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Dune Awakening dev won’t sacrifice lore for the sake of game mechanics

We had a chat with Dune Awakening creative director, Joel Bylos, about what it takes to adapt an epic, and how games like this suceed.

Dune Awakening: two cloaked figures, both wearing futuristic helmets.

Dune, as a concept, is huge. It’s been around for decades, and is easily one of the most popular sci-fi series to exist, doing intergalactic conflict before Star Wars, and murderous musical chairs before Game of Thrones. It isn’t especially prevalent in videogames, though, despite the interesting rules of engagement, and spicy political environment, but Dune Awakening aims to take everything, and nothing, from the series and build something great.

From an outsider’s perspective, Dune Awakening might look like nothing more than sandy misery, big worms, and explosions. While that might be good enough for some people (us), successful games, especially live-service, multiplayer games, aren’t built on players taking a chance with their money or their time, so how do you adapt a beloved universe for a mass market?

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Speaking to Joel Bylos, Dune Awakening director, we asked how the team has gone about approaching such a deep and well-loved universe, and how it’s possible to appeal to diehard fans as well as those who aren’t familiar with Herbert’s epic. A difficult line to walk, especially when it comes to balancing a videogame. “I think Dune has a large audience of core fans because it is such an interesting universe, so my take with the game is always to try and start from the lore,” says Bylos. “The first design principle on the project (we have a few) is ‘Make your designs fit Dune, do not make Dune fit your designs.’”

“Now, this isn’t always possible, and a balance must be struck,” Bylos continues. “We can’t have lasgun/shield interactions causing atomic explosions whenever a player decides to attack a shielded base, so we had to figure out a solution with Legendary [Entertainment] on how this works in the game. The griefing would have been funny, though.”

Dune Awakening: a cloaked figure stands in the middle of a huge desert.

Refining what Dune is, and fitting it into a fully functioning, and most importantly, fair MMO is a tall order, but it looks like respect for the source material is sitting at the heart of what Funcom is trying to achieve, and, as we say in our Dune Awakening preview, it looks to be working. Throwing the Dune encyclopedia out – with the blessing from the Herbert estate – appears to have been a necessity, rather than something ego-driven.

There are subtle differences between the Dune novels and the movies, and when you add a game world into the mix, something has to give. “It is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time for a reason. Any mechanical decisions we make in the game usually come from a thoughtful and deliberate choice about lore, or when we need to change things and why.”

Dune Awakening: three ground vehicles and a dragonfly-like air vehicle in the desert.

Part of creating success with an MMO is the ability to create a sense of community, and although Bylos has reiterated that you’ll be able to play Dune Awakening solo, joining forces with other players looks like it’ll be the primary way of staving off loneliness on Arrakis, although according to Bylos, “the bleak loneliness of Arrakis is a little bit of the point, at least in the beginning.”

On how players will connect, Joel explains, “we want players to be able to find their friends (or make them) quickly, and the game has a wealth of social interactions outside of the guild system – chat, emotes, proximity voice (with appropriate blocking controls), trading, player hubs, etc.”

With a fascinating, curated world to explore, and more than a few friends to make along the way, we can’t wait to sink our teeth into Dune Awakening and carve out a quiet corner of Arrakis to call our own. Check out our Dune Awakening release date guide for all the information on the game’s release, and, if you absolutely cannot wait, we also have a list of the best MMOs you can play right now.

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