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Completed Let's play Dune

Discussion in 'Codex Playground' started by Abelian, Nov 17, 2014.

  1. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    1. Table of Contents

    A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. - Princess Irulan, "Manual of Muad'Dib"



    Welcome to my first LP (and thread, actually)! In order to celebrate my first year on the RPG Codex, I decided to write an LP of Dune.

    Dune is a 1992 strategy-adventure video game developed by French developer Cyro Interactive and based on the Frank Herbert’s eponymous 1965 novel, one of the seminal works of science fiction.

    This will be an exhaustive play-through, with all the game’s aspects explored. This LP is geared towards people who have never played the game, but I would suggest that those interested in playing it should not read the LP past the first few updates and discover Dune by themselves. On the other hand, I hope that fans of the Dune universe will find this enjoyable, entertaining, and perhaps informative as well.

    As a convention, I will be using the italicized Dune when talking about the novel, film or video game and regular font Dune when talking about the planet itself.

    There were two aborted attempts at finishing Dune, so let’s hope that the third time’s the charm, as the saying goes. The screenshots are mostly missing and the OP’s are no longer active. For anybody interested here they are:

    http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/lets-rule-dune.47798/
    http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/lets-play-dune-redux.48042/

    I’ll keep this post short, since it will serve as the table of contents for the Let’s Play.

    1. Table of Contents
    2. Background of Dune
    3. Dune Video Games
    4. Terminology of the Imperium
    5. Interface of Dune
    6. Getting Started
    7. Prospecting Spice
    8. Death and Taxes
    9. "Mentats" and Fighters of Dune
    10. Time Enough for Love
    11. Spoils of War
    12. Big Maker
    13. The Green Menace
    14. Water of Life
    15. Conquest of Dune
    16. The Battle of Arrakeen
    17. Bonus Update
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
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  2. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    2. Background of Dune

    "To know a thing well, know its limits. Only when pushed beyond its tolerances will true nature be seen." - Amtal rule

    In light of the fact that several readers complained about the preponderance of screenshots in the first Dune LP, I’m going to cater to their desires and balance this LP with a judicious amount of text.

    Show Spoiler
    In that spirit, what better way to commence our interstellar overdrive than with a text dump!
    Show Spoiler
    I’ll try to make it interesting or at least bring in outside information regarding the Dune universe. Here’s a fun fact: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted attempt at adapting the Dune novel was supposed to have a Pink Floyd soundtrack (and other interesting elements, such as Salvador Dali playing the Emperor and art direction by H.R. Giger; the 70’s were interesting times…).

    The intro video provides a nice, simple, ten-sentence plot exposition, so I’ll include it below (the exposition text starts at the 2:56 mark).

    Since I dislike it when I have to watch a video without the possibility of reading the important parts, here is the text of the game’s introduction (I still advise you to watch it for the awesome sequencer-based ethno-futuristic music, though):
    Show Spoiler
    In these times of the future, man has explored many worlds, travelling through space by the use of the SPICE.

    SPICE, the most precious substance, can only be found on one planet in the whole universe.

    This planet is Arrakis, better known as DUNE.

    It's a dry desolate planet with vast deserts. There's never a drop of rain on Dune.

    You're PAUL ATREIDES, son of Duke Leto Atreides.

    The HARKONNENS, long time enemies of your family have come on Dune to control the Spice production, in their brutal way.

    But the Emperor of the Universe has allowed you and your Atreides family to go on Dune too.

    You are determined to use this opportunity to drive the Harkonnens out of Dune, with the help of the few natives, the FREMEN.

    The story begins as you've just arrived on Dune, in an empty palace located at a safe distance from the Harkonnen fortresses.



    This particular video uses the famed Roland MT-32 MIDI synthesizer.

    Plot Background
    This is a summation of the plot background that is directly relevant to the game (it’s pretty much the same info as in the spoiler above):

    Dune is a science-fiction novel that takes place in humanity’s distant future, where humanity in governed by aristocratic families in a feudal empire. The title comes from a desert planet called Arrakis, commonly known as Dune. It is inhabited by Fremen, a traditionalist and hardy tribal people, and sandworms, huge worms that swim through the sand and are attracted to vibrations. Dune is the sole source of a substance called spice melange, commonly known as spice, which can extend life, consciousness and is the basis of interstellar travel (more on that later). Naturally, the planet becomes the focus of lots of political intrigue.

    Ironically, while spice is the most valuable substance in the entire universe and only found on Dune, the most precious substance on Dune is water.

    The Significance of Spice
    Here is some additional background information that is not mentioned in the game, but forms the basis of the Dune universe.

    The game is set in the year 10,191 AG. AG stands for After Guild, which refers to the Spacing Guild. The equivalent AD date is never specified, but by 1 AG humans have already started interstellar travel, since the Guild was established with the intent to monopolize and regulate it. Humanity has risen spread to many planetary systems and is ruled by aristocratic Great Houses, who hold fiefdoms under the authority of the Padishah Emperor.

    Due to the Butlerian Jihad, a conflict where humans defeated thinking machines, an interdict called The Great Convention was placed on creating artificial intelligence, in order to prevent another such conflict from occurring again. This means that humans have to perform many tasks that would normally be assigned to computers. Mentats are human computers who are specially trained to process large amount of information and often serve as advisors to Great Houses.

    There are five powerful organizations that are not mentioned in the game: the afore-mentioned Spacing Guild, the Landsraad council, the patriarchal Bene Tleilax who are obsessed with cloning and genetic manipulation, and the scientifically-inclined Ixians, and the CHOAM corporation. The game briefly mentions the matriarchal Bene Gesserit sisterhood, whose overarching goal is to breed the Kwisatz Haderach, a super-human who can foresee the future (under their control, of course). They are adept at martial arts (the Wierding Way) and psychological manipulation. The Ixians are a technocracy and produce many advanced technologies, some of which come close to violating The Great Convention.

    The Landsraad is a council of the Great and Minor houses and serves as a diplomatic forum and also serves to balance against the Emperor's power. CHOAM stands for Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles and governs trade throughout the Empire. The Emperor, Landsraad, Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild are all stakeholders in CHOAM.

    Interstellar travel is accomplished through the use of a Holtzmann drive, which allows a ship to travel instantaneously though “fold space” (think hyperspace). Due to the chaotic of fold space, complex mathematics are required to navigate to the destination. Since advanced computers are banned, the Spacing Guild uses Navigators, humans addicted to spice melange, who use their prescient abilities to foretell the future and predict the exact route through fold space. In another novel, Herbert mentions that Navigators are so addicted to spice they need to live in a tank filled with spice gas.

    Thus, the spice is the only thing that makes instantaneous interstellar travel possible. In fact, many have pointed out that spice serves as an analogue for oil in our society, since it is so essential to modern life and much of it originates in the deserts of the Middle East.

    According to the Dune Wiki article on solari, the Empire’s currency, “On the Imperial market, Melange went as high as 620,000 solaris the decagram. During their rule, House Harkonnen took ten billion solaris out of Arrakis every 330 standard days.” The 620,000 solaris per decagram figure is from the novel and it’s mentioned in the game manual as well.

    In the article on spice, it’s mentioned that “it was said that it was so valuable that one briefcase full of spice would be enough to purchase an entire planet”.

    (10,000,000,000 solari) / (620,000 solari/decagram) = 16129 decagrams ≈ 161 kilograms of Melange in 330 days

    Since 620,000 solaris is a high price for spice, let’s be generous and assume the yearly output is 1000 kg.

    I note that solari are not supposed to be an overtly-inflated currency with many zeros, like say the old Italian lira, since 1 billion solari is enough for the Emperor use as a bribe for a major incident and even 620,000 solari is described as “wealth to buy many things” and the ten billion output is described as exploitation, likened to sucking out the treasure from the sand.

    Keep this figure in the back of your mind. As we’ll see, either Frank Herbert or Cryo’s math was seriously off. [insert “writers can’t do math” / “sci-fi authors have no sense of scale” joke here]

    On the Dune saga
    Frank Herbert explored a lot of themes in history, psychology, sociology, religion, biology and ecology. Interestingly, Dune started out as an article on sand dunes and desert ecology. An important theme is how history, religion, myths and language interplay and change through time (unfortunately, none of these show up in the game, save for a little biology/ecology).

    Frank Herbert actually wrote six novels in the Dune universe: Dune (1965), Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), Chapterhouse: Dune (1984), along with the short story The Road to Dune (1985).

    After Frank Herbert’s death in 1986, his son Brian Herbert and Star Wars spinoff author Kevin Anderson decided to milk the cash cow franchise increase the readership by dumbing down to the lowest common denominator ride the gravy train continue the series with a series of trilogies of prequel$, $equel$ and even interquel$ set between the original novels.

    Many of the books in the series have titles in the form of X of Dune: Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Hunters of Dune, Sandworms of Dune, Sisterhood of Dune, Winds of Dune, etc., which is why I entitled this post Background of Dune.

    In Dune, chapters start with a quote from in-universe books, which is a nice bit of world-building, allowing readers to glimpse at maxims, aphorisms, and pithy sayings that color the characters’ worldview. In fact, the quotation at the beginning of the first post is an excerpt from the quotation that precedes of the first chapter of Dune.

    Edit: I have a prescient sneaking suspicion that most readers of this LP are already familiar with the information in this post. Still, it can be useful for those who are familiar with the Dune only through the game.

    Also, if anyone sees any incorrect lore in this LP, don't hesitate to correct me (who am I kidding: as if people need permission to nitpick on the Codex...).

    Here's an excerpt from the Dune Wiki regarding possible etymologies of the word Arrakis:
    "The name Arrakis is believed to have come from the Arabic name الراقص ar-rāqiṣ, meaning "the dancer," originally a name for the star Mu Draconis.

    It may also be possible that the name Arrakis derives from the Arabic أرخص ar-rakhiṣ, meaning "cheapest" or "of least worth". Before the discovery of the spice melange, the planet was of no real value, making the name appropriate.

    Another possible source for the name Arrakis is the country of Iraq (an Arabic name derived from the ancient Sumerian city-state of Uruk), which is known for its oil resources, and has been involved in several major conflicts as a result."
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2014
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  3. Azira Arcane Patron

    Azira
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    Played this game so much back then.
    Gonna follow. :avatard:
     
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  4. Neku Novice

    Neku
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    Woah, this game's older than I am yet the music's just amazing!

    Please proceed with your LP!
     
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  5. Zarniwoop Destiny Cleanser Patron

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    Hmm, the good old Spice Opera, often lost in the shadow of its much more famous sequel. Tell me of your homeworld, Usul.
     
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  6. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    Dune music should be played with a adlib gold with the reverb module (which dosbox doesn't emulate).
     
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  7. Rahdulan Arcane Patron

    Rahdulan
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    Totally following this.:greatjob:
     
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  8. Storyfag Arcane

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    Keep in mind that House Harkonnen was likely not the sole entity to obtain profit from the mining of spice during their custody of the Dune fief. They took ten billion solaris, but how much did the Emperor take? He had more CHOAM shares than they did, I'd wager. So the yearly output was likely higher, to cover all the various expenses of producing the Harkonnen profit of ten billion.
     
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  9. abnaxus Arcane

    abnaxus
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    Ironic how Cryo went full circle with their last game, Frank Herbert's Dune. A horrible turd that bankrupted them. Maybe I'll LP it.
     
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  10. Lord Azlan Arcane Patron Shitposter

    Lord Azlan
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    Excellent stuff - one of my favourite books/games/films/mini series combined into Codex Heaven!

    Not just pics though please -
     
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  11. tindrli Arcane

    tindrli
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    never played it. will try to follow
     
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  12. abnaxus Arcane

    abnaxus
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    According to Dune Encyclopedia, the Empire started with the Roman Empire who conquered the entire world 16,000 years before the Butlerian Jihad.
     
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  13. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    I realized that I forgot to include the Landstraad and CHOAM in the list of influential organizations in the previous post, so I corrected it. I also included some possible etymologies for the word Arrakis.

    True, but the Dune Encyclopedia has a non-canonical status and is more of an example of fan-fiction written by 43 different authors. Frank Herbert approved Dr. Willis E. McNelly’s effort to collate the articles since he was a personal friend and he sometimes incorporated elements of the encyclopedia in his last two novels (such as Gilbertus Albans being the founder of the Mentat school), but did not hesitate to contradict it either.

    I think it was good-natured of Herbert to endorse the Dune Encyclopedia, but I also understand that as an artistic creator, it can be annoying when a group of fans "hijack" your universe and place restrictions on how you want to shape it.

    Also, it's worth noting the Dune Encyclopedia presents itself as an in-universe encyclopedia written before the fourth novel, The God Emperor of Dune, and as such inconsistencies can be easily explained by the fact that either history was forgotten or deliberately edited for political purposes.

    Anyway, on the topic of the AD date, I found this quote in the Religion Appendix: "Mankind's movement through deep space placed a unique stamp on religion during the one hundred and ten centuries that preceded the Butlerian Jihad."

    So if we take the launch of Sputnik 1 (1957) or Apollo 11 (1969) as the beginning of humanity’s space travel, it means that 1 AG is roughly equivalent to 13,000 AD.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
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  14. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    I would like to preemptively ask readers who are already familiar with the Dune series to not introduce any spoilers, or at least to use the spoiler tag if said spoiler is germane to the discussion at hand.

    Of course, over the course of this LP the entire plot of the original Dune novel will be revealed, but I still prefer that the events be presented as the game progresses.
     
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  15. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    3. Dune Video Games

    In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    This post consists of a brief overview of the licensed video games set in the Dune Universe.

    Show Spoiler
    Cryo's Dune borrows many elements from David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of the novel, which was flawed in implementation but had very good art direction (incidentally, developer Cryo had the same reputation; a match made in heaven?). Nevertheless, the film became a cult classic and was even subjected to some fan edits that attempt to reconstruct it, since it was edited down from three hours to two hours.

    Over the course of the LP, I’ll point out notable changes from the novel and elements that are lifted from the film, so expect plenty of unmarked spoilers.

    There are four different versions of Dune: DOS, Amiga, DOS CD-ROM, and Sega Mega-CD. The CD versions include character voice acting, 3D backgrounds for some scenes/buildings, and short excerpts from the film.

    I will be playing the original DOS version since I like its visuals best. I find that the 3D scenes, like the Atreides palace, the sietches, vegetation and flying sequences don't mesh with the style of the rest of the game, and the voice acting don’t matter for a screenshot-based LP. Interestingly, the characters’ speaking animations are synchronized to the voices, which was quite an accomplishment for 1992. The voices have a slight echo effect.

    In addition, I will also include some screenshots from the other three versions in order to point out some differences. This mostly applies to the beginning stage and there won’t be a lot of them, since I’ll have to make do with what I find online (except for the DOS CD version, where I’ll occasionally take a screenshot myself).

    In the CD-ROM version, the player has the ability to switch the text (but not the voice acting) to other languages, including the Fremen language with its own alphabet(!).

    Cryo Interactive was a French video game developer between 1992 (1989 unofficially) up to the company’s bankruptcy in 2002. It started as Exxos within ERE Informatique. Exxos broke off with Infogrames (which acquired ERE Informatique) due to royalty disputes and rebranded itself as Cryo Interactive.

    After publishing some more video games during the next decade, Cyro decided to return to Dune, since it was one of their best-received games.

    In 2002, they developed a Dune remake as an action-adventure/stealth game, Frank Herbert’s Dune (2001), which covered part of the first novel and was based on the 2000 Sci Fi Channel miniseries of the same name. The players played as Paul Atreides using a third person view. The controls were clunky, especially while using a blaster, since it was difficult to move while shooting. It also had limited ammunition. The other weapon was a knife that could be used for stealth kills, but not if the enemies saw you. The knife kills allowed the player to recover water from the victims, which could be used to replenish health (think painkillers from Max Payne). The game used a slot-style save system, with only one slot per mission, similar to console games (it was released on the PS2 as well) or Hitman: Codename 47. The cut-scenes were unskippable. Many players got stuck in the first level, where they needed to outrun a sandworm, while avoiding spots with soft sand that slowed you down. That wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that for this level, the camera is fixed pointing backwards at Paul from below, so you can’t see the sand traps ahead. I never played this title, but watched a Youtube LP.

    Cryo was also working on a MMO-RTS called Dune Generations where the player controlled a trader, soldier or mercenary house in the Dune universe. The failure of Frank Herbert’s Dune led to the company’s bankruptcy in 2002 so Dune Generations ceased development while it was still in the alpha stage.

    But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s return back to 1992.

    Interestingly, Virgin Interactive, which owned the Dune video game license, planned to cancel Cryo’s Dune game since its development was running late. Virgin wanted a Dune strategy game, in the style of Herzog Zwei, so they contacted Westwood Studios to develop one. While Westwood was developing the RTS, they found out Cryo was still working on Dune. Cryo’s game was finished first, so Virgin decided to call it Dune, and Westwood was stuck with the Dune II title. It still became a huge hit and practically invented the conventions of the RTS genre. It featured resource gathering, base-building (where the buildings unlocked the technology tree), mouse-based gameplay, three factions with different playing styles, rock-paper-scissors combat.

    Westwood would create two additional Dune RTS titles: Dune 2000 (1998), a remake of Dune 2 using the C&C/Red Alert engine, and Emperor: Battle for Dune (2001), a sequel to Dune 2000 and Westwood’s first RTS to feature a 3D engine.

    The plot of the Westwood games is only loosely based on Frank Herbert’s novels. Instead, the video games take the setting as inspiration (desert planet of Arrakis, spice, sandworms, fremen, Emperor, great houses) and set up each game as a three-way contest between House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Ordos.

    Both Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle for Dune feature Westwood Studios’ trademark live-action cut scenes that are obviously inspired by the film version in artistic direction. The cut scenes include actors such as John Rhys-Davies (played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings) and Michael Dorn (played Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation).

    Overall, the Dune video games are mainly influenced by the first novel, with its premise of a conflict between great houses that vie for autarchy of Dune. All the games share these basic plot elements from Dune: a desert planet that is: (a) the only known source of spice mélange, which is essential for interstellar travel; (b) inhabited by sandworms; (c) the center of conflict between the great houses Atreides and Harkonnen (and Ordos for the Westwood RTS titles) in the galactic empire; (d) inhabited by the tribal fremen, a proud warrior people.

    All Dune games save for Frank Herbert’s Dune are strategy-based and eschew the political intrigue of the Dune literary universe in favor of more straightforward military conflict. Emperor: Battle for Dune deserves a special mention since you could choose to play different missions in the campaign that affected which smaller factions (such as the Fremen, Tleilaxu, Ixians) supported you.

    Finally, a word on Dune’s music:
    Show Spoiler
    awesome
    Show Spoiler
    I did say “a word” :smug:

    Seriously, though, Stéphane Picq and Philippe Ulrich have done a great job in creating an atmospheric soundtrack sounds both futuristic and Middle Eastern: MP3, Adlib, MIDI.

    The Spice Opera CD is very rare and Stephane Picq doesn't have the rights to it so it can't re-released until EMI decides to do so, since they’re the ones who bought Virgin Records. It is basically an extended version of the soundtrack, but rerecorded with more varied instrumentation and sound effects and a couple of new tracks. I actually prefer the game's soundtrack since I feel it suits the game's mood better and doesn't have the electronic dance music-style percussion.

    I’ll mention where each track is played as it is encountered in-game. Here are the track names:

    1 - Wormsuit (Introduction) [Spice Opera]
    2 - Arrakis (Arakeen Palace) [Dune Theme] [Dune Variation]
    3 - Warsong (Ornithopter) [Too]
    4 - Sietchm (Sietch Tuek)
    5 - Sekence (Map) [Wake Up]
    6 - Water (Water of Life) [Water]
    7 - Bagdad (Sietch Tabr) [Free Men]
    8 - Wormintr (Deep Desert) [Sign of the Worm]
    9 - Morning (Morning Sunrise) [Chani's Eye]

    The first name is the name of the file being played, while the one in parentheses is a more descriptive, non-canonical title I found online. I’ll use the file name when discussing the tracks, in order to minimize ambiguity. The third name in the brackets is the corresponding Spice Opera track title.

    Note that that Spice Opera link has switched a couple of track names: Too and Dune Variation are interchanged, as are Spice Opera and Revelation. Three of the tracks are new compositions not found in the game: Emotion Control, Revelation, and Cryogenia. Ecolove is found on the Amiga version, which featured fewer tracks. The Sietchm has no corresponding track on Spice Opera.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
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  16. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    The original dune demo had a different Paul Atreides that was not modeled on the film actor. Frankly it was more fitting to the aesthetics than the somewhat gormless Paul they ended up with. Perils of movie tie-ins and all that.
     
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  17. Zarniwoop Destiny Cleanser Patron

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    You misspelled "retard" as "circle". They went full "retard."
     
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  18. Azira Arcane Patron

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    Too bad the links in that forum you linked to doesn't work, SCO. Would have loved to see the "original" Paul.
     
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  19. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

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  20. Storyfag Arcane

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    By the Baron, that *is* an improvement over MacLahlan. Meaning: that Paul would even fit the aesthetics of Lynch's film better. Not to mention... his maternal heritage is also showing there :smug:
     
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  21. abnaxus Arcane

    abnaxus
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    They should have used that face. It's not like Chani looks like Sean Young either.
     
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  22. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    Just think, there was some idiot at Virgin Interactive (maybe Richard Branson himself) that saw the game and said: 'make it look more like Kyle'.
     
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  23. Rahdulan Arcane Patron

    Rahdulan
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    I wondered why Ordos and not Ix when that's obviously what they were based on. Was there a legal reason or something?
     
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  24. oscar Tacticular Staff

    oscar
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    Just noticed the Harkonnen soldiers in the intro look much closer to the Moebius-Jodorowsky Dune concept art than the Lynch film's toxic waste disposers

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    vs

    [​IMG]
     
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  25. Abelian Somebody's Alt

    Abelian
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    I said no spoilers dammit
    :x

    Just kidding around. I agree with you: the original version of Paul does look similar to his father.

    And thanks for finding the early version of Feyd; I knew about that one, but never found a picture.

    It's kind of funny how the final version ended making Paul look like Kyle McLachlan (he even got listed in the credits), but Feyd ended up looking less like Sting (maybe because the 80's were over...).
    I was planning on showing the original Paul two updates from now, but I'll include a screenshot from the video here for anybody who doesn't want to click the youtube link.

    [​IMG]

    I didn't know that, thanks for pointing it out. I've seen some sketches from Jodorowsky's Dune but not this particular one.
     
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