The legal fight over a new Duke Nukem video game appears to be over, with court documents giving a glimpse of what the franchise's original creator was working on before the new owner caught wind and sued last year.
Gearbox Software, developer of 2011's Duke Nukem Forever, and Apogee Software, parent of the 3D Realms Studio that notoriously spent 12 years building Forever with nothing to show for it, filed documents in federal court last week pointing to a forthcoming settlement.
Recent filings included screen captures of Mass Destruction showing references to Duke Nukem characters currently owned by Gearbox. The one at top shows Duke, in the isometric visual style Apogee originally described, encountering General Graves. A second one, below, features a cutscene where he confronts Dr. Proton.
Following this settlement it appears Gearbox retains ownership and control of the Duke Nukem intellectual property, per some complex terms spelled out for Apogee to reacquire it. That said, the "buy-back" terms include the unspecified costs of settling this case.
If that doesn't necessarily mean Gearbox wants to get rid of a troublesome IP — which the studio said it acquired in 2010 mainly as a favor to 3D Realms/Apogee — then the means for doing so at least are there.
A Gearbox representative, reached this morning by Polygon, declined to comment. Polygon has also reached out to Apogee's new parent company and publisher, Interceptor Entertainment. Update: Apogee/Interceptor/3D Realms likewise declined comment.
Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction was to have been an "isometric action role-playing game" for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC, per a teaser in February 2014. Once Gearbox got wind of that, it sued to shut down the project.
Gearbox Software bought the Duke Nukem IP in 2010 as 3D Realms faced legal trouble from publisher Take-Two Interactive for Duke Nukem Forever's comically long development cycle, stretching back to 1997. As part of that purchase, Gearbox said it controlled the right to all future video game developments using the Duke Nukem name and the series' characters.
After Gearbox sued Apogee over Mass Destruction, the game was reconstituted as Bombshell, starring a female protagonist who enjoys "kicking ass, motorcycles [and] kicking ass on motorcycles." It was given a release window for the first three months of this year, but so far Bombshell has not launched.