Interview with Richard “TerminX” Gobeille from Voidpoint about the upcoming Duke Nukem 3D: Hail to the King collection

At the end of January 2015 fans of the Duke Nukem franchise got a surprise announcement. That announcement was a massive collection of Duke Nukem games that are coming to Android in what is called the Duke Nukem 3D: Hail to the King Collection. We got a chance to talk with Richard “TerminX” Gobeille of Voidpoint, the company behind the collection, about the upcoming release and all things Duke Nukem.

DroidGamers: Can you tell us a bit about the histories of EDuke32 and Voidpoint? Specifically, how was the group formed, and to what purpose (beyond what’s in the press release)?

Richard “TerminX” Gobeille: EDuke32 was started in 2004 as an effort to enable people to create better modifications and “total conversions” of Duke Nukem 3D. It ballooned from there into something much more than that, even being used in several standalone homebrew projects. Voidpoint is the LLC we formed to handle the business aspects of this and future releases – you can’t just have Duke Nukem 3D re-released by a couple of guys, you know?

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DG: How many people work there, where were you based, and what kind of experience and backgrounds are found there?

RTG: We’re just a few guys from all over the place, communicating primarily by IRC, instant messages, forums, and email. Our backgrounds are really varied, but one thing we’ve all got in common is years of experience with what we do.

DG: As stated in the release, Voidpoint was “founded with the aim to publish classic and original games”. Are there any other games in the works, beyond the Hail to the King collection?

RTG: We have a few ideas we’ve been passing around, but nothing we’re ready to comment on yet!

DG: Which would you say is easier, and why? A re-release of a classic game, or creating one from scratch?

RTG: That’s an interesting question, with multiple answers that depend greatly on which specific part of the process you’re focusing on when answering. On one hand, it’s much easier to deal with a bunch of pre-existing sprites than it is to create modern content from scratch, but on the other hand it’s much easier to program modern games on engines like Unreal or Unity than it is to get older codebases working on different platforms. When you’re working with straight C code from the 90’s, there’s none of the hand holding you have with modern strong typed object-oriented languages like Java, C#, etc. In the case of this collection, more has gone into it than people might think–Duke Nukem 64 and Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown had to be entirely reverse engineered from the final production ROM and final disc image, respectively. That particular feat never would have been possible without a few specific members of the EDuke32 community.

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DG: Voidpoint is a name that has caught my attention. Is there any specific meaning to it, or reason for its choosing?

RTG: We’re basically big nerds and named a company after a programming construct, void pointers. Not that there weren’t marketing aspects to it… I knew it needed to be easy to spell and pronounce, yet not anything that already existed in any meaningful way relevant to us, or anything where the domain was unavailable, etc.

DG: I’m left with the distinct impression that you guys are fans of the Duke Nukem 3D franchise. Which games are everyone’s favorites out of the collection?

RTG: It’ll always be the original PC version for me, but the other versions have definitely grown on me while we’ve been developing this. It’s really cool to play them in high res and with better control setups… I was never very good with playing shooters on things like the N64 and PS1, so it has been awesome to get to know them so well with this project. I have a whole new appreciation for just how much work went into those versions and how different they are from the original PC classic.

DG: Does anyone have any fond or special memories of playing these games, back when they were originally released, that they’d like to share? Say, what about the series is appealing, or memorable times from playing the games? For me, I used to play PvP on the original Duke Nukem 3D with a buddy of mine who would absolutely slaughter me, but I’ll never forget the time I laid down a bunch of pipe bombs, baited him with a hologram, and hid in a ventilation shaft until I nuked him. That was my one and only kill against him, and I savor it to this day.

RTG: Oh, tons! Duke Nukem 3D came out when I was 11. I first saw it on a display machine in a Walmart (the local store sold desktop computers) and I was blown away. I ended up begging and pleading until my mom bought us a computer a couple months later and I ended up with a retail copy of the shareware version. I was hooked! I had played Doom and Wolfenstein 3D briefly before then, but they didn’t compare. One day I discovered the “.CON” files in the game’s directory and that’s what ended up getting me into programming. It’s not too often when you can say your life was permanently affected by a computer game.

DG: What other games rate highly among the people at Voidpoint?

RTG: Way too many to list!

DG: Were there any challenges in acquiring all of the necessary licensing required for all the games in the collection? Generally speaking, what steps are usually taken to reach this goal?

RTG: The license for this was more or less dropped in my lap, so I don’t think I can comment much on the general process someone would have to go through. In the case of this release I had prior dealings with 3D Realms regarding code for Megaton Edition, and we had been separately developing an unlicensed port to Android on the side. You know, one of those ones where you get it from the Play Store and then you copy some files over from a PC installation of the game by hand? We got the license after we showed that to them and made the decision to flesh things out considerably.

Duke Nukem 64

DG: What was the genesis for the idea to package all those games together as a single collection, instead of releasing each game individually, or as smaller collections?

RTG: There are a couple of reasons. First, I think it would be milking things way too much to release them all separately on the same platform. Back when these were originally released, they WERE the versions of Duke Nukem 3D for their respective platforms, regardless of their significant differences. However, for as much as there is different about these games, there’s just as much about them that they have in common with one another. I don’t like the idea of telling people who want to own all of them “OK, now buy these three packages, and by the way about 2 dozen of the levels they share are pretty similar.” Apart from that, I want users to be exposed to the whole collection and not just to whichever part they might remember from childhood or whichever variant happened to catch their eye when they searched for “Duke Nukem”.

DG: What’s the typical turnaround time, from when the licensing is acquired to the the games are released? Can anything in that process be described go our readers? Specifically, I noticed that the graphics are going to be upscaled. What steps were taken to enhance the graphics from the original version?

RTG: We could have shipped this a year ago but it would have been missing a bunch of content and it would have been a turd. The time it takes to do a release like this is directly proportional to how much you care for what you’re working with.

About the graphics, I think we may have worded part of our release poorly. It’s not that the graphics are being upscaled, it’s that until now the only way to play the N64 and PS1 versions was on their original hardware or via emulators. The textures and sprites are the same resolution as they always were but the final rendered size is up to modern standards–for example, the games ran at a resolution of 256×224 on the PS1 and N64 and they run at 1920×1080 on my phone.

DG: I noticed a lack of mentioning iOS in the press release. Was there any reason for this? Are there any plans to release an iOS version for Hail to the King? If not, why not?

RTG: Expect to hear something about that in the near future!

DG: Thanks much for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers!

If you missed the official announced for the Duke Nukem 3D: Hail to the King Collection, you can get all the details over in our previous coverage available here and here. The Duke Nukem 3D: Hail to the King Collection will be hitting Google Play sometime in Q1 2015.

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