Art director

‘Dune: Spice Wars’ Developer Interview with Art Director Jeremy Vitry

Spice is the most precious resource in the universe. The spice prolongs life, expands consciousness and makes interstellar travel possible. Create your own story and play as one of many factions, including House Atreides and House Harkonnen, and compete for power over Dune and the Spice.

Scour the landscape for signs of worms or risk losing your troops and spice gatherers to titanic sandworms that will burst through sand dunes to swallow and devour them whole. Defeat your opponents through political intrigue, crush them in battle, and undermine them with your network of illusory spies.

Dune: The Spice Wars features asymmetrical gameplay, will have multiple playable factions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as multiple ways to achieve your ultimate goal – spice control over Arrakis. You can deploy agents to sabotage, assassinate and spy on your opponents, use political means to influence the Landsraad and pass beneficial resolutions, amass incredible wealth and simply overwhelm other houses with economic and technological supremacy, or you can opt for an open war.

Dune: The Spice Wars is more based on the original novel than the film, but since we’re both relying on the same IP, there will be similarities.

What was the first official art you worked on for the project?

The very first piece of artwork we did for the project was a large scale view of arrakis as well as a fake in-game model to set the mood. It’s obviously changed a lot since then, but we’ve tried to keep that stylized look throughout production.


What were some of your main inspirations when developing the art style for Spice Wars?

Our first idea was to do something that didn’t look like any of the previous Dune games but kept the Shiro Games touch and made things more stylized than the usual 4X games. We also decided to add an “Art-Deco” touch to the general designs, mainly for the UI, but also slightly incorporated into the characters and props, this way our game would stand out a bit more in terms of design. ‘art. Direction (because it’s not something you see everywhere).

Was there any inspiration from older movies or games?

We tried to keep some distance from previous Dune hardware because we really wanted to have our own point of view and express our own style. Also, obviously having the opportunity to work in this world on Herbert’s legacy is a unique chance to express ourselves and make our own mark in this universe as a video game developer.


Has there ever been a time when the game or the characters looked markedly different from their final design?

Well the game has certainly changed a lot since the early stages of development due to our iteration process and all the trial and error we had to go through to find something that actually looks like what we had in mind when we have started.

Oddly enough, the characters didn’t change much during development – apart from a few small tweaks here and there – because we knew from the start that we would have a lot to do and changing a character too much can have huge implications on the game. long term. line (in terms of textures, rigging, animation etc.)


Dune being such a well-known and loved universe, did you have any difficulties in developing a unique style for the game?

Actually yeah, it was really hard not to consider all the amazingly cool things that were already out there on the internet, and yet we had to do something unique, different and as awesome as possible! Another big part of this challenge was the fact that everyone already had their own take on what Dune-related things would look like, so the pressure to do something that wasn’t too crazy and still appealed to players that fit into this universe was definitely a tough one!


What other challenges did you encounter while working on the art of the game?

Being consistent on the art direction is really a difficult task and it is every time we start working on a new project because we gather a lot of references at the beginning and then we have to sort it all out and make a decision on what we have to aim, but as development progresses our vision becomes clearer, more precise and some of the early work may become less and less relevant over time, so we had to be very careful with that particular aspect of the game On top of that, we also needed to make each faction unique and that took a bit of time to achieve.

Another obvious challenge for us was the environment: Arrakis is basically a desert planet and we didn’t want the player to spend countless hours staring mostly at sand dunes, so our first focus was exploring different types of biomes of the desert and see how much variety we could bring in to make the map less boring, less uniform. Added to the fact that the world has to be procedurally generated in order to look different every time, this becomes an even more complex task.

The scale of the world wasn’t easy to understand at first, we didn’t like the more realistic version of having small units and bigger towns and villages, and on the other hand, we didn’t want the more cartoon-y hype of having much larger units and smaller buildings, so we tried to find a middle ground that ended up working for everyone on the team!

Finally, Dune Spice Wars is the first game in which we have animated and detailed characters in front of the screen (the faction leaders), which required a lot more work than we were used to to reach the level of quality that we wanted.

What major differences did you encounter between working on an original IP and working on a well-known license such as Dune?

The main difference is obviously that we had to stick with existing material and that meant cutting out a lot of the ideas we had in the first place and being more careful about what we wanted to show and how we would show it.


Working on an original IP means we can essentially make our own decisions every step of the way and that’s something we can’t have if the project is licensed.

That said, it was really cool to work with these constraints because it took us out of our comfort zone, for the better!

Were there any underlying themes or motifs that you hoped to convey with your art?

We really wanted to make the game enjoyable for a wide range of players by making it a bit more colorful and dynamic than people would expect from a DUNE based 4X/RTS game. It’s something we tried to convey with our previous games as well, and we wanted to keep that kind of appeal.

We think adding the “Art-Deco” theme was a great idea in order to bring finer details and subtlety to the overall look of the game, to make it more refined and elegant. It’s also our way of saying “the game looks accessible, but there’s more behind the curtain.”

We also tried to give a “Cold War propaganda poster” touch to some of the artwork, especially on the political aspects of the game.


What was your favorite part of your experience working on the project?

Well, the fact that we got to work on the “DUNE” universe was really exciting and already a huge deal for all of us here!

Having the chance to contribute our own ideas and designs to such a sci-fi masterpiece was definitely the most fun part of this experience, at least for me.

Main characteristics:

  • Frank Herbert’s Dune: Discover the unique world of Dune, one of the most influential science fiction settings ever created. Play as iconic characters, such as Duke Leto Atreides, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and many more, and guide your faction to victory. Watch for the constant threat of massive sandworms, which dominate the dangerous landscape of Dune.
  • Forge your own path: Choose between subterfuge, political influence, economic supremacy or open warfare to prevail and take control of the most important planet in the universe! Use secret agents to sabotage your opponents’ plans. Vote on political resolutions in the Landsraad to advance your strategy.
  • Real-Time 4X: Explore Dune with Ornithopters to discover resources, villages, and points of interest. Grow with your troops to take control of more and more regions. Exploit resources through buildings and spice harvesters to dominate the economy. Exterminate your enemies with a mighty army, but beware as outright aggression can have significant political repercussions.
  • Growth throughout Early Access: The game will be updated and expanded during Early Access based on your feedback. More features and content, better balance, and new game modes will be added during the early access period, based on crucial community input.

Dune: The Spice Wars is the first game based on the IP Dune to be published by Funcom and should not be confused with the open-world survival game the studio is developing. Dune: Spice Wars is created by the same team that released RTS Northgard in 2017 to critical acclaim, using their expertise in creating strategy games to bring the Dune universe to life.

Dune: The Spice Wars will be released in early access on PC (Steam) in early 2022.

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