We have been asked several times what the actual typical gameplay of Dual Universe would be, how it would be played, in a very practical way. It’s of course too soon to give a lot of details about the numerous activities that will be possible within the game, but we thought it would be nice to go through like five typical minutes of the kind of gameplay you could experience on the surface of a planet. To start with, let’s talk a bit more about what we have in store for the alpha version, which will be made available next summer.
In the alpha version, you wake up inside the arkship, which is still on its way towards the planet where you are to establish a new civilization with your fellow colonists. You have been woken up early from cryosleep, because you are a member of the alpha team, a set of special operatives that will be given a pre-training in the basic ways to run your future new life on the new planet, and be able to coordinate actions when the time will come (when the beta will be out). And this pre-training will be done through… a simulation (within the simulation, yes, where does it end?). So basically, you are still in your cryosleep vat and the ship’s AI is plugging you on a sort of Oculus Rift-like super neat simulator and here you go.
You step out of the arkship already loaded with blueprints, materials, skills, etc. The simulation is meant to put you in a situation which would correspond to where you are after a few months of playing and skilling already, so that you, the player, can experience it right away and test the core of the game. Generally speaking, it is a difficult thing to show “the” gameplay of Dual, because we expect that there will be many gameplays possible and, more specifically to the sandbox experience, we expect the gameplay to evolve over time, as players master more and more technologies and expand into the world. Think of it as a sort of live version of Sid Meyer’s Civilization, entirely player-driven!
OK, so you are in the alpha simulation. The game is going to be a FPS, and depending on our budget and time, we will also provide some TPS view, especially in combat. The FPS view is important for immersion and also because we have Oculus Rift and similar devices in mind, so it would not make sense to offer only TPS view in any case. So, looking through your virtual eyes, the arkship stands proud and high in the sky behind you and you are facing a large empty crater that was created by the ship impact, followed a bit further by a dark and deep forest on your left, and a large mountain chain on your right, with white snowy tops. It looks very familiar, the planet’s atmosphere is similar to the one on the Earth, and the cloud patterns you can see in the distance are also recognizable. It’s not exactly like on Earth, but familiar enough. Some planets will look much less friendly than this when you’ll start to explore the universe, but for the moment, it’s OK.
You come equipped with a very powerful and central tool, rigged right into your arm: the nanoformer. This tool uses incredibly sophisticated nanotechnology to allow you two things: to collect materials and store them in a nanopack (think of it as a super backpack, with space and gravitational compression capabilities), and to release these materials in various forms anywhere you want in your environment. Very convenient! Inside the forest, you have no difficulty to find wood, cutting large trees and gathering stone materials when you find them on the ground. Soon, your nanopack gets filled with various materials and you can start to think about building your first shelter. The process is very similar to Minecraft at this stage, but you will have many more possibilities to carve the structures you want to build into almost any shape. Still, we believe in the simplicity of some elementary geometric shapes, at least as a start, to make the process of 3D construction less cognitively demanding.
At this stage, it is not clear if we will have enough time until the alpha to implement NPC animals to come and bother you during the night, as well as serve as hunting preys. But that’s the idea, because you will need to feed yourself, and the nanoformer cannot make wood-based lunch for you!
The nanoformer can also be used as a very primitive weapon, projecting materials or energy towards your opponent. But nothing really more than a punch in the face. If you want to deal some damage, you’ll need a weapon. It turns out that you have various blueprints in your inventory, which are in fact weapon recipes. All you need to assemble them is to find the raw materials, which means: start mining and digging, Minecraft style! Once you have found the precious ingredients, just set your nanoformer to run a given blueprint and here you go, you can see the item forging itself in front of you. You will also have various recipes for armor, mining tools and various useful items (why aren’t these simply available in the arkship, you might ask? You know the story about telling a man how to fish, rather than giving him a single fish? I think the conceptors of the arkship had this idea in mind!).
I did not talk much about energy at this stage, because it is still under discussion. But the nanoformer, and of course more powerful tools or weapons, will need energy sources. For the nanoformer, it could simply be your body heat, so all you need to do is to (h)eat. We would need to get some serious future pseudo-science to explain that however, because the Watts available will be rather limited!
The next experience for you will probably be to try and build one of the construct blueprint available in your inventory. Like, for example: the hover car, or the balloon powered explorer vehicle, or… the rocket! More about the construct building in another post, but all this will require that you gather more or less difficult-to-find materials, and energy sources. You might want to start a trade post to exchange resources, tools or weapons with other players. Gathering into organizations will also be a good idea, as well as start to claim territories to secure your property. You don’t have to worry about PvP aggression as long as you remain inside the security zone managed by the arkship (see the Arkship security blog post), but if you wander further (about 20km away), you might also start to need to organize your defense and establish an outpost.
Each of these topics probably will be treated in dedicated blog post, so I won’t go any deeper at this stage. To summarize, we’ve seen a very short preview of the FPS style gameplay that will be available in the game: you can gather resources and construct houses, buildings, items. You can also create more dynamics constructs like vehicle or rockets (actually, space ships or space stations, there is no limit in size). We are also thinking about farming and hunting, because you will need food. You can team up with other players, or compete with them, through economy, politics, manufacturing, territory control and a lot of other emergent gameplay elements. One of the challenges we have as we design the alpha version is to find a way to make all these aspects of gameplay easy to learn and quite naturally flowing from the player’s experience. We are working on it ;)