The Serious Sam/Duke Nukem Feud

I figured that during blaugust I could start dumping my memories of weird games forum drama as well so I could be free of this knowledge and have it preserved somewhere as well. Today I will talk about the great Serious Sam/Duke Nukem feud of the early 00s. In the early 00’s I was (and I still am) a huge fan of the Serious Sam series and even spent a ton of time on the forums for Seriously!, the biggest Serious Sam fan site in the world, where the dev team for the series would also often post. This is where I became aware of the feud, which I think was mostly playful but I’m not 100% sure, between the developers of Serious Sam and George Broussard, one of the creators of the Duke Nukem series and many other games before and after.

It all started in 2000, when Croteam was working on Serious Sam and just released a vertical slice to get a publisher interested in their game. It was getting a lot of positive praise because it was released at a time when the dominant FPS style at the time was the Rainbow Six style of game. That is, except for a comment by George

text from a post on a forum where george is critical of the game

To be clear, even though I disagree with it, this post is fine. It’s just a post on (I think?) the 3D Realms forums and I suspect that there was a thread about the demo and people were just discussing it. People are allowed to state their opinions online about video games. It still ended up coming to the attention of the Serious Sam devs, possibly during their interview with Old Man Murray, and rubbed them the wrong way, which is also understandable. Croteam ended up getting a publisher and releasing Serious Sam: The First Encounter, which was a big hit and Croteam started getting a following and developing a sequel. From what I recall, it ended up being discussed on the Seriously! forums in a thread and there were probably jokes about Duke Nukem Forever taking so long. I’m sure it’s been preserved on the Internet Archive but I’m not going to dig it up because I already found something tangential to it and it was a big oof.

As mentioned in the Old Man Murray interview, this is actually why Serious Sam: The First Encounter has a sewer level. It’s probably my least favorite level in the game but now you know why it exists.

Over the years, the Serious Sam series has made a bunch of references poking fun at the Duke Nukem franchise. The first actual reference to Duke Nukem appears in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. There’s a secret phone booth you can access where Sam calls someone asking for a man named Blondie and saying he’s been waiting forever for him to show up. There’s also a very brief reference to Duke in Serious Sam for the X-Box, which is a combined release of the First and Second Encounters.

Things get a little weirder in Serious Sam 2. There’s a reference to Blondie again in a cutscene and you can find a skeleton of someone named Duke with another Duke Nukem Forever joke thrown in. There’s also a minor character named George B. Gnaar, who is named after George.

After this point Croteam moved on and it was basically forgotten. As far as I know, the only time anyone associated with Duke Nukem poked back was with the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour where there is a secret in one of the new levels. Similar to the secret with the Doom marine in the original Duke 3D, you can find Serious Sam’s corpse and Duke will say “Why so serious….Sam?” I think this new episode was developed by Gearbox or a team outside of 3D Realms, which had been closed at this time before the name and IPs were acquired by folks that had nothing to do with the original studio.

The final reference I’ve seen was in Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem, a standalone DLC released in 2022, which features a magazine referencing Blondie. I believe this was mostly by an external team but clearly fans of the game remember that original beef between the two studios.

Well, there you have it. There was a beef between two game studios that you now know about and I can dump this info from my brain.

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