BIGBITE @ PAX West 2016: Dual Universe by NovaQuark
Perhaps it was a little shallow to open with a question comparing his game to another, but such an association is a battle that JC Baillie and the rest of NovaQuark will face as Dual Universe heads further into development. On the surface, Dual Universe looks strikingly like No Man’s Sky. They are both sci-fi games, they both have procedurally generated planets, they each feature theoretically limitless universes, and, for the icing on the “common points” cake, they have similar graphics. Still, NovaQuark’s demonstration at PAX West 2016 quickly showed that while the games look similar, there truly is, to use JC Baillie’s words, “no comparison whatsoever” between the experience each game provides.
Firstly, Dual Universe and No Man’s Sky are conceptually different. The latter isolates the user in an immersive single-player experience. The former, in contrast, welcomes players into a massively-multiplayer environment bound only by the user creativity. No Man’s Sky separates players into servers, whereas Dual Universe groups them all together into one, giant, all-encompassing server that will grow as more and more players join and explore further and further into deep space.
Secondly, Dual Universe’s core feature actually makes it play closer to Minecraft – everything in the world is completely editable. Players are free to build, deconstruct, and destroy at will, using any material from any world. The scale to which players can create is nearly unfathomable – the PAX demo included an eight-kilometer-long space station, which would easily fit hundreds, if not thousands, of players and transport them together through space. The possibilities are endless, and Baillie envisions players coming together to develop commerce, build societies, form governments, and even fight wars.
And war is perhaps Dual Universe’s most unique aspect. Procedurally generated planets have been done in No Man’s Sky, world-editing and building have been done in Minecraft and its many clones and imitators, in-game commerce has been a long-time staple in games such as World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and even 3D-messengers such as IMVU. But an online world in which cities, nations, planets, and solar systems could come together only to be destroyed by an outside aggressor is something that gaming has not yet seen.
Dual Universe has the potential to be the greatest role-playing experience in massively-online gaming history. Dedicated and influential gamers could flex their political muscles, more casual gamers could simply travel from planet to planet, trading goods and taking in sights, hardcore competitive players could build spectacular battleships and hire themselves out as mercenaries, all while the introverted types found themselves a nice ocean-side cliff on which to build a castle. Dual Universe, if it can achieve its goal, will be anything the players want it to be.
Dual Universe is expected to alpha-release in 2017, though a kickstarter has launched and can be found at www.dualthegame.com/kickstarter.