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OpenDUNE – An open-source recreation of the game Dune II (github.com)
450 points by mariuz 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments

Dune II was the game I bought a Soundblaster card for. It was one of the first games with voice acting. That the Soundblaster also worked for Wing Commander was a bonus.

My favorite tactic in Dune II was to build concrete tiles right up to the enemy's base and start planting turrets. You can do a Protoss cannon rush in Starcraft, but the tactic was available in Dune II first.

It seems like this distribution requires the original game files. I tossed my 5 1/4" floppies when PCs stopped shipping with floppy drives. Silly me.

Ha! Likewise. I borrowed money from my grandmother to buy a soundblaster II if I remember correctly. I also remember that I got home, it didn't work, turns out I had insufficient RAM, had to upgrade to 1MB, and fiddle with EMM386 in some .sys file to get the voice to work in Dune II. But oh man, that first "The planet Arrakis" spoken by a human gave me the shivers

My 386DX with 1MB and a SoundBlaster Pro (I think) could barely manage this game’s audio for some reason. The intro video’s audio would cut out at times. My brother and I still recite back the humorous portions to this day.

Hehe, I remember tinkering with 2 files in the root (config.sys and autoexec.bat?) for hours and hours trying to free enough memory for the Soundblaster drivers to run!

Hah, I recalled correctly: http://www.cubic.org/docs/configuring.htm

That link really brings back some memories!

I remember trying to free up memory by throwing LOADHIGH in front of everything. With no internet we were all just making it up as we went along.

Is that 1MB in addition to the 640KB?


Assuming he meant a Sound Blaster 2.0, that came out in 1991

Dune II came out in December, 1992

640KB of ram would've been pretty dated by that point

Yup my PC was... what's the polite phrasing? Let's say "not envied by my peers". A hunk o' junk, in other words.

> It seems like this distribution requires the original game files. I tossed my 5 1/4" floppies when PCs stopped shipping with floppy drives. Silly me.

Theres not a lot to feel guilty about when downloading it from and abandonware site if you've legitimately bought it in the past and there's not a valid option to purchase it now...

By the way, do modern antiviruses detect and cure DOS viruses? In just so many cases DOS games copied around between computers used to be infected, I suspect a portion of those available for download on unofficial websites can be infected to.

I think since in most cases you're running things like that on dosbox, and without network in most cases, whether they come infected or not likely doesn't matter much.

Well, perhaps it can infect a half of the other games on the VM and encrypt the other half or something like that - not a disaster yet not a thing I'd like to happen :-|

Make a VM snapshot before running the game and restore it afterwards.

I use DosBox with a single set-up for all the games and store them all in a single DOS/GAMES directory (with sub-directories of course) that I mount under C:\ root in the DosBox autoexec. Of course I have a backup but I can't even remember where :-]

I think you're vastly overestimating the complexity of virus' available in that time period. :)

Not really. My uncle had to spend quite a time curing the OneHalf virus that I have brought with a game copied to our 486 DOS PC from a friend once when I was a child.

"Dune II was the game I bought a Soundblaster card for. It was one of the first games with voice acting."

I remember staring at the demo in software etc. as the voices came out of the computer ... it was amazing.

I, also, bought a soundcard just for that game - the pro audio spectrum SCSI card (PAS16SCSI) - and later that year, with the help of two different MSDOS SCSI software packages (pirated, of course) and an entire weekend dedicated to various iterations of config.sys and autoexec.bat, I successfully formatted and used a 20MB Apple Macintosh external SCSI disk in DOS.

I thought I was a genius. It remains one of the hacks I am most proud of.

What I liked and miss from modern RTS is the coordinated logistics applied to resource harvesting. 'thopters for your harvesters, sandworm defense, etc! Plus, IIRC, the game was early to the "tanks crush infantry" mechanic...

> My favorite tactic in Dune II was to build concrete tiles right up to the enemy's base and start planting turrets.

Ha! We've done the same thing and gave it a dumb name: "bagging them in" or "baggin em in". That name came much later as we used a similar tactic in command and conquer where you built sand bags up to their base and walled them in. You built a snake from your base and sell the tail as you built along. Once you reach their base you simply walled off their entrances or their ore fields. The developers never thought if this and their AI didn't know how to handle it's own base being walled off.

My brother and I had another trick for Dune II: enemy's move slower if off screen. If you were running from a faster vehicle, you scrolled until the enemy vehicle was out of view and kept it off while following your units.

I played it with my Amiga and didn't need no upgrade nor to fiddle with config.sys :)

Using defensive structures offensively in such a way does seem like such an RTS tactic that probably wouldn't get used IRL - does any have any examples to prove me wrong?

WW1 trench warfare. Trenches generally had pillboxes which could be described as defensive structures, and the entire trench warfare was about slowly building these defensive structures towards the enemy.

Tunnels were part of this too along with defensive counter tunnels. These go back a surprisingly long way and it’s worth reading the Wikipedia page for the ancient Greek account of tunnel warfare. The way they detected enemy tunnelling activity is clever.

Modern offensive tunnels pop up in the news regularly in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and occasionally with Noth Korea too. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_warfare

Since you mentioned the Greeks, anyone with the slightest interest in Ancient Greece should read “A War Like No Other” by Victor Davis Hanson. It’s a fascinating account of the Peloponnesian War. There’s a chapter on siege warfare.

The closest real life has come to that is to assemble siege engines (like trebuchet) on the battlefield before use.

Actual turrets on an active battlefield? Not against a modern military, but maybe something like this: https://mwi.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Spencer234.j...

> does any[one] have any examples to prove me wrong?

Perhaps NATO [0] in:

- Turkey (1952)

- Poland, Hungary (1999)

- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, etc (2004)

- Ukraine (2017)

...might qualify as this tactic?

"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union." [1]

[0] https://www.nato.int/nato-on-the-map/

[1] https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/nato

(EDIT: Formatting)

Early siege towers were basically what you'd consider a watch tower, but on some kind of rollers.

Yeah, this brings back fond memories.

I think Dune II was the first game I heard on Sound Blaster. That or Wing Commander II.

I was at a friend's house when he showed me those games on his dad's computer. I couldn't wait for my dad to get home that evening to sell him on the idea of a Sound Blaster.

He did surprise me with one a couple of weeks later. I think he must've ~seen~ heard one himself at a computer store and buy it on impulse.

I still have the files, on a Zip disk. I still have the old SCSI zip drive in a box somewhere, it might be possible to cobble together some old parts to get it working again, but it's probably easier to just pirate the files at this point.

Or play the Javascript version in your browser. http://epicport.com/en/dune2

Somehow I expected gog.com to have it :(

could probably do the whole dosbox thing. native is nice though as per the openDUNE project.

I'm guessing that people who fell off their chairs when digitized voices came out of their computer in Dune II hadn't owned Commodore 64s (vividly remember Impossible Mission, in 1984, with a digitized voice intro).

A great way for open source games to gain momentum is to provide a pre-packaged Win/MacOS/Linux installer. Or, like Battle for Wesnoth, be available on Steam as well.

Without negotiating for rights beforehand, that’s more of a way to attract DMCA notices and C&D letters.

OpenXCOM manages quite well with a Windows installer which includes a "specify your original game folder to copy over required assets" install step.

I've gotten a few dcma letters over the years. I've ignored them. One time I did respond with a few swear words. Nothing ever came of it. They are just scary threatening letters that generally won't be followed up on.

Why would you get a DCMA letter? Your webhost would get a DMCA letter

I was the webhost.

was quite surprised to see wesnoth on steam. steam let's you put basically shortcuts on there interface as well though which is nice too.

That tactic was the only way I could beat the final level, I had to build over the enemies building spawn points or they would pop back up.

> It seems like this distribution requires the original game files. I tossed my 5 1/4" floppies when PCs stopped shipping with floppy drives. Silly me.

Anyone else remember a hacked copy floating around that allowed you to play as the Fremen? Sadly I also threw out my copy when I purged my floppies.

Yes, it’s called Super Dune II

I couldn't edit my comment anymore so here is a link to a bug fixed version: https://www.moddb.com/mods/super-dune-ii-classic

It's hard!

I think the first time I saw this was Warcraft 2 :)

Your battle for Dune begins… now…

The game I bought my first soundcard for was X-Wing. The card was the Pro Audio Spectrum.

"your sound card works perfectly!"... Or was that from Warcraft ?

Couldn't say for sure, so looked on YouTube. It's Warcraft. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_A1GNx0M9M

Also see Dune Legacy, which includes source code. Includes modern conveniences. More open than the other Dune2 remake projects too.

For developers: (C++) http://dunelegacy.sourceforge.net/website/development/source...

    clone using git:
        git clone https://git.code.sf.net/p/dunelegacy/code dunelegacy-code

Even networked multiplayer. Dune Legacy is great. Wish there was a free game content package, like just like FreeDoom for the Doom engine.

My brothers & I, late 40's & early 50's, to this day start our infrequent phone convo's with:



Gonna have to fire up my old XP tower tonight....

> "Reporting".

> "Acknowledge".

I, early 30's, read that with a Russian accent (Red Alert was an amazing game). Funny what difference a few years makes.

You ever try OpenRA? http://www.openra.net/

I've used it on Windows 7 and OS X and it's worked out pretty well. I haven't had much time to play it beyond a few quick matches though.

Silos, needed

Silos, needed

Silos, needed

Silos, needed

Just a couple of days ago, during lunch, I was talking about this game with two of my teammates. It had been my first contact with the RTS genre (which it arguably invented in its modern form) during my early teens, but they hadn't even heard of it.

Later I sent them a link to the Wikipedia article about it. One of them said "wow, this is the mother of all RTSs!".

The other one said "wow, this game is a bit older than I am!"


What about Warcraft 2 or Red Alert? Those seemed like the precursors to modern rts

Dune II was released 1992, Warcraft 2 in 1995, C&C Red Alert in 1996. Dune II was the first RTS with mass market success and had a defining influence.

CnC was a Dune successor. Red Alert was a CnC spin-off.

Warcraft (one) was a Dune2 clone with crappy pathfinding. But they did add ability to give orders to multiple units at once!

Mass market, yes. But Herzog Zwei for Megadrive was out earlier and was already a RTS. It was not very good (at least my memories of it are not good - playing with a gamepad was a nightmare) but it was already going in that trench.

As I recall, Herzog Zwei has a few key differences from modern RTS games:

1) The player fulfills the commander role by directly controlling a unit on the battlefield, not in "god mode". The commander unit isn't merely a stylized cursor; it also directly engages in combat.

2) No base-building or tech tree. The number, location, and capabilities of all bases are fixed.

3) No explicit resource gathering. Money is automatically accumulated based on how many bases you control.

It's arguably closer to a MOBA than an RTS.

You can go back further, the original Herzog on MSX had RTS elements, and 1984's Stonkers[1][2] for the ZX Spectrum was the first commercially published RTS (AFAICT). Whether it's sales constitute mass market success is a different thing.

[1] - http://www.mobygames.com/game/zx-spectrum/stonkers

[2] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-TkuFVj48E

Dune 2 invented the C&C/Warcraft/Starcraft style RTS though. Other games had RTS elements to them before that, but not like Dune 2. And certainly not to the extent that subsequent games tried to copy their successful format.

I'm not sure I follow. I linked to a video of an RTS game from 1984. Stonkers (AFAICT) invented the RTS. It didn't have RTS elements. It was an RTS, similar to Dune 2 and the others to follow.

Most of the successful games that copied Dune 2's format were written by the same studios (Westwood for the C&C franchise, Blizzard for *Craft).

Dune2 did not require mouse, keyboard all the way. Same as with Early FPSes (I played Doom, Heretic and Duke Nukem 3d on keyboard)

That was 1992. Warcraft 2 was 1995, Command & Conquer was as well 1995. Red Alert was again later, 1996.

to add to what the other commented, Dune 2 was developped by Westwood who 4 years later did Red Alert

Early RTS reminded me immediately from Populous. But I guess it doesn't count in this case. Even if it uses isometric graphics aka "RTS graphics", it's bit different in game play.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populous_(video_game)

And Warcraft 1 was 1994.

Dune II came before both of them, but as far as I remember it wasn't a pure RTS, it had an adventure aspect as well.

The adventure game (with minor RTS elements) was Dune (no II) by Cryo. This one is Dune II by Westwood, which was a pure RTS.

Funny enough, they were developed at the same time.

You're absolutely right, thanks for refreshing my memory :)

I introduced my kids to Dune II a couple of months back and they loved it. They now like to pretend to be sand worms rolling around the lounge in their sleeping bags.

I haven’t really done any gaming in years (other than The Witness). Still reminisce about all the hours spent playing Dune and Syndicate and the like.

I'd pay a lot for a good reimplementation is syndicate. It was so good in its simplicity and so good in controls.

Syndicate wars was both an improvement and a failure at the same time in many ways unfortunately.

Yeah, I tried it for quite a while and found it really disappointing. Maybe I fail at playing it, but it seems to move between syndicate-style global map which is OK and restricted missions which are super slow, super annoying episodes where you get kicked back to the beginning for every stupid mistake. You just can't afford an open fight at the beginning and it's so slow I couldn't progress to real upgrades. It basically turns into a stealth game where any detection means you're swamped by new units and dead.

This is much different from syndicate where if you messed up, you just faced a bigger fight. You could die or survive, but it was a fair fight without sudden reinforcements.

To be honest, I bought it but never found the time to actually play it. I loved Syndicate on the Amiga, thought. Some time during the 2000s, I tried Syndicate Wars, but its crude 3D engine was a real turn-off.

Yeah and it's not really that good.

Check out Satellite Reign. I found it a very fun game that considers itself the spiritual successor to Syndicate.

What I find the most impressive about Syndicate is the action phase was only 16 colors.

I loved this game, and i loved its bugs even more. A fun one was how the starport allowed you to build more than te maximum allowed number of units. The resulting buffer overflow got worse and worse as you went further and further over the limit, causing all kinds of weird glitches. My favorite was an enemy turret waltzing diagonally over the map without any respect for mountains or walls, shooting my base every time it passed by.

My favorite bug was hijacking the carryall that drops off the harvester when placing a refinery very early in the game by letting it repeatedly pick up the harvester until it decides to stick around :)

I always thought that was a feature. Problem is, it eventually lagged the game though.

The carry-all bug I knew as well. You could also edit some file (I think an *.ini or that was C&C?) to change in-game variables such as how much money you had.

One thing you could do with early Westwood RTS is save game regularly. Then you knew where they'd attack, load game, and put turrets or mobile defense there. You could do this to defend against stuff like Devastator, Deviator, Sonic Tank, harvesters, attacks, just anything really. But I mainly used it on the last level against Death Hand (in C&C against Nod's nuke and Ion Cannon though I don't remember the latter being as annoying).

As for the tip building concrete to enemy base or defense points: later levels included too much sand for that tactic. You needed MCVs, or just couldn't because the enemy wouldn't get near your choke point. I very much loved the rocket turrets because you didn't have to move vehicles to repair bay but when enemy gained Death Hand he destroyed my turrets and therefore defense. For the rest game was very easy. Only the later levels were somewhat difficult, till those you could mostly just turtle and win.

Of course you couldn't even multi select with mouse (that was introduced in C&C and WC2).

When I was about 10 the son of my father's friend downloaded this game from a BBS at TUe (same university where the Twilight CDs came from) via a modem. He put it on some floppies for me. I don't think the game ran on our 80286, but I was able to play it on the P1/75 MHz in 1995 provided I booted into MSDOS instead of OS/2. OS/2 ran bugger all, always OOM.

For Dune 2000, there is the OpenRA project which reimplements the C&C game engine in C#. http://www.openra.net/about/

I was going to mention Dune 2000. The music is STILL wonderful, as was much of the live action video. Unfortunately the installer is a 16 bit program, which prohibits installation on modern Windows, but if you copy it over from an already installed system, it actually works great!

It's funny to remember Dune 2 and Warcraft 1 didn't let you select multiple units. You had to click and move one unit at a time so group attacks were really tedious and cumbersome. I was always curious why the interface designers didn't think to add multiple select at the time.

I remember getting units in one screen, moving the mouse pointer onto a target location in the map, and then doing a series of Tab-M-Clicks: Tab selects the next unit, M selects the Move command, and Click on the target.

in warcraft you could select groups of 4 as far as i remember

Warcraft 1 you could select multiple but you had to hold ctrl when doing it so I think many people didn't realize.

I think this may be relevant to leave it here. There is also an open-source re-implementation of the classic Tomb Raider engine:


I followed this a bit at the beginning. What isn't so obvious is that this is actually a super faithful reverse engineering that was then modernized. For example, here's a random old commit: https://github.com/OpenDUNE/OpenDUNE/commit/c6ff4733a78c3e74...

Worth plugging just because it's tangential - 0 A.D. is an open source re-creation of the game Age of Empires 1.

0 A.D. is much more ambitious than a re-creation of AoE1. It's a complete game in its own right, albeit heavily influenced by the AoE series.

browser version of Dune 2


We are getting old!

By the second, even! :)


There's also OpenRA for the C&C fans; it includes Tiberian sun as well as Red Alert, both with original sound track and multiplayer enabled: http://www.openra.net/

How difficult would it be to implement massive maps with today's technology?

Technology, you’re trolling right?

How did you misunderstand my question?

Huh, somehow I never knew that it was an old PC game, I was only familiar with the Sega Genesis version of the game. In any case, this game is fantastic, and I'm excited to try this version out.

It's a great game. The 1st (adventure game) is available as a free download for OSx. I replayed it a year ago, it was so much fun.

Just had to promote this game a bit more.

Categorizing Dune 1 as an adventute game is a little to simplistic IMHO. The way it gradually morphs from an adventure game into a strategy game is one of the most enjoyable and unique gaming experience I’ve ever had. And is a large part of why I remember this is one of the best games ever made.

Absolutely do play it through if you haven’t.

Yes! Such a great game. I remember playing it frequently just to find all the sietches. Then when the atomics came in and Gurney Halleck was like, "OMG ATOMICS!"

This game had so many great moments. One that pops into mind is sending Fremen units to attack a Harkonnen base and they would literally start marching towards them on the map. Another is how the NPC's eyes wound randomly bulge when you were talking to them.

Arguably the "first" RTS. Not sure about SDL2 support. But clean C/C++ might be a good candidate for WASM port to web. Still need .pak assets...

Recall many abandonware variants of Dune games floating around the web back in the day. With some incredible cut scene art ;)

SDL2 worked well through Emscripten, so I'm pretty certain it'll work well under WASM?

Yes, SDL2 works equally well in Emscripten in both asm.js and wasm.

Ooohhh my favourite game of all time. I loved this game, I almost missed my university exams for this. I know a friend of mine who actually didn't speak to his girlfriend for a couple of weeks since he was playing the game.

Video games are the one thing I wouldn’t mind a straight remake with modern graphics. I hate it with movies, but I’m surprised it hasn’t been mined more often with games.

I thought the relaunched The Secret of Monkey Island on Steam actually lost something with it's remade graphics

You can switch to/from the original form any time with F10.

I know, but it still doesn't look right on high dpi monitors! I also found a psychological barrier where I knew I could have modern graphics just by pressing f10 again. Silly I know.

The point remains true, the old graphics made beautiful use of meagre resources

Thanks. I was also disappointed with the change in graphics, but I will try this.

I thought the remade graphics were as insulting as the Indiana Jones 4 movie, and thus decided they never existed. EDIT: Typo

I have the sneaking suspicion that if they'd remake ONLY the graphics, you'd hate it. The reason is that those hold games usually have horrendous gameplay/controls. You kind of accept it because they look old. But if they didn't, I think you'd notice it.

Not all old games had horrendous gameplay nor control... For example, on an Amstrad CPC, Gryzor or Titan schools most games released these days ;).

Emperor: Battle For Dune (2001) was my first Dune game. Wish I could play that again. Story mode was quite fun.

one hack I used over and over again was to take one soldier near enemies harvester and shoot it once. The harvester would hurry to drive over that soldier but then it would stop harvesting. I only had to wait enemies run out of that stuff harvesters were used for....

Ha, we used to destroy our own full harvester: you could get 1.5 times worth of spice out of it.

the AI becomes notoriously hard after a couple of levels. Impossible even.

The problem I remember is that your own units have no AI at all. Also, there is no mass select. So if you're fighting against something with long range you have to manually select each unit and tell them to walk 2 steps forward so they can start shooting back, otherwise they will just sit there and eat bullets until they are dead. The game isn't great at notifying you when your units are being shot either.

I remember dropping the game quite hard when Warcraft came out.

Another problem is the enemy AI cheating without shame. In later levels It will rebuild its buildings even if your units are in the way, even if it has no money, even if it has no construction yard.

It looks nice, anybody knows how to build it on Linux?

I would love to see Open Fragile Allegiance - Anyone?

Jesus christ that game was hard to get for a 10-year-old Scandinavian kid. Even the name is hard!

And there goes the rest of my weekend. At least.


OpenRA has Dune 2000 :-). I think that's a remake of Dune 2, isn't it?

Would be great if it had the original!

> OpenDUNE is written in ANSI C (C89)

Wow! That's badass and hardcore! Not even C++ or C99. Gotta respect that. No clean header for fixed size types (uint32_t), no vectors, no references. Coding like that is tough.

It's a by-hand recoding of a C decompilation of the original game's binary. Using C++ -- or any abstraction that departs from the original code or memory structure -- would actually have made the process more difficult, at least initially. And given that the project was started using MSVC in 2009, C99 would not have been an option at the time.

The history shows the level of dedication that must have been needed. E.g.:


This was the first strategy game I played, I think on a Windows 3.1 486, and I was generally awful and had to use very cheap tactics for almost all the levels beyond the first few, usually go around the map and pop up and attack the important buildings.

I did manage to finish it as Arteides though, I had a line of sonic tanks for defence and would make a mobile construction site and hide it behind my base for when the missile hit (which I never knew the name of bc I never got far enough in the other campaigns to use it). I had to wait until all the spice on the map was depleted and then go and mop up the enemy bases. I was never that proud, but my older nerdy friends always reacted with shock and disbelief that I had finished it.

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