Games that made a difference is a weekly series on GameBuz about games that, well, made a difference. These games made an impact in one way or another, storytelling, mechanics or real life influences. Stay tuned to your favorite games news site for more.
As it usually goes, Dune II isn’t the first real-time strategy game, but it is the one most will remember as the oldest. That’s because Dune II heavily influenced future RTS games and defined the basic mechanics for the genre.
Dune II was a game with a focus on exploring, expanding, exploiting and exterminating. You were constantly in a loop of gathering resources, building your base, training units and buying upgrades. The more units you had and the stronger they were, the easier it was to explore the map, and get more resources to further expand.
You quickly gain a feeling of power as you see your army grow while taking new territories. The challenge came from having to constantly keep on your mind the fact that you weren’t the only one getting stronger. That is what made RTS games so fun, the problem is simple, the solutions are numerous.
Every match would start the same, you have a construction yard, a few units and a couple hundred credits. From then on you were given the freedom to play it out as you wish. Build up a huge army and slowly take over the map. Start attacking as soon as you can to keep the pressure on your enemy. The game gave you the tools and everything else was on you.
What was new
Fog of war was introduced in Dune II and that’s something we couldn’t imagine not being in an RTS. This made players explore the map to find out what it actually looks like and to get an idea of what their tactics should be like for the given map.
Another thing that is today a staple for RTS games is resource gathering and management. Could you even imagine Age of Empires or Starcraft without exploring the map to find more resources to get an upperhand?
Multiple factions and tech trees have also been made available, because realistically who would play an RTS game for longer than 3 matches if every time they had the exact same units.
Building structures and units is probably the biggest defining thing in an RTS game, it’s not like there would be much left of a game without it. Just thinking of a layout for your structures is a huge thing, how to protect the really important ones, where the defences should be focused and so on.
Last but definitely not least, it had AI enemies. Originally the AI seemed really basic and was far from perfect. Later on players dissected the game engine and found out that the AI was actually more advanced than it seemed. The real reason for it being so bad was a lot of errors in mission scripts, but thankfully game developers got better at both.
Dune II set the ground for future RTS games and especially for the Command and Conquer series. It cemented todays mechanics of RTS games such as micro and macro management of your army and base respectively, and the gather, build, upgrade loop gameplay.