It hasn’t been on our radar for a while, but back in early 2019 Funcom announced it was making some Dune videogames, including an open world multiplayer survival game. It feels like a good fit considering Funcom developed Conan Exiles, another multiplayer survival game set in a massive desert environment.
Dune is back on our radar in a big way, thanks to, y’know, Dune. The movie. We haven’t heard any real details about the upcoming Dune game since Funcom first announced it, so we decided to speculate about some features we’d like to see, from sandworms to stillsuits to the all-important spice.
Here’s what we’re hoping to see in Funcom’s Dune survival game. Note: There are some spoilers for Dune below if you haven’t seen the film or read the books.
More than just a desert
I don’t want to ruffle any feathers right off the bat, but deserts… are kinda boring. Not immediately boring! The desert in the Dune movie looked beautiful. But that’s for a two-hour film. When playing a game for dozens or hundreds of hours it’s hard to imagine being captivated by walking down a sand dune and cresting another sand dune and seeing… yet another goddamn sand dune. A few games, like Max Max, have done a nice job by differentiating areas of the desert so each looks and feels a bit different, but in the end you’re still mostly dealing with sand, sand, and more sand.
I haven’t read too far beyond the original Dune novel but I know that in the distant future of Arrakis there are some terraforming efforts made and parts of the desert planet become more green than brown. Having some additional biomes in the Dune game beyond just deserts and caves, some zones with highly varied plant and wildlife as well as the familiar arid and desolate areas, could certainly help the world feel more visually interesting. It would also give players a chance to wear something besides just a moisture-recycling stillsuit 24/7. I think setting the game at that point in the Dune timeline could give it a bit more variety. —Chris Livingston, Features Producer
Actual drug trips
Dune is a richly-realized science fiction universe, depicted across 27 published and upcoming novels (not including short stories and other works). It is also a book that was written in San Francisco in the early ’60s, as hippies, counterculture, music, recreational drugs, and The Summer of Love (in ’67) were intersecting. That atmosphere undeniably guided Herbert’s book, a story with a galaxy-shaping, mind-altering substance at its center.
With that in mind, it would be awfully disappointing if Spice were just another ordinary videogame resource! I don’t want to equip my Spice Implement and hold F to Gather Spice. I don’t want to purchase a season pass that adds 200 Spice to my account. I want this magic mineral to be folded into the story and experience of playing the game itself—if this is an RPG of some kind, using Spice shouldn’t be like eating a baked potato in Minecraft. It should have some richer meaning and implementation. —Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief
Some really intricate knife combat
Considering it’s a futuristic sci-fi world, it’s a little weird to see people running around with knives and swords. But the knife-heavy combat is because of personal defense shields (they looked very silly in the original Dune movie) that stop anything moving fast from penetrating them. Bullets aren’t gonna do much because they’re simply moving too rapidly and I’m guessing something like a laser blaster wouldn’t be effective either. So, warriors carry around big knives because you can slow them down enough to be able to stab someone even if they’ve got their shield turned on.
I’m hoping combat in the Dune game can reflect some of that knife-mastery required to be both quick and slow enough to fight effectively. Hack and slash at someone with a shield it’s just not gonna do any damage. A more intricate version of knife combat, with things like parries and counters and the all important slow blade might give the combat a nice learning curve and a bit of nuance. —Chris
Maybe it’s my old flight sim fandom speaking, or my more recent experience as a cyber-delivery driver in Cloudpunk. Either way, what I’d really like is to get behind the controls of an Atreides ornithopter. I want to transport spice harvesters and patrol for wormsign, rescue workers from sandworm peril, fight the invading Harkonnen and Sardaukar, and maybe most importantly, just cruise the endless, arid wastes. Is Arrakis a boring place? Maybe—it’s a big-ass desert, after all—but it doesn’t have to be: The Fremen have lived there for thousands of years, and that opens the door to all kinds of potential mystery to explore. A ruin here, an ancient stash there—there’s plenty of fictional fodder to make it work, especially in a videogame adaptation. —Andy Chalk, US News Lead
A building system (or a nomad system)
Look, I know one entire thing about Dune: it involves sand. I do know multiplayer survival games though, and I will always, always show up for a building system. Give me a little crafting bench and a bunch of snapping build pieces and I will live there for weeks. If you all get into Dune Multiplayer someday and start sending me screenshots of sandcastles or sand shacks or whatever kind of structures Dune people live in, I am guaranteed to be there. — Lauren Morton, Associate Editor
I think I may be feeling the opposite, because time and again in games with buildable bases I’ve proven completely incapable of constructing a home I really want to live in. I think I’d prefer to be nomadic in the Dune game, if possible, with nothing but a tent or portable habitat I can plunk down, sleep or craft in, then fold up and take with me. Especially in multiplayer games like Rust where players claim a spot, start building an ugly-ass boxy base, then abandon it, the landscape winds up littered with unsightly crapshacks. Maybe it’s time for a multiplayer survival game to ditch building and stick with portable habs that don’t clutter up the scenery. —Chris
I know two things about Dune. Like Lauren, I am aware that it involves sand. I also know, however, that there are worms in that sand. Large worms. Well, I think you should be able to ride the worms. Let’s call them… duneworms, maybe. Or sandtubes. —Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor
I’m pretty sure worm-riding will be a part of the game (you can do it in No Man’s Sky as of this Halloween) and if it’s not, man, people gonna be mad. And hopefully it’ll be some high-level, extremely difficult activity or people are gonna be steering worms all over the map and eating all the fresh spawns. —Chris
Let me be the worm
Humans are boring and very bad at surviving in the harsh desert. Sandworms are very exciting and good at surviving in the harsh desert. So why would I want to be anything other than a worm? Let me speed across the dunes gobbling up spice and spaceships, and maybe a player or two. I would not be very happy if Tyler tried to ride me though. Ban riding worms. It’s rude. —Fraser Brown, Online Editor
A pee button
Denis Villeneuve’s Dune spends a few minutes teaching us about stillsuits, the high-tech desertwear of Arrakis that collects nearly all your body’s moisture and converts it back into drinkable water. Sweat becomes sustenance. But there’s one bit the movie leaves out: so does pee. If Dune is a survival game, that means a major mechanic will be managing your thirst in the desert, and that means there should be a button to pee on command before you drink up. He who controls his urine controls the universe.— Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor
Stillsuits recycle your poop, too. On the one hand I’m not sure Funcom wants to remind you that you’re drinking recycled pee and poop. On the other, it’s Funcom, which has dong-size sliders in Conan Exiles. So who knows? They might be quite happy reminding you each time you drink from your suit you’re consuming the last desert dump you took. — Chris
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