Dual Universe Is An Incredibly Ambitious Sandbox MMO

I always felt that the real strength of MMOs was in how they could parallel our own lives, and the folks making Dual Universe [official site] believe the technology is finally capable of making that happen on a grander scale. It’s ambitious as hell and years away, but Dual Universe has some interesting talent and technology pushing it forward.

Billed as “sandbox first-person MMORPG set within a seamless sci-fi universe made of millions of planets,” Dual Universe will be taking advantage of “cloud-based scalability” and “advances to voxel technologies” to create a positively massive universe that players can shape at their will. What has me interested, however, is that the developers at Novaquark are pulling more than a few pages from the other big sandbox, EVE Online.

“I am a huge fan of games like Eve Online and Space Engineers. I took inspiration from such games to imagine what could be the future of the MMO experience: a continuous world with planets, huge building possibilities, social and political aspects, but without the boundaries that so often restrict the gameplay,” says founder and president Jean-Christophe Baillie. “This idea needs a lot of tech and emergent game design that is not so far from AI and other fields I’m familiar with. So, I got a first prototype working back in 2014, and Novaquark was born soon after.”

That familiarity Baillie is talking about comes from his experience as the chief science officer at Aldebaran Robotics, where he lead initiatives developing artificial intelligence. He’s now funneling that knowledge into Dual Universe, along with some impressive-sounding ideas like a ‘continuous single-shard cluster,’ which is a fancy way of saying a really big server that can handle everyone playing together without having to divide them up. Other members of Novaquark include ex-employees of Ubisoft, Sony, and Apple.

As much as I want this all to be real, it does sound pretty far fetched — at least for now. There’s some pretty pre-rendered screenshots you can check out on the site or this collection of awesome music that will be in Dual Universe. Sadly, music and screenshots don’t make ambitious MMOs come to life, so we’re going to have to wait until 2017 when an alpha build will be appearing with “a preliminary set of gameplay features” to see of Dual Universe really push MMOs to new frontiers.


  1. Dimosa says:

    Well, this is not going to fall flat on its ass. I hope it will succeed, but I’ve seen to many projects like this over the years never going much further as this.

  2. Catweasel says:

    Sounds waaaaaaay too overambitious.

    • Kapouille says:

      Give them some slack, they’ve got concept systems, concept art and concept music! All they need to do now is to fill in the blanks with MMO, technology and game design. It’s not rocket science!

      • snowgim says:

        Sure, and it’s not like rocket science is exactly brain surgery…

        • Kapouille says:

          When I said concept systems, I meant more… concept ideas. But that really just the same, having many ideas and putting them all together is really all it takes.

  3. oggnogg says:

    I’m just waiting for Derek Smart to elaborate why this cannot work.

    • Wertymk says:

      Probably because if he can’t do it, no one can. Period. The end. As you were.

  4. TechnicalBen says:

    “Will be taking advantage of electrical circuits and using new technology such as mathematics”.

    There, fixed it for you.

    Any claims like the above is pure speculation and hyperbole until they deliver a working tech engine. Even then an engine does not a game make.

    • NephilimNexus says:

      True, and something like this will require it’s own game engine. That task alone would fly over the heads of the vast majority of independent developers these days.

      Still, game companies have only just begun to scratch the surface of 64bit and multi-core CPU potential (took them long enough). Even most of the new stuff today that claims to be 64bit exclusive rarely, if ever, actually goes past that 4gb limit or uses more than one core of a CPU. When people actually do unlock that potential it will be truly revolutionary, and hopefully we’ll see that happen before 2030.

      • trashmyego says:

        Ah, gaming in 2030. When the mass migrations are in full swing, with heat waves wiping out the infirm, and the water wars just dawning. That’ll be some prime gaming time, hopefully by then our global infrastructure will be ready to not collapse under the strain of global instability and the web be eternal. May our cooling fans spin silently and efficiently while we sit where the shadows hide us from waiting doom outside.

        • oggnogg says:

          I like your comment. One could also contemplate the possibility of gaming single-player only, because mankind only survived in nuclear war shelters.

          • Czrly says:

            Actually, a shelter like that sounds like the perfect place for a LAN. Pity nothing will run because all the DRM Authentication servers will be offline. Oh… except for that old, hacked and modded version of Starcraft Brood War (you know, the one with the German voices and patched-in English keyboard hotkeys (because, have you ever tried to play Starcraft on a German keyboard with German hotkeys?)) that has been passed around for generations on an old USB stick.

    • Rizlar says:

      “So, I got a first prototype working back in 2014, and Novaquark was born soon after.”

      Does a prototype qualify as more than hot air?

      Seems like we have the tech to do a lot of crazy stuff that we don’t currently see in games, but actually making stuff fun to play is a much stickier problem. WoW is over ten years old yet newer games with the ‘MMO’ label stuck on tend to be much smaller in scale.

      So the mention of emergent game design in the same sentence as AI (machine learning, surely, they aren’t self aware already are they?!) research excites me way more than the mention of tech.

      • Radthor Dax says:

        It’s because investors and publishers won’t take the massive financial risk a project like this requires, and the public wont fund it because either they’ve already put all their eggs in the Star Citizen basket, or they’re too jaded to believe anybody can do it at all.

        And that second lot would be almost right because it is exceptionally hard to do. Just not impossible. And without people continually making attempts, it will never happen.

  5. Sandepande says:

    Ambitious. Very good!

  6. gulag says:

    You know if you say his name three times he will appear in the comments and start a fight?

  7. Raoul Duke says:

    I think it’s a bit sad that people are so cynical. Without wildly ambitious projects like this, we’ll be stuck where we are forever. I hope they succeed.

    • happy noodle boy! says:

      Agreed. We Australians may share the British proclivity for cynicism and “tall poppy syndrome”, but I think this sort of ambition is just what the industry needs, not another roguelike MOBA or sandbox craft-a-thon! Take a risk… And hedge that risk with crowd funded dollars!

    • oggnogg says:

      I agree with you. I want them to succeed, too. I also want Star Citizen to succeed, even though my 30 minutes spent with the game showed me that the flight controls alone will be too complicated for me to have a fun experience.

      If only failed projects were open source. Then we could better learn from their mistakes and re-use that which worked. Re-inventing half a wheel every time makes progress so slow. Damn you, capitalism!

    • shocked says:

      > Without wildly ambitious projects like this, we’ll be stuck where we are forever.

      I read this all the time, and I think that’s only an empty phrase. Moderately ambitious projects that are aiming for actually achievable features brought mankind a long way and are way more impressive than these “We will do everything”-declarations that are basically only a way of making loud noises for the marketing department.

      If companies promise you everything you want to hear, it’s usually only marketing and scepticism/mild cynicism is a proper answer to that.

      And I think cynicism doesn’t mean that people don’t want these projects to succeed. It means that they see no reason to believe in them and won’t get excited by yet another “No limits, build everything, WAAAH LOOK AT US!!!1!” press release.

  8. tominator1pl says:

    Well, if you don’t care about graphic you can check out Shores of Hazeron. Made by one guy and it’s available to play.

    • Harlander says:

      Was gonna name-drop Shores here as well.

      If you want ambition in your games (possibly to the exclusion of all other factors), you can’t do better.

  9. peterako1989 says:

    An MMO! It always has to be an MMO! Why it always has to be an MMO!? Are MMOs like hard to make?

  10. Dances to Podcasts says:

    The art style seems pretty bland, from this. At least they’re not promising too much there. :P

  11. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    It’s not the universes that drove me away from MMOs, it’s the dreary combat, as that’s what you actually spend most of your time doing when you play. If this is hotkeys or pseudo-hotkeys I’m not interested; if they announce you can use your mouse to aim and attack (like, you know, every first- and third-person PC game in the last 20 years that isn’t an MMO) I will be interested.

    • slartibartfast says:

      This. This a hundred times. This is the reason I cannot get in to MMO’s. I don’t understand why there can’t just be an MMO that relies on player skill rather than the ability to remember hot keys.

      Perhaps there is one out there I just don’t know about and if there is please enlighten me.

      • Czrly says:

        Join an FPS server in which even one player has a latency above 200ms and you’ll understand instantly why MMOs are the way they are. Also, those servers and that net-code is dealing with 64 players or less. Hotkeys are easy to implement and perform more or less adequately over laggy connections. They are also anathema to the concept of gameplay.

        THIS, in addition to the problem that an MMO’s community is brought down to the level of the lowest common denominator, is why MMOs have never exceeded (some would say never even approached) the ceiling set by WoW and EVE.

      • Tekrunner says:

        Defiance and Firefall fit your description. I spent a lot of time in both, sadly they had too many issues and flaws to have a broad success, and both of them are on minimal support at this point (still worth a try, they’re F2P). Some of those flaws were definitely the fault of the developer / publisher, others seemed much tougher to solve. I hope that one day someone will manage to make a truly successful MMO shooter.

      • Tekrunner says:

        Oh, and you might want to keep an eye on whatever comes out of link to playempyrean.com, if anything. It’s all very mysterious for now, but some things there sound vaguely promising.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Planetside 2 proves that what you described is possible, but other devs keep making hotbar MMOs anyway :/

    • Rizlar says:

      Sounds like you should give Black Desert a look. The combat is actually pretty fun on it’s own merits and satisfies your criteria.

  12. khaoselement says:

    Wow, I really want this to be a thing, but I’ve been jaded. I just don’t see it happening at all. Maybe it’ll get released into that wonderful genre on Steam of “Early Access Survival”.

  13. Don Reba says:

    One day, I wrote down everything a perfect MMO should have, and then realized that I just described the internet.

  14. dsch says:

    Are they screenshots or pre-rendered? Screenshot implies that it was taken from the game engine, and hence not “pre-rendered” (except in the most banal sense in which every image is “pre-rendered”).

  15. jonfitt says:

    Quick. Imprint on this minimally described concept every game idea fantasy you have in your brain!

    It *is* the game of your dreams!