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Dune: The Battle for Arrakis (Sega Mega Drive): A "missing link" in RTS evolution?


MrFlibble
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Though tbh I prefer playing the Sega Megadrive version. It has cooler graphics, different missions and better controls :P

Better controls? ??? How's that? Unless I'm missing something, you can't use the radar map properly in the Sega version, meaning that you have to scroll all the way to the part of the map you wish to view. That alone makes controls more complicated than in the PC version.

The missions are only different in terrain, and besides, there are no variants of each mission. And although I agree that the graphics are okay, they are no better than in the PC version IMO. And because of the large tiles, you actually get a smaller portion of the map being shown on the screen. The simplified tech tree is also a tad boring.

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Somehow I have doubts that the point-and-click controls in C&C directly evolved from those in Sega Mega Drive Dune: The Battle for Arrakis. But even if that were the case, the overall control system in the console version is still pretty limited: there is no instant switching to any point on the map, and the force-fire system is clumsy at best (if you accidentally click on your own structure when a unit is selected, it will attack that structure). And generally, keyboard shortcuts are your friends ;) If you ask me, I prefer the "better controls" that can be found in Blizzard games.

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But even if that were the case, the overall control system in the console version is still pretty limited: there is no instant switching to any point on the map, and the force-fire system is clumsy at best

...which is exactly why I think it's the predecessor of the C&C1 controls. They're the same principle, but with less refinement.

I really do think that the idea of C&C1's context-sensitive cursor came from the need to make a simpler RTS control system for a console.

Oh, and in the Megadrive version you have key combinations that made you scroll several times faster than normal, and this greatly compensates for the lack of minimap-clicking. You just have to get used to using ALL controls ;)

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On a second thought, I agree that the Sega version is a step towards C&C in that buildings do not decay, the Light and Heavy Factories are united into a single structure, each side has only one type of Barracks, buildings have twice as much hit points (which is a lot closer to the stats in C&C/RA1), and so on. However, I still think that the first concern of the context-sensitive cursor design was the need to adapt game controls to the limitations imposed by the use of the joystick.

As for the graphics, I don't like them too much, even though there is greater detail, because they're purely top-down. Also, some visual effects like the "worm camouflage" and sonic blast were not recreated accurately.

A definite plus of the game is its music, which combines the original tunes with a "console" feel ;D

For some weird reason, Carryalls are not available via the Starport.

Oh, and in the Megadrive version you have key combinations that made you scroll several times faster than normal, and this greatly compensates for the lack of minimap-clicking. You just have to get used to using ALL controls ;)

Really? I didn't know that. BTW, is it true that there was a command that ordered all the player's offensive units on the map move to a particular direction?

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However, I still think that the first concern of the context-sensitive cursor design was the need to adapt game controls to the limitations imposed by the use of the joystick.

That's exactly what I said. Only, they then realized it'd be really handy on PC too.

As for the graphics, I don't like them too much, even though there is greater detail, because they're purely top-down. Also, some visual effects like the "worm camouflage" and sonic blast were not recreated accurately.

Myeah, I guess so. The heavy factory in Dune II at least gave some impression of an angled view.

A definite plus of the game is its music, which combines the original tunes with a "console" feel ;D

Another push into the C&C direction was the fact the game music was actually in a playlist, with track names. Sure, it was only in the game setup's music preview function, and it couldn't actually be used to change the music that was being played during the game, but still, it was a step towards C&C.

For some weird reason, Carryalls are not available via the Starport.

Huh, really? Didn't know that. Been a while since I played it. I do know that the harkonnen didn't get to order 'thopters.

Really? I didn't know that. BTW, is it true that there was a command that ordered all the player's offensive units on the map move to a particular direction?

Hmm, not a clue about that one. I know N64 Statcraft had a function to select all offensive units though.

The fast scrolling bit is explained in this guide:

  • On the Game Screen, a cursor (or a new structure's placement grid) can be moved at 3 different speeds: low, medium and high.  When using only the D button (the "directional pad" on the left side of the controller), the cursor will always move at low speed.  This default speed changes to medium whenever the C button is held down.  High speed is reached automatically if the C and D buttons both remain down for about a second while the cursor is moving.

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Myeah, I guess so. The heavy factory in Dune II at least gave some impression of an angled view.

I meant the units in the first place :) The structure graphics in the PC version are more limited, but still not completely top-down, as in the Sega version.

Another push into the C&C direction was the fact the game music was actually in a playlist, with track names. Sure, it was only in the game setup's music preview function, and it couldn't actually be used to change the music that was being played during the game, but still, it was a step towards C&C.

Well, as a matter of fact, Herzog Zwei (1989) already had this feature. Each track is associated with a single level, but from the main menu, you can go to the playlist, complete with individual track titles. I do believe some of the tracks could have influenced Frank's work :)

Huh, really? Didn't know that. Been a while since I played it. I do know that the harkonnen didn't get to order 'thopters.

Yeah, that's actually very annnoying. I have no idea if they intentionally removed the Carryalls. 'Thopters can be bought by the Atreides and Ordos for sure, unlike the PC version.

The fast scrolling bit is explained in this guide

Even though I've had this document for some time, I somehow completely missed this (probably because I was only interested in the information that also applies to the PC version) :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Sure, it was only in the game setup's music preview function, and it couldn't actually be used to change the music that was being played during the game, but still, it was a step towards C&C.

But you could change the music by pressing 'Start' button twice (to go to the menu and back). After that the track would be changed to the next one in a queue, I beleave.

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For some weird reason, Carryalls are not available via the Starport.

Why they should be? They are available in a the High-Tech Structure and, for example, if you play by Harkonnen, why should you build the High-Tech Structure, if you can bye the Carryals via the Starport? That's why the Carryals can be bought only in the High-Tech Structure.

BTW, is it true that there was a command that ordered all the player's offensive units on the map move to a particular direction?

Well, you could make a queue (a chain) of several of your units and send the 'head-unit' to a particular point on the map. Actually, you could make not only chain but also more complicated structure of units, containing bunch of chains, connected to each other in an unusual way. But mostly there was no need to do such things. Usually 4-5 units in a chain, 2-3 chains were enough to make a good offense.

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I love the Mega Drive version of Dune 2.

I like it more than the PC-version because of good graphics and quite good music. PC-verson's graphics seem pretty cheap to me because of the pseudo-3D style, which was too early to be in RTS game at that time, IMO. Also 2D-graphics 'from above' in the MD-version is quite good to count and use a proper distance between your units and their targets, becouse of invisible squar-cell coordinate net.

The Music in PC-version seems oweful to me after the MD-version's music. I can't add something to say about it. :-

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PC-verson's graphics seem pretty cheap to me because of the pseudo-3D style, which was too early to be in RTS game at that time, IMO. Also 2D-graphics 'from above' in the MD-version is quite good to count and use a proper distance between your units and their targets, becouse of invisible squar-cell coordinate net.

It is true that the graphics in the PC version lack detail compared to the Sega version, but I still do like them. In fact, the isometric view seems more sophisticated to me, compared to the top-down perspective of the Sega version. As for the isometric GFX being implemented "too early", take a look at the graphics of Hard Vacuum (an RTS project dating back to 1993 that was inspired by Dune II but never completed). Awesome work of pixel-art, in my opinion ;D

I also do like the more complex tech tree of the PC version, with the Light and Heavy factories, the House of Ix and two types of barracks.

The Music in PC-version seems oweful to me after the MD-version's music. I can't add something to say about it. :-

Oh, come on. How can anything written by Frank Klepacki be awful? The tunes in the Sega version are mostly remixes of the PC tracks, anyway.

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Oh, come on. How can anything written by Frank Klepacki be awful? The tunes in the Sega version are mostly remixes of the PC tracks, anyway.

Well, so many people, so many opinions. Though only few tunes in the Sega version are remixes of the PC tracks. Really, just listen all of them and you'll see that most of them were not in the PC version, even in Dune 2000. For example, 'Trenching' (even in my cheap mix seems pretty good, isn't it? http://rapidshare.com/files/316214703/Dune2_-_Trenching.mp3.html), or 'Radnor's Scheme' (http://rapidshare.com/files/316215485/Dune2_-_Radnor_s_Scheme.mp3.html) - they've never been in other dune games, even in mixes.

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Radnor's Scheme is nearly identical to the Harkonnen Mentat ambient theme from the PC version. AS for Trenching, Ambient 10 seems pretty close, although I'm not 100% sure. In the archive I attached are the tunes I have managed to identify as sources for the Sega music (sources for Evasive Action, Cyril's Council, Ammon's Advice and the win/lose music of the three Houses are not included, as they are almost identical to the PC version tunes). I'm still not sure about the sources for Command Post and The Lego Tune though.

dune2_tunes.zip

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Radnor's Scheme is nearly identical to the Harkonnen Mentat ambient theme from the PC version. AS for Trenching, Ambient 10 seems pretty close, although I'm not 100% sure. In the archive I attached are the tunes I have managed to identify as sources for the Sega music (sources for Evasive Action, Cyril's Council, Ammon's Advice and the win/lose music of the three Houses are not included, as they are almost identical to the PC version tunes). I'm still not sure about the sources for Command Post and The Lego Tune though.

Ambient 04 and Spice Trip have some distinctions, and Ambient 06 and Turbulence too (but they are barely noticeable) in comparison with Ambient 04 and RISEHARK.AUD and Ambient 06 and UNDERCON.AUD in Dune 2000 which are pretty much the same.

Command Post and The Lego Tune have no 'siblings' nither in PC Dune 2 nor in Dune 2000 (although I no nothing about music in Amiga version).

AS for Trenching, Ambient 10 seems pretty close, although I'm not 100% sure.

The rhythm of them is pretty much the same (maybe just a coincidence), but the melodies seem nothing to have in common to me.

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The Dune 2000 music "remakes" are certainly a lot closer to their Dune II originals. I guess Frank intendedly changed the tunes for the Sega version to give them a more "console" feel. Some of the bits of Command Post and The Lego Tune are definitely familiar, but more analysis is needed to find the exact sources in the PC version music.

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I guess Frank intendedly changed the tunes for the Sega version to give them a more "console" feel.

I think the same way. Also the limitations of Sega music hardware could made him to change something in his tunes, but frankly I don't think that was the reason he did this. I bileave he had several versions of these tunes he really liked and when the opportunity appeared he used these tunes in the Sega version of Dune 2. (Boy, I gotta listen Amiga version's tunes. I'm starting searching for them right now.)

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Do you have any idea why two of the three tunes at that page list several other games along with Dune II as sources? ???

Moreover, the names "Aliens", "Dynamix" and "Skid Row" aren't the song titles, these are names of crack groups, i.e. teams of hackers who crack games. Apparently, the whole site is dedicated not to the music from games, but the music these hacker groups used in the special intros to the games they cracked. This music is most probably composed by the hackers themselves, and has nothing to do with actual game soundtracks.

EDIT: Here's a video showing gameplay on Amiga, with background music and sound effects:

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Do you have any idea why two of the three tunes at that page list several other games along with Dune II as sources?

I was confused too, when I saw that. But I couldn't find anything else with keywords 'amiga music dune 2'.

Moreover, the names "Aliens", "Dynamix" and "Skid Row" aren't the song titles, these are names of crack groups, i.e. teams of hackers who crack games. Apparently, the whole site is dedicated not to the music from games, but the music these hacker groups used in the special intros to the games they cracked. This music is most probably composed by the hackers themselves, and has nothing to do with actual game soundtracks.

Now I see what the whole site is dedicated to. I don't know how I couldn't get it myself, maybe because of my weak English. :(

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Now I see what the whole site is dedicated to. I don't know how I couldn't get it myself, maybe because of my weak English. :(

Actually the fact that the site is a collection of hack intro music is nowhere explicitly stated. I had to read the whole FAQ before I could figure it out. I've never encountered any collection like this before, and could not even imagine that music of this kind would be of interest to anyone :)

Back to the Amiga music. From what I could gather, there seems to be only one in-game tune, which sounds like a monotonous, simplified version of "Land of Sand"; unlike the PC version, there are no changes to "battle" music themes at all. The in-game ambient theme has en eerie, almost depressing sound to me :D

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Back to the Amiga music. From what I could gather, there seems to be only one in-game tune, which sounds like a monotonous, simplified version of "Land of Sand"; unlike the PC version, there are no changes to "battle" music themes at all. The in-game ambient theme has en eerie, almost depressing sound to me :D

So, as I thought, there are no good tunes in Amiga version, which weren't in PC & Sega versions. It's pity. :(

It possible to find MIDI (or MOD or other editable format) tracks of music from other Dune games?

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