The Duke Nukem 3D 1995 prototypes are some of the earliest builds of Duke Nukem 3D. Although none of these prototypes was ever made publicly available, promotional screenshots and in-game footage have been released for three distinct builds from May, August, and November of 1995.
The 1995 prototypes predate beta version 0.99, shareware version 1.0, and the earliest commercial release of Duke Nukem 3D, all of which were compiled in 1996. They are preceded by LameDuke, Duke Nukem IIID, and the April 1994 Build Demo.
The dating of prototype images is largely based on analogy to screenshots or videos with known dates. However, it is often possible to date images based on the HUD alone. The HUD appears to have been frequently and heavily modified across builds, making it a highly sensitive indicator of when an image was produced.
May 1995 prototype
Main Article: May 1995 prototype
The May prototype was profoundly different from the December 1994 prototype. Texture palettes leaned towards browns and reds, and none of the enemy sprites matched those from the final version. Newly introduced enemies included the Enforcers and Pig Cops. An early version of the Recon Patrol Vehicle was also introduced, but the vehicle was piloted by Enforcers instead of Pig Cops. A redrawn and recolored version of the Troopers from LameDuke made an appearance as well. This prototype also exhibited parts of maps that would appear in the final game. Tiberius Station and Dark Side appear to have been nearly finished, but assets for Death Row, Warp Factor, Lunar Reactor, Freeway, and It's Impossible were also introduced in this prototype. The May 7th video actually contains footage (starting at 8:10) of the earliest build of Warp Factor, according to an early diagram of the map, but most of this map was later cut. In terms of weapons, this prototype introduced the Mighty Foot, Shrinker, Expander, and Flamethrower. The Plasma Cannon from LameDuke had not yet been replaced by the Shotgun, and the RPG still used its 1994 weapon sprite.
August 1995 prototype
Main Article: August 1995 prototype
The August prototype was similar to the May prototype. However, a few notable differences include the introduction of colored dots in the "Ammo" slot as well as the first-person RPG sprite from the final build. Lunar Reactor and Sewage Company appear to have been nearly finished in this version, but the latter map was cut from the final game and later released only as an online download. One screenshot shows an underwater area with a height and textures exactly matching those found in the underwater area from Spaceport and no other area of the final game, but it is unclear whether this is an early draft of the same map. Another screenshot shows a camera angle of the ceiling of a room that loosely resembles the large, sky-lit area from Spaceport. This unidentified room is also shown in one of the promotional screenshots from the shareware version of the game. In this prototype, the Plasma Cannon still occupied the third weapon slot.
November 1995 prototype
Main Article: November 1995 prototype
Compared to the other 1995 prototypes, the November prototype was markedly similar to the commercial release. One similar feature was the HUD, which was now nearly identical to the final version. The LameDuke Troopers had been replaced with the Assault Troopers and Assault Captains, and the Octabrains made their first appearance as well. The Enforcers and Pig Cops had their sprites updated, though both were still subtly different from their final sprites, and the Recon Patrol Vehicles were now piloted by Pig Cops instead of Enforcers. Hollywood Holocaust, Red Light District, Death Row, Toxic Dump, Launch Facility, and Warp Factor were nearly finished, and in some cases, they were more detailed than their final counterparts. As explained in the 20th Anniversary Developer Commentary, some of the maps were deliberately stripped of details so as to increase the game's frame rate on the computer hardware available at the time. One screenshot from the prototype shows a canyon that may have been an early version of The Abyss. In terms of weapons, the Plasma Cannon was replaced by the Shotgun, and a couple other weapons also made their first appearances, including the Chaingun Cannon and Laser Tripbombs. The November prototype also featured the Space Suit as an inventory item, which was cut from the final game.