While at Buzz Software
we put together game designs for various clients as well as for our own
amusement. One of the better-developed was Dune, based on the Frank
Herbert novel of the same name. We were approached by some associates
at Interplay and asked to do our own personal spin on the Dune design,
for consideration for the next generation of titles Interplay was to produce.
Together, with Bruce von Kugelgen and Jon Benton, we rose to the challenge.
We didn't receive the contract, but we did have fun in the effort. What
follows is the design skinny we presented to our friends at Interplay.
Game Design Skinny
Dune is a large-scale game that melds
turn-based strategic combat with real-time economic and political domination.
Victory is achieved through a combination of economic, political and military
might, with a scaleable 3D view that provides strategic-level control
over everything from the aspects of the planetary ecosystem to the movements
of individual units.
In Dune, players assume the role of one of the
Minor Houses in the story-rich Dune universe and strive against competing
Houses for control of the planet Arrakis, a.k.a. Dune. Control of Arrakis
is contested in the actions of mercenaries and heroes fighting on sandy
battlefields, with the production of Spice carefully shipped from the
field to the Imperium and in the whispers of spies secretly planted in
the homes of foes.
Dune is a modern game that blends the best elements from its strategic
competitors to create a new, vibrant and exciting form of game play.
- Tactical turn-based combat in a lushly detailed third
person 3D point-of-view.
- Strategic turn-based decisions about unit movement,
trade policies, diplomatic overtures, and site construction.
- Encampments whose growth and operation can be handled
at any level of detail, down to the placement of individual buildings
- A rich universe of characters and competing Houses
which serve as templates for opponents, heroes, and encounters during
- An economic model based on barter and trade that
operates in real time.
- Multiple simultaneous theaters of operation that
can be examined in full detail or broadly managed at a global level.
- Up to 16 simultaneous players in either global or
- A branching single-player campaign replete with cutscenes
that follows the story of Dune, with starting scenarios forming a tutorial
for the novice player and ultimately supporting paths of both success
and failure in the conquest of Arrakis.
- A robust scenario editor that allows players to create
anything from their own scenarios to fully featured campaigns.
The appeal of a title such as Dune is wide, capable of targeting
both action-oriented strategy gamers and those who prefer a more simulation-style
approach to their games. As such, Dune is targeted towards male
strategy gamers between the ages of 15 and 45. Those who have previously
read the novel and enjoyed it will further enjoy the way that Dune
remains true to the spirit of the novel, while subtly expanding on its
themes and characters as only an interactive experience can. However,
no previous knowledge of the novel is necessary as the game's rich milieu
introduces itself, gradually immersing the player in the gestalt of Dune.
Dune is about control of Arrakis, achieved through a combination
of economic, political and military might. The game remains true to the
novel by Frank Herbert as much as possible, inheriting characters, motives,
environs and many other elements from the story-rich universe he created.
In Dune, players assume the role of one of the Minor Houses in
the milieu of the Dune universe and strive against competing Houses for
control of the planet Arrakis. These houses are extremely individualistic,
each with unique history, "look", flavor and abilities. Some houses specialize
in assassination and enjoy great favor with the Assassin's guild. Others
are technologically gifted, producing weaponry or tactical devices that
are second to none. Yet others are gifted in the ways of the mind, producing
Bene Gesserit witches and Mentats that are highly sought after by different
factions of the Imperium. Each of these abilities translates to a game
mechanic that provides both strengths and weaknesses unique to that House
In Dune, society is organized into a feudal
structure, with various Houses having control of individual fiefdoms.
These Houses are in turn commanded by their Lords - men who own
Houses higher on the feeding chain. Major Houses are those which
control a planet as their fiefdom, often through the fealty of many
Minor Houses on the planet over which they exercise control. Ultimately,
the whole is bound together by Major Houses reporting to the Emperor.
It is to his reign from the Imperial throne that all Houses directly
or indirectly owe fealty.
In the single player game these story mechanics
are embodied in the campaign. Over the course of a campaign the
game will progress through branching tiers of building, trading
and combat. The branching campaign will follow events in the overall
story that could ultimately result in the player's House becoming
the Major House in control of the whole of Arrakis, or in the player's
House being exiled from the Imperium. In the most glorious case
a triumphant player would be treated to a scenario that pits the
full native and mystical resources of Arrakis against the dominance
of the Emperor for control of the Imperial Throne.
Multi-player games will be more limited in scope,
due to the time requirements of the progressive campaign and the
differences in time-scales between strategic play and tactical play.
Multi-player games will consist of scenarios such as contesting
a specific piece of terrain, item, or to establishing control over
Arrakis on the global scale without resorting to tactical combat