Ever wanted to escape the reality on our tiny planet and its many humanity-caused problems? Ever wanted to experience life in the never-ending sea of stars that is outer space? Developer Novaquark's upcoming massively multiplayer online RPG (with an emphasis on "massively") Dual Universe gives you the opportunity to leave our planet for a moment and explore many activities out in the far reaches of space. We sat down with the devs for a little chat about a big game and got a demo of just that.
By now, we've seen plenty of space exploration games come and go, so how does Dual Universe break on through what we've come to expect? Well, Dual Universe is unique in more ways than one, the game's stand out feature being its fully editable universe. Any player can build and demolish the game world as he or she pleases, essentially creating an ever-changing universe for all players to enjoy.
The game has some complex building mechanics as well as a fully editable universe and the devs talked about the game being each player's own sandbox. But what does this mean and do the structures built and then destroyed stay on the server indefinitely or does it spawn as you enter? Well, everything stays the way you left it, whether you're there or not, according to the developers who took us on our virtual tour.
To build one has to either mine, collect, trade or purchase materials. Mining being a simple but potentially time-consuming process while the marketplace gives you what you need instantly for a price. If one was to go the mining route, one can either find a set mining area created by another player or start digging themselves. A helpful tool when doing the latter is a sensor of sorts that lets the player know where ore veins are the most potent as well as specific pylons that can be built, letting the player know what types of ore can be found in the area. Like all else in the game, the ore you mine and the dirt you remove will not be spawning back in.
Edits aren't strictly limited to the surroundings either, as players' home bases in outer space (every space venturer needs a ship) can be tweaked, expanded, customised and even coded in some ways to fit their needs, and the same goes for all structures built on a planet's surface. We got to see a massive, 128-meter long ship that we were told was the biggest type of ship as of right now (even though the devs are planning to extend that limit in the future) and the complexity of the machinery inside was jaw-dropping. We were taken down to the hangar bay, a huge area with room for multiple alternate ships and every single ship is customisable - you just have to enter build mode.
"One thing that's unique is the fact that you can travel from one planet to another with this huge ship, you live inside of it. You can have a life inside of these ships. Think of the Star Trek Enterprise where you have everyone busy, managing a lot of different tasks as you travel. And travel time will be a thing because we expect people to spend hours travelling between stars and planets. So it's like an adventure. Discovering a new planet is a big thing, it's a big achievement," added Olivier Derache, Marketing & PR Manager at Novaquark, as we were taking a tour of the huge ship.
During our demo, we got to see some complex builds other players had created with programmed sensors for the doors and workstations as well as actual coded games on the in-game computers. There really is no limit to what a player can do in Dual Universe which we feel will keep the experience new and fresh for longer than the usual MMORPG. The game has the potential to grow with its players and considering the server has no level cap, that'll be a whole lot of change over time.
Novaquark has already confirmed that they will open space up successively further into development. Don't fret though, the planets at one's disposal as of right now should be more than enough considering their sheer size. We got to hang tight in the back of a space shuttle going full dev speed ahead (the speed of travel was boosted for the sake of the demo) and it took quite a while to get from ship to ground. Because we were going so fast, we got to experience a harsh atmosphere re-entry which ended up damaging the front of our shuttle. When we got to solid ground we got to see player-built cities and one of ten districts where players are supposed to start.
We asked whether the cities in the demo and alpha build are all built by players or whether they are they pre-rendered? "They're absolutely made by players, the only thing we've done, for the sake of the demo is that we've moved some structures to the same place as others, but every structure is built by players." said Novaquark CEO Jean-Christophe Baillie.
The starting districts are all built from standard building blocks (and we can confirm the one we got to see was visually stunning) and lets the player breathe and learn at his or her pace. The first thing one is supposed to do is to go to a supply depot, which gives you a blueprint from a dispenser that gives you the option to build a hovercraft - which is the first thing you build as a player. We were told to think of it as a small car, the basic vehicle for exploring planets and just like our cars on planet earth, terrain matters when manoeuvring. If the player keeps to the roads (player constructed, of course) the hovercraft will be easier to steer. So when exploring the planet, you'll find that there are no loading times and no unappealing transitions all while every inch is editable and a million other players potentially reside on the same server.
Dual Universe is definitely an ambitious project and apart from the massive game world, the lack of a server cap, the editability and the complex building system, there'll be an equally complex economy system in place. Every aspect of this will be controlled by players, so professions, speciality trading, supply and demand pricing - all aspects of a business in our actual lives can be realised in Dual Universe. Want a specific blueprint to build a ship? Looks like you'll be going to a specialty vendor for that. Need to actually build your ship? Well, you don't seem to own a factory for that, so better have a mechanic do that for you. The depth of it all really is impressive.
The alpha build is playable right now for tier 2 and 3 backers while tier 1 backers will have to wait until the first quarter of next year to play. If you have the funds and the time to spend, go try it out - Dual Universe is first of its kind and its players will find plenty to do in this fantastic world.