Dune: The Building of A Dynasty

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Dune: The Building of A Dynasty
Basic Information
Video Game
Westwood Studios
Virgin Interactive
Real-time Strategy
Keyboard, mouse
Retail Features
Technical Information
CanadaUnited StatesMexico North American Release Date(s)
January 11992
Awards | Changelog | Cheats | Codes
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Dune II: The Building of A Dynasty (retitled Dune II: Battle for Arrakis in Europe and Dune: The Battle for Arrakis in North America for their respective Mega Drive and Genesis releases) is a Dune video game developed by Westwood Studios and released by Virgin Interactive on Jan 1, 1992. It is based upon Frank Herbert's 1965 science fiction novel Dune as well as David Lynch's 1984 film adaptation.

Overview[edit | edit source]

While not necessarily the first real-time strategy (RTS) game (elements of which previously appeared in Herzog Zwei), Dune II established the format that would be followed for years to come.[1][2] As such, Dune II was the archetypal "real-time strategy" game. Striking a balance between complexity and innovation, it was a huge success and laid the foundation for Command & Conquer, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, StarCraft, and many other RTS games that followed.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Dune 2.gif

The player takes the role of a commander of one of three interplanetary houses, the Atreides, the Harkonnen or the Ordos, with the objective of wresting control of Arrakis from the two other houses. The basic strategy in the game is to harvest the spice from the treacherous sand dunes, convert the spice into spendable credits via a harvester and refinery and to build military combat units with these acquired credits in order to fend off and destroy the enemy. In addition to enemy incursions, the player must also deal with periodic appearances of the sandworm, invulnerable and capable of swallowing vehicles and infantry whole, as well as and harsh weather conditions that can deteriorate the structures of the player's base.

The plot is basically linear, with variations depending on which House is taken by the player. Completing higher missions gives access to improved technology and higher-order weaponry unique to each House. The final prize for the commander is the building of the House Palace from where superweapons may be unleashed on opponents in the final closing chapters of the game. The House Harkonnen superweapon is a long-range finger of missiles called the 'Death Hand', whereas House Atreides may call upon the local Fremen infantry warriors, over which the player has no control, to engage enemy targets. House Ordos may unleash a fast-moving Saboteur whose main purpose is the destruction of buildings.

House Harkonnen relies on heavy and powerful, but expensive, units, while House Atreides is a more "middle of the road" side with access to good specialised units such as the Sonic Tank. House Ordos tends to prioritise speed over strength, with quite specialised units and a lack of heavy firepower, and thus require a degree of cunning gameplay to win. The ultimate final showdown is the battle among the player's House up against three enemy sides, among them the Emperor Frederick's forces, the Sardaukar (an unplayable house whose heavy infantry are particularly powerful). The Sardaukar Palace fires Death Hand missiles like that of the Harkonnens; thus, playing as the Atreides or Ordos will result in facing two Death Hand strikes at a time.

The final cutscene would also vary according to the House that the player selects, therefore, not all conclusions for all Houses are the same.

Some key elements that first appeared in this game, but would later appear in many other RTS games, are:

  • A world map from which the next mission is chosen
  • Resource-gathering to fund unit construction
  • Simple base and unit construction
  • Building construction dependencies (technology tree)
  • Different sides/factions (the Houses), each with unique unit-types

Units[edit | edit source]

Main Article see Dune II (units)

New technology unique to each house ensures varied gameplay. For example, House Harkonnen may be able to construct their "Devastator" tanks with heavy armor and ordnance but cannot build the similarly impressive Atreides 'Sonic Tank'. The Ordos have access to the "Deviator" - a specialized tank firing a nerve gas that switches the allegiance of targeted units to Ordos for a limited period of time. The three Houses also are restricted in their building practices - House Ordos cannot build Atreides-style trikes, instead making the faster "Raider" trikes, while House Harkonnen constructs heavier but more expensive quad bikes. When the Starport becomes available, players can purchase (rather than construct) units to which their House does not ordinarily have access (so House Harkonnen can purchase trikes, and House Ordos rocket launchers).

House Harkonnen relies on heavy and powerful, but expensive units, while House Atreides is a more "middle of the road" side with access to good specialised units such as the Sonic Tank. House Ordos tends to prioritise speed over strength and have a mix of technology from both houses like the ornithopter and heavy troopers, and have other quite specialised units and a lack of heavy firepower, and thus require a degree of cunning gameplay to win.

Structure[edit | edit source]

Main Article see Dune II (structures)

Buildings may only be built in rocky zones and connected to another existing building, and are the same for all houses. To protect them from constant wear, the player must place first concrete slabs in the construction areas. Production buildings can be upgraded at a cost several times, allowing the production of more advanced units or buildings.

Development[edit | edit source]

According to Virgin Interactive vice president Stephen Clarke-Willson in 1998, the development of Dune II began when Virgin Interactive planned to cancel the production of Cryo Interactive's adventure game Dune, after which he was given the task of figuring out what to do with the Dune license.[3] After reading the original Dune novel, he decided that "from a gaming point-of-view the real stress was the battle to control the spice," so a resource-based strategy video game would be a good idea. It was around this time that employee Graeme Devine (who later founded Trilobyte) introduced to everyone at the Virgin office a real-time strategy game on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive console called Herzog Zwei (1989). Clarke-Willson described it as a game where the player "kept clicking on stuff and then zooming off to another part of the screen. It was very hard to keep track of what was going on as an observer. Still, everyone liked it, it had fast action, and it was a strategy game." Virgin staff, including Clarke-Willson and Seth Mendelsohn (who later worked on the Ultima series), then went to Westwood Studios to talk about making a Dune game. According to Clarke-Willson, "Westwood agreed to make a resource strategy game based on Dune, and agreed to look at Herzog Zwei for design ideas." It later turned out that Cryo's game of the same name was not cancelled, and Westwood's real-time strategy game was called Dune II as a result.[4]

Westwood Studios co-founder and Dune II producer Brett Sperry said in 2008 that conceptualization for the game began when Virgin president Martin Alper approached him with the offer of using their Dune license to produce a game, with the understanding that Cryo's Dune had been cancelled. In terms of video game design, Sperry stated, "The inspiration for Dune II was partly from Populous, partly from my work on Eye Of The Beholder and the final and perhaps most crucial part came from an argument I once had with Chuck Kroegel, then vice president of Strategic Simulations Inc ... The crux of my argument with Chuck was that wargames sucked because of a lack of innovation and poor design. Chuck felt the category was in a long, slow decline, because the players were moving to more exciting genres ... I felt that the genre had a lot of potential – the surface was barely scratched as far as I as [sic] concerned, especially from a design standpoint. So I took it as a personal challenge and figured how to harness realtime dynamics with great game controls into a fast-paced wargame." He also stated that, while "Herzog Zwei was a lot of fun," the "other inspiration for Dune II was the Mac software interface," referring to the "design/interface dynamics of mouse clicking and selecting desktop items" which got him thinking, "Why not allow the same inside the game environment? Why not a context-sensitive playfield? To hell with all these hot keys, to hell with keyboard as the primary means of manipulating the game!" During production, he found out that Cryo rushed to finish their game first, leading to Virgin publishing their game as Dune and Westwood's game as Dune II, despite Sperry protesting against this decision.[5]

Other influences cited by Joseph Bostic (also known as Joe Bostic), the co-designer and lead programmer, and Mike Legg, one of the game's programmers, include the turn-based strategy games Military Madness (1989) and Sid Meier's Civilization (1991), along with Herzog Zwei. According to Bostic, a "benefit over Herzog Zwei is that we had the advantage of a mouse and keyboard. This greatly facilitated precise player control, which enabled the player to give orders to individual units. The mouse, and the direct control it allowed, was critical in making the RTS genre possible.”[6]

Boxart[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bates, Bob (2003). Game Developer's Market Guide. Thomson Course Technology. p. 141. ISBN 1-59200-104-1. 
  2. Geryk, Bruce (May 19, 2008). A History of Real-Time Strategy Games: Dune II. Gamespot.com. Retrieved on January 4, 2011 “[...] a game that is largely credited with revolutionizing the strategy genre [...]
  3. Cobbett, Richard (21 June 2014). Saturday Crapshoot: Dune. PC Gamer. Future plc. Retrieved on 3 July 2014
  4. Clarke-Willson, Stephen (August 18, 1998). The Origin of Realtime Strategy Games on the PC. The Rise and Fall of Virgin Interactive. Above the Garage Productions. Archived from the original on 2014-12-14 Retrieved on 30 January 2012
  5. The Making of... Dune II. 'Edge'. Next-Gen.biz (December 9, 2008). Retrieved on May 2, 2014
  6. The History of Command & Conquer. NowGamer. Archived from the original on 26 June 2011 Retrieved on 5 September 2011

External Links[edit | edit source]