EXCLUSIVE: Dune: Spice Wars' Game Director Hints At Upcoming Campaign
Typically, the strategy game world has been pretty hard to get into as an outsider. Unless you got on the Civ Rev or StarCraft train when you got your very first PC, chances are, you've been a little intimidated to engage with the genre that takes an ungodly amount of critical thinking and consideration to merely approach.
It's a problem that's made the genre feel to outsiders as overly intellectual at best, and elitist at worst. It's a real tough cookie, which for the most part, is a reputation that has preceded the genre for many years.
But, it looks like this could be about to change. With Frost Giant's Stormgate getting its reveal at Summer Game Fest, and exciting strategy titles on the horizon, the tides could be changing.
Still, this effort hasn't started with Stormgate. The next bold step into a community-backed future for the RTX genre begins on a planet called Arrakis. You might have heard of it.
Shiro Games Bring The Spice
Though we've seen it before in strategy games (with the last title being Emperor: Battle for Dune in 2003), there's no better time for a game set on Arrakis, the base of operations for the entire Dune franchise. The granddaddy of sci-fi has been around for many years, first debuting in 1965, and it's finally getting its dues outside of its dedicated fanbase of sci-fi readers with a new film franchise helmed by Hollywood's greatest blockbuster weapon, Denis Villeneuve.
The series has been a staple of the genre for decades, and fans adore it - and it's lucky that one of those fans was put behind the wheel of Spice Wars. "I read the entire book series when it was out back in the '80s," Spice Wars' Game Director and Shiro Games CEO Sebastian Vidal tells GGRecon. "I've also read the comic books that Brian Herbert is writing right now, that's coming out every month. So I'm not saying I read everything there is but… probably."
Vidal is an eager and avid fan of the Dune mythos, which is exactly what the game needed. It was lucky that the opportunity came to Shiro Games, though, as Vidal was confident that their next project would be another original title after the success of their last title, Nosgard.
"We met with the CEO of Funcom who are doing their own game based on the IP [an unannounced multiplayer survival game], and the CEO said 'I'm a big fan of Nosgard, I love what you've been doing, and we've got an IP that would be a good fit for a strategy game,' and we were like 'we don't do IPs, we like doing our own stuff.' Then he said 'it's Dune.' And we were like… 'oh… wait.'"
The new influx of popularity for the classic sci-fi story has done well for Dune: Spice Wars - not just for its sales numbers with new players getting better acquainted with the democratic processes of House Atreides, but for the actual development of the game.
"We were talking to the production house doing the movie… they were working with the Herbert estate, so Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and also the art director of the Denis Villeneuve [film] to validate what we were doing on the art side," says Vidal.
"As for the movie itself, we hadn't seen much. The only thing we saw at the time because it was quite early still, was just a huge, massive vignette with artwork that was done for the movie, and they were all in the same style as the original film, very inspiring, very brutalist with its unique photography."
The Future of Arrakis
The game naturally has some way to go, as it still sits comfortably in early access - but progress isn't all that far off. The PC Gaming Show revealed the game's long-awaited multiplayer mode, as well as a brand-new faction introduced to shake up the way the entire game is played being teased for reveal in the future. But it seems like there's much more to be seen.
We asked Vidal what we can expect to see change with the introduction of the new faction, to which he giggles and says, "I'm going to get killed by my marketing director if I say anything!" There seems to be something else on the horizon.
Wondering what it was like to create a game based on such an iconic narrative without actually focussing on any story, we asked about the future of Paul, Dune's protagonist who is yet to appear in Spice Wars.
"We will probably do a campaign at some point for the game, and at that point, we'll go into the narrative and character growth and so on, but from the beginning, we wanted to make sure the core of the gameplay was good, and we're still refining it." So, while we've got our factions tearing up Arrakis for all the Spice it's worth, it looks like the journey to discover the Bene Gesserit could yet plant itself in the sands.
In the meantime, there's still plenty to look forward to in the way of updates. New factions and multiplayer modes aside, the possibilities for Shiro Games' latest are still developing with Brian Herbert's comic series, and who knows - maybe the events of Dune: Messiah (the series' first sequel, published in 1969) and beyond could get its dues.
He Who Controls The Spice…
Shiro Games has struck a delightful balance between accessibility and expert strategy, and it's a formula that suits Dune and its politics down to the ground. Though the militarisation and domination of Arrakis may fall to you, there's still much more tucked behind the curtain of Spice Wars, and if there's anything that serves as reassurance of its quality going forward, is the sheer passion that Sebastien Vidal and his team has for the mythos.
With a series of Dune's age, grandeur and standing in the wider world of science fiction, it could only take adoration like theirs to create something truly special, and with a strong track record in early access, there's no doubt that the future is bright for Dune: Spice Wars. The Spice most definitely will flow, and if we're lucky, it will do so for years to come with Vidal piloting the Harvester. Dune games are back - and we couldn't be happier to harness desert power all by ourselves.