LameDuke is an early prototype of Duke Nukem 3D that was later released as freeware. According to official sources, it was completed in late December 1994, but a January 1995 date, based on an analysis by The Cutting Room Floor, is sometimes cited as well.
LameDuke was released on January 29, 1997 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Duke Nukem 3D's initial shareware release. It was released as-is, without any promises of technical support or compatibility. It is still free to download today.
LameDuke is only one of several known Duke Nukem 3D prototypes. LameDuke was preceded by Duke Nukem IIID and the April 1994 Build Demo. It was followed by the 1995 prototypes, beta version 0.99, and shareware version 1.0, the last of which was also released in advance of the commercial version and is noticeably different from it.
Official sources at 3D Realms have stated that LameDuke was compiled on December 30, 1994. However, an analysis by The Cutting Room Floor noted that the executable is timestamped January 3, 1995 and that some maps were last modified on January 1, 1995. It is unclear what accounts for these discrepancies, but in any case, the developers consider the prototype to have been completed as of December 1994.
LameDuke features significantly different levels, enemies, weapons, and items than the Duke Nukem 3D commercial release. The prototype is also notable for featuring stylistic design elements and assets resembling those from Duke Nukem II, though the project diverged from its predecessor later in development. Of LameDuke's 31 levels, E3L2 and E3L8 were kept more-or-less wholesale in the final version and can be found on the commercial levels Derelict and Overlord, respectively. Small parts of other levels may have also served as proof-of-concepts for commercial levels, and some parts were even directly copied-and-pasted into levels that would appear in the final version. The prototype includes four episodes, presented in the following order:
- Download the original LameDuke
- The original version requires a DOS-compatible operating system, or it can be emulated on modern computers using freeware programs such as DOSBox.
- Download LameDuke X
- LameDuke X is an EDuke32 modification that is readily compatible with modern computers. The maps, weapons, and enemy placement are faithful to the original, but there are many significant differences, including in the HUD, enemy composition, and items.
- Complete analysis by The Cutting Room Floor