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AHB-Space is a prototype level from Duke Nukem 3D. Parts of the level were incorporated into Lunar Reactor, Tiberius Station, and Fusion Station in the final game.

The map never had an official name, so Evan "Hendricks266" Ramos, who uploaded footage from a 1995 demo to YouTube, proposed the nickname "AHB-Space" after its creator, Allen H. Blum. Signs that read "Polaris Outpost" can be found on the level, offering another possible name, but the same sign can be found in a contemporaneous screenshot from Dark Side and on the final version of Spaceport.

Development history

See Also: Duke Nukem 3D prototypes

Start date

A demo reel dated May 9, 1995 shows that AHB-Space was in a relatively finished state by early May of that year. Because the level is not found in the December 1994 prototype, it was most likely started sometime between January and April of 1995. This timeframe suggests it may be the first level Blum designed immediately following LameDuke. This interpretation is further supported by the fact that the level was chosen over Dark Side to showcase Duke Nukem 3D on the GamesMaster TV show, suggesting AHB-Space may have been in a more polished state.

January - April 1995

The oldest known images of AHB-Space come from the June 1995 issue of Joystick (#61) and the July 1995 issue of Edge UK, both of which are gaming magazines. The magazines contain three images of AHB-Space.

In the first image, the Plasma Cannon is being fired at Enforcers standing on and below a bridge in a space station. At this stage, the Enforcers still fire Plasma Cannons rather than Flamethrowers. A pile of their corpses is seen in the background. On the back of Duke's hand, the scar has not yet been removed from the first-person weapon sprite. Lastly, this image features an unusual blue HUD that is found in no other pre-release screenshots.

95-06FebApr-01

The second image depicts the RPG being fired at Enforcers in an early version of the room normally found at the end of Fusion Station. Objects and sprites along the back wall of this room differ from subsequent footage.

95-06FebApr-09

The last image is the earliest known instance of the Quick Kick. In addition, the "Central Control" sign above the door is written in a red font, another giveaway that these screenshots precede the May 1995 prototypes. The blood above the door is a sprite that is always found in that location.

95-06FebApr-06

GamesMaster

AHB-Space next appeared on season 5, episode 14 of GamesMaster, a British TV show. In the episode, three contestants are tasked with navigating their way through the level to a set of explosive canisters. The first contestant to detonate the canisters wins. However, the hallways are randomly strewn with Laser Tripbombs, adding to the difficulty.

The first two contestants are shown struggling and dying as a result of the Laser Tripbombs, but a third contestant manages to detonate the canisters. Upon exploding, the canisters blast a hole in the side of the space station, sucking all the nearby enemies into outer space.

GamesMaster_Series_5_Episode_14

GamesMaster Series 5 Episode 14

Dating the episode

The GamesMaster episode aired on December 21, 1995, but there are several clues that the prototype shown in the episode comes from April or early May. Screenshots dated May 18, 1995 (such as this one) show that the blue HUD from the GamesMaster episode had already been replaced with the green HUD found in many subsequent screenshots. However, the fonts on the signs above the doors are no longer red like they were in the January - April 1995 screenshots. Instead, they have been replaced with the tan font found in later screenshots. In addition, the scar has been removed from the back of Duke's hand. Taken together, this means the prototype precedes May 18 but comes after the January - April 1995 screenshots.

Except for the starting location and presence of Laser Tripbombs, the map shown in this footage is indistinguishable from the one shown in the May 9, 1995 demo reel.

May 9, 1995 demo reel

In early 2014, Ramos and Richard "TerminX" Gobeille signed non-disclosure agreements and were given an archive of Duke Nukem 3D development data. 3D Realms gave them the files because they wanted the two to identify salvageable files and to package them in a distributable form. One of the project's first discoveries was a demo reel dated May 9, 1995. Gobeille recorded his live reactions while watching the reel with his son and posted the resulting video to the Duke4 forums. Shortly thereafter, Ramos uploaded the demo reel to YouTube. However, a lawsuit with Gearbox Software ultimately brought an indefinite halt to the project.

The full-length demo reel recovered by Ramos and Gobeille showed footage from several different levels. The video below is a segment from the longer video and only shows footage of AHB-Space.

May_9,_1995_Prototype_-_AHB-Space_in_Duke_Nukem_3D

May 9, 1995 Prototype - AHB-Space in Duke Nukem 3D

In the first couple frames of the video, the letters "PO" can be seen out the right-hand window. The full text likely spelled-out "Polaris Outpost."

May 1995 screenshots

Later screenshots of the level were packaged on a CD with the September 1995 issue of Score Magazine. These screenshots are unusual in that the files on the CD contain precise timestamps, down to the minute. These timestamps concord with other known facts about the development timeline, and they even track the order of progression within specific levels, exactly as one would expect. Therefore, these timestamps are considered reliable. The CD included numerous images across several different levels, but three images come from AHB-Space.

May 10, 1995 @ 2:30:10

The first image shows Duke reloading his Pistol in a flashing, red room. In the bottom-left corner, the scrapped flashlight is visible.

95-08May10.02.30


May 10, 1995 @ 2:31:48

The second image shows Duke aiming the Plasma Cannon at a Trooper in the bathroom. This image also features the updated green HUD.

95-08May18.20.31

May 10, 1995 @ 2:32:24

The last image depicts a reactor core. The toxic waste inside the reactor core uses a primitive reflection technique that worked only on certain screen resolutions in LameDuke.

95-08May10.02.32

Leaked screenshots

Two additional screenshots from this level have been leaked by Gobeille.

One screenshot shows an early version of the Assault Commander in the first room of the level. Given its proximity to the starting location, it is possible Gobeille may have artificially inserted the Assault Commander just to see how it appeared in-game. If Gobeille artificially inserted the Assault Commander, then that may be an indication that this version of the Assault Commander was never implemented on any of the levels Gobeille could find.

95-07FebMay-05

The other screenshot contains the map blueprints. Gobeille was kind enough to share these when someone who was particularly enthusiastic about the level asked him about it.

95-07FebMay-04

Relationship to levels in the final game

Lunar Reactor

Of all the commercial levels in Duke Nukem 3D, Lunar Reactor borrows most from AHB-Space.

One of the May 1995 screenshots seems to depict a bathroom on Lunar Reactor, but as seen in the leaked map blueprints, this bathroom actually originates with AHB-Space. The barracks from Lunar Reactor are also taken from this level, as seen when one compares the two maps side-by-side. Most notably, the lunar reactor itself is taken from this level.

95-08May10.02.32

Colored arrows and lines indicate copied textures and altered dimensions around the reactor core on Lunar Reactor

It is unclear whether these rooms were individually copied-and-pasted from AHB-Space or whether Allen Blum split the map into multiple subsections, as he did for E1L6 of LameDuke, and created Lunar Reactor and Tiberius Station from separate halves of the map.

Tiberius Station

Although neither of the connected rooms were copied, the bridge on AHB-Space was likely copied-and-pasted to create the one on Tiberius Station. Practically, this would have saved the designer time and effort. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the same segment of the bridge can be destroyed with Pipe Bombs, and Enforcers are found on and beneath the bridge, which is an unusual motif. However, the bridge on Tiberius Station has been reduced from two parallel sprites to one.

While Lunar Reactor tended to repurpose sections from the bottom half of AHB-Space, Tiberius Station primarily sampled from the top. The strongest evidence of this is found in and around the flashing, red room at the end of Tiberius Station. Not only is the inside more-or-less identical to the one near the beginning of AHB-Space, the exterior hull of this part of the station is nearly identical as well. Using the no-clip cheat reveals that the hull is oddly shaped and does not quite fit the square room; this same shape is found on AHB-Space, a fact clearly visible in side-by-side comparisons of the map blueprints. In fact, comparing the two maps reveals they are precisely the same room. (To replicate this comparison, focus on the inward angled parts of the outer hulls drawn in white; the comparison is most easily made by opening the maps in side-by-side windows, zooming-in until the two are the same resolution, and vertically aligning the hulls with each other.)

Immediately prior to the red room at the end of Tiberius Station is a room with a Battlelord Sentry. This corresponds to the room immediately after the red room on AHB-Space. Although the corners have been rounded on Tiberius Station and all of the props have been removed, side-by-side comparisons reveal that the lengths and widths of the two rooms are nearly identical.

TiberiusStation bathroom

View out the bathroom window on Tiberius Station

On Tiberius Station, there is a bathroom with a window adjacent to the room with the Battlelord Sentry. Though the bathroom's elevation has been lowered, this bathroom and window are recycled from another windowed room shown in the May 9, 1995 demo reel. Moreover, the countertop from AHB-Space is still present in the form of a sink.

Fusion Station

The room at the very end of Fusion Station was copied-and-pasted from AHB-Space.

End of Fusion Station

Room at the end of Fusion Station

The sector geometry, floor texture beneath the exit button, lights on and above the platform, and the spinning lighting effects are all identical. Although the platform is not presented as an elevator, it still rises out of the ground just like the one on AHB-Space. Even the columns on the sides of the room appear more-or-less identical, but most surfaces in the room have been retextured.

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