Gearbox Software, developer of the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever, have announced the day that many in the world of gaming thought would never come: the creation of the title's Gold Master.
The Gold Master copy is the disc from which all subsequent discs are duplicated - and means that the game code is complete and ready to ship, bringing one of the industry's longest-running sagas to a close at last.
Duke Nukem Forever began as a next-generation sequel to Duke Nukem 3D - itself a sequel to a series of side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups starring the eponymous Duke Nukem. Sadly, things didn't go well - and as the development timeline stretched and technologies rose and fell, Duke Nukem Forever was consigned to the dustbin of history as the biggest piece of vapourware ever.
Those who had looked forward to the game in 1997 were forgiven for abandoning all hope - even when Tryptych Games and Gearbox Software declared they were taking over development of the title in 2009, twelve years after its announcement.
When Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford published a video professing to a last-minute delay - albeit in an amusingly irreverent style - some gamers wondered if the curse of the Duke had struck again, despite the existence of a demo that proved playable game code did exist.
Fans can rest assured, however, that the Duke's return is now guaranteed. "Duke Nukem Forever is the game that was once thought to be unshipppable," admitted Cristoph Hartmann, president of publisher 2K Games, "and yet here we are, on the precipice of history. Today marks an amazing day in the annals of gaming lore, the day where the legend of Duke Nukem Forever is finally complete and it takes that final step towards becoming a reality."
"Always bet on Duke," Gearbox's Pitchford told gamers in today's announcement. "I did. I bet on all of the developers who have ever been a part of this legendary project, and I bet that none of us want to live in a world without the Duke. I've played the final game and it is an incredible experience - a once-in-a-lifetime opus of interactive entertainment that reminds me once again why Duke Nukem is our King."
The game's demo and subsequent videos has had a mixed reception from the industry, with some claiming that the trademark misogynistic humour is perhaps a little out of place in a 2011 title - but fans are unlikely to let that spoil what has been an epic, fourteen-year journey.
Duke Nukem Forever will be released on June the 10th for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.