Tonight's game on OpenPOWER: Duke Nukem II

Date: 2022-07-21T13:25:00-07:00

Location: www.talospace.com

No, not that Duke Nukem game — I mean the platformer. Before the Build engine wrought PG-13 destruction upon the City of the Angels, which also builds and runs on OpenPOWER, Apogee introduced the world's most egotistical alien exterminator in two episodes of heavily armed hopping around. The first installment in 1991 was poor even among PC games of the time, especially considering the far superior (and also Apogee-published) Commander Keen that came out the year before. But the second episode in 1993 had better graphics, better animation, better music, even a rip-roaring VGA cinematic if you had the hardware:

(Always wear your eyes and ears during target practice, kids!) It generally plays fine in DOSBox, but where's the fun in that? RigelEngine is a re-creation of DN2 that plays like the original DOS game mostly faithfully — pedantic quibbles shortly — along with various enhancements such as widescreen support, shown here in the screenshot.

RigelEngine builds out of the box on Fedora 35 and 36, though it has a rather surprising amount of vendored 3rd-party libraries and additionally requires OpenGL, SDL and SDL_mixer. Make sure to clone it with submodules enabled (e.g., git clone --recursive), then mkdir build ; cd build ; cmake .. ; make.

You'll also need a copy of the game, either the shareware first episode (1MB ZIP) or the full game (which I have, as an early DN3D purchaser). Apogee-3D Realms titles have moved from GOG, our usual drug dealer, to ZOOM Platform. Put the NUKEM2.* files into a directory and point the RigelEngine binary at it, or it will present a basic file picker when you start and then remember those settings.

As a clean room re-creation of the game, the additional features are simply incorporated into the game's regular settings menu (i.e., no specific command line options are used to enable them). Widescreen works just dandy with the exception of the radar and inventory frames which can sometimes blend in with the display a little too well; otherwise, I highly recommend it. On the other hand, the smooth scrolling feature — while being as smooth as advertised — makes playing the game feel a little like I've been stoned, uh, not that I would know anything about that, offisher (too used to those rapid 8-pixel and 4-pixel parallax moves). Also, while I'm being an ungrateful whiner, the introductory VGA cinematic is also not quite right compared to DN2 on my real Am5x86/133 DOS tower: there's an extra pause in the transition between "NEO LA: THE FUTURE" and Duke in the shooting range, and his firing rate in the first scene is too quick (it's fine when you're looking at the target). I know, I know, right? Uncanny valley!

Note that RigelEngine doesn't play the original Duke Nukem (this does), nor Cosmo's Adventure, which uses code descended but different from DN2 (this does).

This is too easy!