS F: I think during the Gearbox Christmas party this year we had a ninja kit with sword and throwing knives and…
ANDREW: Well you’ve got some ex-3D Realms guys here they might be bringing over their ways….
ELIZABETH: Their traditions….
JAMES: Your marauder starter kit.
ELIZABETH: So Duke just doesn’t use guns all the time. He also punches, uses fists, and uses executions. Can you talk about those tools as weapons and specifically with executions: what they are, what he does, what he might say?
BRAD: Well in Duke 3D, when you shot at a guy, especially the Assault Troopers, they would go down and then hold their throat as if they were choking and then die. It’s similar in this game, except that when they go down, they’re very vulnerable for a period of time and then you can press “use” on them, triggering an execute attack. There’s more than one execute attack. Duke has his barbarian yells and sounds for each attack and really exaggerated sound effects for kicking a guy’s head off and things like that, that bring back influences from Duke 3D like the Mighty Foot for example.
ANDREW: We’ve got a couple of enemy types that basically run up and engage the player in kind of a grappling battle and to see who can win that and that’s another thing Duke ends those successfully with another kind of execution.
JAMES: And there’s a---not for the grappling one---but for the ones where you wear down their health and then execute them; you want to do this because it will replenish your ego, which is your life force in the game.
ANDREW: Yeah, so if you’re deep in a serious fight, you can run out in the open and take that chance and be right back to square one again. And also take out an enemy at the same time in a fun and cool way.
CHRIS D: It’s also very satisfying to use your fists after taking some steroids.
JAMES: And that’s something funny. In a lot of games, if you were down to your side arm, you would feel vulnerable. Fists come just as natural to Duke as any other weapons. If it comes right down to his fists you’re like, “Alright. Well I’ve got plenty of ammo for these”. There’s never a point where you’re really unable to destroy your enemies, which is awesome.
ELIZABETH: This is a pretty general last question to ask you guys, so please feel free to answer as you see fit. How does combat happen? What kind of areas and battles and variety are people going to experience and see throughout the arc of the game?
NICK: Something that occurred to me today was it’s very different from Call of Duty where you turn a corner and you see several enemies under cover and you’re like, “Well if I lob a grenade, then they’ll come out of cover and then I can mow them down with one of 18 different machine guns.” Duke’s arsenal is like “Yeah, I got a machine gun.” But then he also has his Rail Gun - Sniper Rifle - and a bunch of these other alien weapons that are completely unlike anything you’d play in any other first person shooter. So the setting that you usually find yourself in is completely different from another game too. You go out and say, “OK there’s several cars on the Vegas Strip, there’s aliens flying and teleporting everywhere and then there’s also pigs that are running up on you and trying to gore you with their tusks.” And you develop your favorites amongst your arsenal and go “OK well if the Pig Cops run at me I definitely just want the Ripper so I have a constant stream of ammo flying in their face.” Whereas with the Assault Troopers flying around, you probably want something that’s quicker; you want to get as close to them as you can, do a shotgun blast and bring them so they’re not teleporting the whole time and constantly annoying you.
CHRIS F: I think that something that stands out for me is the way that each weapon is introduced to begin with. I mean, each weapon is introduced in a way that you know the particular pros, cons, strengths and weaknesses of it so you can take full advantage of it. And what really, really stands out is the beginning of the game. A lot of games start you out with a very weak weapon. The first weapon you get is sort of a training stage. With Duke Nukem Forever, your first weapon is the most powerful weapon in the game. And when you finally get past that and you get the pistol, the pistol isn’t some little throw away thing. It is quite literally a show stopper for the aliens and between that and your fists, I mean, Duke can do almost anything.
BRAD: That’s the thing about the pistol. The pistol is one of those weapons where it’s all about accuracy and head shots. So if you can nail a guy in the head a couple of times with the pistol, I mean, he’s going down.
JAMES: Yeah, even whenever you’re shrunk, if you get good with head shots, you can drop larger foes; with some difficulty but not insurmountable odds.
CHRIS F: I guess I’m going to have one last follow up rabbit hole question since we’re talking about head shots. There’s one weapon in the game that has a great effect when you have head shots. Where did that idea come from, what were some of the other ideas being tossed around there?
ELIZABETH: And what is the weapon for all those dying to know now?
CHRIS D: That was the Rail Gun. That was a late addition because in old Duke 3D he didn’t have a sniper---it’s basically a sniper rifle. We called it the Rail Gun because originally we kind of wanted it to hold the person you’re firing at kind of pinned up against the wall; and then they would either explode or you’d shoot them with another weapon. And I think that naturally it just progressed to actual body parts flying off and of course the head, enlarging and exploding.
BRAD: Yeah, well I’m not sure, but at least in my mind this is where it came from at least fictionally is in Duke 3D they had the expander technology. And in the game the EDF have grow pads so it makes sense that they would make a weapon with expanding capabilities. So if you shoot a Pig Cop with a Rail Gun, it’s going to expand his head and blow up.
ANDREW: If you want to, it’s kind of an energy weapon in that it fires an incredibly fast beam that’s really powerful and does a lot of damage with one hit. Some enemies you just hit them with one shot of the Rail Gun and they turn into bloody chunks; which is great. I always made up the fake side story behind it that yes, they have the expander technology and the way the projectile is imparted force to travel is through that expander technology somehow. It’s like the ammo comes in little Tic-tac sized boxes and then expanded and shot out of the barrel. And the expansion of the Pig Cop when you shoot one the right way that causes his head to expand is kind of a side effect of the technology in a cool way.
JAMES: Yeah, you know once you shoot a Pig Cop with the Rail Gun and you see his head expand and explode, you’ll always go for the head shot. I mean, making them explode is very gratifying, but once you get that kind of action, you just want it over and over again.
CHRIS F: I think I was talking to David [Riegel] about this the other day, and he was telling me at one point like Chris said, they wanted to have it pin up against the wall. And they were like, “Well, it wasn’t really as satisfying; didn’t pull it off as well as we’d hoped. So we’d try to make it gib the guys and like, that was OK. So then we tried to dismember, like a limb or two and that was fun. But then we were like, let’s make it explode their heads and that was awesome. So we looked back at what we’d done and were like, ‘Why don’t we just combine all those?’ So now it gibs, it blows off their heads, and it blows off individual limbs.”
ELIZABETH: Mix and match.
CHRIS F: Mix and match, especially the PAX demo that we showed at PAX Prime in September. You could do a shocking amount of damage to those Pig Cops, even post mortem.
ELIZABETH: While we haven’t talked about all the weapons, and definitely didn’t touch on everything you can do with even the pieces we did discuss, I think the guys did an excellent job bringing to light the awesome that is Duke’s arsenal and all the toys you’ll soon be able to get your hands. Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back next episode to talk about the game’s atmosphere.