Piloting a spaceship in a videogame is a classic of the Sci-Fi genre. Amazing titles have been written based on that idea. Most of the time you get to control a given ship, among a set of predesigned ships, either in first person view within the cockpit (Wing Commander style), or from a third person view outside of your ship (Eve Online style). You will be able do that in Dual Universe too, but there is more.
First, in Dual you won’t have to use predesigned ships, and in fact there will be no predefined ships. We will have some basic ships available at the beginning but nothing will force you to use those. You will be able to build your own, or buy a model designed by another player or organization, from a nearby market. With the balancing provided by the supply and demand selection mechanism (I’ll talk more about the ingame economy in another blog post), the best ship designs will naturally emerge, incremental improvements will be made on them over time and innovation will disrupt the status-quo from time to time. Just like in a real market economy.
The first ship you will pilot will likely be a single seated one-person ship, mostly for transport or small cargo jobs. The experience of piloting such a ship will be similar to the classical cockpit first person/third person view we mentioned at the beginning (you will be given ways to choose which type of view you want).
Now, the interesting thing is that a ship is not a special entity in the game. It is in fact a construct like any other – it just happens to have reactors and ship-like elements that make it behave like… a ship. But in particular, it can be given any shape and any size, provided that you are able to equip it appropriately in terms of power and control so that it can fly. Being on a planet surface, entering a ship and being “in” a ship is also a completely continuous experience for the player, there is no formal boundary. So you could have a truly gigantic ship, hosting a complex infrastructure inside, with hundreds of rooms and corridors. People would be free to embark the ship, walk inside it, jump out of it. Think of all the possibilities.
The control of this multiplayer crew ship would be distributed to several players according to their specialization. People for navigation, some others for left bank/right bank weapon systems, missiles, others for repair facilities, radar, energy systems, com, or for the faster-than-light engine, etc. You would need real team play to fly an interstellar mothership, creating emergent “professions” ingame as people specialize in certains aspects of ship control.
Now, imagine combats. Besides the specialized weapons allocation to various crew members, the fact that the ship is a real object and not some formal 3D image allows for incredible things: partial structural damage that must be repaired (crew members racing to fix this broken hull – FTL anyone?), but also even more exciting is the possibility to board another ship after having cracked open its hull. In my opinion, from an emergent/strategic point of view this is a very interesting alternative to the classical way of completely destroying any enemy ship during combat: instead, board it and take control! Note that we don’t know yet how much of this will be playable in the alpha or beta stage, but it will definitely be something we will support in the long term.
Once again, at the heart of all these ideas are key game-technology changes (real ships created by players), together with emergent gameplay. What players will do with this is still not really known, but the possibilities are huge and exciting!