Duke Nukem

In all forms of art there is the compulsion of the artist to want to perfect her work, which may often delay the work’s release indefinitely. This example is even more true of technology-based arts, as the technology curve can sometimes outrun the work’s progress, rendering it obsolete before it’s ever revealed.

Clive Thompson of Wired explores the reasons for Duke Nukem’s perpetual delays and ultimate abandonment. The culprit in the game’s death, he suggests, was its designer’s inability to release an imperfect game. The article focuses on the gaming industry, but its lesson applies to software developers and technical artists alike:

It’s a dilemma all artists confront, of course. When do you stop creating and send your work out to face the public? Plenty of Hollywood directors have delayed for months, dithering in the editing room. But in videogames, the problem is particularly acute, because the longer you delay, the more genuinely antiquated your product begins to look — and the more likely it is that you’ll need to rip things down and start again. All game designers know this, so they pick a point to stop improving…