No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, Endless Space, and so many others are evidence of the space exploration resurgence. In those and others, exploration, combat, and trading take precedence but Dual Universe is giving us a true sandbox to get dirty in. In this MMO from Novaquark, players will be working together to build an entire civilization from the ground up and expand across planets. To understand the potential of Dual Universe, you must understand what it means to be “single shard”. Most MMOs have multiple servers that have communities and ecosystems that work individually. For Dual Universe to function on a single shard means every single player is experiencing one world together. Games like EVE Online thrive on set ups like this, giving a great deal of power to the players and Dual Universe wants to take this to the next level. I had an opportunity to ask founder Jean-Christophe Baillie a few questions about the game, so enjoy!
How long has Dual Universe been in development?
I’ve been working on the core server technology for several years now. The company itself was created in early 2014 and we mainly invested in the voxel technology then. At the beginning, we spent quite a lot of time recruiting and we had to change the rendering engine, so the main development of the game itself only really started about 1 year ago.
How big is the universe at launch? Are there limits on the procedural generation of planets?
No, there is no limit to the number of planets that we could in principle generate. A planet is basically a seed number, nothing more. We only store on the disk the difference between the procedurally generated planet and whatever modification you have done on it. We have of course to develop various biomes (with all their assets, like trees, rocks, plants, etc), which takes a lot of time, so the diversity of planet types is not infinite, but will grow as we have more resource to invest in this aspect.
As for the effective size of the universe, it will expand at the speed at which players are going to be able to discover it and to unlock the necessary technologies to do so. You need ships, then you need faster ships, warp drives, etc. Since there is no teleportation, you need time and resources to cross vast expanses of space. As an illustration: if you want to set up a Star Gate at some point in the galaxy, you have to send a probe there first, which can take several weeks of real time. Once arrived, this probe will deploy a high energy space anomaly that you can use to jump there (only once) to start the construction of the actual Star Gate. So, expanding through space will take time. This is generating all sorts of interesting emergent gameplay when you think about it, starting with nice incentives for explorers and cartographers.
Do all players start on the same planet?
Yes, not just the same planet, but at the same place, which is the Arkship. It will be a safe zone, so no risk of ambush or abuse of any kind. People will be free to move away from this start point immediately, but because the safe zone is limited in size, we believe there will be a strong incentive to settle down first and try to cooperate. Something we think would not work would be to scatter people all around, after all the universe is big, instead of fostering a more MMO oriented type of gameplay. Spawning at the Arkship is one of the things we will do to help that.
To potentially what extent can a player implement the scrip-table constructions?
There is a whole devblog post talking about scripting. The idea is that every scrip-table part of a construct (like a weapon, a radar, an engine, etc), which we call an “Element”, will exhibit some public functions that are available from the script. It will also be able to emit events that you can catch, including keystrokes, mouse movements, etc. The script runs locally on your machine and is allowed a given slice of the CPU capacity. It can only emit legitimate commands to the server, so no risk of abuse on this side. Then we have more advanced features that we would like to develop at some point: to be able to create libraries of reusable scripts (called “custom DPUs”), connect things through networks, and all sorts of potentially fun stuff, but this will most likely not be there for the initial release.
Are there things in place to counter griefers in this single shard environment?
Players start in a safe zone that will be something like 20 kilometers around the Arkship. In a safe zone, nothing bad can happen to you. New safe zones, in particular on other planets, will be progressively discovered as explorers unlock ruins of an ancient civilization (see our backstory for more details). These will serve as safe havens for players. Beyond the safe zones, your security will depend on your strength, your luck or how much collective efforts you have put, through various organizations and alliances, to create the necessary military force to ensure a relative security. The point is to motivate players to build things like cities, states and higher level social structure, mimicking what we observe in the real world.
What are the PVP/PVE experiences like?
We will most likely introduce a minimal set of PvE experiences in the game at some point along the road-map, but probably not at launch. It could be things like animals to protect yourself from, for example. But the core essence of the game is to be played by people, with (or against) other people. While it will be perfectly possible to enjoy the game as a single player, being busy building an impressive castle, or mining, or exploring, we will also strongly encourage multiplayer activities. Ambitious endeavors, like building a giant space station, this will be very difficult, almost impossible if you are alone due to all the factors that enter into the equation: getting the resources, designing the plans, securing the construction site, organizing the huge logistics involved, etc. This will in turn create a lot of emergent “quests” for players who are more interested to follow an existing plan, an bring their help. There will be things similar to job boards to advertise the currently open positions related to a given organization or project, which will be a good starting point for many players.
Can players build fully functional, and self sustaining living spaces off planet?
Yes, we will make it possible to build a giant spaceship or space station where you can internally handle everything you need to survive, hopefully growing a kind of micro society. I’m a big fan of Iain M. Banks and the Culture series, and having things like GSVs emerging in the game would be fantastic! The only missing part, obviously, will be collecting resources. Raw materials are, by definition, inside planets (perhaps also asteroids at some point, but this is not planned yet for the release).
What types of resources will players have to collect to supplement the creation process?
There will be all sorts of basic raw materials that can be mined from planets: metals, rocks, raw chemicals, etc. In the long run, we would like to implement a rich set of industrial processes to refine those materials and make them better, which would create a whole gameplay around this activity. Things like “Industrial Craft” are a good source of inspiration, but we would try to make it more realistic. The raw materials, or the transformed materials, will then be used in 3D printers to create “parts”, which are items like “electronic circuits”, “batteries”, “screens”, etc. You can then use the parts in an Assembly to craft “Elements”, these are the components you need to add functionality to your constructs, like an engine, a cockpit, a weapon, etc. There will be a devblog post to detail this process at some point.
Potential release window? Alpha? Beta? Early access?
We hope to be able to have a first alpha ready in the first half of 2017. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to join our community by registering to the newsletter, or following us on Facebook, Twitter, etc. We have also launched an early community website, community.dualthegame.com, where you can create a profile and start to join or create an organization, with a focus on role-playing. The devblog is also a very good source of information about what we have in mind about the gameplay, the backstory, etc. Thanks!
So what do you think of Dual Universe’s goals? Do they peak your interest? Hit the comment section below and share some ideas that come to mind for you and look for a chance to get your hands on the title in 2017!