Meet the Duke Nukem Fan Re-Creating Britain in All Its Glory


    Meet the Duke Nukem Fan Re-Creating Britain in All Its Glory

    All of this has been re-created in painstaking detail by Douglas, who’s taken to photographing objects on the streets surrounding his southeast London home and then Photoshopping them into the game in pursuit of the most compelling experience. Pret A Manger, Greggs, and Sainsbury’s have all had impressive facelifts since first being boxed together in July. And as the joke has snowballed, the project has taken on a greater significance for Douglas.

    “I had a psychotic episode and was sectioned in March 2020,” he says. “Finding some comfort in something creative I enjoyed doing as a teenager is helping my recovery a lot.” Between bouts of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy, Douglas has been pouring his mind and energies into Duke Smoochem. He says his main takeaway from the CBT sessions was “the power of distraction over intrusive thoughts.” Video games—and, even more so, he’s discovered, building them—have served as a balm in low moments, allowing Douglas to put his problems aside for a little while when he’s deep in the editor. His psychiatrist approves too. “[They] said that getting so involved with something like this, completely disconnected from my illness, was a really good step toward recovery,” says Douglas. “It’s good to get that endorsement.”

    Courtesy of Dan Douglas

    Douglas’ recovery features in Duke Smoochem, too: head underground, into the basement, and you’ll find a serene gallery space displaying photos that Douglas took while sectioned last year. (Serene, that is, until the ceiling falls in and an alien ambush ensues.) Currently on long-term sick leave, Douglas is preparing himself to return to work. The Duke is providing surprising assistance. “The problem-solving and engagement this project demands are really helping me unscramble my brain ready to return to the office,” he says.

    You might think there are less stressful things to do than bending 25-year-old tech to your will. But Douglas says that the technical limitations can be “really good for creativity.” In many ways, Build is the ideal engine for the world Douglas is creating: equal parts bleak and gaudy in nature, with a legacy of games, such as Redneck Rampage and Blood, that count humor as a key element of the player’s experience.

    The Build engine’s programmer, Ken Silverman, was just a teenager when he first put it together. It was considered, for a brief window, somewhat revolutionary in its ability to conjure a 3D experience on a 2D plane. The engine’s constraints forced tricks and fixes, like using parallax effects to mimic perspectives that are otherwise impossible in a 2D world, or generating entirely new spaces just to fake a mirror effect. Silverman has said that, when first constructing the engine back in 1993, he was learning as he went. Douglas, who has no programming or development experience, feels much the same.

    Published at Sat, 13 Nov 2021 12:00:00 +0000

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