Editorials

Where Are Dune Video Games At?

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Dune is such a good book, at least book one. It’s so good and it’s rife with political intrigue and a world that, as someone who is creative, is just jealous to read it. It deprives me of the ability to come up with most of the ideas on my own. Removing ranged weapons with personal shields is just such a fun way to completely upend sci-fi combat.

Woah, upend combat? That’s…. sounding like something that would be a really good game. You’ve got massive political intrigue, tons of lore, places to visit and a combat system that’s very unique. So, where the games at?

Oh not looking for something that’s not sci-fi to play, try give FFXIV a try. It’s more fantasy based and way less focused on spicepunk like Dune.

The Games that Exist

The following Dune games exist and you’ll see something troubling very quickly:

Game NameYearGenreSystems
Dune1992Adventure Game / RTSDOS, Amiga, Sega CD
Dune II1992RTSDOS, Amiga, RISC OS, Genesis
Dune 20001998RTSPlayStation, Windows 9x
Emperor: Battle for Dune2001RTSWindows
Frank Herbert’s Dune2001AdventureWindows, PS2
A listing of all the Dune games to date.

So in total you have two adventure games and three RTS games. Two of which were made in the early 90s and the other two around the early 2000s. The RTS games were made by Westwood which were often well received and the adventure game has cult popularity, but nothing has happened in over 20 years when it comes to Dune and video games.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was marketed as the miniseries tie-in but had little in common outside of the soundtrack. It was a commercial failure and bankrupted Cyro studios (who made Dune (video game), unaffiliated with Dune II by Westwood).

Difficulty in Translation – Dune’s Combat is Complex

Dune action games don’t exist because in the books it is well described that the combat is primarily close range highly skilled dagger fighting. The personal shields that are used can only be breached by very slow moving objects, which is a requirement in order to allow air to pass through the shields. The shields on ships don’t have that same issue, considering they can have self contained life support systems.

This means that any kind of combat requires you to avoid long ranged weapons. There are slow penetration bullets, but they can be easily deflected once they hit a shield by using a knife to pry them away. Swords were also used, but less preferred to say spears, which could be used to slowly pry into the incoming assault’s shields.

While the Weirding Modules weren’t actually in the books, the Weirding Way is which is showcased well in the miniseries. This is basically a kung-fu speed boost move.

Most combat was also very organized, with everyone guarding everyone in formations. There’s not a lot of just one person running around solo and doing whatever they want.

For the longest time they wouldn’t translate well into video games, which is why every video game except “Frank Herbert’s Dune” focused on the grand strategy of moving troops around on a map. That’s a big component of Dune and one that translates well.

Modern Technology

Dune has the legacy of being one of the founding cornerstones of the modern RTS with Dune II. Yet, we haven’t seen much lately. As highlighted above, the combat in Dune is rather difficult to translate pre-2010. Right now, it should be quite easy to make a successful Dune game that translates well now, especially with Dishonored like mechanics and stealth.

Yet, as far as I know right now, there’s only one studio working on Dune game: Funcom.

The Funcom MMO – Dune TBD

Funcom is working on a Dune MMO but wew this project has been going on for awhile. Tencent owns Funcom now and with the recent interest in Dune, it looks like it’s going to be a few years out and bigger than planned before. So there’s going to be money there and experience, plus they’re looking to bring the good parts of their Conan MMO over into this one.

Will be interesting to see what comes of it, but even more interesting to see the future.

The Future of Dune Video Games

The success of the recent Dune: Part One will herald in likely another Westwood Dune RTS (done by EA I guess) and very likely have one or two games produced based on the movies or at least themed with them. Dune: Part Two and Dune: The Sisterhood are a ways off, so there’s time for an AAA studio to pick up the IP and run with it. Something like Dishonored would be a great template to work off of, something stealth based would work well.

Nothing rumbling about just yet, but again with the popularity of Dune: Part One, I would expect to hear news any day on a new vidya game for Dune.

Dune Adventure Game Long Plays

Here’s a few of our favorite Dune Long Plays for the two Dune adventure games:

Dune

Frank Herbert’s Dune

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