Thursday 20 March 2014

Dune: Why didn't this become an MMO?

Fear is the mind-killer...
Just finished watching it (and Children of Dune) again recently and while it is quite dated I still found them quite entertaining and can't picture anyone but Alec Newman as Paul Atreides. Not even the dark haired guy that fought Captain Picard in the (even older) movie. Still, the question stands though. With quite the lore, the unique setting, and I would guess fan base background behind the many incarnations of Dune (books, movie, mini series, RTS game, board/card games) you would think it would be prime MMO material.

Gameplay wise it is probably best to set it before Paul Atreides shows up for a few reasons, one of which being that he mainly curb stomps everyone once powered up and then his son does for 3,500 years (yikes)! So with that in mind lets see how it does in the other "usual" MMO categories.

Setting and Environmental Weather
Sure, you can make all the extra home planets and / or space ships if you really want but I think you really just need to focus on the titular planet itself. Given it is mostly desert and rock that should even make it easier to render, leaving most of the designers to work on space ports, underground locales and seitches (villages). This means there's no rain, no snow, no clouds. Just need to make day and night cycles and the occasional sand storm.

Most of the bad guys in Dune come in the standard human shape, because they basically are all humans. This means it's easier to design shareable armor and clothes all around since your figures can share the same base models. The only other major critter is the sand worm. Sure you can make sand trout (the smaller ones) but those are meant to be rare. It's the gigantic sand worms that people really remember, and they are nigh unkillable through conventional means.

Mounts and Fast Travel
Ornithopters serve as the usual light transport mode for those who can afford it (meaning catering for flight). Those skilled enough can also try ride the giant worms like in the books. Then of course you can throw in all the mechanical units from the RTS game at your leisure. General rule is the bigger the engine, the more vibration, the more chance of attracting them worms. Probably should also require spice to run. :P

This is a setting where there are lasguns, gatling guns, personal shields, and ordinance of all kinds. Yet most of the killing seems to happen with bone knives. Really depends how the game designers want to go here. I'd think that the easiest way to not go berserk is just to create a few weapons and have expensive ammo (or use the Gamma World method) for the ranged stuff which will really force players to decide how much they want to pull the trigger.

Two that I can think of. You have the spice. The whole reason everyone wants the one planet that produces it, and it is used in pretty much everything (crafting, healing, fuel, gaining powers). Then you have guild credits (or some such) which is what everyone that doesn't have spice uses. Which one is your pay for money currency depends on what you can buy with what.

Factions and PvP
Dune is all about PvP. Apart from the houses of Atreides, Harkonen, Corrino (and maybe Ordos for the RTS guys), there are also the Spacing Guild, the fremen, and the Bene Gesserit - all with their own agendas. NPCs of warring houses would obviously constitute the PvE side of things.

Anywho, that's my simple layout of what could be. I would certainly like to hear your opinions not just on Dune as an MMO, but on other works that have a strong enough identity to warrant one. Game of Thrones maybe? Also if you do know of a Dune MMO, please let me know! I'd like to try it out!


  1. I think you mentioned the most important points already yourself:

    - It would be only the desert environment. So, mostly dead area, sand and rocks. I remember how many people TSW lost due to it's depressing setting and actually the world of Dune is way more bleak. For most people there, living another day is already a big victory.

    - Again, it is only one planet and the whole planet is a desert. Sand and rocks. Brown and green, all around. You don't need to go Wildstar, but if your whole game is mostly in brown and grey people will get bored of it quite fast. Most gamers will leave again soon, feeling that they "saw it all".

    - All "monsters" are human. And wear similar garb, too. You even suggest recycling armours. This again is the "saw it all" wear and tear on the playerbase. And you are right, the world has not much more "monsters" and by design doesn't want/support many of them. So again "see it all and leave".

    The only thing this setup really supports well is a PvP based MMO, but even there most players want more variety than just one big desert. Dune is a very limited stage for a MMO. It's a great book (the first one, don't get me started about the rest), it's an awesome movie (expecially the first one), but it would make a terribly limited MMO and would bleed players quickly.

    1. "Seeing it all" - you certainly make gamers sound like tourists. Not saying that you are wrong, just found it a bit funny. ^_^

  2. Haven't seen the movie, but have read all the Dune-related books, and there's multiple planets that you could draw on alright. On top of the valid "no monster" thing, I think the main problem would be that in a MMO form, the general idea has to compete with Star Trek and Star Wars, of which both already have their MMO. I have the impression that Dune maybe is a bit more hardcore nerdy and therefore would have a smaller audience.

    I think the world could also be amazing for storybased explory type of games. I would totally play a good single-player Dune game.

    1. There's a good idea too! One I'd like to play if it ever comes about. :)

  3. There was an mmorts planned more than 10 years ago but it was scraped when Cyan interactive closed for bankruptcy . Here's a trailer for it if you want to see it.

    1. Thanks for the link Max! I had never heard of this until now. Of course RTS's aren't really my thing. ;p

  4. I love dune but yeh, I don't think it would work. The literature is a little too restricted and in the grand scheme of things the I.P really doesn't mean that much anymore. I believe it would make a good PvP mmo, building bases and controlling resources but yeh, much better with your own idea

    1. I guess it's valid that the developers don't want to argue stats and world building with the dune fan base, and that if they're putting all this work into something it may as well be something closer to home. Good point j3w3l! ^_^