Last week, I picked up the re-released version of Duke Nukem 3D for PS3, mostly for old time’s sake (and because I have a soft spot for retrocomputing), and it made me wonder how much time has passed since its original release. Wikipedia to the rescue: the original Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996. That interestingly means that more time has passed between its release and the present day than between its release and the release of Pac-Man. The latter was released in 1980.

It is truly amazing how much progress in computer graphics has been made in those 16 years between 1980 and 1996. While the next 16 years have been quite impressive as well (and gave us e.g. GPUs and real-time caustics in the browser), they weren’t the same kind of quantum leap.

Duke used a 2.5D engine, the Build engine, for which Fabien Sanglard wrote an excellent overview. A true 3D shooter on comparable hardware was available about a year earlier in the form of Descent. It’s also noteworthy that Quake was released 5 months later, also featuring true 3D.