Title: Back in Business
Author: Alex Pistol
Release date: 2020-12-14

The main focus for the maps in this episode was to create a strong sense of objective in each level (more elaborate than the usual button/keycard hunting). I was aiming at shorter type of levels at first, which probably is true in the case of first two maps – but as the work on the episode progressed, so did the length of the levels. Having different objectives to complete in each level made the flow of the levels more nonlinear, which again can be especially observed in first two levels, where you have a couple of parallel objectives that can be undertaken in any order. In case of the next levels, the nonlinearity is less obvious and more depending on details – some player choices might result in slightly different outcomes to the gameplay, or multiple strategies can be undertaken for certain events. Also, these two levels are more open for exploration.

I wanted the design of the levels to be a compromise of good aesthetics, details and shadows with memorable gameplay and effects/sequencing. There are some effects and sequencing which may feel a bit less intuitional to the players who are used to the game mechanics for past 25 years. The custom coding was kept to a minimal level – one of the most satisfying things in Duke mapping for me has always been finding creative ways of achieving “innovative” effects through a combination of vanilla game Build engine tricks and quirks. Same goes for design – while initially I was more keen on using custom textures, over the time I’ve found them not really that good looking in Duke and mostly limited myself to using the original tileset. Especially in the 4th level, most of the odd looking stuff you can come across will usually serve some gameplay purpose.

The progression between the levels might not be what you would normally expect from an episode – the maps aren’t interconnected (besides the mission briefing levels which precede levels 2 and 3), as Duke is sent on his missions by the EDF. As such, you will not be able to keep the items from previous levels most of the time – but then again, during mission briefings you will be generously equipped for what’s ahead of you. I wanted the connection between the levels to be mostly kept by the narrative and objective based levels, not by the location. This also allowed to make each map have a different theme to it.

The completion times shown at the end of each level were taken from my playthroughs on Piece of Cake (3D Realms time) or roughly from impressions of the beta-testers (Par time). Hope you will enjoy playing this episode as much as I have enjoyed making it!

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Working on level design requires lots of inspiration - some of it just comes naturally from the creative ideas, while some - especially with more specific objects - needs a spark of real-life photos to actually click. Below are some comparisons between in-game objects and their real-life counterparts - of course, I took a lot of artistic liberty while recreating them in Duke. Most of these pictures can be found in the episode's manual.

1) The yellow bus in Piggish Prison was based on this photo (Source: Pinterest/Steven Derks)

Vintage yellow short but photo by Steven Derks

And here is how it looks in-game:

Yellow bus in Piggish PrisonYellow bus in Piggish Prison

2) Some of the machinery in the workshop in Piggish Prison was based on some of the stuff from my work - although I have no idea how to operate it in real life!

The lathe/threader machine:

Lathe in real-lifeLathe in Duke

The manual drill machine:

Manual drill machine in real-lifeManual drill machine in Duke

3) The cliffs of the island in Piggish Prison were based on Alcatraz island cliffs.

Alcatraz island in real-lifeAlcatraz island in real-life

And the in-game version:

Island in DukeIsland in DukeIsland in Duke

4) And finally - the beginning scene of Mutant Mayhem was heavily inspired by the iconic scene in David Lynch's "Lost Highway" - in fact, I even wanted the music to be similar, so what you hear in game is a remix of David Bowie's "I'm Deranged". The link to the inspirational track can be found here: David Bowie - I'm Deranged

And here's how it looks in Duke:

Car sequence

Back in Business reviews

Back in Business reviews


Reviews of Back in Business episode which appeared on 2 main review sites, MSDN and Come Get Some!

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Back in Business

Back in Business

Full Version 4 comments

Full version of "Back in Business" episode. Make sure to read the notes on installation and compatibility, and check out the ReadMe file for more playing...

USER.CON - alternative music

USER.CON - alternative music


USER.CON file with alternative music for each level (using the original Duke 3D music). To use it, just place the file in your EDuke directory. Use ONLY...


This mod doesn't start for me after following instructions. It just goes into the regular game.

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Ledsbourne Creator

The GRP file should be in a separate directory (as is in the archive) in your EDuke folder. Choose that directory when launching the game from "Custom game content directory" menu. Also make sure there are no USER.CON, GAME.CON or DEFS.CON files in your main EDuke directory or no Tiles014.art or Tiles015.art files, as they would automatically take priority over the files in the GRP. It's probably best to just run the mod on a clean EDuke installation (with only EDuke files and regular DUKE3D.GRP in the directory). Hope this helps!

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