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Monday, November 20, 2006

My Very First RTS (15 Years Ago): Dune II...!!!

I’ve just got my new PC up and running, so If you see less and less around here, you should know what I’m doing instead of blogging

I’ve played quite a lot of games over the years since the mid-80’s, and I have had lots of favourites, spanning Apple, PC and Playstation (and Gameboy even). These days real time strategy (RTS) games are dime a dozen – you see so many of them at the shops. You have them based in medieval Rome, exploring the New World, outer space (Starcraft!), global domination, almost every thinkable historic or fictional scenario for a RTS, its probably been done before.

Basically, the concept is the same – gather resources (usually involving some environmentally unfriendly activity like chopping down trees and mining gold), build city, then amass bad-ass army, and go and battle. Some games has levels with slight variations, like ‘cross to safety, Hero must survive’ (made famous by Warcraft) and even hold against the zerglings for 15 minutes (ditto by Starcraft)…

The very first RTS I ever played was Dune II, back in the 1993. I think it the very first major one ever released. Before that, strategy games were turn-based, not ‘real-time’ so to speak. It was a bit like playing board games like Risk – everyone waits for one person to finish his turn. I doubt in real life George W. Bush would wait for Osama to ‘finish his turn’ before mobilizing his troops.

The graphics back then were pretty crude by today’s standards, and the level of difficulty was low. The game was loosely based on Frank Herbert series in name only. Here you gather the spice mélange, the primary commodity in the game. Harvesting the spice was super-dangerous, if you weren’t careful, giant worms would come out and swallow your precious equipment.

You had 3 factions to choose from - the noble House of Atreides, the insidious House of Ordos and the evil House of Harkonnen (my favourite). The Atrides have to advantage in the Ornithoper, the fastest craft in the game, and the help of the Fremen, the native warriors that could camouflage themselves. The Ordos were pretty weak (they didn’t exist in Herbert’s books), but they had this annoying gas launcher that could convert your units into theirs (something like the priest in Age of Empires). The Harkonnen were the best – they had long range missiles. Kaboom.

Undoubtedly Dune 2 inspired that other great series, Command & Conquer and it’s many sequels, and ultimately Microsoft’s Age of Empires and of course, Blizzard's super successful Warcraft (and it's many incarnations...)

Some years ago they released an updated version called Dune 2000, although I didn’t get to play it.

Anyone want to recommend a new RTS for me to play? The last one I played was Rise of Nations, I think.


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