One of the more curious and amusing bits of first-person shooter history and news in the past weeks has been the unearthing of a supposed build of Duke Nukem Forever that was shown at E3 2001. While the leaker that discovered it planned on making it available to players in June, it looks like they decided to move quicker. The build is available to download now.
The files for the Duke Nukem Forever E3 2001 build were made available on Archive.org. It includes the 2001 build of the game, a few videos and technical tools, and, for some reason, a link to the 4chan thread where original leaker x0r first posted reveals of the build. It’s by no means a complete and working game. Duke creator George Broussard and Apogee’s Scott Miller both claimed (albeit begrudgingly in light of one another) that the 2001 build of Duke Nukem Forever was a scattered collection of levels, weapons, and gameplay that were never supposed to see the light of day past E3 2001.
Even so, the leak of the Duke Nukem Forever 2001 build has been considered to be a holy grail of FPS history. In the time since the leak, players and online enthusiasts have been digging in and dissecting everything the 2001 build had in it. Though it cannot be accessed and played easily, there’s also a reddit thread about how to get things working in the build. From various weird level designs like being trapped inside of a CD-ROM drive, being able to add music to the game, and other quirks, there’s plenty to discover about the design choices that came early in Duke Nukem Forever’s long and troubled development.
Of course, it’s a “download and attempt at your own risk” situation. It sounds like there’s a lot of tinkering involved in accessing the Duke Nukem Forever 2001 build, but it also sounds like there’s a treasure trove of history therein.