April 12, 2024

“What Happens in the Desert Stays in the Desert” – How the Dune Awakening Factions Expand the Lore Beyond the Dune Movies

Those who play online survival games are pirates, pioneers, gang leaders and ambushes. They form strong alliances and create long-lasting rivalries. If video games can promote interesting, often hilarious, and always engaging player behavior, then this genre in particular is a petri dish in which to thrive.

Dune Awakening seems to be no exception. For those of us who have dreamed of waging political, economic and physical war in the Dunes of Arrakis, the game may be our best bet.

So to find out more, I sat down and spoke with Chief Creative Officer at Funcom and Creative Director of Dune Awakening, Joel Bylos. He and the company he works for have extensive experience with survival games, and gameplay showcases offer a promising glimpse into the games’ unique quirks and twists. But what for those who want to wrap themselves in Dune? The spiceheads eager to pick a faction and make a name for themselves?

Much of the meat takes place later in the game – after you’ve built your own base and built out a house on Arrakis – but its roots lie in character creation. You can choose from several home planets, but you can create anything from a common Self, a noble warrior of House Atreides, or a pale, bald Harkonnen. This, plus the possibility of which master you trained under, will allow you to ignite that Dune fantasy.

Command your troops. | Image credit: Funcom

Eventually you will encounter the two main factions both in real life and in stone. Handlers from both the Atreides and the Harkonnen can be found by the player, and each faction has its own settlement in the world that players can explore and mingle with. The one we saw was Harko Village – a piece of the monochrome home planet that has fallen into the world. sand.

“The idea is that you want to use those spaces to show off the character of the factions,” Bylos explains, when asked to explain the purpose of Harko Village in Dune Awakening.

Each faction has its own hub (which reminds me of the Horde and Alliance capitals in World of Warcraft) and helps connect the game to the vast universe beyond Dune Awakening. Bylos continues: ‘It feels a bit brutalist [depiction] of what Harkonnens would look like in their place […] We wanted to create a space where players can role-play. We set up a bar, a place called Hanovars.

In the books, the Harkonnens made their money from the whale fur industry, which is this super random reference thrown out there. But when you enter Hanover’s Bar, you’ll see a giant whale skeleton on the roof. So there are all these little things that create this authentic environment for players to hang out in.”

Dune awakening settlement

In addition to your own base, there are also hubs where you can get involved. | Image credit: Funcom

Okay, so the factions are here, but where do you, the player, actually fit into all of this? Well, if you find the above-mentioned handlers, you can complete missions and contracts for them and earn their trust. You can of course also join a players’ guild. A group of like-minded money makers, PvPers, role players or all-round eccentrics that match your own energy. According to Bylos, this guild can go one step further if it wants to.

“Ultimately, if you are a guild, you can sign a loyalty contract, which means you go to the leader of the faction (Beast Rabban or Leto Atreides) and join their faction. From that moment on, your guild is aligned with that faction […] From that moment on you can participate in the Lansraad. The Lansrad have certain requirements that they need, and they are going to change things. They will vote according to different rules, and you have to influence that vote.”

The Lance Council, for those who don’t know, is the entity that represents the great houses of the Dune universe and is ruled by the Emperor himself. While Bylos made sure to emphasize that the factions and the Lance Council systems are not necessarily linked, the guilds that choose to represent a faction can complete objectives to gain the favor of the Lance Council for ample favors and benefits.

‘There’s a lot! I can just talk about it in broad terms. If you influence the Lansrad in some way, they can reduce the spice tax, which makes it very beneficial for you as a faction to have spices stockpiled instead of selling them. Then wait until you win the Lance Council, change the spice tax and then sell a bunch, because that’s a great way to make money. That’s an example.’

Dune Awakening soldiers train

An alliance built on trust? Or convenience? | Image credit: Funcom

While we won’t see Paul’s religious Jihad in this alternate universe, the presence of political intrigue should be a pleasant thought for new and old Dune fans. However, I was curious to see how the Funcom team would tackle the problem of faction imbalance, especially when winning the favor of the Lance Council could have huge economic consequences for players. It turns out that being a member of the same faction is in no way a guarantee of friendship.

“In PvP areas you can see another Atreides player and shoot them, that’s up to you. We have this rule: what happens in the desert, stays in the desert. It’s not just about ‘I’m Atreides now and that’s my brother.” “No no, that guy’s Atreides and his guild are ahead of yours! You also want to stab them in the back a little bit. That’s kind of the Dune universe! It’s like Game of Thrones in space in a way, you don’t just want to keep an upstart young guild moving forward, right? They get more rewards than our guild. So we want to encourage this dynamic social play between different groups, even within factions.”

The result of all this points to an interesting endgame for the humble roleplayer and the survival gamer who loves nothing more than the changing dynamics between players. If you – yes, you at home – want nothing more than to repeat your Harkonnen colors with other bald guys, then the game should allow you to do that in a way that’s appropriate. For my money, this could be the real selling point for Dune Awakening if Bylos and co can pull it off.

Because ultimately it is the player’s desire to influence the game in his favor that will become the ultimate power in a game like Dune Awakening. If Funcom can give them an outlet to express their competitive and dark nature, then you can forget about the desert force. You have player power. Player power that will excite the base and entice spectators to try the game for themselves.


Dune Awakening does not have a release date yet, but will be released on PC. You can sign up for beta testing on the official website.

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