The Making of Dune II


No matter its name suggesting otherwise, Dune II used to be a critical – a right-time strategy sport that sprang out of the box with almost every gameplay attribute and preserve watch over system viewed in every RTS since. In thunder lineage, it used to be the father of the globally winning Instruct & Triumph over franchise, in that its code used to be outdated as a foundation of the first sport of the sequence. Yet in phrases of wider have an effect on, the battles first fought out on the shiny sands of Arrakis continue to echo thru in style videogaming. Whereas Dune II’s style designer and programmer Joe Bostic humbly maintains that RTS games would dangle evolved in the end, with or with out Dune II, the truth remains that he used to be instrumental in establishing them. No Dune II, no Warcraft, no StarCraft and, arguably, a fully diverse timeline for global esports.

Yet Dune II undoubtedly invented very minute and its key substances had already been viewed throughout a handful of reward titles. The genius of the trend personnel at Westwood Studios used to be to stand on the shoulders of giants to perfectly stability the ways of wargaming in opposition to the time-severe consciousness of arcade games. It wasn’t the first sport to dangle diagram exploration or to tie unit deployment in opposition to weapon trend and resource gathering. It wasn’t even the first Dune videogame though, confusingly, it wasn’t ever precisely a sequel both …

Dune: the videogame(s)

Dune II’s bolt began in 1988 with Mastertronic founder Martin Alper having a gaze to right the rights to develop Dune games. Whether or no longer he cherished Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novels or no longer is beside the point. He’d figured that the leisure that had been in print for see you later and translated so broadly would give any sport an instantaneous fan unpleasant.

This sound reasoning had no question triggered movie producer Dino De Laurentis to bankroll a lavish $40 million movie adaptation in 1984, the an identical time that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had been made for $28 million. No matter the value, fans of the books had stayed at dwelling in droves, the David Lynch-directed movie had tanked at the box diagram of work and, in the end, the manufacturing firm had gone bankrupt. Hollywood’s loss grew to become videogaming’s fabricate in 1990, when Mastertronic (now renamed Virgin Video games attributable to mergers) used to be in the fracture in a diagram to snatch Dune’s adaption rights from Standard Photos.

Alper posthaste signed up French firm, Cryo Interactive, to develop a combined adventure and strategy sport to closely put together the pickle of the distinctive Dune original. Whereas this used to be in trend, Virgin Video games purchased the Las Vegas-based mostly entirely Westwood Studios and characteristic them to work on every other Dune title. As things changed into out, Dune and Dune II were developed at the an identical time, had nothing to function with every other and were in the end released near to simultaneously.

Gearing up for war

Westwood Studios had been began in 1985 as Westwood Pals, merged with Virgin Video games in 1992 and, in later years, may perchance well be handiest normally known as the dwelling of the insanely standard Instruct & Triumph over sequence.

Frank Klepacki, Dune II’s composer, used to be raised in Las Vegas by fogeys who labored as entertainers in its casino lounges. He used to be taking half in drums professionally at 11, learned keyboards and guitar at excessive college and, outdated 16, took a summer job at Westwood as a games tester.

Frank remembers the diagram being staffed by twenty-somethings who lived and breathed games. ‘I wasn’t the final phrase tester on story of I used to be so distracted by all the things else going on,’ Frank tells us by a Zoom chat from his instrument-filled living room.

‘Whereas I used to be with out a doubt the baby in the bunch, I attempted to uncover all americans how interested I used to be and I discovered that I used to be more intrigued by the formula of creating games than the formula of checking out them. Going spherical the total departments and asking questions used to be used to be inspiring to me – like being in the abet of the scenes of a movie characteristic. One plan or the other, I made my strategy to the audio division and talked to their audio director at the time, Paul Mudra. We ended up jamming a minute together for fun and when I graduated excessive college a pair of years later, Paul gave me my first shot as a composer on the NES sport, DragonStrike.’

Westwood had decrease its teeth making videogame variations of winning board sport franchises, including BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Revenge and the Dungeons & Dragons-based mostly entirely Witness of the Beholder. Despite the proven truth that promoted as ‘right-time strategy games’, these and other early-’90s titles were normally videogame iterations of turn-based mostly entirely board games, with the sport going thru the cube rolling while looping fight animations performed on-show masks masks. Whereas no longer truly right-time, trend of these titles intended that Westwood used to be already transferring in direction of making a definite, higher style of strategy sport.

Firing the hole photography

‘At the time, all americans at Westwood used to be taking half in a pair of games we cherished rather a lot,’ recalls Dune II’s lead programmer, Joe Bostic, ‘so when the Dune IP function of fell into our lap, we idea that combining substances from these games into one may perchance well be a gorgeous advice.’

And that’s the essence of Dune II’s trend – to take a elevate-get of reward suggestions and combine them in a previously unseen plan, then add an intuitive preserve watch over system. Delve into the ‘few games’ that Joe cherished and how skilfully Westwood blended Dune II’s a success substances posthaste turns into obvious …

We knew the mouse used to be going to be critical to Dune II on story of of Populous … it showed us that mouse preserve watch over used to be key to establishing that style of sport work merely and with out issues.

Hudsonsoft’s Navy Madness is a Moon-based mostly entirely sci-fi war sport that used to be a 1990 free up for the TurboGrafx-16. Playable as both a single or multiplayer sport, movement is turn-based mostly entirely and restricted to hex grids, giving it that board-sport-to-videogame feeling original of its time. Yet in its uncomplicated preserve watch over interface, mercurial fight option and clear graphics, the foundation for Dune II is glaring to gaze.

In the starting up gaze, Sid Meier’s Civilization appears to be like less of a probable inspiration for a war sport. Leading gamers on nothing decrease than a centuries-lengthy quest to fabricate an empire, this 1991 free up spawned a mountainous option of sequels as well to your whole micromanagement fabricate-’em-up style. Two aspects fascinated the Dune II developers. At the birth, its technology trend tied into resource administration were integrated into Dune II as factories and spice harvesting. Secondly, its exploration mechanic hid the sector below a shadowy masks unless the player despatched out voyages of discovery. This too would also become an mandatory Dune II feature.

Populous from Bullfrog used to be released in 1989 and invented its dangle style – the god sport. Giving the player the ability to actually fabricate a brand novel world, the goal used to be to fabricate islands that supported worshippers, then support these miniature followers to crush tribes real to other deities. ‘We knew the mouse used to be going to be critical to Dune II on story of of Populous,’ says Joe Bostic. ‘It used to be an an earlier right-time sport where more than one units were also transferring spherical a diagram and it showed us that mouse preserve watch over used to be key to establishing that style of sport work merely and with out issues.’

The third sport worthy-cherished in early ’90s Westwood used to be both potentially the most imprecise yet also potentially the most influential. Herzog Zwei from Technosoft used to be released in Japan for the Sega Mega Pressure in 1989. A two-player sequel to 1988’s Herzog – the self-proclaimed ‘right-time fight simulation’ – Herzog Zwei used to be that rarest of offerings, a two-player Mega Pressure/Genesis sport that wasn’t a sports activities sim from out of the EA right.

Playing fracture up-show masks masks, every player makes an are trying to defeat the enemy’s unpleasant by first establishing infantry, tank, anti-plane or boat units and then capturing no man’s land outposts from which to launch assaults. Models shall be given uncomplicated commands such as ‘fight in diagram’, ‘patrol’ and ‘attack enemy unpleasant’, resulting in clashes of massed AI-controlled units. The player can handiest directly pilot a reworking mech that, as a mech-plane, can with out warning lift a single unit, while as a mech-tank, can take ground forces.

As a private aside, a gray-import version of Herzog Zwei with Japanese in-sport textual negate used to be my most-performed sport of 1992 earlier than I joined Future Publishing as a group creator for Amiga Vitality magazine. My chums and I discovered the tactical probabilities offered by its handful of maps to be huge, nonetheless also that the player-controlled mech-tank used to be so insanely over-powered, it will probably well wipe out massed assaults that had taken half of a sport to assemble. The short fix used to be a gentleman’s agreement to use handiest the plane-mech as transportation and by no plan develop into into the tank-mech. This straight rebalanced the sport by guaranteeing that matches were won or lost by the AI-controlled forces. In this iteration, the similarities between Herzog Zwei and Dune II are even more placing.

Backed by Westwood’s song memoir of producing strategy games, inspired by a browsing list of killer ideas from other games and with a recognisable sci-fi franchise to unpleasant all of it on, Dune II rolled into the manufacturing part …

In yell to present us potentially the most freedom to take the IP into navy ground fight realm, we decided to dangle Dune II happen hundreds of years earlier than the timeline of the books … This freed us from having to put together the pickle of the e-book … We may perchance well fabricate our dangle path since there wasn’t any sport prefer it at the time.

Increasing Arrakis

The unending dune seas of the planet Arrakis, the fearsome wide sand worms, the precious spice that every interstellar trip is dependent on … Frank Herbert’s Dune offered up a mountainous option of probabilities along with one unavoidable enlighten – how one can get their Dune sport diverse from the opposite one which Virgin Video games already had in trend. The answer used to be merely to switch off at a tangent.

‘In yell to present us potentially the most freedom to take the IP into navy ground fight realm, we decided to dangle Dune II happen hundreds of years earlier than the timeline of the books,’ says Joe. ‘This freed us from having to put together the pickle of the e-book, while also maintaining us clear of war with the Dune sport being created by Cryo. We may perchance well fabricate our dangle path since there wasn’t any sport prefer it at the time.’

With the building blocks already established from other titles, Joe skipped the theorem that stage and labored directly on the sport engine. ‘Constructing groups were so tiny abet then,’ he notes, ‘that formal trend steps that are precious with a shiny personnel would honest dangle slowed us down.’

At its heart, Dune II rewards gamers for finding the advantageous stability. Every mission starts with a tiny unpleasant, a spice harvester and a few troops surrounded by wide tracts of blacked-out, unexplored desolate tract. Someplace in the market are the spice deposits that will gasoline growth, yet also an enemy unpleasant also looking out to fabricate itself up.

Success comes from balancing a mountainous option of competing sets of calls for. Exploring the desolate tract will point out spice deposits to mine, yet this takes the player faraway from unpleasant building. Spice is a forex that must be spent properly. Can also peaceable you, as an illustration, fabricate the unpleasant up or fabricate a huge mobile military? Can also peaceable your unpleasant be fleshy of producing and analysis facilities, or be ringed by sturdy walls and mounted defenses? Can also peaceable you dangle swarms of mercurial, light infantry or put your belief in slower, heavier armoured units? Can also peaceable you get more of an reward style of unit, or use spice establishing newer, higher weapons?

Victory also comes from making the advantageous choices at the advantageous time. Proving the outdated navy maxim that no belief survives contact with the enemy, many missions were lost by launching massed assaults in opposition to an enemy unpleasant honest as they attacked yours, leaving your dangle unpleasant to fend for itself.

The reach personnel would get their very dangle stability capabilities thru sport checking out nonetheless first, they mandatory to place the building blocks into diagram. The planet of Arrakis offered very worthy of a stage taking half in enviornment, with maps serene mainly of flat sand and potentially the most convenient aspects being areas of uncovered bedrock, which acted as refuges from the sand worms that can perchance randomly appear from below the sand to swallow up units. Getting units to switch spherical this expanse used to be a natural first step.

‘I outdated what is known as a “enlighten machine”,’ says Joe, ‘so every vehicle would know where to switch and what to attack. This enlighten machine good judgment may perchance well be duplicated for every unit and the player may perchance well also switch the enlighten machine for every combatant to thunder it to switch, or attack explicit enemies. This isn’t essentially a advanced programming enlighten, though it used to be a brand novel theory to me at the time.’

In most respects, the sport continuously feels pretty, with forms of navy unit differing between the three competing homes of Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos, yet no single dwelling having an glaring profit. The pc-controlled enemy also appears to be like to be taking half in by the an identical suggestions, with every unit acting on the battlefield after a suitable lengthen for construction and deployment. Vital of the stress comes from consuming the enemy’s in the market, hidden below the dusky veil of unexplored terrain. Because it appears to be like, all of this is how Joe programmed it.

‘For potentially the most part, the pc opponent follows the an identical suggestions because the player,’ he tells us. ‘The pc’s ultimate single profit is that it is conscious of where your units are positioned, since it doesn’t dangle a masks to block its stare. It also gets a pair of more credits per harvester load. These were both mandatory to stability the play in opposition to a smarter human player.’

Stage designers would pre-fabricate every enemy unpleasant to its carried out terminate-enlighten, then roll it abet to a starting up point. ‘Because the mission improved, the pc would then put together this unpleasant-building template,’ Joe explains. ‘In phrase, it intended the pc’s unpleasant used to be smartly laid-out nonetheless peaceable adopted the an identical suggestions for unpleasant building because the human player.’

All facets also had limits on what number of navy units shall be produced and while this used to be outlined away within the sport, this clearly used to be attributable to memory and processing boundaries of early ’90s pc systems. ‘Vital of the time spent programming used to be to search out artful systems to get the sport lag more efficiently with out hurting gameplay,’ says Joe. ‘A form of systems used to be limiting unit numbers.’

Observing the style the units switch, severely when there’s a shiny option of infantry attacking together, is an especially exquisite aspect of Dune II, giving gamers that short light earlier than the storm between issuing and yell and seeing fight begin. Yet this seemingly complex flowing movement is the made of potentially the most overall instructions. Every unit’s ‘enlighten machine’ instructed it where to switch to and what to attack, yet it handiest ever idea of itself as an isolated entity on the battlefield. From a unit’s shrimp point of stare, generous units and structures are merely boundaries to switch spherical. ‘Every unit follows its dangle path-finding good judgment and that’s it,’ admits Joe. ‘It handiest considers nearby units in the occasion that they have an effect on movement by blockading their plan, or when appealing targets.’

So as that flocking that gamers look when more than one attackers shut in on a single target? That’s behaviour handiest viewed in the mind of the player, no longer in the chipsets of the pc. ‘Generally it’ll also appear that the units know about every other, nonetheless that’s honest an illusion. The pc is solely issuing the an identical yell to diverse units nearby at the an identical time. So if the pc decides to mount an attack, it will probably well reach a number of units that are sitting idle. Whereas the player sees this as a elaborate, coordinated assault, every movement is de facto independent.’

Sounds of fight

As Joe and the programming personnel began to show masks playable stages, Frank Klepacki used to be one among many Westwood workers getting their first look of a brand novel style of strategy sport. ‘There used to be some forward pondering there for definite,’ he says. ‘The hypothesis of taking substances of the strategy games we’d been taking half in and making use of them to a right-time scenario undoubtedly changed things for the player. You’d get your self having to get any option of choices simultaneously, with out the enemy watching for you. Sooner than Dune II, games like this had continuously been turn-based mostly entirely, otherwise you performed to some extent then waited for the enemy to react. This used to be all about all the things occurring now and seeing the style you function.’

Frank had also viewed ample to begin engaged on the sport’s rating. ‘The valid enlighten about working in-dwelling, in solution to as a freelancer, is that you’ve got the profit of seeing the sport at every stage,’ notes Frank. ‘This manner, you’re going to be in a diagram to get iterative choices in accordance with where you know the sport is going throughout trend and also you potentially may perchance well dangle got the time to creatively play spherical with things that will or can even no longer work.’

Dune II used to be developed for the PC earlier than later being ported to the Commodore Amiga and Sega Mega Pressure/Genesis and while these ports required the PC version’s graphics and audio be downgraded, all three variations peaceable had sufficient audio to what Frank had been outdated to working with.

‘Game audio intended taking potentially the most convenient profit of the pc systems or consoles of the day,’ says Frank. ‘I had began on the NES, which used to be severely limiting – I agree with honest four channels and presumably one for sound effects too. So in overall, I had to write down a melody, a bassline, a harmony utter and then a white noise channel for a drum beat and that used to be the total NES may perchance well function.

‘By the point we purchased the PC and the Sega Genesis, I could perchance well utilise I agree with nine channels of FM synthesis, three of which were reserved for sound effects and 6 I outdated for song. This gave me the ability to fabricate my dangle devices moderately than honest the utilization of what came with the system. One thing I applied to Dune II used to be establishing my dangle devices moderately than honest the utilization of what came with the system, then swapping them out every bar to get things sound more inviting. It used to be the furthest I’d ever pushed the technical limits of what the FM synthesis cards may perchance well function with MIDI files.

‘Whereas I serene the song for Dune II, I labored within a personnel that consisted of an audio director, a lead sound style designer and me. Clearly, we all helped every other out, which is why I stopped up in the sport because the utter of the Harkonnen’s announcer, and used to be also the utter of the Emperor in the intro cinematic.’

Commence and legacy

When it came to crunch time for Dune II, there wasn’t worthy of 1 at all. ‘We’d by no plan labored from a pleasant get doc and constructed the sport by finding out things as we went along,’ recalls Joe. ‘This intended that we outdated whatever resources and time were on hand within Westwood. So though we had to wrap it up and ship it in some unspecified time in the future, we by no plan felt as though we were heading in direction of a mounted completion point since we had by no plan had any style of master list of projects to follow.’

Frank may perchance well’t take into account any sense of closing-minute anxiety. ‘I do know I used to be engaged on The Tale of Kyrandia spherical relating to the an identical time, plus some others I can’t take into account,’ he says. ‘So finishing one undoubtedly honest intended transferring onto the next sport. I’m definite Westwood potentially purchased a royalty of some sort if a sport did severely smartly, nonetheless I don’t recall there being any fuss about Dune II being a huge success.’

We all had a blast establishing [Command & Conquer] and were also hooked on taking half in the sport ourselves … Whereas we knew we had something particular, we honest didn’t know the plan particular it will probably well be in phrases of severe and industrial reception.

It used to be absolutely smartly regarded though, with every version scoring excessive-80s in the games press and, by 1996, over 250,000 copies had been offered. That very same 365 days, my outdated magazine, Amiga Vitality, rated it because the 11th handiest Amiga sport of all time.

Westwood had essentially created the blueprint for a brand novel style, yet a sequel to Dune II used to be by no plan once idea of within Westwood. ‘Since Dune used to be an reward IP, it intended that we’d dangle had to pay a chunk of switch every time we wanted to use the Dune name,’ explains Frank. ‘So the pondering within Westwood used to be very worthy about focusing on this sport mannequin we’d honest created and put together it to our dangle IP. Let’s honest get the sport we’re looking out to in this entirely novel style, nonetheless function it free of licensing and external approval.’

Enter Instruct & Triumph over, a sequel in all nonetheless name that outdated Dune II’s code and once again had Joe Bostic as lead programmer and co-creator. ‘Over time,’ says Joe, ‘we evolved that into Red Alert and at closing into Tiberian Solar, after which the code used to be transferred to Westwood Pacific, where they made Red Alert 2.’

The Instruct & Triumph over franchise grew to become a runaway success, promoting over 30 million copies throughout a mountainous option of platforms and spawning games that spanned your whole spectrum from classic to … smartly … let’s enlighten some were cherished far less. Such rapid success intended that, for a time, Westwood grew to become a virtual Instruct & Triumph over factory and, to in the intervening time, it’s the title that virtually all contributors affiliate with the developer.

‘We all had a blast establishing C&C and were also hooked on taking half in the sport ourselves,’ says Frank. ‘Whereas we knew we had something particular, we honest didn’t know the plan particular it will probably well be in phrases of severe and industrial reception. It used to be honest a wild, ingenious, pioneering and undoubtedly fun time. C&C used to be the first time we’d utilised video sequences, which they filmed on a outdated green show masks masks stage that peaceable purchased the job accomplished. It used to be frigid on story of we no longer handiest had the mission briefing movies for the first time nonetheless I also recognised the contributors taking half in these characters.’

Dune II appears to be like very outdated and clunky by recently’s requirements,’ says Joe. The final phrase single enlighten I need to peaceable dangle added to it used to be the ability to drag-snatch units to enable a player to enlighten one yell simultaneously to more than one units. Even supposing that appears to be like like a straightforward feature, it used to be potentially the main switch that made C&C this kind of soar earlier than Dune II.’

That Joe can handiest get one fault speaks volumes to how worthy Dune II purchased honest correct. Whereas perambulate-snatch has gone on to become the default plan that gamers of subsequent RTS games snatch up and yell more than one units, the an identical shall be acknowledged for nearly every other Dune II sport mechanic. RTS games limit manufacturing with resources, get use of context-relaxed mouse controls and are seemingly to use the an identical style of high-down or isometric stare that offers an overview of the battlefield while peaceable having a gaze pretty. As a blueprint for a mode, Dune II can even no longer were finest nonetheless it wasn’t far off.

Videogame traits near and plod and so it used to be right here. Westwood Studios used to be closed by Virgin Video games in 2003 with the lack of spherical a hundred jobs, with historical workers, including Joe, forming Petroglyph Video games almost straight and going straight abet to the derive sport coal face. The RTS torch used to be handed from Instruct & Triumph over to Blizzard’s StarCraft sequence. With its extra special success in South Korea as both a sport to be performed as well to watched, StarCraft has been instrumental in establishing esports as a function of leisure.

As of late, establishing to 30 years since the free up of Dune II, Petroglyph released Instruct & Triumph over Remastered, bringing the definitive variations of maps, song and games to life. Each Joe and Frank were onboard for this, bringing their work on the RTS fleshy circle.

‘That’s loopy, huh?’ says Frank. ‘Instruct & Triumph over Remastered serves the nostalgia for the total outdated fans nonetheless it also removes a barrier to entry for a generation of avid gamers who will dangle heard about it nonetheless by no plan had a likelihood to play it on story of unless now, it hasn’t been on hand on in style systems.’

Instruct & Triumph over Remastered shall be in a diagram to take gamers abet to the early days of the right-time strategy style nonetheless it’ll’t take them the total style abet to the begin. Sadly the famously subtle points of IP rights surrounding the Dune name get the likelihood of a Dune II re-free up unlikely merely on story of it will probably well almost absolutely value more to make that it will probably well ever recoup. It appears to be like then that potentially the most convenient strategy to experience Dune II first-hand is by taking half in it on accepted hardware: a ’90s generation PC, an Amiga or a 16-bit console.

Despite the proven truth that no longer finest, Dune II did a mountainous job of hitting the hot sand running, no longer handiest establishing a mode nonetheless also working as a part of stand-alone leisure. That it did so with a tiny personnel working at their very dangle tempo to enlighten clear up because the sport went thru trend, is honest 1 of the many success tales dotted for the period of videogame history. Generally landmark titles are born of multi-million dollar budgets, huge groups, wide stages of processing strength and unending time past legislation. Other times, hugely critical games are a aggregate of the advantageous contributors, honest correct conception and honest correct time. That’s Dune II for you.

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