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Video Game: Dune II

"He who controls Dune controls the Spice. He who controls the Spice, controls the universe."

Released in 1992, Dune II is the Trope Codifier for the Real-Time Strategy genre, as well as the Trope Maker for numerous gameplay conventions.

The games featured three playable factions: House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Ordos. In Dune II, as well as its remake Dune 2000, the player would be given a map of Arrakis that represented the territories of the three factions. The player, no matter which side he picked, would then play through a variety of missions (In Dune II, either harvesting spice or destroying the enemy base and all their units) and could see their progress on the map. Once they'd conquered pretty much the entire map, the two enemy factions would join each other, as well as the Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe, Shaddam IV of House Corrino and his Imperial Sardaukar, to fight off the much too powerful player faction. Once the player had won the entire game, he would be treated to a cinematic of whatever faction he's playing bringing their own form of justice to the Emperor for having tried to use them in his elaborate plan.

The game was ported over to the Sega Genesis in 1993 under the title Dune: The Battle For Arrakis.

Dune 2000, a remake released in 1998, took good use of the advancement of computers, and replaced the drawn cutscenes of the original with Westwood Studios' near-trademark Full Motion Video cutscenes, slightly more tactical objectives (Rather than "Kill the Harkonnen" you get to "Protect the Fremen from the Harkonnen" then "kill the Harkonnen") and Frank Klepacki (you may have heard of him), one the original composers for Dune 2, returns to score the new music and remix some of the old ones.

It was followed by a true sequel, Emperor: Battle for Dune, in 2001.

The Dune games featured Geo Effects quite early in the history of Real-Time Strategy. Buildings could only be built on rock, and there were limited rock available, meaning that players had limited base-building opportunities. Further, infantry could be positioned on mountains to protect them from being run over by tanks, and vehicles would move much slower over dunes than just desert plains. And, lest we forget, this is Dune we're talking about here - rock is also a safe haven from the Shai-Hulud.

Very loosely inspired by the Dune books, of course. The first Dune game was an Adventure Game with RTS elements that followed the plot of the 1984 Film., making this largely as sequel In Name Only, retaining the basic setting elements but presenting a new story about war and political control distinct from the novels. The game engine for Dune II would later be refined and used for a game set in an original universe - Command & Conquer. The inverse would happen for the sequels, using the game engines for Red Alert, Tiberian Sun/Red Alert 2 and Command & Conquer: Renegade (An FPS, of all things).

Gamers can now play Dune II as a Javascript browser-based game for free at play-dune.com.


Dune II and Dune 2000' provide examples of:

  • Action Bomb: The Ordos Saboteur.
  • Adaptation Expansion: House Ordos is unique to the game and has never been mentioned in any of the novels. Its origins can be traced to a non-canonical encyclopedia.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: This can happen to you if a Sand Worm happens to munch an enemy force. Then again, it might just as easily do so to your units.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Harkonnen.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: 25 buildable units, although you could get up to a total of 99 by buying from Starports. 2000 had much higher headcounts.
  • Arbitrary Minimum Range: Missile tanks could not hit a target 2 hexes or less away. If they tried, the missiles went wild and hit random locations other than the target hex.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI's move and attack patterns are very simple and predictable. This happened by mistake, as more complex strategies were programed but not well implemented due to several bugs, concrete examples include:
    • The AI rebuilds defenses as well as other buildings in a random fashion, and when it does the rebuilding it will crush any unit that stays upon the ruins of the building.
    • AI attacks on your base can be stopped by building four sections of wall at just the right spot. The AI units that arrive to attack can't manage to find a way around it, and just sit there. As long as no player units approach, they sit still, and the enemy doesn't send out more attackers.
    • In one mission the AI suddenly sends out a group of soldiers into an empty corner of the map for no reason at all, and they remain there, not moving, until the end of the mission.
    • The enemy will keep throwing units at your base defense turrets uselessly even as your offensive troops are in the process of leveling their base.
  • Ascended Extra: House Ordos only appears in non-canon Dune literature.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The House-specific superweapons, to varying degrees.
    • The Harkonnen Death hand is a missile which can destroy pretty much anything it hits, but is so inaccurate you need to Save Scum for a proper hit.
    • The Atreides can call in Fremen reinforcements, but you can't control them.
    • The Ordos saboteur can be controlled and is much faster than normal infantry, but it isn't invisible and is likely to die before it can sabotage any building.
  • Bad Ass Army: The Sardaukar and the Fremen. The Fremen are always allied with the Atreides, while the Sarduakar are of course loyal to the Emperor and always hostile to the player.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: House Harkonnen proudly describes itself as cruel and ruthless toward both friend and foe in its quest for power.
  • Car Fu: Do not send an infantry squad to take down an otherwise defenseless Harvester...
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: See The Good, the Bad, and the Evil below. In addition, regardless of chosen faction color, Atreides units and structures are always sand-colored, Ordos sickly green and Harkonnen ones dark brown. Other factions have specific palettes, notably a deep royal purple for the Sardaukar.
  • Command And Conquer Economy: The Trope Maker, even before the namesake.
  • Cool Plane: Ornithopters, aircraft that use actual flapping wings to achieve flight. In Dune 2000 The Atreides could call in a flight of these for an airstrike as a support power.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Though Faction Calculus applies, The house armies in Dune II and Dune 2000 had largely identical units. Key differences were each faction's combat tank and unique unit, as well as their Support Powers.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Nearly every level in each game necessitates you building your own base, and then further building additional windtraps to provide power for all your structures.
  • Convenient Color Change: If converted by the Ordos' Deviator gas, units turn green (or whatever color the Ordos player is using).
    • As modders found out while toying around with the Deviator, it doesn't change the units to your side, it turns them over to the Ordos. So if a non-ordos unit uses it, it will simply switch the target over to the ordos side, which will then simply continue attacking you.
  • Deflector Shields: Found on a few Ordos units. Amusingly enough, they mirror the books in that if a shielded unit is hit by a laser weapon both units will be instantly destroyed. Thankfully, this does not extend to generating an atomic explosion, however.
  • Determinator: Sardaukar will not be suppressed by enemy fire. Ever. Fremen however, can, which isn't exactly accurate to the books.
  • Expy: Several characters loosely mirror ones from the novels, most obviously Shaddam IV Corrino, who doesn't even get a name change. Elara is more complex, visually paralleling Jessica but having shades of Paul in her character.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: The aforementioned Ordos Deviator. It doesn't last, though, despite what Ordos mentat says.
    • Dune 2000 has The Engineer, who can capture buildings, allowing to build even enemy's unique units too. In the original Dune II building were captured by sending regular infantry into it. However, capturing a fully repaired building required a lot of light infantry, and only Harkonnen and emperor could produce heavies. Plus, the infantry, especially the light ones, was very slow, no match for tanks and subject for Arbitrary Headcount Limit of 25. A common tactics involved "softening" a building with quads or tanks before capturing.
  • The Engineer: Each side in Dune 2000 has an engineer unit much like those found in Command & Conquer. Every infantry unit was like this originally in Dune II, however.
  • Faction Calculus: Atreides (balanced) vs. Harkonnen (powerhouse) vs. Ordos (subversive).
  • Faction-Specific Endings: has three possible end victory sequences, one for each of the houses that the player can be a part of (Atreides, Harkonnen, Ordos).
  • Fragile Speedster: The Raider trike in Dune II and 2000, used only by Ordos, the fastest and weakest vehicle in the game. Its equivalent trikes in other factions have far less exaggerated stats.
  • Fog of War: Removed permanently from a zone after it is explored. You get an onscreen radar once an Outpost is built.
  • Glass Cannon: The Atreides Sonic Tank.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil with Chromatic Arrangement: Atreides are blue, Harkonnens are red and Ordos are green. Even though the original book specifically states that the Harkonnens are blue and the Atreides are green or red. But then we can't have blue bad guys and red good guys, can we? That's not allowed.
  • Homing Projectile: Various missile units are capable of firing these.
  • Healing Factor: Ordos units start with regenerative abilities and Harkonnen ones gain it with experience. In Dune 2000 all units gain this once they reach corporal rank.
  • Injured Vulnerability: If you damage an enemy building enough so that its damage indicator turns red, you can capture it by sending one of your infantry units into it.
  • In Name Only / Sequel Displacement:
    • Out of continuity with the book and the first game. Dune 2000 and Emperor, Battle for Dune both try very hard to link themselves as prequels to the David Lynch film. It could be considered an Alternate Universe.
    • Dune II has little to do with Dune I, an Adventure Game by Cryo with some RTS aspects. Both games were developed simultaneously and Cryo apparently rushed it in order to beat Westwood to the punch.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Fremen units are perpetually invisible, unless badly injured. This is meant to represent their skill at moving and hiding in the desert.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Dune II becomes this whenever a Harkonnen player launches a Death Hand - for either side - since you never know where the missile is going to hit. It leads to Save Scumming on a regular basis, because if it destroys your Construction Yard, you've probably lost the game.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The powerful but delicate Atreides Sonic Tank.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Ordos, natch. Elara, for a more individual example. Then again, this is the Bene Gesserit's Hat.
  • Mobile Factory: The Mobile Construction Vehicle, though it has to deploy and become immobile to actually build anything. It can pack up and move elsewhere, however.
  • Mythology Gag: In Dune 2000, during some of the Ordos cut scenes, Edrico can be seen sitting in a Harkonnen Chair. This is the famous chair that was designed by H.R. Giger for the unproduced 70s Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune film. Despite that film never happening, it is still called the Harkonnen chair and has been since produced in larger numbers and are actually for sale.
  • Notable Original Music: Frank Klepacki's score to this game, see here.
  • Non-Entity General
  • Nuke 'em: The Harkonnen Death Hand missile.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Executrix, leaders of House Ordos. In Dune 2000, the Ordo's leadership is so secretive, they're never directly seen.
  • One-Hit Kill: Under certain circumstances. A Sand Worm will inflict this on anything, while Sardaukar Elites can do so to any infantry unit with their knives. This also hits both parties when a laser strikes a shield.
  • Palmtree Panic: The Atreides homeworld, Caladan, has hints of this in its appearance.
  • Path of Greatest Resistance: The enemy units were created at (and came from) the enemy base. You can follow the trail of enemies back to their base and attack it.
  • The Plan: The Emperor's plan in Dune 2 and Dune 2000.
  • Planet of Hats: Each faction is much simplified from their appearance in the books, The Ordos not withstanding.
  • Polluted Wasteland: Geidi Prime, the Harkonnen homeworld. Reflecting this, nearly every Harkonnen building has smoke stacks. Including ones that logically shouldn't, like their radar outposts, barracks and palaces.
  • Recurring Riff: Both 2000 and Emperor use music from II, like this one for example.
  • Red Shirt Army: In Dune 2, infantry was only useful to sneak into a base to capture buildings. Using them for actual combat was guaranteed to result in a lot of screaming and a pile of corpses slowly sinking into the sand even against simple trikes. This was improved upon in later games though.
  • Retractable Weapon: Ordos gun turrets pop out of the ground to attack.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: The Ordos mentat in Dune 2000 is rumored to be a forbidden Thinking Machine made to look like a human to hide its nature. That, or he's just a creepy human with lots of cybernetic implants.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: but with little or no role in the game (see that page for details).
  • Robo Speak: Ordos often sound like this, due their drone-like dedication to their cause.
  • Rousing Speech: House leaders and Mentants are prone to these, though flavor varies. The Atreides are usually Tired of Running while the Harkonnen prefer Dare to Be Badass. The Ordos speak of their House's True Companions and the threat their enemies pose to it. They may come off less rousing to the viewer due to Robo Speak, but the Ordos are a weird bunch.
  • Sand Worm: Of course. Keep your units off the sand whenever possible to avoid attracting them, as they cannot be killed and will destroy your units instantly. Watch for Wormsign to know of their approach. Fremen units can move without attracting them. In Dune 2, they can be driven off by reducing them to half-health, but it takes an obscene amount of firepower.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: House Ordos has the weakest army which is purely comprised of hired mercenaries. But as a mercantile House that is only concerned with generating revenue to sustain the elite-class of their society, they absolutely do not care how many expendable pawns they have to buy off and send against their enemies. Just so long as they can safely get to the spice melange and harvest it for their own benefit.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Normally, Devastator units only go nuclear when destroyed. A Harkonnen player may force their Devastators to explode, with predictably messy results.
  • Sentry Gun: The Turret and Rocket Turret.
  • Shoot The Deviator First: You sure don't want your tanks to suddenly become an enemy property, right?
  • Sigil Spam: Many structures incorporate their House's logo into their very architecture if not simply having it stuck on the side.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Arrakis/Dune is a Desert Planet as in the original novels. Also, the home planet of the Ordos is said to be "frigid and ice-covered" in Dune II and just "icy" in Dune 2000...i.e. an Ice Planet.
  • Space Marine: The Sardaukar are depicted as this, clad in much heavier armor then other House infantry. They wear distinctive box-shaped helmets with green view-ports, echoing their portrayal in the 1984 film.
  • Spawn Broodling: The Tleilaxu units, Contaminators and Leeches, attack infantry and vehicles respectively and convert them into more of themselves.
  • Spiritual Successor: Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn and the subsequent Command and Conquer saga, Dune "III" not IN SPACE!. The Megadrive version implements for the first time the iconic C&C right sidebar.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Army: Unlike the books, the games provide a wide range of infantry and vehicle units.
  • Standard Status Effects: Ordos Deviator tanks have Charm.
  • Stock Footage: Dune 2000s Cutscenes occasionally have clips from the 1984 film, usually scenes of ornithopters or harvesters.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Often. Every house likes to it a different way, but the Harkonnen really don't mess around.
  • Support Power: Dune II has the "Fremen attack", which makes Fremen appear and charge at a specific target. You get it from building a Palace.
  • Tank Goodness: The Harkonnen Devastator. It has an on-board atomic reactor and radiation-based weaponry. An equivalent huge, double-barreled tank appears in every Command & Conquer game to date.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Dune 2 had only a limited supply of spice on a given map and when you harvested it all you better had an army capable of winning fielded or you could restart. Dune 2000's development team must have taken notice since in this game the spice keeps regenerating faster then it can ever be harvested, allowing you to saturate the entire map with tanks if you feel like it.
  • Trope2000: Dune 2000
  • Trope Codifier: Created the Real-Time Strategy game in the shape we know today, forming the conventions of You Require More Vespene Gas and Construct Additional Pylons. (Starcraft gets the naming rights for having the more memorable terms.) The developers in turn were very influenced by Herzog Zwei.
  • Veteran Unit: Probably the Ur-example.
  • Worker Unit: The ubiquitous, beetle-like Spice Harvester (presented exactly as they appeared in the 1984 film) and the Construction Yard. Carryalls also function as such, automatically ferrying harvesters to and from spice fields. These carryalls are entirely automated and uncontrollable (though they will automatically ferry a damaged unit to an available repair pad).
  • World of Ham: In the spirit of the 1984 movie.
  • Worm Sign: Burrowing sandworms are visible as distortions on the desert surface, but are invisible on the minimap until the little dot representing your harvester disappears.
    • In Dune 2000, the sandworms are followed by bolts of lightning, caused by static discharge from the sand.
  • You Have Failed Me: Lose too many battles and the Harkonnens will install a heart plug and pull it out, Ordos will decapitate you and hook your head up to a life support system ("Why won't they just let us die?"), while the Atreides will simply let you go, however your Fremen allies will then lay claim to your water.
    • The Harkonnen and Ordos openings in Emperor show your predecessor's "punishment for failure", who may be the player character from "II".
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: In gameplay terms the Spice is converted directly into funds, or "Solaris", as it it is offloaded into your refineries. In the novels its a kind of Unobtainium, with uncountable purposes and powers. Dune 2000 explicitly justifies this, mentioning at various points that the houses are selling the harvested spice on the interstellar market, so funds used to power your war machine are expressly that generated by Spice sales. The stuff is that valuable.

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alternative title(s): Dune II
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