Dune MMORPG: Some Ideas

Dune as a somewhat traditional massively multi-player online RPG

 

The Road to Dune
Note: This post has been moved to the specialty forums, decreasing the chance that it will be seen by anyone unless they happen to already be looking for Dune-related posts.  Hell, I'm interested in Dune and would never think to crawl through the Dune franchise page to read a Dune forum.  It was a nice run, though, everyone.  Got a good response from all of you.  Thanks!


My Cyclic Interest in Dune


Every once in a while I enter this strange world where I imagine I will be able to get the hard-sought Dune license and make my own game taking place in Frank Herbert's universe.  Every once in a while, in other words, I have delusions of grandeur.  Ah, but what a grand game it would be.  Come walk with me, and I will show you the crazed architecture in my mind that gets built every once in a while as I proceed to freak myself out with how much Dune knowledge I've retained over the years.  All this, and it took me three attempts to even finish the first book-- my secret was to skim the parts that dragged :).

Speaking of that, if you find you don't understand some of the terms, there's a wikia online linked below which has definitions, although a lot of the definitions are obscured because of all the stuff written about Dune after Herbert's death.  Makes things more confusing if you ask me, so if you don't know what a thing is just make a definition up, since they're often archetypes of science fiction tropes anyway.


The State of the Franchise


Asmodee's reprint of the board game
When I suggested on another forum that Dune would be a great world to start up a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, I forgot that every half year I get Dune on the brain, trying to integrate it into whatever I happen to be thinking of at the time.  All the different factions, the weird weapons, the far-future worlds and tech--  I can't imagine that NOT being a cool playground.  It's not an easy license to get, though.  Fantasy Flight Games recently tried to acquire the rights to publish a modern update to the grognard board game classic Dune from (the older version of) Avalon Hill, but the estate refused to license it (FFG is making something with similar mechanics in one of their in-house universes instead).  Given how popular that board game was among the hard core gamers, I don't see creating other work with that license as any easier to get, so at best what's coming is a sort of fan design.

Just the other day I was prowling the web to make sure a Dune MMORPG wasn't already in the works.  There was a clever Second Life area based on the books, but of course that's just a place to sit around and talk to people.  You can't actually be eaten by a sandworm or cause a nuclear explosion by shooting some dude with your laser gun who happens to be wearing a force field. Other than that, I've found I'm not the only one who thought of an MMORPG in the Dune universe, and after having come up with some of my basic ideas, I found that someone else was thinking along similar lines.  Specifically it was about the interrelationship of the houses and factions, and how they HAD to work together in order to make the spaceships run on time, even while they're trying to stab each other in the back.  There are those other Real-Time Strategy games, the forerunner to the venerable Command and Conquer series, some of which had interesting cutscenes that sort of evoked David Lynch's version of the book.  All of the established properties**, though, don't really hit the mark that I feel like a big Dune game could. 

Still Life: They just sort of hang there
It is natural that all of these properties concentrated primarily, or solely, on the planet of Dune, but there is so much more to the universe Frank Herbert created.  Just like you want to peek around the corner in Tolkien's universe, I sort of want to see what it's actually like on the technologically heretical Ix, what the Sardaukar Terror Troops do in their off time, what kind of body mods the Bene Tleilaxu are into.  Maybe all of these were skeletons used to create the illusion of depth, as good crafters of the written word often do, and there isn't much to them beyond their instrumental uses as "the technological planet," "the bio-tech planet," "the ruling planet."  Still, I feel like I'd like to try.  I've also not read the new books written by Frank's son Brian that take place in Frank's creation, so to anyone who has read them: I'm not trying to retread or rewrite what Brian created.  And as to the actual MMORPG mechanics, I'm not even sure it will work (I'm not exactly experienced in MMORPG play or design, having played such games only a month or so at a time, and of course I've never designed any), so feel free to point out how human nature will throw a monkey wrench into things.


Basic Mechanics


Playwright and actor Steven Berkoff as Stilgar, from the television version
Unlike a lot of the class-based systems, I thought that maybe players could start as customizable people from many different homeworlds.  Each homeworld environment would give a player certain advantages or disadvantages, allowing a player to feel like he or she was going in a warrior direction or a weird science direction, without forcing them to be committed to things just yet.  Players gain experience by completing tasks for various Houses.  They are sort of a politically neutral pool of labor for the Houses and factions in the Dune universe, which the Houses can throw at the problem without wasting precious resources or fully loyal troops.

Players accept missions for little pay or recognition for the chance to slowly gain favor and prestige with the groups they work for.  They could work as guards for the Spacing Guild, making sure no one starts fighting while being transported from world to world.  They could help smuggle minor technological components from Richese to the Imperial City at Kaitain (if caught, the Emperor will disavow any knowledge of your actions, of course), or working as a Spice miner.  Every completed mission helps show your loyalty to a given faction.  As their favor increases, you will begin to gain advantages that that faction can give you: cheaper space transport, cheaper Spice (which could give you powers of prescience or other in-game advantages but will kill you if you don't keep taking it), access to advanced tech, that sort of thing.  Working with the Bene Tleilaxu will mean you will be able to get the Dune version of resurrection a lot cheaper, with some safeguards against them tampering with your body (a justification for less recovery time). 

(And as far as retaining the character's memories when they're born again, they're just put through rigorous training programs which approximate the stuff they learned from before, again a justification for recovery time since the new ghola isn't familiar with its old role right away.  You could even roleplay a change in personality after resurrection, if you wanted to.)

You, too, can be bald and sneaky
Despite my enthusiasm I find that a lot of the ideas above seem to run along established lines, but what I think is a bit different is that you gain levels IN factions.  When you go up a level, what you're really doing is gaining the trust of a given faction.  If you concentrate on a single faction, say the Fremen, you will eventually find it REALLY hard to get work from the other factions, and they may try to kill you once in a while.  You will also start to look like your favored factions have some influence on you.  If you're hanging out with the Harkonnen a bit too long chowing down on exotic food, you might need an anti-gravity suspensor or two to keep your gut from slapping your knees.  If you're friends with the ghola-producing Bene Tleilax you might have those weird pupil-less-seeming eyes that their clones have.  Hang out with Fremen too long and your skin will look dry and cracked, and your eyes will appear blue-on-blue.  You'll be marked by your association and locked out of certain sources of power, and so it will be harder to manage these interdependent resources on your own.  This is where teamwork comes in.

You can level in several factions at once, but only specialists get all the resources of a given faction, and only generalists will have the ability to play fully on their own without, at least, NPC assistance.  If you try to please all factions at once, you will achieve a sort of diplomatic status, allowing you to explore the universe fully, which would be focused on the people who like to tour online worlds without being killed (like me), even if they don't get the game play depth they might otherwise have access to.  Folks like the Suk Doctors, Mentats and Bene Gesserit NEED to have access to several groups to be of much use, the Doctors just for trust's sake, Mentats for knowledge, the Bene Gesserit for skullduggery.  And yes, males could serve the Bene Gesserit too.

Betrayal


Betray
Dune is all about plans within plans.  You can betray others in your group, but this would be a heavily controlled mechanic that would have to take several missions to reach fruition.  Simple betrayal would be done too often and cheapen the game, so instead players, because they often need each other to get things done, will have to work together knowing that eventually one of them, or many of them, will stab the others in the back.  The rare group that can keep together and cancel any plans they have for betraying their fellows, or never starting them in the first place, will have the option of forming a minor house later on, which allows them other privileges that backstabbing couldn't manage, but backstabbing will still be a viable option for taking specific equipment (and perhaps giving it to your minor house).

Since a player will likely create several characters, they will often want to benefit one of their characters more than the others.  The subterfuge takes on an interesting meta-gaming tangent, where a player will create a character, build up a relationship with others, only to betray them at some point, hindering their immediate chances at a house (until they can find someone else with the same amount of resources), and bringing the stolen victory back home.

This backstabbing wouldn't be allowed in all environments, though, so players who want to create minor houses without the intrigue could still do that, although there would be other ways to sabotage each other there.  And I think the mechanic works to distance players a bit from the idea behind it.  So if there is betrayal they know it's part of the game, and don't have to get the game-quitting displeasure of someone actually running away with your company funds.

Ephemera


The environments themselves would have several different spots on each world that would be of interest.  People who can't get over their habit of hunting down monsters and taking stuff from their corpses could hunt on a variety of worlds who have whole forests dedicated to sport hunting, and you can still sell these things or exchange them for minor quests, but this is NOT to be central to the game play.  It's only a mini-game for people who have been conditioned by other online RPGs to expect that sort of thing.

Guild Navigator Cockpit from Lynch's version
The art style would be grand and try to be a bit crazier and far-futuresque than the TV version felt for me.  I like the Lynch version of Dune in that it felt awkward and strange (I do hope that was on purpose), making it feel more like these were humans who had developed different habits and tics over many thousands of years of training and growth after the age of intelligent machines had ended.  Capturing that alien-ness would be vital.  Players could play just about any other MMORPG when they wanted pleasant surroundings, but could go to Dune when they wanted to get their freak on, so to speak.  Not so much the sex, though, cuz I guess you can find that elsewhere, too.

Minor Houses, if they manage to be founded, actually get to set up private meeting places where resources can be stored without risk of theft (mostly) and can avoid some of the listening devices that would otherwise thwart well-laid plans.  That might mean actually making mission plans part of the game mechanic, where a percentage of what you're going to do is revealed ahead of time, forcing players to put energy into hiding what they're going to do, which takes away from the mission's general effectiveness.

Buffs, which so many people like to use, would be strategic in nature.  One thing I've tended to dislike about what online RPGs I've played is that they force you to keep track of how many support spells you've cast.  In a sense they're kind of nice though, because they add some urgency to the battle, and you know you have to keep things going for everyone to be able to get the edge over the competition and survive.  In Dune there aren't spells, so what I think might fit is strategies that get laid out before a mission is begun.  There might be several stages to a mission, and players will have to plan out where they want to allocate their resources so that they will be protected by anti-snooping devices at this stage, while in a later stage they might be guarded by a few remote-controlled poison drones.  These are, in effect, buffs, but they're managed ahead of time so you don't have to worry about the Dune equivalent of recasting.  There would still be tools you could use mid-battle that might change the course of a mission, but you wouldn't have to depend upon these things to succeed all the time.

Finally, I thought it would be neat to have a mechanic where the lead players and the lead organizations tend to be targeted.  In games like EVE Online this happens naturally, with real betrayals, real embezzling, real teaming up against the dominant groups and individuals.  I wouldn't dream of duplicating that*, but instead I think it would be cool if the game itself sort of made you NOT want to be too well-noticed.  Minor houses that achieve the most notoriety might be graduated to Major Houses, allowing them a lot more resources, but also making them and their planetary keeps subject to NPC attacks, as well as their locations being broadcast for everyone to find out and attack.  Once they're defeated they lose their House status, though they still get to retain some of what they had earned.  Then some other group gets promoted, with priority given to those who haven't been promoted before. 

The same with individuals: a player who achieves some top ranking will be considered to be a possible Kwisatz Haderach, or however you spell it, and they'll have a rough time of it for as long as their current body is alive.  When killed, they'll retain some interesting optional powers, but the Bene Tleilax will prevent this status from happening again during the next incarnation, similar to the way fallen Major Houses work.

End Notes


This all probably sounds like ideas that have already come about in other games.  If so, please let me know.  While I'm not big on MMORPGs, I still think they're interesting in many ways (having to deal with the psychology of a bunch of players at once always brings about strange design decisions).  I also think these sorts of games have a ways to go as far as the diversity of game play, so I figure if I put this out there, at least there will be some outside chance it might push the discussion forward a smidgen. 

As an aside, it seems like Peter Berg will be trying to restart the franchise for the big screen.  I'm actually sort of fond of the Lynch version, and would love to see a tighter version of Lynch's original theatrical release WITHOUT the internal monologues, just to make things weirder.  But I'm always happy to see someone give that unfilmable book another go :)

Whew, now I feel better.  No more Dune for me for a while :)  Thanks to Leeto for the accidental encouragement.  A couple of footnotes below to address some concerns a friend of mine brought up after reading the article, then the links.

* ("I wouldn't dream of doing it" because I don't see much of a point in improving upon a general system that EVE has done so well in developing.  I also think that if I was going to design an MMORPG I might try to avoid griefing, and might make more of an escapist game where you get to side step a common tendency of human beings online, which is to mess things up for others.  Thinking about a free-form betrayal system, I imagined it being too chaotic to yield the stately pace that I imagined these conspracies unfolding, sort of betraying the immersiveness of the game I had in my head)

** (I didn't feel like mentioning Cryo's games here, as the FPS and adventure/strategy games, while having interesting takes on Dune, still concentrate mostly on Dune the planet.  I chose to mention the RTSs by name just as a footnote.  Mentioning the other games didn't feel like it was adding a whole lot to what I was saying, since I was trying to get on to what a Dune game could accomplish if it didn't concentrate on Arrakis.  I still think their adventure is probably the Dune game I consider to be the most intriguing in terms of atmosphere and creativity, but I'm enamored with Cryo's body of work in general).

LINKS:

Here's a light version of the Dune board game, free to print and play

A collection of informal data on what kind of MMORPG Dune aficionados would like

A well-made page that focuses on David Lynch's version, as well as Jodorowsky's version that never was

Brian Herbert's official site for the novels

Dune Wikia

Many Dune collectibles and resources
20 Comments
20 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

Dune as a somewhat traditional massively multi-player online RPG

 

The Road to Dune
Note: This post has been moved to the specialty forums, decreasing the chance that it will be seen by anyone unless they happen to already be looking for Dune-related posts.  Hell, I'm interested in Dune and would never think to crawl through the Dune franchise page to read a Dune forum.  It was a nice run, though, everyone.  Got a good response from all of you.  Thanks!


My Cyclic Interest in Dune


Every once in a while I enter this strange world where I imagine I will be able to get the hard-sought Dune license and make my own game taking place in Frank Herbert's universe.  Every once in a while, in other words, I have delusions of grandeur.  Ah, but what a grand game it would be.  Come walk with me, and I will show you the crazed architecture in my mind that gets built every once in a while as I proceed to freak myself out with how much Dune knowledge I've retained over the years.  All this, and it took me three attempts to even finish the first book-- my secret was to skim the parts that dragged :).

Speaking of that, if you find you don't understand some of the terms, there's a wikia online linked below which has definitions, although a lot of the definitions are obscured because of all the stuff written about Dune after Herbert's death.  Makes things more confusing if you ask me, so if you don't know what a thing is just make a definition up, since they're often archetypes of science fiction tropes anyway.


The State of the Franchise


Asmodee's reprint of the board game
When I suggested on another forum that Dune would be a great world to start up a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, I forgot that every half year I get Dune on the brain, trying to integrate it into whatever I happen to be thinking of at the time.  All the different factions, the weird weapons, the far-future worlds and tech--  I can't imagine that NOT being a cool playground.  It's not an easy license to get, though.  Fantasy Flight Games recently tried to acquire the rights to publish a modern update to the grognard board game classic Dune from (the older version of) Avalon Hill, but the estate refused to license it (FFG is making something with similar mechanics in one of their in-house universes instead).  Given how popular that board game was among the hard core gamers, I don't see creating other work with that license as any easier to get, so at best what's coming is a sort of fan design.

Just the other day I was prowling the web to make sure a Dune MMORPG wasn't already in the works.  There was a clever Second Life area based on the books, but of course that's just a place to sit around and talk to people.  You can't actually be eaten by a sandworm or cause a nuclear explosion by shooting some dude with your laser gun who happens to be wearing a force field. Other than that, I've found I'm not the only one who thought of an MMORPG in the Dune universe, and after having come up with some of my basic ideas, I found that someone else was thinking along similar lines.  Specifically it was about the interrelationship of the houses and factions, and how they HAD to work together in order to make the spaceships run on time, even while they're trying to stab each other in the back.  There are those other Real-Time Strategy games, the forerunner to the venerable Command and Conquer series, some of which had interesting cutscenes that sort of evoked David Lynch's version of the book.  All of the established properties**, though, don't really hit the mark that I feel like a big Dune game could. 

Still Life: They just sort of hang there
It is natural that all of these properties concentrated primarily, or solely, on the planet of Dune, but there is so much more to the universe Frank Herbert created.  Just like you want to peek around the corner in Tolkien's universe, I sort of want to see what it's actually like on the technologically heretical Ix, what the Sardaukar Terror Troops do in their off time, what kind of body mods the Bene Tleilaxu are into.  Maybe all of these were skeletons used to create the illusion of depth, as good crafters of the written word often do, and there isn't much to them beyond their instrumental uses as "the technological planet," "the bio-tech planet," "the ruling planet."  Still, I feel like I'd like to try.  I've also not read the new books written by Frank's son Brian that take place in Frank's creation, so to anyone who has read them: I'm not trying to retread or rewrite what Brian created.  And as to the actual MMORPG mechanics, I'm not even sure it will work (I'm not exactly experienced in MMORPG play or design, having played such games only a month or so at a time, and of course I've never designed any), so feel free to point out how human nature will throw a monkey wrench into things.


Basic Mechanics


Playwright and actor Steven Berkoff as Stilgar, from the television version
Unlike a lot of the class-based systems, I thought that maybe players could start as customizable people from many different homeworlds.  Each homeworld environment would give a player certain advantages or disadvantages, allowing a player to feel like he or she was going in a warrior direction or a weird science direction, without forcing them to be committed to things just yet.  Players gain experience by completing tasks for various Houses.  They are sort of a politically neutral pool of labor for the Houses and factions in the Dune universe, which the Houses can throw at the problem without wasting precious resources or fully loyal troops.

Players accept missions for little pay or recognition for the chance to slowly gain favor and prestige with the groups they work for.  They could work as guards for the Spacing Guild, making sure no one starts fighting while being transported from world to world.  They could help smuggle minor technological components from Richese to the Imperial City at Kaitain (if caught, the Emperor will disavow any knowledge of your actions, of course), or working as a Spice miner.  Every completed mission helps show your loyalty to a given faction.  As their favor increases, you will begin to gain advantages that that faction can give you: cheaper space transport, cheaper Spice (which could give you powers of prescience or other in-game advantages but will kill you if you don't keep taking it), access to advanced tech, that sort of thing.  Working with the Bene Tleilaxu will mean you will be able to get the Dune version of resurrection a lot cheaper, with some safeguards against them tampering with your body (a justification for less recovery time). 

(And as far as retaining the character's memories when they're born again, they're just put through rigorous training programs which approximate the stuff they learned from before, again a justification for recovery time since the new ghola isn't familiar with its old role right away.  You could even roleplay a change in personality after resurrection, if you wanted to.)

You, too, can be bald and sneaky
Despite my enthusiasm I find that a lot of the ideas above seem to run along established lines, but what I think is a bit different is that you gain levels IN factions.  When you go up a level, what you're really doing is gaining the trust of a given faction.  If you concentrate on a single faction, say the Fremen, you will eventually find it REALLY hard to get work from the other factions, and they may try to kill you once in a while.  You will also start to look like your favored factions have some influence on you.  If you're hanging out with the Harkonnen a bit too long chowing down on exotic food, you might need an anti-gravity suspensor or two to keep your gut from slapping your knees.  If you're friends with the ghola-producing Bene Tleilax you might have those weird pupil-less-seeming eyes that their clones have.  Hang out with Fremen too long and your skin will look dry and cracked, and your eyes will appear blue-on-blue.  You'll be marked by your association and locked out of certain sources of power, and so it will be harder to manage these interdependent resources on your own.  This is where teamwork comes in.

You can level in several factions at once, but only specialists get all the resources of a given faction, and only generalists will have the ability to play fully on their own without, at least, NPC assistance.  If you try to please all factions at once, you will achieve a sort of diplomatic status, allowing you to explore the universe fully, which would be focused on the people who like to tour online worlds without being killed (like me), even if they don't get the game play depth they might otherwise have access to.  Folks like the Suk Doctors, Mentats and Bene Gesserit NEED to have access to several groups to be of much use, the Doctors just for trust's sake, Mentats for knowledge, the Bene Gesserit for skullduggery.  And yes, males could serve the Bene Gesserit too.

Betrayal


Betray
Dune is all about plans within plans.  You can betray others in your group, but this would be a heavily controlled mechanic that would have to take several missions to reach fruition.  Simple betrayal would be done too often and cheapen the game, so instead players, because they often need each other to get things done, will have to work together knowing that eventually one of them, or many of them, will stab the others in the back.  The rare group that can keep together and cancel any plans they have for betraying their fellows, or never starting them in the first place, will have the option of forming a minor house later on, which allows them other privileges that backstabbing couldn't manage, but backstabbing will still be a viable option for taking specific equipment (and perhaps giving it to your minor house).

Since a player will likely create several characters, they will often want to benefit one of their characters more than the others.  The subterfuge takes on an interesting meta-gaming tangent, where a player will create a character, build up a relationship with others, only to betray them at some point, hindering their immediate chances at a house (until they can find someone else with the same amount of resources), and bringing the stolen victory back home.

This backstabbing wouldn't be allowed in all environments, though, so players who want to create minor houses without the intrigue could still do that, although there would be other ways to sabotage each other there.  And I think the mechanic works to distance players a bit from the idea behind it.  So if there is betrayal they know it's part of the game, and don't have to get the game-quitting displeasure of someone actually running away with your company funds.

Ephemera


The environments themselves would have several different spots on each world that would be of interest.  People who can't get over their habit of hunting down monsters and taking stuff from their corpses could hunt on a variety of worlds who have whole forests dedicated to sport hunting, and you can still sell these things or exchange them for minor quests, but this is NOT to be central to the game play.  It's only a mini-game for people who have been conditioned by other online RPGs to expect that sort of thing.

Guild Navigator Cockpit from Lynch's version
The art style would be grand and try to be a bit crazier and far-futuresque than the TV version felt for me.  I like the Lynch version of Dune in that it felt awkward and strange (I do hope that was on purpose), making it feel more like these were humans who had developed different habits and tics over many thousands of years of training and growth after the age of intelligent machines had ended.  Capturing that alien-ness would be vital.  Players could play just about any other MMORPG when they wanted pleasant surroundings, but could go to Dune when they wanted to get their freak on, so to speak.  Not so much the sex, though, cuz I guess you can find that elsewhere, too.

Minor Houses, if they manage to be founded, actually get to set up private meeting places where resources can be stored without risk of theft (mostly) and can avoid some of the listening devices that would otherwise thwart well-laid plans.  That might mean actually making mission plans part of the game mechanic, where a percentage of what you're going to do is revealed ahead of time, forcing players to put energy into hiding what they're going to do, which takes away from the mission's general effectiveness.

Buffs, which so many people like to use, would be strategic in nature.  One thing I've tended to dislike about what online RPGs I've played is that they force you to keep track of how many support spells you've cast.  In a sense they're kind of nice though, because they add some urgency to the battle, and you know you have to keep things going for everyone to be able to get the edge over the competition and survive.  In Dune there aren't spells, so what I think might fit is strategies that get laid out before a mission is begun.  There might be several stages to a mission, and players will have to plan out where they want to allocate their resources so that they will be protected by anti-snooping devices at this stage, while in a later stage they might be guarded by a few remote-controlled poison drones.  These are, in effect, buffs, but they're managed ahead of time so you don't have to worry about the Dune equivalent of recasting.  There would still be tools you could use mid-battle that might change the course of a mission, but you wouldn't have to depend upon these things to succeed all the time.

Finally, I thought it would be neat to have a mechanic where the lead players and the lead organizations tend to be targeted.  In games like EVE Online this happens naturally, with real betrayals, real embezzling, real teaming up against the dominant groups and individuals.  I wouldn't dream of duplicating that*, but instead I think it would be cool if the game itself sort of made you NOT want to be too well-noticed.  Minor houses that achieve the most notoriety might be graduated to Major Houses, allowing them a lot more resources, but also making them and their planetary keeps subject to NPC attacks, as well as their locations being broadcast for everyone to find out and attack.  Once they're defeated they lose their House status, though they still get to retain some of what they had earned.  Then some other group gets promoted, with priority given to those who haven't been promoted before. 

The same with individuals: a player who achieves some top ranking will be considered to be a possible Kwisatz Haderach, or however you spell it, and they'll have a rough time of it for as long as their current body is alive.  When killed, they'll retain some interesting optional powers, but the Bene Tleilax will prevent this status from happening again during the next incarnation, similar to the way fallen Major Houses work.

End Notes


This all probably sounds like ideas that have already come about in other games.  If so, please let me know.  While I'm not big on MMORPGs, I still think they're interesting in many ways (having to deal with the psychology of a bunch of players at once always brings about strange design decisions).  I also think these sorts of games have a ways to go as far as the diversity of game play, so I figure if I put this out there, at least there will be some outside chance it might push the discussion forward a smidgen. 

As an aside, it seems like Peter Berg will be trying to restart the franchise for the big screen.  I'm actually sort of fond of the Lynch version, and would love to see a tighter version of Lynch's original theatrical release WITHOUT the internal monologues, just to make things weirder.  But I'm always happy to see someone give that unfilmable book another go :)

Whew, now I feel better.  No more Dune for me for a while :)  Thanks to Leeto for the accidental encouragement.  A couple of footnotes below to address some concerns a friend of mine brought up after reading the article, then the links.

* ("I wouldn't dream of doing it" because I don't see much of a point in improving upon a general system that EVE has done so well in developing.  I also think that if I was going to design an MMORPG I might try to avoid griefing, and might make more of an escapist game where you get to side step a common tendency of human beings online, which is to mess things up for others.  Thinking about a free-form betrayal system, I imagined it being too chaotic to yield the stately pace that I imagined these conspracies unfolding, sort of betraying the immersiveness of the game I had in my head)

** (I didn't feel like mentioning Cryo's games here, as the FPS and adventure/strategy games, while having interesting takes on Dune, still concentrate mostly on Dune the planet.  I chose to mention the RTSs by name just as a footnote.  Mentioning the other games didn't feel like it was adding a whole lot to what I was saying, since I was trying to get on to what a Dune game could accomplish if it didn't concentrate on Arrakis.  I still think their adventure is probably the Dune game I consider to be the most intriguing in terms of atmosphere and creativity, but I'm enamored with Cryo's body of work in general).

LINKS:

Here's a light version of the Dune board game, free to print and play

A collection of informal data on what kind of MMORPG Dune aficionados would like

A well-made page that focuses on David Lynch's version, as well as Jodorowsky's version that never was

Brian Herbert's official site for the novels

Dune Wikia

Many Dune collectibles and resources
Posted by Claude

I never read the book. I really don't like novels. I did watch the David Lynch version of Dune and enjoyed it immensely. MMORPGs are something I've never even dabbled in. I've never played any of the Dune games either. I like your ideas and who knows, maybe one day I too will be brought into a virtual world to live, trade and play.

Posted by jakob187

Dood, I seriously could not have said any of this better, and after reading all that, my balls are tingling at the thought of a Dune MMO.  I would end up seeing a virtual sun for the rest of my damn life!!!

Posted by tentaclesex

There's huge potential here.  I seem to remember a Dune MUD that was pretty good, you should see if it's still running, you might find some good ideas there.


I have the Avalon Hill bookshelf game, it's great.  

I'm actually reading Chapterhouse right now, I never got around to it before.  Good stuff!

You seem to have an excellent handle on what makes Dune tick, and man, it would be glorious to see all of those key elements incorporated into an MMO somehow.
Edited by Stephen_Von_Cloud

You clearly know a lot about Dune.

Anyways, I have never actually seen the movie, but that sounds like an interesting setup for an MMO.  Different in enough ways to be exciting to me at least, who can't stomach MMOs in their current state.

 Once they catch up technology wise to the quality of our more limited games, with say good real time combat that feels great like a multiplayer game would online, I will probably lose my life to an MMO.   Just the light MMO bit of leveling is so addicting in games like Call of Duty.  Imagine all the social and exploring aspects from MMOs added ontop of that.

Back on topic though, sounds more freeform and less rigid which is always more interesting to me.  Working for the houses that way brings to mind Oblivion.

Posted by Pibo47

I really would like a dune MMO. Ordos FTW.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Claude: I've moved toward nonfiction myself, but I still like novels that try to push the boundaries.  I guess that all comes back to my introduction to reading through Stephen King.

I like the David Lynch version, although like I said I think it would be even more fun if they didn't bother explaining anything, and just offered things up as a sort of window to a strange future for humanity.  They already talk about strangely, why not just take it the full way and make it mysterious.  Lynch is no stranger to mysteries, that's for sure.

MMORPGs, to me, are often a sort of specialty gaming that I feel partly excluded from.  They don't feel like the games I grew up with, often very complex, with a heavy social element that sort of divides your attention rather than uniting with the game itself.  I guess the most of an online game I've played has been Puzzle Pirates, and that tended to work pretty well.  Also played Everquest for a time on my SO's account, though I never got very far.  I was too fascinated by exploring places I wasn't supposed to :)

I used to play the RTS Dune, and I remember that my computer started to get sluggish toward the later stages because it was just too dumb to handle all that was going on.  I remember about the time I had given up, a Harkonnen trike took a full minute to explode on my screen.  I knew then it was time to give up :)  If you ever took a look at the Commadn and Conquer series in its first incarnation, it might seem weird that you have these near-future crystal mining crawlers alongside what is basically a fairly conventional warfare model.  That's pretty much because it took directly from their previous design of Dune, with spice mining instead of crystal mining, and ornithopters (bird ships) instead of flying craft in C&C.

Thanks for your comments, Claude, as always :)
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@tentaclesex: Good call on the Dune MUD.  Their site is still up, although I don't see an update past 2007:

http://dune.servint.com/

You get to play the board game much?

Good to see you're getting around to Chapterhouse.  That's the one book of the six originals I never did finish, even though I hear from others that it was pretty good.  I actually enjoyed Heretics better than Children or God Emperor, so I wonder if Herbert was honing things down a bit. 

Thanks for your comment :)
Posted by tentaclesex
@ahoodedfigure said:
" @tentaclesex: You get to play the board game much? "
Like most of the board games I buy, it mainly collects dust, but I did get to try it out.  It plays like Cosmic Encounter (not surprising, as it was designed by the same people) with a hot injection of Dune flavor.  It would have been great if FFG got their hands on it, because they make beautiful products.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Stephen_Von_Cloud: True about Oblivion.  In ways as I was writing it reminded me a bit of what they were trying to do with the Conan game, allowing greater flexibility to start in a sort of extended solo tutorial way.  I wouldn't really have a tutorial like that, but you'd get to know the various factions when you were starting out, and you'd know ways to ignore certain factions as you got to be more experienced. 

I sorta wish MMORPG designers were a bit more adventurous, but I understand why the tend not to be.  It's best just to get more users than try to revolutionize things.  Still, I think a lot of the newer ones have been failing because they're just trying to repeat the successes that came before.  With a game that isn't subscription-based, that's fine, but why would someone drop a game they're paying for and playing right now for a game that pretty much does the same thing, but without as much detail?  I'd gamble that Dune as I've sorta written might break enough with things and have distinct enough flavor to be interesting, but who knows.

Exploration is always my favorite aspect.  I tend to get disappointed when I wind up seeing all there is to see, or understanding how things work.  I keep wanting to reach the crest of the next hill.  Dune would sort of be like that, where new regions on different worlds would slowly be revealed, new planets, new areas on ships, that sort of thing.  They'd all be planned out in advance to help reveal new things.  Maybe it'd start to hint at the later novels' developments, and sort of like with EVE Online, player behavior would sort of dictate where the new emphases would be.  All of this is theory, of course.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@tentaclesex: FFG WILL be making a game with the mechanics from the old Avalon Hill Dune, but they'll be exchanging Dune's factions for stuff from their Twilight Imperium universe because of licensing difficulties.

Nice "Thing" icon, by the way.
Posted by erinfizz

Oh neat. I liked the races in Twilight Imperium...that could be fun.

I am also surprised you haven't read the newer books, they are good!

Posted by Jayge_

I don't have time to read all of this right now, but I skimmed it, and as a huge Dune fan: YES.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@erinfizz: I've heard a lot of people complain about the books.  I'm not sure I want to read them just because what I got from the original Dune books was a specific feeling of weird, advanced humanity and strange stuff like dogchairs.  If I went beyond that with new writers it would sort of feel like someone built up an ancient ruin themed amusement park ride around actual ancient ruins.  But it's more that I have a ton of other stuff I already have to read and haven't gotten close to getting around to it.

I collect books like I'm trying to build a nest with them instead of actually reading them, in other words.  Right now I'm juggling (that is to say reading, not actually juggling) Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, William Gibson's Spook Country, a science book on the connection between the eye and the brain, and medical books (I'm fun at parties.  Really!). 
Posted by Stephen_Von_Cloud
@ahoodedfigure said:
  I sorta wish MMORPG designers were a bit more adventurous, but I understand why the tend not to be. "
Agreed, but when the development of MMOs is so perilous and expensive I completely understand why they're not.
Edited by Funkydupe

Duncan Idaho! I can recommend the oldest Dune game. It's good. I'd welcome a Dune MMORPG. It's been way too quiet.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Funkydupe: Yeah, I'm still proud of this idea, thanks.  One can always hope.
 
The oldest game, the adventure/strategy?  I was lucky enough to be able to play that game not too long ago.  I have to say that has to be one of my favorite games of all time BECAUSE:
 
The difficulty ramped just right, as did the discoveries and the complexity.  The graphics were pretty, and even though it tripped out when I did things in a weird order, the only real complaint I have is that it doesn't keep track of your stats when you complete it so you can do better next time.  If they had THAT I'd be playing that game all the time.  I can't say how much I like that game without sounding like I'm about to 'splode.
 
And yeah, Duncan's a badass.
Edited by turbomonkey138

I love the fact this thread was bumped :D . I still think this would be a great idea 
 
 
"Fear is the mind killer "

Posted by MorganW

     For starters an interesting note, Baron Vlad Harkonnen isn't fat through indulgence, He was an ultimate athelete and arena fighter until a Bene Gesserit sister gave him a disease, and a somewhat indulgent man anyway, he put out the Idea his condition was his own fault to save face [at least if we can believe the additional books were working from thorough notes of Franks]
     With some thousand of major houses [If I remember right], tens of thousands of miner houses and many other factions, people could start as a cousin, [or such] to a faction, the Baron himself was a cousin to the Harkonnens and changed his name to Harkonnen when he was judged fit to head the family [much like the adopted Ceasar]. They could lead a troop, Military, Espionage, Diplomacy all being duties. Infiltrating other factions, suicide raids to destroy other factions spice hordes, economic sabotage of agriculture through biological agents and so much more, its all right there in the books. By having a troop too you dont always have to be risking your main character. Though as pointed out major characters can be reborn as Gholas. As with Frank Herberts universe the possibilities are boundless.
      Finally, as an obsessive fan of dune, I know I'll probably be somewhat disappointed by the failing of whatever is created [could anything ever match such a complex creation], but to not try is an insult to the greatest sci-fi creation of all time and you have to start somewhere.
 

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@MorganW said:  

 For starters an interesting note, Baron Vlad Harkonnen isn't fat through indulgence, He was an ultimate athelete and arena fighter until a Bene Gesserit sister gave him a disease, and a somewhat indulgent man anyway, he put out the Idea his condition was his own fault to save face [at least if we can believe the additional books were working from thorough notes of Franks]    


 Hm.  What I want is the notes themselves, especially about what was to happen after Chapterhouse (which I've not read yet, but I've already heard what the posthumous sequels were aiming for and I would rather know what Herbert was considering).  
 
That certainly sounds like a plausible detail, and it makes old Vlad a bit less of a high villain in that regard, but I pretty much run on the original books as far as what I take from the story, so I think his general grossness was just to make him less sympathetic.  You learn about his size and his sexual proclivities at about the same time I think, so I think they're meant to portray similar things, no matter how prejudiced it is against bigger people to assume those two go together.
 
 

      With some thousand of major houses [If I remember right], tens of thousands of miner houses and many other factions, people could start as a cousin, [or such] to a faction, the Baron himself was a cousin to the Harkonnens and changed his name to Harkonnen when he was judged fit to head the family [much like the adopted Ceasar]. They could lead a troop, Military, Espionage, Diplomacy all being duties. Infiltrating other factions, suicide raids to destroy other factions spice hordes, economic sabotage of agriculture through biological agents and so much more, its all right there in the books. By having a troop too you dont always have to be risking your main character. Though as pointed out major characters can be reborn as Gholas. As with Frank Herberts universe the possibilities are boundless.       Finally, as an obsessive fan of dune, I know I'll probably be somewhat disappointed by the failing of whatever is created [could anything ever match such a complex creation], but to not try is an insult to the greatest sci-fi creation of all time and you have to start somewhere.  "

Yeah, I get where you're coming from.  I feel like the universe is rich enough that it seems to DEMAND to be played with in some capacity, because he left so much of it open to the reader's imagination, and seemed happy when people wanted to build stuff in an official capacity (I think he enjoyed Lynch's version, so there you go). 
 
My idea was to get more into the middle to lower side of things, where you're just mobile enough not to be stuck on one world for your entire life, but maybe not able to be royalty.  Royalty is in a different way stuck, too, with all the responsibilities of office, where every action is watched and guards are all around.  When you get too far in that direction, yeah, it sorta demands a bunch of underlings.  I was always intrigued by Halleck and Idaho, how they had had their own adventures and still managed to be trusted House retainers.  I felt that they represented a sort of hidden part of Dune, a more mobile part, where adventures were still possible.  Paul managed to become, even in the Emperor's own words toward the end of the first book, an "adventurer", and this was because he got out of his role as the son of a planetary ruler and became something more.