1. Why make another Dune game?

The Dune franchise is near and dear to Westwoods heart. It was with the first game in this series, Dune II, that Westwood pioneered the real-time strategy (RTS) genre, and went on to perfect it with the Command & Conquer franchise. Also, the Dune universe is so extraordinarily rich and varied, in both the landscapes and the characters, that it serves as the perfect setting for a game.

2. When is the game set, in terms of its relation to Dune II and even Herbert's novels?

The game takes place roughly 200 years before the original movie, Dune, and just after Dune II. It's important to remember though, that Emperor is its own game and can be enjoyed not only by fans of the Dune universe, but newcomers to the franchise and to RTS games as well. No previous knowledge of the Dune universe is necessary to play the game.

3. How much have the first two Dune games influenced Emperor: Battle for Dune, if at all?

Being the sequel to the father of RTS, Dune II, is quite an honor and responsibility! We kept many of the features we loved about Dune II, three houses, Deviators, Starbases, rock, sand and worms. We also added more innovative tactics on the battlefield and more strategy in the campaign. It provides deep and intense game play that will keep gamers enthralled for a long time to come.

4. How much input has Frank Herbert's son had on the game?

None at all.

5. Given Dune's great literary background, how important will the game's story be, and how will the narrative be revealed to the player?

We've tried very hard to capture the rich variety and intensity of the Dune Universe in all the games in the franchise. But, again, we've made the game independent enough from the movie and the book so that newcomers to the series will be able to enjoy the game without having to know the whole back story. That's not to say we haven't worked hard to develop the games storyline. Throughout the game, the player progresses into an ever-deepening story, full of twists, turns and political intrigue. Our film crew has done a masterful job producing the cut scenes that keep the story progressing through the game.

6. Which familiar Dune characters might make an appearance in the game? And what sort of role will they play in the game play?

None of the known Dune characters appear in the game. We wanted to create a fresh story and didn't want to be constrained by having to be consistent with the movie.

7. In Dune II, it was deemed necessary at the time to invent a race to compete against the Harkonnen and Atreides. Which original Dune races might appear in the new game, and what might be some of their distinguishing traits?

The three Great Houses of Dune II have returned: The Nobel Atreides, the Evil Harkonnen and the Insidious Ordos. Additionally, you can forge alliances with the five sub-houses during your game. These include the native Fremen, the space-faring Guild, the high-tech Ix, the terror-troops of the Imperial Sardaukar, and the bio-tech Bene Tleilaxu.

8. How many units does each side have?

Emperor has focused on creating a small number of unique units that require different strategies to use. This makes the number of meaningful combinations very high, and we expect players to be arguing over favorite combinations for quite a while! Each of the three houses has 12 buildings, and five to seven infantry along with five to seven vehicles, depending on the side chosen. Additionally, there are five sub-houses with which you can ally. With each allegiance, you can build a new building and two new units.

9. How much does terrain affect battle in this game?

Very much so! Buildings can only be constructed upon solid rock. Sand is very dangerous, as sandworms are attracted to the vibrations generate by large vehicles and combat. Dust basins are nearly impassable, except for some specialized units. Additionally, there are some unique features and terrain on each of the home world planets: Caladan, Geidi Prime and Draconis IV.

10. Is the engine technology completely new? Regardless, what are some of its most notable new features?

We are using a completely new 3D engine, which is custom designed for Emperor. Many technical issues like sand and rock visualization, camera movement, etc. are specific to Emperor and we came up with unique solutions for each of them. From the beginning, our main goal in using 3D technology was that it would serve to enhance game play. We never want to use 3D for the sake of 3D. This technology not only adds beauty and depth to RTS games, but it's used in a way that will better allow the player to control the battle in front of him. The player will be able to control the camera to his benefit (zooming in and out, and rotating the battlefield) but the camera movements will never become cumbersome or difficult to maneuver.

11. Tell us about the AI in Emperor: Battle for Dune.

We designed the AI with the goal of making it feel like an online opponent. We wanted to capture the uncertainty, surprise factor, and various game strategies of a human player. Therefore, we developed a complex system that teaches the AI about map features and player strategies. When a mission starts, the AI knows nothing about the map it cannot see, and will usually start a scout mission to push back the shroud and keep the fog-of-war away. After that, it uses the war strategies of the house it is playing to defend its base and start an offense. The AI is aware of unit positions it can see and will plan accordingly. It's quite good at finding your weakest link and hitting it hard.

12. How different has it been designing a 3D game rather than the 2D worlds of C&C? What new challenges does a 3D environment present for a designer?

There are many differences that affect everything from art to code to design. Something as simple as shooting a gun at an enemy raises interesting design questions. For example, in many 2D RTS games, you can always shoot the enemy, because line of sight rules are ignored. Often, even if you use line of sight rules in 2D, you end up with players not understanding why they can 'see' the unit, but not shoot at it. In a 3D environment, you must take line of sight into consideration. Buildings in the way are very obviously in the way. We must use address both the line of sight rules, and make units smart enough to still shoot at targets effectively.

13. Did Westwood feel any pressure to produce a 3D accelerated RTS?

Oddly enough, gamers and press have been screaming for 3D RTS games over the past year, and now that a few have been done, it seems the feeling is not as strong as before. We knew that just adding 3D to an RTS would lead to problems and may not provide the fun game play that gamers truly desire. That is why we took our time to seriously consider how it should be done, and how to ensure great game play. We feel that our use of 3D in an RTS is optimal for visual excellence and game play superiority.

14. Why was Dune chosen ahead of C&C to be Westwood's first foray into 3D strategy? Is there anything inherent in the Dune world that made you think it more suitable than C&C?

It wasn't a conscious decision to use 3D technology in the Dune franchise at the expense of C&C. In fact, Emperor and Renegade, Westwoods two 3D titles that will be released in 2001, developed along the same time frame. We never make a decision to use a platform based on the title of the game or what franchise it belongs to. We firmly believe that the technology exists to enhance game play, and we make our decisions whether to use 2D or 3D based on each individual title.

15. Westwood's past success with real-time 3D technology has been a little under whelming. I'm thinking of the final two Lands of Lore titles here. As such, some gamers might be skeptical of your chances this time around. How would you respond to this criticism?

At the time we made the last two Lands of Lore games, 3D technology was still not quite capable of enhancing the worlds we were creating. PCs were not fast enough to build the diverse and compelling worlds we wanted, so we augmented the technology with several 2D and voxel solutions. That allowed us to create more visually diverse worlds than a typical 3D shooter of the day. Emperor is in a very different position. With the latest advances in 3D, and most gamers having a 3D card in their machines, we can completely embrace the new visual techniques that are offered. As you look at the screenshots and movies of Emperor, you will see the mind-blowing visuals and complete mastery of the medium. We are quite confident in the 3D technology of Emperor.

16. A recent trend in the RTS genre - especially 3D titles - has been a focus on tactical combat at the expense of building and managing bases. What kind of focus will Emperor have?

Emperor is focused around deep and involved strategy along with diverse tactics, but to answer your question, we are using base building and resource collection. Also, we have added a whole new level of strategy in the campaign level of the game. Which territory do you attack next? How to you plan for defending your hard fought victories? Which alliances should you pursue? The battlefield, the diverse houses, the distinctive units, and ability to ally with sub-houses all contribute to generating unique combinations of armies and tactics.

17. Westwood clearly knows real-time strategy, having developed one of the most important and popular strategy series in history. What lessons has the C&C experience brought to the development of Emperor?

We are constantly looking at ways to advance the game play experience, in RTS, RPG, first person shooter, etc. We are always building on what we've learned developing all our titles, especially our flagship franchise, Command & Conquer. Our main lesson throughout though, is that we are here to make great games for our fans. We constantly pay attention to how our fans respond to the games, and develop products that they want.

18. One of the reasons for the C&C series' enormous popularity is it relatively low system requirements, making it a game perfect for the mainstream or casual gamer. What is the strategy for retaining this market for Emperor, despite (one would assume) its significantly higher system requirements?

Of course our main focus in developing games is that everyone, from the casual player to the hard-core gamer, can enjoy them. System specs increase with every title we put out, mainly because the technology is also improving and becoming more accessible to our customers. Although we develop games that take advantage of new technology, we will always keep our customers capabilities in mind.

19. Are 2D real-time strategy games dead?

Absolutely not. Our decision to use 2D or 3D technology is based on what would best enhance the game play of a particular title. Both platforms have benefits. For example, 3D technology not only adds beauty and depth to RTS games, but its used in a way that will better allow the player to control the battle in front of him. However 2D is more accessible because it requires lower system specs and the ability to add certain details to buildings and units that aren't possible when using 3D technology.

20. What made you choose to use FMV to tell Emperor's story?

Each game is evaluated uniquely in how we will tell the story elements. Even though we have done some games with full motion video, we have also done computer animated sequences as well as in-game scripted sequences. It really depends on the style and atmosphere we are looking for.

21. Which 3D APIs will be supported?

Direct3D will be required.

22. Are there any plans for 3D audio support?

We are supporting 3D audio libraries, and looking into several specific 3D audio features.

23. What are you doing to ensure the replay value of this game?

Besides the numerous combinations of the three main houses with the five sub-houses, every battle is unique in the way it can be won. Each battle, even on the same map with same houses, will play out differently due to the advanced AI. Further, there are more than 100 missions available for placement on the 33-territory campaign map. So subsequent games will offer quite a bit of variety, and many missions are unique to a particular side. Players will really want to play all three sides to see all the missions and the three storylines.

24. Tell us how you plan on implementing online multi-player support.

We are fully supporting matchmaking via Westwood Online (WOL), a free service for Westwood customers. In addition, we have added QuickMatch functionality, which makes hooking up with similarly-skilled opponents very easy. Also, the addition of a Buddy List, and improved game searching code, makes finding a game very simple.

25. What kind of steps are you taking to insure good latency for players using modems?

We have developed some new techniques for controlling the amount of game data being sent to each player, which reduces the effects of latency. Additionally, we have a small amount of packet buffering which smoothes out spurious spikes in latency and packet loss.

26. What is the anticipated ship date?

It's still early, but we should be finishing the game in 2001.

27. With Red Alert 2 just launched, how do you see the Dune and C&C franchises co-existing?

Quite well! The two franchises have existed side-by-side for years now. Their themes are quite different, and may appeal to different types of gamers, but they are both about exciting RTS gaming.

28. Will the efforts put into making Emperor: Battle for Dune cause any delays with Renegade?

None, as the Renegade and Emperor teams are unique and not codependent.

29. How will Emperor stand out from the huge amount of RTS games out there?

New depths of strategy have been added to the campaigns: choosing which territory to attack next, which alliance to pursue, how to collect reserve and reinforcement units to take out that entrenched territory, etc. Also, new layers of tactical choices: you can choose from three unique sides and ally with up to two of the five sub-houses. You can also choose cooperative campaign games. Team up with a buddy and dominate the computer! In addition, Emperor features gorgeous and compelling visuals on Arrakis, Caladan, Geidi Prime & Draconis 4.