Multiplayer in Duke Nukem 3D offers a variety of game modes in which multiple players can either cooperate or kill each other. Though the available game modes will depend on the platform and game edition, most versions of the game include co-op and deathmatch modes, each accommodating up to eight players.
All of the levels from the episodic singleplayer campaign are playable in multiplayer matches. In PC versions of the game, downloadable user maps may be added to the available selection of playable maps. In the Xbox Live Arcade version, online leaderboards track each player's rank and kill-count.
Dukematch, sometimes stylized as "DukeMatch," is the name of the deathmatch multiplayer game mode in Duke Nukem 3D. On levels from the game's singleplayer campaign or on custom user maps, groups of two to eight players can battle each other. A time limit and a target kill count ("frag limit") are set in advance, though either limit may be turned off. If a target kill count is set, then whichever player reaches the target number of kills first wins. Otherwise, whichever player accumulates the most kills within the time limit wins. Unlike in singleplayer, players do not spawn at a common starting area but may instead spawn at random, predetermined locations anywhere throughout the level. In addition, more weapons and items may be found throughout the level, and the enemies that are normally found in singleplayer do not spawn at all.
Co-op is the name of the cooperative gameplay mode in Duke Nukem 3D. Groups of two to eight players spawn at a common starting location and must complete the level by hitting the exit button. Co-op is supported for all of the game's singleplayer levels, as well as custom user maps. Similar to the Dukematch game mode, co-op will usually increase the number of enemies, weapons, and items that are found throughout the level, but the difference is much smaller than is seen in Dukematch.
See Also: Dukebots
Only found in newer versions of the game such as the 20th Anniversary Edition, the DM-Bots game mode is identical to Dukematch but is played with computer-controlled rather than player-controlled enemies. This game mode was first available in the Atomic Edition, but originally, it could only be accessed using a command line, not through the in-game interface.
Duke-Tag is a capture the flag multiplayer game mode that is only available on the level The Queen, first introduced in the Atomic Edition. To play Duke-Tag, select either Dukematch or DM-Bots as the game mode, and select The Queen as the level. In the starting area on this map, a switch with the label "DUKE-TAG!" above it can be flipped to activate this game mode. A brown team and a green team compete to collect flags on opposite sides of the map (Battlelord Sentry chambers) and carry them across the channel of purple slime (to the Alien Queen's chamber) where they can be deposited for points.
Third-party game modes
Main Article: Dukebots
Dukebots are computer-controlled players that can be used to simulate multiplayer matches and, like human-controlled players, use Duke Nukem's character sprites. They were first introduced in the Atomic Edition. Although they can now be selected through the in-game menu, multiplayer matches with Dukebots could originally only be started by launching the game with the following command line:
Duke3d /l#(level number) /v#(episode number) /a(Use fake multiplayer bots) /q#(number of dukebots to play with)
It is possible for players to communicate with each other during multiplayer by typing messages to each other. The player can choose whether the message is sent to a specific player, to their allies, to their enemies, or to everyone. Newer versions of the game also support voice chat.
In addition, there are twelve in-game taunts. They can be activated by pressing "Alt" + "F1"-"F12" during gameplay.
How to play
It is accessible through an in-game menu in the following versions of the game:
- Duke Nukem 64 (original Nintendo 64 version only)
- Xbox Live Arcade
- Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition
- Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour (all platforms)
In all other versions of the game that support multiplayer, multiplayer can be played locally over a LAN connection, or it can be played online through third-party launchers.
In the 1990s, popular multiplayer services included Kali and the Total Entertainment Network (TEN). Since the Meltdown controversy in February 2020, Dukematcher (DukeMatches.net) and YANG (YANG-Online.com) have become the most popular third-party multiplayer services in recent times. Both launchers support numerous multiplayer source ports as well, including EDuke32OldMP, rDuke, and nDuke.
Some third-party services may pose a risk of malware infection or related problems for the players who use them.
In February 2020, this became a source of controversy in the online Duke Nukem community when a group of players discovered converging lines of evidence that Meltdown, a third-party launcher provided by Duke3DOnline.com, was being abused by its developers in order to initiate malicious attacks on players' operating systems. As a result, the most popular Duke Nukem website on the Internet, Duke4.net, posted a sticky notice to the top of its forums, warning the community about the dangers posed by continuing to use Meltdown.
- List of Duke Nukem websites
- Dukematcher: Play Dukematch Online (DukeMatches.net)
- YANG - Yet Another Netplay Guider: Play Duke Nukem 3D Online (YANG-Online.com)
- Duke-Tag tutorials (via YouTube)
- Duke-Tag! documentation written by Randy Pitchford