Dune the book caused a sensation in the literary world when it was released in 1965, but many would say that Dune II video games have again caused a sensation in the world of video games. Those of us who were playing back in 1992 immediately realized how special this game was and how it was going to change the game forever.
Dune II allowed players to control large armies to face off against equally large or larger opposing armies. But unlike the turn-based strategy games of the time, you could control and lead your troops in real time. Rockets roared from turrets and tanks to pound the enemy, while fast trikes and quads flanked infantry squads.
Herzog Zwei on Megadrive might be considered the first Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, but Westwood Studios’ Dune II was the first to define it as we know it today.
He introduced familiar concepts such as:
- Base building
- Lead troops in real time
- Gather resources to create new units and structures
- Different factions with unique units
- Endgame Super Weapons
- Fog of war
- A world map to select the territory you want to attack at each level
Without Dune 2 we wouldn’t have adored franchises like Order and conquer, Warcraft, and StarCraft. And whether you’re an RTS fan or not, these great franchises have influenced all kinds of gaming genres in so many positive ways.
Make an impact on a young player
Stefan Hendriks was one of those players for whom Dune II had a profound effect. He was only 10 years old when the game came out and he was blown away by its unique gameplay. “Back then, there was no such thing,” Hendriks said. “Combined with the awesome music and graphics, and I was hooked.”
For many gamers, the impact of such a memorable gaming experience would be that we would continue to talk about the game with friends and on internet forums for decades to come. For Stefan, this inspired the desire to write code and start making such a game.
At the age of 13, he coded Dunedit, a tool to edit Dune II scenarios. At 15, he made a clone of Dune called Arrakis which updated the controls to modern standards set by the new Order and conquer and Red alert Games.
Soon after, he started from scratch to launch what would become a 20-year-old open source project called Dune II – The Creator.
A Dune II for modern times
If you look on the Google Play Store, you will find other Dune II games but they are direct ports of the original game, optimized for mobile. Dune II – The Creator is different because it’s made from the ground up with an original engine and modern upgrades like unit grouping, map zooming, and enemy AI enhancement.
“It is not my aim to recreate a Dune II IA, ”he said. “Rather, I’m trying to think about how I would implement an RTS AI that would make a game like Dune II Fun to play. “
Fans of the game will remember that after a while the original AI would send out units to attack the player’s base one by one, making them pretty easy to push back once you had enough rocket turrets. . Hendrik’s improved AI gathers units into groups, then sends them out in attack waves, which is more like Order and conquer than Dune II.
The graphics are updated, although it still looks unmistakably like Dune II. Hendriks said that the first iterations of Dune II – The Creator used graphics taken from the original game, but they were too small at high resolution. Hendriks got help from other fans on the Dune2k forums who tweaked the graphics for him.
The game is far from over now, as it still lacks an options menu and the ability to save your progress. The cutscenes weren’t included either. Since he only works on it in the evenings after his day shift (and especially on his own), Hendriks reckons that it will take him a few more years to complete the game.
But the basic gameplay works, and players can already jump and detonate quads and ornithopters.
Hendriks has other changes in mind, like new playable factions with unique structures and Dune elements linked to tradition, but these are still a long way off. What he would most like to add is multiplayer support, although that’s a feature he has no idea how to do.
“Regardless, I want to try it someday.”
Lessons from the Dune II redesign
An ambitious project like this is quite an undertaking, but Hendriks has learned a lot from it. He’s constantly trying to figure out how things work in the game and then figure out how to build them and improve them. On the project management side, he also learned to keep small changes and maintain momentum.
All these lessons also helped him in his daily work as a software engineer. As such, he recommends readers to try such a project if they are interested.
“If you ever want to create a game. Go for it. Do it. It’s such a great learning experience. There are a lot of great people and resources. And it’s very rewarding to see people playing your game, commenting on it, etc.
Play it now
If you are interested in reliving the glories of Dune II or experience it for the first time, download Dune II – The Creator from its website. Version 0.6.0 has just been released, which includes new AI, improved behavior of air units (for tote bags and ornithopters) and the introduction of the 3 super weapons for the 3 Houses! The Ordos Saboteur is now controllable and therefore much more useful than its original incarnation (see above).
Or you can also follow Hendriks on Twitter (like @ dune2themaker) to keep an eye on its regular updates.
Drew was a professional video game critic, and then he took an adulthood arrow in his knee. Today, he’s a content strategist, helping brands tell their stories without resorting to overused video game memes.
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